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The Book of Proverbs
The Book of Proverbs
While many books of the Bible are filled with deep spiritual and theological truths, the book of Proverbs is filled with practical and down-to-earth advice for daily living.
Brief, well-balanced, poetic, salty, and often humorous, the proverbs are universal, are easy to memorize, and make their points well, sometimes even more efficiently than do eloquent speeches and rigorous argumentation.
Go to the ant, you
sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise (Prov.
6:6, NKJV). Or:
It is better to
dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman
(Prov. 21:19). Or:
your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him
water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
and the LORD will reward you (Prov.
25:21-22, NIV). Who is going to forget images like that?
The book of Proverbs is a witness to the wisdom that had been
accumulated over generations. Its human authors are referred to as King
Solomon (Prov. 1:1–9:18, Prov.
25–29); as nonidentified
from the ancient Near Eastern world (Prov.
22:17–24:22 and Prov. 24:23–34); and as the non-Israelite
Agur (Prov. 30:1-33). The
acknowledges King Hezekiah’s editorial contributions (Prov.
25:1). In some cases, too,
the book reflects ancient Near Eastern texts, especially those from
Yet the book of Proverbs is the Word of God, because it was under divine inspiration that the authors pulled their materials together. Although God is rarely explicitly mentioned in the texts, He is always present: wherever we are in the marketplace, or as we speak, eat, drink, work, buy, sell, socialize, and love, the Lord is there. The God of Proverbs is not just the God of a religious person, whether a priest or a worshiper in the pew. Godliness is here put into working clothes.
The book of Proverbs also teaches about what it means to fear God (Prov. 1:7, Prov. 31:30), not just in church but as we go about our daily lives, because the way we live speaks louder than the way we preach, pray, or even sacrifice (Prov. 28:9, Prov. 15:8).
wisdom is revealed when you
acknowledge the Lord
in all your ways (Prov.
3:6, NKJV); that is, wisdom
is living in faith and in obedience; it’s about what it means to be
human before the God of Creation.
From the book of Proverbs we will learn how to be wise, but concretely, in practical ways. The book answers such questions as What and how should I teach my children? How can I be happy and successful? Why do I have money problems? How can I get a promotion in my job? How can I resist sexual temptations? How should I cope with my anger or my tongue?
Finally, wisdom isn’t necessarily intellectual might. On the contrary, the one who is sure of his or her brainpower is in the most danger of playing the fool, because even the smartest person knows so little. One may think of oneself as already wise and therefore as having no need to seek more knowledge. The prerequisite for wisdom is, instead, to be humble, to feel our need and then to ask for wisdom.
Proverbs is deep and rich, and it deals with many topics. Given the limitations of space, we’ve had to pick and choose which material we could cover. We can’t cover it all, but all that we have is, indeed, worthy of our prayerful study.
Lesson 1 *December 27–January 2
Read for This Week’s Study: Proverbs 1:1-3:35, Gen. 1:1, Exod. 19:16, Exod. 20:20, Prov. 11:30, Prov. 13:12, Prov. 15:4.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of
knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs
From Eden onward, the root of human
tragedy lies in wrong choices.
Man lost all because he chose
to listen to the deceiver rather than to Him who is Truth, who alone
has understanding. By the mingling of evil with good, his mind had
become confused. — Ellen G. White, Education,
The book of Proverbs is all about helping us to make right choices, to choose the way of God and not that of the deceiver. The father or the mother, speaking to their son, not only warns him against wrong choices but encourages him to make the right ones. This is so important because the choices we make are literally matters of life and death.
The first three chapters of Proverbs illustrate this method of
education. After having explained the purpose of the book:
know wisdom (Prov. 1:2), and having laid
down the motto of the book:
the fear of the LORD is the
beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7, compare Prov.
9:10), the author moves back and forth from warning us
against listening to foolishness, to urging us to respond to the call
of heavenly wisdom.
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 3.
