MANual Lessons in Proverbs

My year-long journey through The MANual, my NIV Bible for Men, continues in the section called the Books of Poetry. I started with a post with lessons from Job. Next, I covered the books of Psalms in three posts: an Introduction to the Psalms, and two with lessons from Books 1 & 2, and Books 3, 4 & 5. I now move to Proverbs, which include the teachings of the wisest man who ever lived: King Solomon.

About The Proverbs 

By definition, a proverb is a short, concise sentence that conveys moral truth. It comes from a Hebrew word that means “to rule or to govern.”

The book of Proverbs is a collection of wise statements to teach people how to attain wisdom, discipline, and a prudent life. It covers a wide range of topics, including youth and discipline, family life, self-control & resisting temptations, business matters, words of the tongue, knowing God, marriage, seeking truth, wealth & poverty, immorality, and of course, wisdom. In short, Proverbs help us apply divine wisdom to daily life using moral instruction.

Solomon, the son of King David who became the third king of Israel left us a legacy of written wisdom split into three volumes: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. Solomon wrote and compiled most of the Proverbs early in his reign as king (970-930 B.C.). Agur and Lemuel, from the kingdom of Massa (an area in northern Arabia toward Babylonia), contributed some of the latter section so the book of Proverbs wasn’t fully complied until around 700 B.C.  

Prologue: Purpose and Theme

The Proverbs begin with a clear statement of purpose: to teach us how to do what is right, just, and fair (Proverbs 1:2-3). It also includes an exhortation in verse 7 to “The fear of The Lord is the beginning of knowledge, since fools despise wisdom and discipline.” 

The 31 chapters of Proverbs are grouped into three sections: wisdom for young people (chapters 1-9), wisdom for all people (10-24), and wisdom for leaders (25-31). 

Wisdom for Young People

The first few chapters are Solomon’s fatherly advice with warnings against enticements and against rejecting wisdom. Although most of the material in this first section is directed to young people, anyone who seeks greater wisdom will benefit greatly from the sayings of Solomon. 

Chapter 2 describes the benefits of wisdom, especially when it comes to following perverse men and adulteress women (2:12-19). In his role as king, Solomon certainly enjoyed had much wealth and battled temptation. However, he wanted his children to walk in the ways of good men and keep to the righteous paths (2:20). 

Chapter 3 contains one of the most famous proverbs: “Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (3:5-6).

I Don’t  Need Wisdom

There is a vast difference between “knowledge” (having the facts) and “wisdom” (applying the facts to life). Over time, we will amass knowledge. However, our knowledge is useless unless we learn how to live out what we know.

God wants His people to have more than head knowledge and a high IQ. His Word is a generous source of wisdom, insight, and understanding. He also wants us to acquire skills for living by gleaning lessons from the Bible and learning from others ahead of us in life; our mentors, per se.

  • How seriously do you take Bible reading for gaining knowledge of God and his commands?
  • Did your parents share their failures and success in their life with you? 

When you have an important decision to make, God knows what’s best for us. We must trust in Him for guidance and not our own ideas and desires.

Solomon provides more fatherly advice in chapters 4 and 5, possibly passing on instructions that King David gave about the importance of seeking God’s wisdom. Solomon again warns about avoiding “immoral women” and illicit sex which brought him to the brink of utter ruin (5:6). He encourages us to “Drink water from your own cistern” (5:15) as a reminder of faithfulness in marriage.

Solomon warns against “Folly” in chapter 6. He also lists six things The Lord hates: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, murder, scheming, eagerness to do wrong, being a false witness, and stirring up discord. He again warns again against adultery and lust (6:20-35). His instructions about the strategies of an adulterous woman (7:10-23) help identify those temptations.

Chapter 8’s call to wisdom contrasts the call of the immoral woman in chapter 7. Wisdom is portrayed as a responsible woman who guides us (8:1-13) and helps us succeed in following the right path of righteousness (8:14-21). Chapter 9 describes Folly (foolishness) as Wisdom’s rival, with each young woman preparing a feast and inviting people to a banquet. Wisdom is the woman of character, while Folly is a prostitute serving stolen food. Wisdom appeals to the mind, which is long-lasting. Folly teases the senses, which is temporarily easy to excite. Solomon’s message: Do not be deceived by Folly!

