The Book of Proverbs

Professor Earle B. Cross. (ABC) Edited By J.E. Bradburn.

TITLE. The Proverbs. Hebrew Mishlai; Greek Paroimia = any dark sententious saying; (Terse and energetic in expression). Vulgate Proverbia. Whence the English name. Hebrew Mishlai is from Māshāl = to rule. (Genesis 1:18; 3:16; Exodus 21:8 &c). Hence applied to words which are to rule and govern the life. It is not a collection of human wisdom, but of Divine Rules from heaven for Earth.

The Book is quoted in the New Testament:-

Pro 1:16          in Romans 3:15

Pro 3:11—12   in Hebrews 12:5—6. Revelation 3:5:9.

Pro 3:34          in James 4:6. 1 Peter 5:5.

Pro 11:31        in 1 Peter 4:18.

Pro 25:21—22 in Romans 12:20

Pro 26:11        in 2 Peter 2:22

And also allusions in Romans 12:16 &c.



    B | C | 10:1—19:19. PROVERBS BY SOLOMON. FOR ALL. THIRD PERSON (“HE”, “HIS”, “HIM”, “THEY”, “THEM”).

       |     D| 19:20—24:34. PROVERBS FOR SOLOMON. FOR A PRINCE and A KING. SECOND PERSON (“MY SON”, “THOU”, “THY”).




For introduction and Analysis explanatory of the above Structure, see Appendix 74  

The Structure distinguishes the main divisions of the book, which are marked by such expressions as “My Son”; “The words of the wise”; and the Pronouns “thy”; and “thee”, &c.; and the Proverbs “for”; and Proverbs “by Solomon”. Some proverbs are for a ruler, others are general, and for all men.

Māshāl is used of an Allegory (Ezekiel 17:2); a discourse (Numbers 23:7—8); a taunt (Isaiah 14:4); an argument (Job 29:1); a byword (Jeremiah 24:9); a lament (Micah 2:4) See below: all Proverbs are distinguished by parallelism of lines, synonymous, or gradational, or synthetic (i.e. constructive), or arithmetic (i.e. contrastive). These again are arranged (as to order) either in alternate or introverted lines. 


Allegory = Ezekiel 17:2 Son of man, put forth a riddle, and speak a parable unto the house of Israel;


A Discourse = Numbers 23:7—8

7 And he took up his parable, and said, “Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, ‘Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel.’”

8 How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the Lord hath not defied?’”


A Taunt = Isaiah 14:4 That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, “How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!”


An Argument = Job 29:1 Moreover Job continued his parable, and said,


A Byword = Jeremiah 24:9 And I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth for their hurt, to be a reproach and a proverb, a taunt and a curse, in all places whither I shall drive them.”


A Lament = Micah 2:4 In that day shall one take up a parable against you, and lament with a doleful lamentation, and say, “We be utterly spoiled: He hath changed the portion of my people: how hath He removed it from me! turning away He hath divided our fields. 


Object and method of Treatment.

In preparing this interpretation of the book of Proverbs the author has tried to keep in mind the things which touch ground common to our modern life and the ancient Hebrew world. He has sought what in Proverbs is of worth and interest to the present age. To do this he has not followed the usual commentary method, but has grouped together significant blocks of proverbs, and has given them a connected topical treatment. A large part of Proverbs, of little meaning for present day thought and life, has been ignored in deliberately focusing on the old book the spotlight of what modern youth is thinking, in order to set forth its contents that has a vital message for today.


1. Appreciation of Proverbs as Literature. Characteristics of Hebrew Poetry.

The Hebrew poets seem to have been little concerned with a careful meter such as marks the classic Greek and Latin, or much of English poetry. The natural stress of the voice gives a rhythm which satisfied the Hebrew, and this suffers little in the process of translation. Most of the lines in Proverbs are three stress lines, such as;


Proverbs 10:1—2 

1 The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.

2 Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.