In Proverbs 1:1–6 the title
the proverbs of Solomon
the son of David (Prov. 1:1)
establishes a link between this
proverb and 1 Kings 3:5–14. In Kings (as in the book of
Proverbs), Solomon is presented as a son seeking wisdom from
God. In addition to both referring to Solomon as
the son of
David, the two texts share significant common wording:
judgment. Not only do
these parallels confirm Solomon as the one behind the composition of
the book, they also show that Proverbs is dealing with the human quest
for wisdom from God.
Proverbs 1:7. What is wisdom? What is
the fear of the LORD?
How do these two concepts relate to each other?
Wisdom here is
defined as a religious experience. It is related to the fear of the
Lord. This important concept of the Hebrew religion is key to Proverbs.
Not only does it occur repeatedly, but it also frames the entire book
(Prov. 1:7, 31:30).
The fear of the Lord has nothing to do with the superstitious and childish fear of divine punishment. Instead, it should be understood as the acute consciousness of God’s personal presence at all times and everywhere. The fear of the Lord had characterized the people’s reaction to God’s revelation at Sinai (Exod. 19:16, Exod. 20:20), just as it explained their commitment to be faithful and to love God in response to His covenant with them (Deut. 10:12).
In short, to fear God means to be faithful to God and to love Him.
the fear of the LORD is the beginning
of . . . wisdom means that wisdom originates in this
The Hebrew word for
points to the first word introducing the Creation story (Gen. 1:1). The
first lesson of wisdom, then, deals with understanding that God is our
Creator, the One who gives us life and breath, and that He is always
present — a God of love, and justice, and redemption (John
89:14, Heb. 9:12).
We are told to love God and also to fear Him. How do these two concepts relate to your own experience with the Lord?
Read Proverbs 1:8–19. What two contrasting ways of education are presented in these verses? What’s the basic message here, not just for parents, but for everyone who fears the Lord?
Education is, first of all, a family matter, and true
education comes, first and foremost, from the parents. In these verses,
this education is called
instruction and even
The Hebrew word for law, torah, means
The parents are to point their children in the right direction. In
contrast, the other type of
education is not
identified, not given a name. It is simply acknowledged as the voice of
sinners, which leads in the wrong direction.
Also, the words
my son, not to be taken in
a gender exclusive sense, are repeated many times, emphasizing parental
instruction. Each parent —
mother (NKJV) — is clearly identified in
the singular and is personally involved, while the other camp is an
In His wisdom the Lord has decreed that the family
the greatest of all educational agencies. It is in the home that the
education of the child is to begin. Here is his first school. Here,
with his parents as instructors, he is to learn the lessons that are to
guide him throughout life. . . . The educational influences of the home
are a decided power for good or for evil. . . . If the child is not
instructed aright here, Satan will educate him through agencies of his
choosing. — Ellen G. White, The
The best argument on behalf of family education is its results. These are the inner qualities of character, which are like ornaments on the head and around the neck. In the Middle Eastern culture precious collars and bracelets were passed on from parents to children as a heritage of value. Education matters more, though, than material riches. The time spent with our children will be of much greater value for them than the time spent at our businesses. Also, the reference to the neck and the head, which is the individual’s face, suggests that education will shape his or her personality. In the way of fools or sinners, only the feet (Prov. 1:15) are mentioned, as if the wayward son had lost his identity.
How can we learn to resist the temptations that culture, society, friends, even family might throw our way?
Read Proverbs 1:20-21. How is wisdom presented here? What is being told to us?
While the sinners
lie in wait and
secretly (Prov. 1:11, 18,
outside (Prov. 1:20, NKJV),
cries out in the chief
concourses (Prov. 1:21, NKJV),
speaks her words
(Prov. 1:21, NKJV). Wisdom
is here personified, and her offer is given
to the man and the woman on the street. It is for everyone in the real
business of life. Amid the noise and rancor of so many products and so
many sellers, the call of wisdom must be loud; otherwise, she would not
be heard against the clamor of so many other voices.
Read Proverbs 1:22–32. What is the result of rejecting wisdom?
The reason that people reject wisdom has nothing to do with
wisdom itself and everything to do with the character of those who
reject her. These are described as arrogant and disdainful (Prov. 1:25,
compare with vs.
