Encountering the Old Testament, 3rd Edition

A Christian Survey

series: Encountering Biblical Studies


22. Proverbs: Advice on Living in God's World

Chapter Intro Video

Chapter Objectives

  • Define “proverb”
  • List the two types of Wisdom literature
  • Outline the basic content of the book of Proverbs
  • Present the purpose of the book of Proverbs
  • Identify sample proverbs for each contribution of sayings
  • Discuss the theological themes of the book of Proverbs and their importance to successful living

Chapter Summary

  1. A proverb is a short saying about principles of living that have been proven by life experience, but a proverb is not a promise or a command.
  2. There are two types of Wisdom literature: discoursive wisdom as found in Job and instructional literature as found in Proverbs.
  3. The major objective of the book of Proverbs is instruction for all.
  4. Proverbs 1–9 are basically parental discourses to children.
  5. The proverbs in chapters 10–22 are specific proverbs for youth, covering a variety of subjects.
  6. The thirty sayings of Proverbs 22–23 are similar to those found in the Egyptian document, The Instruction of Amenemope.
  7. The book of Proverbs contains sayings of Solomon, Agur, and Lemuel.
  8. The collection of sayings of Agur emphasizes how the enemy of wisdom is pride.
  9. Education is addressed in the book of Proverbs, where the contents of Israelite education are described. This includes education for living in a proper relationship with God and his created world.

Study Questions

  1. What is the focus of this book of short sayings? Define a “proverb.” How does a proverb differ from a promise or a command?
  2. How does the “wisdom” of Proverbs differ from that of the book of Job? What two things are contrasted in the book of Proverbs?
  3. What is the goal of the book? Who is the target audience? What is the first and controlling principle of wisdom?
  4. How is the first collection of sayings (1:8–9:18) different from most of the other collections in the book? Where does one find the pinnacle of the Bible’s view of wisdom? What is the most powerful unit on the dangers of sexual impurity?
  5. Which unit may have been based on an Egyptian text?
  6. Why would the sayings of 25:1–29:27 have been of interest to Hezekiah?
  7. What is known about the origin of the sayings of Agur (30:1–33)?
  8. Why is the unit on finding an excellent wife (31:10–31) a fitting end to the book of Proverbs?
  9. What place did Proverbs hold in Israelite education? How did the Israelites view faith and knowledge? What is the underlying essence of knowledge or wisdom as presented in Proverbs?