A second feature peculiar to Hebrew poetry is the rhyming of the thought. In the lines quoted above, the second of each couplet (couplet is a pair of lines of metre in poetry. Couplets usually comprise two lines that rhyme and have the same metre)

gives the obverse of thought in relation to the first. This balance of lines gives a pleasing effect. Frequently, the second line of a couplet will repeat the thought of the first, but in a variance of words, as in;


Proverbs 1:20 Wisdom crieth without [outside];

                      She uttereth her voice in the streets:


The couplet is by no means the only grouping of lines in Hebrew poetry. Triads of lines are common, quatrains also, also groups of five, six or seven lines. The more numerous the lines in a group however; the more likelihood that subordinate divisions of the thought will appear. Couplets predominate in (Proverbs 10:1—22:16). In the other parts of the book, a variety of groupings will be found.


Longer Poems in Proverbs.

A sonnet which does not exactly fit—a sonnet of interesting form occurs in;


Proverbs 6:6—11

06 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:

07 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,

08 Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

09 How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?

10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:

11 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.


See the sluggard ("habitually lazy person,") nod off into sleep! “A little sleep!” Bobs his head unto his breast. “A little slumber!” Again he nods. The next line suggests the snuggling of his body down into a more comfortable posture for a sound sleep, where upon those two ruffians, Poverty and Want, burst upon the scene to strip the sluggard and leave him to rags and hunger. With a different prefatory (coming before the main part or item usually to introduce or prepare for what follows).

setting this same refrain appears in;


Proverbs 24:30—34    

30 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding;

31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down.

32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction.

33 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:

34 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.


The teacher with imagination and dramatic instinct will know how to fix by pantomime the lesson of these lines upon the minds of children. Another kindred poem is found, in which the imagination sensitive to the dramatic may discover a dialogue. A drunkard complains at implied slurs on his friend, speaking in tones which would sound forth injured innocence were they not maudlin, (drunk enough to be emotionally silly). and broken by an occasional hiccup.


Proverbs 23:29—35

29 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes?

30 They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.

31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.

32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.

33 Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.

34 Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.

35 They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.


“Who hath woes?

  Who hath sorrows?

  Who hath contentions?

  Who hath complaining’s?

  Who hath wounds without cause?

  Who hath redness of eyes? (23:29).


His sober friend responds, as the second person of the pronouns indicates in the answer to the questions, but to no avail.


Proverbs 23:30--34

30 They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.

31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.

32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.

33 Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.

34 Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.


In alcoholic glee, the drunkard hails the drowning of his woes in the coma of his cups, as the variance in pronouns again indicates:


They have stricken me, and I was not hurt!

  They have beaten me, and I felt it not!

  When I shall awake? I will seek it yet again”


The Italicised words of our English versions in the first line of verse 35 are not in the Hebrew, but they do indicate that our translators recognised the drunkard as the speaker. A reader trained to express the proper inflection (n grammar, inflection or inflexion is the modification of a word to express different grammatical categories such as tense, mood, voice, aspect, person, number ...), tone, colour, and touch, can render the lines with adequate depiction of the ridiculous sot (a habitual or chronic drunkard), unreasonable, enslaved by appetite, and glorying in the very insensibility which his is doom.


Imaginative Language and Figures of Speech 

Imaginative language characterises the Hebrew, as it does all other poesies (the work or the art of poetic composition). Simile, metaphor, allusion, metonymy, and challenge the best thought of the reader.

Simile         = a figure of speech comparing two unlike things that is often introduced by like or as (as in cheeks like roses)

Metaphor   = a figure of speech that identifies one thing as being the same as some unrelated other thing, thus strongly implying the similarities between the two.

Allusion     = a figure of speech, in which one refers covertly or indirectly to an object or circumstance from an external context.

Metonymy = a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is called not by its own name but rather by the name of something associated in meaning with that thing.


As the writers seek to incite youth to the search of wisdom they write:

“If thou seek her as silver,

 And search for her as for hid treasures.”


Proverbs 2:4 If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;


If we may define wisdom for the moment as the expression in conduct of Divine ideals for human life, we realise that in the simile cited the poet has chosen a figure embodying the chief rival of wisdom in human affairs—wealth. He would set his disciple to pursuing wisdom with all the zest with which the average youth was chasing the almighty shekel. He would have him, to use the amplified form in which a greater poet rendered the same figure, “go and sell all that he possessed, and buy the field in which wisdom lies hidden.”