30), as if they know better. The
implication is that
wisdom is for the naive and the simple. And yet those who reject wisdom
are simple and naive; they are fools who
(Prov. 1:22, NKJV; compare with vs. 29).
Those who reject wisdom will reap the fruit of their
rejection. Having refused to choose the fear of the Lord, they will
have to be content with themselves: they will be
their own fancies (Prov.
1:31, NKJV). When we reject wisdom
from above, we often end up with the fables and lies that we fabricate
for ourselves, or the fables and lies that others fabricate for us and
that we so readily accept. In this way, we replace God with idols.
Ironically, those who despise religion, mocking those they judge as
simple and naive, often are superstitious in their own way, placing
value on the most fleeting and useless of things that, in the end, can
never satisfy the most basic needs of the heart.
Read Proverbs 1:33. Given the context in what came before, what promise and hope is found here for us? How is this promise manifested in our own experience?
Proverbs 2:1–5. What are the conditions for understanding the
of the LORD? What choices do we have to make in this matter?
Three times the discourse is introduced with the conjunction
marking three stages in the progression of education. The first
introduces the passive stage of listening; that is, simply being
receptive and attentive to the words of wisdom (Prov.
if introduces the active response of crying
and asking for wisdom (Prov. 2:3).
introduces passionate involvement in seeking and searching for wisdom
as we would for
hidden treasures (Prov. 2:4).
Read Proverbs 2:6–9. What are the conditions for understanding righteousness? What is God’s responsibility in the acquisition of wisdom?
Note that the phrase
the LORD gives in
to the phrase
you will . . . find the
knowledge of God in verse
Wisdom, like salvation, is
a gift from God. As much as the first paragraph described the human
process, this paragraph describes the divine work: He gives wisdom; He
stores wisdom; and He guards and preserves the way of the wise.
Read Proverbs 2:10–22. What happens when wisdom has finally found a home in the heart?
When wisdom enters your heart, it marks the
final stage of conversion. Not only will we enjoy the knowledge of the
Lord, but it will be a pleasant experience to our souls (Prov. 2:10,
NKJV). We will also be protected from the way of evil
from the seduction of evil (Prov. 2:16),
and we will walk in the path
of righteousness (Prov. 2:20).
Read Proverbs 2:13, 17. What is the first step of wickedness, and where does it lead?
Though we are sinners, we don’t have to fall into evil. The ones depicted as on the wrong path must have first left the right path. Wickedness then is understood first of all as a lack of faithfulness. Sin begins subtly and innocently, but before long the sinner not only does wickedly but also enjoys it.
What should it tell you about yourself if, heaven forbid, you enjoy doing evil? Or even worse, if what if you don’t even deem it evil anymore?
Read Proverbs 3:7. What is the trap of being wise in one’s own eyes?
To be wise in one’s own eyes will lead to the illusion that
one does not need God to be wise. This is a hopeless situation.
is more hope for a fool than for them (Prov.
Again, wisdom is described as a religious commitment. To be wise means
to keep God’s commandments (Prov. 3:1),
truth (Prov. 3:3),
trust in the LORD
(Prov. 3:5). Wisdom
implies an intimate relationship with God. Note the
repeated reference to the heart (Prov.
3:1, 3, 5), the seat of our
personal response to God’s influence. (The heart was already mentioned
in Proverbs 2:10 as the place wisdom should enter.)
Read Proverbs 3:13–18. What reward comes with the gift of wisdom?
Wisdom is associated with life and health (Prov.
3:2, 8, 16,
18, 22). One of the most suggestive images is the
(Prov. 3:18), a promise
repeated several times in the book (Prov.
11:30, Prov. 13:12, Prov. 15:4). This metaphor alludes to
of Eden. This
promise does not mean that the acquisition of wisdom
will provide eternal life; instead, the idea is that the quality of
life with God, which our first parents enjoyed in Eden, can to some
measure be recovered. When we live with God, we get some inkling, some
hints, of Eden; even better, we learn to hope in the promised recovery
of this lost kingdom (see Dan. 7:18).
