Proverbs is widely known and accepted as the main book of wisdom in the Bible. Whether it be advice on how to worship properly, how to avoid certain sins, how to handle certain types of people, or what not to do in life and certain situations; Proverbs addresses solutions to a wide range of problems. This book is a common discussion piece for Sunday School classes all around the world, and ‘Chinese Proverbs’ are popular, witty sayings amongst people today.
Let’s understand the concept of wisdom before examining Proverbs more in depth. Merriam-Webster defines wisdom as “accumulated philosophic or scientific learning: knowledge.” Another key definition (as said by Merriam-Webster) is: “good sense: judgment.” ‘Knowledge’ and ‘good judgment’ are words sometimes used complementary to wisdom and other times used supplementary with it; all in all they get the point across though.
As ironic as it may seem, I know through my own wisdom the ways in which you get wisdom. There are three main ways to acquire wisdom: through your own experiences, from talking to somebody else who has been through it, and through reading/watching videos about the topic at hand. Each method works better with individual topics, meaning they are not all compatible with everything.
When I first hear the word wisdom, I think of an elderly person who has lived (and is still living) a long, successful life. Whether it be a grandparent (or great grandparent), respected member of the community, neighbor, or a former teacher/principal, all are good examples of what comes to mind. In particular, I recall times sitting in the floor at my great grandmother’s house listening to her tell my cousins and me stories of how things used to be before, during, and after hard times for the United States from her recliner. She is still alive and kicking today, but likes to mix modern conveniences (such as cable and cell phone) with ‘old school’ (such as manual can openers and a fireplace.) The song “Grandma’s Rocking Chair” comes to mind when I think of this situation.
Enough about the background of wisdom, now on to Proverbs. As already stated, Proverbs is the book of wisdom. Proverbs authorship (along with Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes) is accredited to Solomon, although it is debatable. Each chapter/section, and section within section begins with some form of the greeting “My son”, or “Sons.” This is to address everyone, not leaving anyone out, because in the Christian belief everyone is God’s child. Reading one of those phrases indicates one section is over, and another section/discussion is about to begin. A good example of this is in the first chapter. Verse 8 says: “My son, heed the discipline of your father, And do not forsake the instruction of your mother;” This is good ‘advice’ and is a play off of one of the ten commandments: “Honor your father and mother.” Verse 10 changes direction though: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not yield;” This shows the change in topic and direction, after only two verses, and is separated by the introductory phrase “My son.”
One way in which the book of Proverbs gives wisdom is by stating a topic, then repeating and saying the same thing later on in a different way, trying to get the point across. An example of this uses Chapter 1 verse 8 (stated above) and Chapter 6 verse 20. Proverbs 6:20 reads: “My son, keep your father’s commandment; Do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” This is saying the exact same thing as 1:8, just using different words and a different style. This is common in Proverbs, as anything good should be repeated.
Also throughout the whole book, wisdom is personified as a woman. This first occurs in chapter 1 verse 20: “Wisdom cries aloud in the streets, Raises her voice in the squares.” This personification continues throughout the passages. This personification is another tool used to identify with all types of people, and also as a teaching tool. When ‘she’ is personified as a harlot, Proverbs teaches what not to do, why you need to and how to walk away from temptation. This is one key interesting concept in Proverbs.
The book of Proverbs also discusses what not to do/be. It mentions in Chapter 6 verses 16-19 what not to do or be. It reads: “Six things the Lord hates; Seven are an abomination to Him: A haughty bearing, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A mind that hatches evil plots, Feet quick to run to evil, A false witness testifying lies, And one who incites brothers to quarrel.” The 7 things the Lord hates are laid out in black and white, and also play off of earlier texts in the Bible. The 10 Commandments are the main indirect reference again. On a general scale this shows how books of the Bible can be interwoven. On a smaller, specific scale it shows how Exodus (a book of law) and Proverbs (a book of wisdom) are linked.
Another thing I noticed is that Proverbs, at times, can be seen as poetry and characterized as happy, similar to the 23rd Psalm. Chapter 3 verses 13-18 read: “Happy is the man who finds wisdom, The man who attains understanding. Her value in trade is better than silver, Her yield, greater than gold. She is more precious than rubies; All of your goods cannot equal her. In her right hand is length of days, In her left, riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, And all her paths, peaceful. She is a tree of life to those who grasp her, And whoever holds on to her is happy.” This speaks for itself in the nature of pleasantness and peaceful and happiness, as happiness is mentioned multiple times in the passage.
In conclusion, wisdom dominates the subject of Proverbs. This post only examined very few examples and did not scratch the surface of each way wisdom is discussed. Just think, how many times do you encounter wisdom? The answer is frequently. Reading any how-to book, recipe book, instruction manual, textbook, Biblical Wisdom, anything of this nature is wisdom and is sometimes overlooked. Lastly, I encourage everyone to take advantage of the opportunities to spend time with elderly family members and friends, you can learn a lot!