The stupendous modern expeditions for the salvaging of sunken treasure ships may serve as illustrations commensurate (equal in measure or extent) with the superb modern apparatus for the acquiring of wisdom which is available for the willing disciple. Allow the mind to dwell on such figures in the Proverbs and the aptness, the stimulating suggestiveness of their art will quicken every alert mind.

Another couplet from Proverbs we cite, which appears in more ample form in Jesus’ usage:

“When the whirlwind passeth, the wicked is no more:

  But the righteous is an everlasting foundation” (10:25 compare Matt7:25—27).


Proverbs 10:25 As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more: but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.


Matthew 7:25—27

25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.


In this metaphor, which is profoundly true to life, wherein neither good nor bad can escape can escape devastating storms; the superior worth of the righteous appears in his foundation upon which courage and faith may rebuild. Imaginative expansion of the figures of speech in Proverbs is not only a fascinating process but also a profitable study. The point of illustration is not always obvious, however, for it is often obscured by faulty translation, or by the archaic nature of the allusion, when the text itself is not garbled. The more extensive commentaries will be of service in such cases. We venture to cite one instance, in which the pith of the lesson is obscured by the translation into English of the Hebrew word “taste” as “discretion.”  We hold to “taste” in precisely our usage of that word in the simile in 11:22.  


“As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout,

 so is a fair woman which is without taste.” 


Proverbs 11:22 As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion [taste].


Here is posed a bulk of bestiality dangling a ludicrous atom of beauty. In like manner does charm, physical or spiritual, dwindle to nothing against the coarse material reality of a lack of taste, be it in dress, manners, conversation, or religion. This taste may be in large measure a natural gift, but Proverbs is concerned throughout in depicting it as a matter of cultivation through self-discipline.

In some senses the ninth chapter of Proverbs is the climax of the book. The form of the poem is unique, fashioned upon the model of an arch. Stands Mistress Wisdom as the one pillar (Pro 9:1—6), Mistress Folly as the other (Pro 9:13—18). The arch contains couplets on the worth of discipline and a capstone on Wisdom:


“The fear [reverence] of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom:

  And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).


Proverbs 9:1—6 Mistress Wisdom

1 Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars:

2 She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table.

3 She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city,

4 Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,

5 Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.

6 Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.


Proverbs 9:13—18 Mistress Folly

13 A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing.

14 For she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city,

15 To call passengers who go right on their ways:

16 Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,

17Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”

18But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.”


Without this arch and its capstone, the poet could not have set forth Mistress Wisdom over against Mistress Folly with confidence that the reader would detect the superior worth of the former. The style of the two pillars is worthy of note. Mistress Wisdom works with zeal and purpose. She builds a mansion, proportioned to seven pillars. (Seven (7) Denotes spiritual perfection: It is the number or hallmark of the Holy Spirits work. He is the Author of God’s Word, and seven is stamped on it as the watermark as seen in the manufacture of paper. He is the Author and giver of life; and seven is the number, which regulates every period of Incubation and Gestation, in insects, birds, animals, and man).

She prepares a banquet, with invitations to which she sends forth her maidens


Mistress Folly, on the other hand, talks much—but does nothing. She sits idly at her door by the wayside. She has no disciples, and is unheeded by most that pass.

The poet deftly indicates that Wisdom and Folly may not be easily distinguished at first when he places in the mouth of each the identical words of invitation:


“Whoso is simple let him turn in hither:

  As for him that is void of understanding, she saith to him…” Proverbs 9: verses 4, & 16 above.


What each says then follows.  Wisdom, e.g., says that she has a simple feast of life and understanding. Folly has stolen waters, and promises of bread, which are made futile by death. Proverbs is by no means the least of those works which have placed the O.T. upon a high pedestal in the hall of the world’s great literature.