Read Proverbs 3:19-20. Why is the need for wisdom so vital?
The sudden reference to the Creation story seems to be out of
place in this context. Yet the use of wisdom at Creation reinforces the
argument of verse
18, which associates wisdom with the tree of life. If
God used wisdom to create the heavens and earth, wisdom is not a
trivial matter. The scope of wisdom is cosmic, going beyond the limits
of our earthly existence. Wisdom concerns our eternal life as well.
This lesson is implied in the reference to the tree of life,
reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. This perspective is also contained
in the promise that concludes our passage:
The wise shall
inherit glory (Prov. 3:35).
Study: Read Ellen G. White,
pp. 111–114, in Christ’s
Blessing in the Home, p.
334, in Messages
Study of Physiology, pp. 197,
198, in Education; Ellen G. White
1156, in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3.
The youth need to understand the deep truth
Bible statement that with God — Ellen G. White, Education,
pp. 197, 198.
is the fountain of life.
Psalm 36:9. Not only is He the originator of all, but He is the life of
everything that lives. It is His life that we receive in the sunshine,
in the pure, sweet air, in the food which builds up our bodies and
sustains our strength. It is by His life that we exist, hour by hour,
moment by moment. Except as perverted by sin, all His gifts tend to
life, to health and joy.
Many cherish the impression that devotion to
God is detrimental to health and to cheerful happiness in the social
relations of life. But those who walk in the path of wisdom and
holiness find that —
Ellen G. White Comments, The
SDA Bible Commentary,
vol. 3, p. 1156.
godliness is profitable unto all things,
having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
They are alive to the enjoyment of life’s real pleasures.
the fear of the LORD.If
there is no fear in love(1 John 4:18), how can we fear the Lord and still love Him? How do we reconcile the tension between justice and love in
the fear of the LORD?
wise in one’s own eyessuch a dangerous state to be in, especially when we consider how corrupt the human heart is, and how easy it is for us to rationalize just about any behavior we want? Think of those who have rationalized the worst of behaviors. How can we make sure we don’t do the same thing?
Life was hard in the western Washington town of Humptulips during the 1930s. Located on the Humptulips river on the Olympic peninsula, the town had seen better days for the commercial fishermen trying to earn a living.
One family, the Moodys, found life so difficult in Humptulips that they decided to follow Mrs. Moody’s brother to Alaska, where, according to the brother, the fishing was good and there was money to be made. The family of six packed up and traveled the 2,500 miles from Humptulips, to the Canadian border, then on through British Columbia and the Yukon before heading west to the frontier town of Dillingham, Alaska. From Dillingham they headed up the Wood river, finally arriving on the remote shores of Lake Aleknagik.
Although Aleknagik is a Yupik word meaning “wrong way home,” the Moody family found a good place to settle beside the lake, where they built a small log cabin. Mr. Moody and the eldest son took their large fishing boat down into Bristol Bay, home of the world’s largest source of red salmon, while Mrs. Moody cared for the three younger children at home.
Sadly, just a few months after settling into their new home, tragedy struck the Moody family. As father and eldest son headed up the river from Dillingham, somehow both men ended up in the fast current and drowned, leaving the mother to raise the two younger sons and a daughter.
Being a family of faith, the mother continued to gather the children for worship and on Sabbath they met with the uncle and his family. During the week, Mrs. Moody carried out the family fishing business, with the help of her two younger sons, Lloyd, 14, and Roland, 13.
We grew up fast, remembers Roland.
had a mother and little sister to help.
In order to help their family survive, Lloyd and Roland had little time for school as they worked as commercial fisherman near their home. By the time they were no longer teens, the young men had not yet finished at the rural public school. Early each morning, Roland, who was now 20, built a fire in the school’s wood stove so the place would be warm when the students arrived.
During those early mornings, Roland not only warmed up the classroom–he also took the opportunity to get to know the school’s beautiful young teacher, Miss Jackie. By the end of the year, they were married and set up a home beside Lake Aleknagik. To be continued
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