Wisdom for All People

The next set of chapters (10-24) are short poems usually written in the couplet format we commonly recognize in Proverbs. Solomon covers a wide range of topics, typically as a holy pairing of wise, common sense with foolish, timely warnings. 

Wise Learners vs. Foolish Failures

Good teaching comes from good learning. Proverbs make it clear there are no good alternatives to learning about wisdom. This chart contrast the wise and foolish. 

Wise LearnersProverb(s)Foolish Failures
Gladly accept instruction10:8; 21:12Ignore instruction
Love discipline12:1Hate correction
Listen to advice12;15; 21:11; 24:6Think they need no advice
Accept parent discipline13:1Mock their parents
Are on the pathway to life10:17End in poetry and disgrace
Will be honored13:18Will go astray
Profit from constructive feedback15:31,32; 29:1Harm themselves by refusing criticism

Proverbs 16 is direct and forceful in rejecting pride. It specifically states that a proud attitude comes before destruction (6:16-18). The chapter then pivots toward finding wise counsel. Solomon suggests we find friends with grey hair as “a crown of glory” they gained by living a godly life (16:31). Proverbs 17:17 suggest we find a brother “born for adversity” to do life together and share wisdom. 

Some translations of the Bible begin a section called “30 Sayings of the Wise” in the middle of chapter 22 through chapter 24. Solomon changes his style and manner of speaking in this section. Previously, he laid down doctrinal truths with an occasional word of encouragement so we make the application to our life. In these 30 sayings though, he directs his speech as if he is speaking directly to a particular person with some very specific wisdom. 

Wisdom for Leaders

This third section of Proverbs was mainly collected by the advisers to King Hezekiah, one of the few kings of Judah who honored God. Chapter 25 starts with four proverbs that focus on the king himself and the importance of his effort to discover the truth. These also speak to those who aspire to become leaders about how to deal with the king. 

The Wisdom of Friends

Proverbs contain some of the best wisdom on friendship in the Bible. Wisdom is knowing there is a vast difference between someone you have as a casual friend and someone who is a true friend (what I call a God Buddy). Too many people are fair-weather friends. They stick around when the relationship helps them and leave when they’re not getting anything out of it.

But there is evidence of a deep friendship in Proverbs 27:17 which has become the key verse for my God Buddies theory: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Solomon also writes that we can have deeper relationships when we choose our friends carefully (12:26). He encourages us to forgive faults that separates close friends (17:9). We all need friends who love at all times (17:17) and as one who “sticks closer than a brother” (18:24). These are faithful men who proclaim their steadfast love (20:6) for each other, rather than a hot-tempered person who’s easily angered and ensnares us (22:24-25). Accepting constructive criticism from a friend is better than receiving “false kisses from an enemy” (27:6). Our heart can become glad with the sweetness of his earnest counsel. (27:9). All said, wisdom gained from a God Buddy helps you become godly men. 

Chapter 30 is titled the “Sayings of Agur”, a wise teacher in the kingdom of Lemuel. My friend and author, Jay Payleitner wrote a book called The Prayer of Agur about this little-known biblical character who wrote the only prayer in all of Proverbs. Jay says Agur’s “humble prayer” can help us find new purpose and contentment in our work, personal ministry, and relationships. 

Proverbs 31 is titled the “Sayings of King Lemuel” based on the teachings of his mother. The chapter also includes an epilogue titled the “Wife of Noble Character. ” This entire chapter has a lot to say about women of strong character, great wisdom, many skills, and great compassion. These traits come from a fierce reverence for God, which is a great model for finding a godly wife and good friend.

God Buddy Focus

Proverbs began with the command to fear the Lord (1:7) and ended with a picture of a woman who fulfills this command (31). A godly wife, supported by friendship with godly men helps make you a better man. We learn how to become wise, make good decisions, develop deeper friendships, and live according to God’s purposes. This wisdom leads to enjoyment, success, honor, and worth in the eyes of God. So fear The Lord to gain knowledge and wisdom about finding more godly friends.  

This week:

  • Commit to reading a chapter of Proverbs each day of the month.
  • Discuss the lessons in Proverbs with your God Buddy, while enjoying a hike in the woods.

My next post is more wisdom from a “teacher” of lessons on the book of Ecclesiastes.


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