II. The Place of Proverbs in Hebrew History.

Literary History. The book of Proverbs is a summary of the best contributions of Hebrew wise men from the earliest times to the days of the restoration following the return from exile in the fifth century. It is the last edition of a work which grew with the passing years. Many of the hundreds who doubtless contributed to its contents spoke words such as had pertinence to their own times only, so that they have been eliminated from the edition of succeeding generations. As we now have it, the book presents a nucleus of such ancient material as was consonant with the ideas of those writers who put forth this latest summary of wisdom on the eve of the closing of the canon of sacred writings, after which nothing more could find its way into the Scriptures. Kindred writings exist, which did not find recognition as Scripture, such as “Ecclesiasticus” or the “Wisdom of Jesus ben Sirach.”


Solomonic Authorship. 

Tradition attributes Proverbs to Solomon, as the editorial notation reveals in;


Proverbs 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;


If Solomon was the author, we must date the book five centuries earlier than the date required by manifest facts. Solomon is referred to in (Pro 10:1), and also in (25:1). The latter verse is, “These also are Proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah copied out.” In any case, the last two chapters of the book are to be ascribed to Solomon, for they are headed respectively, “The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, the oracle,” and “The words of king Lemuel; the oracle which his mother taught him” (30:1 31:1). To the extent of these two chapters at least the book is composite.


Proverbs 10:1 The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.


Proverbs 25:1 These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out.


The ascription to the book to Solomon was probably due to the original impulse which that famous king gave to wisdom. The mass of such literature which grew up in later generations was attributed to him by proxy, even as the Psalms are largely attributed to David, and the writings of the Law to Moses. A description in Kings states: “God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much…And he spake three thousand proverbs; and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop which springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes…” (1 Kings 4:29 forward.).


Characteristic Ideas of Proverbs: Their Bearing on the Date.

The more cogent evidence for locating the book of Proverbs somewhere in the period following the Exile appears when one takes into account the attitude which is revealed in the book with regard to such outstanding ideas as the concept of God, the status of woman, and the social entity. In the stream of developing thought and social relations the position which Proverbs holds is such as to confirm the theory that it is to be dated in the later years of Hebrew history.

(1) The Conception of God. Consider the evidence with regard to the idea of God in Proverbs. The fundamental conception of God for the writers of Proverbs is His Creative Power.


Proverbs 3:19—20   

19 The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth;

    By understanding hath He established the heavens.

20 By His knowledge the depths are broken up,

     And the clouds drop down the dew.


The surging primeval deeps were broken up and disposed as seas through the Creative might of God; and the cool dew of evening slaking the thirst of vegetation is a gift of the same Creative power. There is a similarity between the imagery in an outstanding passage of Proverbs 


Proverbs 8:22--31

22 The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old.

23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.

24 When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.

25 Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:

26 While as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.

27 When He prepared the heavens, I was there: when He set a compass upon the face of the depth:

28 When He established the clouds above: when He strengthened the fountains of the deep:

29 When He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment: when He appointed the foundations of the earth:

30 Then I was by Him, as one brought up with Him: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him;

31 Rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.


And the language of certain passages in the later chapters of the book of Isaiah (40:12, 21 forward, 44:24, 45:11 forward.), and in the book of Job (9:5 forward, 26:7 forward, 38:4 forward).

Both of these later sections of the Bible are products of the latest periods of Hebrew history. Can such a conception of God have been portrayed in the days of the early monarchy by Solomon? David, the father of Solomon, thought of God as being confined to Hebrew territory.


1 Samuel 26:19 Now therefore, I pray thee, let my lord the king hear the words of his servant. If the Lord have stirred thee up against me, let him accept an offering: but if they be the children of men, cursed be they before the Lord; for they have driven me out this day from abiding in the inheritance of the Lord, saying, Go, serve other gods.


It was not until the time of the writing prophets that there began to appear an idea of God as God of all the earth. In Amos the idea is hardly more than a query. (Amos 4:13, 5:8—9. 9:6. are generally regarded as marginal annotations from the hands of writers of a date following the Exile.) In any case, Amos did not come upon the scene until nearly two centuries after Solomon’s time. Amos and his successors were responsible for the building of that splendid theology in which there came to flower at length the conception of God as sole Deity and Creator as well as controller of earth. Proverbs appears to exist in a realm of thought where this conception of God has deep root. It is a book relatively late in Hebrew history.  


III The Counsel of Proverbs. Outline of book.

The book of proverbs naturally divides itself into sic parts, two of which may be further subdivided into two parts each. These divisions are indicated in the book itself by captions at the several points of distinction. We outline the contents thus:

1.      Prologue, whose chief theme is “The Praise of wisdom” (Chapters 1—9).

2.      Disconnected aphorisms on various themes, chiefly emphasising the superior worth of wisdom and moral conduct, and largely in the form of couplets. (10:1—22:16). Caption: “The Proverbs of Solomon.” 22:17—24:22 may be considered part of this section, since there is no specific caption

3.      A brief distinction of no especial distinction aside from the caption: “These also are sayings of the wise” (24:23—34).

4.      A collection of aphorisms of a variety of forms and on various themes (25:1—29:27). Caption: “These also are proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, copied out.”

5.      Varied material, (Proverbs 30:1—33). Caption: The words of Agur the son of Jakeh; the oracle.” (See the Companion Bible notes).

6.      Two poems on the king’s duty (31:1—9) and the worthy woman (31:10—31). Caption: “The words of king Lemuel; the oracle which his mother taught him.”


Principal Theme: The Worth of Wisdom.

The dominant theme of Proverbs is the superior worth of Wisdom. In the usage of the book Wisdom includes moral conduct as well as knowledge. The writers do not set forth the precise content of Wisdom, but confine themselves to general exhortations to seek out and secure this priceless treasure. They personify both Wisdom and Folly as women. Wisdom first appears in person in the open square before the city gates, Where were wont to assemble the elders of the people for counsel and for judgement. (Proverbs 1:20 Forward). There is a dramatic quality in her appeal for a following. At first she proffers the untutored her spirit and the knowledge of her teaching.


Proverbs 1:23 Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. 


A pause ensues during which the imagination can readily picture the scoffer and the fool, to whom the appeal has been addressed, turning away in complacent scorn.


Proverbs 1:22 How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge?


Whereupon Wisdom continues, “Because I have called, and ye refused…I will mock when your fear cometh, when your fear cometh as a storm, and your calamity cometh as a whirlwind.”


Proverbs 1:24—27  

24 Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded;

25 But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof:

26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh;

27 When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.


Another pause, storm filled, follows these words, as the destruction of fools sweeps by. When the dust has settled, Wisdom speaks no longer to the scornful, for they have perished. The shifting of pronouns in reference to the scoffers from “you” and “your” to “they” and “their” supports this inference. (Inference is the act or process of deriving logical conclusions from premises known or assumed to be true The conclusion drawn is also called an idiomatic). The chapter then concludes with a masterly contrast between fools, quieted at last in death, and Wisdom’s followers, dwelling “securely… without fear of evil.”

Again, Wisdom appears in the open square to persuade men of the worth of her incomparable riches (Chapter 8). Her origin is with God, and she is set against all evil of whatever hue. Wisdom is the basis of government, the producer of abundant wealth, The ancient creative power working with God in the framing of the habitable earth. “All they that hate me love death,’ for I am the creative principle of life,” she would say.

The third appearance of Wisdom in personification follows in the ninth chapter after a fashion which we have described above. This is possibly the supreme point of the entire book; certainly, it is the climax of the prologue.


Personification of Folly.

The opposite of Wisdom is also personified in the prologue in the figure of Mistress Folly, or in the words of the English versions, “The foolish woman.” 


Proverbs 9:13 A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing.

clamorous = Insistently demanding;

The seventh chapter is also is a personification of Folly in colours of an adulteress, secretly enticing the callow to their doom. This chapter is usually taken as a description of a lewd woman. (evil, wicked: sexually unchaste or licentious, obscene, vulgar); but certain facts seem to warrant a broader interpretation. The art by which the author chose the adulteress with all her wiles and seductive glamour for the figure of Folly, is apt and significant, for is not lewdness the epitome of Folly? The moral sense of the poet prompted him to the choice, as it guided him also in painting the whole picture, not omitting the yawning pit and death at the end of the wanton fling.


Sexual Vice.

This seventh chapter remains a graphic warning against sexual vice, even while it is regarded as an imaginative depiction of the worthlessness of Folly. Beside this seventh chapter, the fifth and sixth, from the twentieth verse on, are built upon this theme—the deadliness of sexual sins. The point of view throughout is that of the man. It is women who are painted as the seducers, and a moral menace.


Genesis 3:16 Unto the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”


This commandment (Gen 3:16), has not changed one iota on this fallen earth, regardless of what man, or woman says. Eve was the reason for this sad state of affairs we find ourselves in today. The lesson of this ancient book is still pertinent (having a clear decisive relevance to the matter in hand). Evidently, the writers of Proverbs regarded sins of sex as the most deadly. At least, they gave greater denunciation of them than to warnings against any other type of sin.


Perils of the Moral Life.

Chapter 6 epitomises the writers’ idea of perils to the moral life—sexual sins are denounced at length. (6:20—35), going bond for a person (6:1—5), laziness (6:6—11), and general perversity (6:12—15).


Proverbs 6:20—35 sexual sins

20 My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:

21 Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.

22 When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.

23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:

24 To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.

25 Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.

26 For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adultress will hunt for the precious life.

27 Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?

28 Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?

29 So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent.

30 Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;

31 But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.

32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.

33 A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.

34 For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.

35 He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.


Proverbs 6:1—5 going bond for a person

1 My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger,

2 Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.

3 Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend.

4 Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids.

5 Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.


Proverbs 6:6—11 laziness

06 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:

07 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,

08 Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

09 How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? When wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?

10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:

11 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.


Proverbs 6:12—15 general perversity

12 A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward {contrary] mouth.

13 He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers;

14 Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord.

15 Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.


“What are the six abominations of God?”

1.      “Haughty eyes, and a lying tongue.

2.      Hands that shed innocent blood.

3.      An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations.

4.      Feet that be swift in running to mischief.

5.      A false witness that uttereth lies.

6.      He that soweth discord among brethren.”


Six (6) Denotes the human number: Man was created on the sixth day; and this first occurrence of the number makes it (and all multiples of it) the hallmark of all connected with man. He works six days. The hours of his day are a multiple of six. Athaliah usurped the throne of Judah for six years. The great men who have stood out in defiance of God; (Goliath, Nebuchadnezzar, and Antichrist), are all emphatically marked by this number.)


Proverbs 6:17--19

17 1A proud look, a lying tongue, and 2hands that shed innocent blood,

18 3An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations,4 feet that be swift in running to mischief,

19 5A false witness that speaketh lies, 6and he that soweth discord among brethren.


Proverbs 1:2-6            

2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;

3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;

4 To give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.

5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:

6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.


The moral ideals and prudent counsel herein contained are as sound for this twenty first century, as for the generation which read them first.


The Wise Man’s Program of Religious Education.

Proverbs begin with what might be called an ancient program of Religious Education (1:2—6). Its several clauses are worthy of study.

1)     To know Wisdom and Understanding. The word “Wisdom” has been taken rightly to be the most comprehensive term for the intellectual interests of the Hebrews. Wisdom (chokhmah) is, however, superior to mere knowledge (da’ath), for it includes not only the significance of the latter term but also the expression of that knowledge in conduct ethical, and religious. Wisdom is the knowledge of how best to conduct oneself in God’s world and action consistent with such knowledge. Coupled with Wisdom in this first clause of the programme is “instruction” (musar). A better translation would be “discipline.” While it refers largely to the process by which teachers and advisers correct the seeker after Wisdom, it involves also self-discipline. As a later clause indicates (1:5), discipline is indispensable throughout life. Proverbs 1:5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:

2)     To discern the words of the second clause of the programme. In the Hebrew there is a tautology (needless repetition of an idea, statement, or word) which our translators (Abingdon Bible Co), have sought to avoid. We incline to believe that the authors deliberately wrote “to understand the words of understanding.” The Hebrew root (bi’yn) indicates an active effort to see through things, to get at the root of matters. One might well paraphrase the clause therefore, “to understand the vocabulary of life’s fundamentals.”

3)     The program further proposes to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, judgement, and equity. “Wise dealing,” or better still, “wise conduct,” is interpreted in the three terms which follow. (1) The first of the three words, “righteousness” in the English, suggests the vertical plane, connoting (certain meanings, ideas, etc.) the up-reach after the Divine which is an integral element of Wisdom in Hebrew thought. “Uprightness” might preserve the colour of the word best in a translation. (3) The last word in the triad, (2) “equity” in the English, means “straightforwardness,” if one cares to observe the colour of the original. The word suggests straight and narrow paths amid human affairs. The central word, rendered “judgement” in the English is mishpat in the Hebrew. Jeremiah used this word in a novel sense to convey almost the meaning which our modern word “religion” includes. Jeremiah 8:7 Yea, the stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord. Again, in the superb Servant Songs the word flowers into the same meaning,


“ReligionIsaiah 42:1—3

1 Behold my servant, whom I uphold; Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth; I have put My spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.

2 He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street.

3 A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth.”


Isaiah 49:4 Then I said, “I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.”


The new significance which was given to the word mishpat during the Exile must have been familiar to the authors of the prologue of proverbs, and we incline to believe that in this programme of the first chapter it should be translated “religion.” “Wise conduct,” then, is interpreted as “uprightness, religion, and righteousness.” As the Hebrew often arranges his items, the middle word is of most significance, like the capstone of an arch; religion is therefore seen to be the predominant factor in in moral conduct.

        4)    Young and old have a part in the programme. We can best set forth our interpretation of the lines dealing with youth by a fresh rendering.   Proverbs 1:4 “To give shrewdness to the untutored,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                To the young man knowledge and thoughtfulness.

            Maturity is also included in the scheme of the wise. Those who have had instruction can never cease to add to their store of learning, and even the “man of understanding” may still have ideals of accomplishment in striving to attain unto

              “sound counsels.” Proverbs 1:5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: The figure in the background of this last phrase in Hebrew comes from life on the sea. “Sound 

              Counsels” is a secondary meaning, quite adequate, but not as vivid as “handling the ropes.”


       5)   Finally, the programme looks to the grasp of literary forms and their significance, so that the difficult allusions and figures of speech in the presentation of truth may not be unappreciated. The word rendered “proverb” seems to cover the

             whole field of poesy, as a study in its usage in the Hebrew reveals. Proverbs 1:6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings. Thus the whole programme stands—the mastery of life’s    

             fundamentals through discipline; the attainment of moral conduct, the development of intelligence in youth and the perfection of wisdom in the mature; the appreciation of the noble forms which truth assumes. Here are the elements of

             philosophy, ethics, and æsthetics in this simple programme, whereby it must be approved as culturally sound.


Religion in Proverbs.

To the casual reader the book of Proverbs may seem to be less religious in tone than most of the other books in the O.T. Practical precepts, appeals to moral conduct, and aphorisms (a terse saying, expressing a general truth, principle, or astute observation), little related to religion are the gist of the work. These are the flower cluster. The great calyx (husk or pod), which holds the many blossom seeds together is not much seen; but the major premise of the book is religious, witness what might be called the text of it all: “The fear [reverence] of the LORD is the beginning (or, the chiefest part) of wisdom.


Proverbs 1:7 The fear [reverence] of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. 


Even below such lines as 20:29, lies this major premise, as a kindred aphorism suggests.


Proverbs 20:29 The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head.


Proverbs 10:27 The fear [reverence] of the Lord prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.


Thus the religious sanction must be kept in mind throughout, for it is everywhere like unseen roots from which the individual Proverbs spring up. The prologue itself also gives ample evidence of the religious sentiments of the authors and their regard for God as the source and purveyor of Wisdom, and the guardian of moral conduct.


Proverbs 2:6—8

6 For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.

7 He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: He is a buckler [shield] to them that walk uprightly.

8 He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of His saints.


Proverbs 3:5—12

05 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.

06 In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.

07 Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear [revere] the Lord, and depart from evil.

08 It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.

09 Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:

10 So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.

11 My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction:

12 For whom the Lord loveth He correcteth; even as a Father the son in whom He delighteth.


Proverbs 3:21—26

21 My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:

22 So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.

23 Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.

24 When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.

25 Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. 

26 For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.


Proverbs 3: 31—34

31 Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.

32 For the froward [wilfully contrary] is abomination to the Lord: but His secret is with the righteous.

33 The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but He blesseth the habitation of the just.

34 Surely he scorneth the scorners: but He giveth grace unto the lowly.


Proverbs 6: 16—19

16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him:

17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,

18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,

19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.


Proverbs Speak to the Twenty First Century.

The modern reader requires some classification of the material in Proverbs, particularly in the tenth and following chapters. In the space at our disposal, disregarding irrelevant material, we shall hew to a single line, namely, the answers which Proverbs has to give to the problems of modern youth in their later adolescence. As we cannot afford space for discussion of problems of text, we shall consider only those passages which are fairly clear in meaning.

The problems of modern youth may be summarised in four or five spheres—recreation, sex life and the home, economic activities, and cultural life.


Recreation. Modern youth asks in regard to recreation, “What is play? What is wasting time? Is amusement wrong, and in what proportion? Is recreation contrary to Religion? Is it improper to join in amusements with the opposite sex? How can one gain a right conscience on amusements? How can one find an interest in life?

1.      Play. Proverbs has little to give directly in solution to these problems, for recreation had not come to the fore in those ancient days. Feasts and banquets on occasion, religious celebrations, impromptu matches of strength and skill such as are common to men who must keep fit for war—these appear in the records of the Hebrews. Children played their games of make believe weddings, funerals, and the like; and no doubt games were invented by mature folk in their hours of relaxation. The nature of this recreation, however; was not such as to raise any very serious problems; nor was play of such prominence in the social order that it would be considered at length by those who were meditating upon moral and spiritual life.

2.      Seriousness of Life. The writers of Proverbs felt the seriousness of life, its burdens, and its woes, Proverbs 14: 13 Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness. But theirs is by no means a pessimistic outlook. They maintain a sane balance. Though life may be hard, yet Proverbs is in favour of a genial, joyous attitude of mind (positive) (Proverbs 15:13—15). Play or recreation is a means for bringing joy and cheer into life, taking the mind out of its cloying rut (causing or tending to cause disgust or aversion through excess) and giving it vigour. As such the book would seem to approve recreation. Yet all of life cannot be play. A man requires the bread and other staples of life beside honied sweets (Proverbs 25:16). As to what proportion of life’s programme should be recreation, Proverbs would throw that decision upon each individual. Wisdom is not a stereotyped body of knowledge or advice. Every man must work his own soil and grow his own crop; the wise man is one who has trained his mind to discern between good and evil, to seek after an ideal and objective such as God in His perfection might set up for him. As a man must learn to control his appetites, so he must control his time and energies, must arrange his life’s programme in accordance with the highest good, And so avoid the retching and painful surfeit (excess0 of eating too much sweet Proverbs 25:16). Riotous living is not recreation in the true sense of the word. it leads to all sorts of social strife. One must seek suitable recreation in some other mode (Proverbs 17:1).

3.      Helpful Recreation. Recreation should not encroach upon life’s serious business (Proverbs 21:17). Proverbs opposes a stern front to laziness. Life develops through hard labour; the energetic man has the approval of the wise. Consistently, therefore, they would set limits upon recreation in life’s programme. There must be a definite objective in life for the wise man in contrast with a fool who simply enjoys life, who has his fling (Proverbs 15:21). Would not the writers of Proverbs hold that recreation should serve life’s objective? Health of body, soundness of mind, speedy co-ordinations of mind and body—these are indispensable. Such recreation as contributes to these ends furthers the attainment of life's objective.

4.      Harmful Recreation. Youth must be alert to avoid perils in such recreation as has proven the downfall of others. The book of human experience is wide open; the wise will read and heed. There is deadly play; as there is also healthful recreation (Proverbs 16:25). Recreation should be in accord with wisdom. Perhaps no single verse is of more important on this matter than Proverbs 10:23 It is as sport to a fool to do mischief: but a man of understanding hath wisdom. The modern attempt to guide youth into constructive programmes of recreation away from destructive and noxious mischief is in line with this. The ideals of fair play and sportsmanlike conduct which mark modern playing fields are one with the ancient spirit which the social order found to be good and upon which the Hebrews set their seal of approval.


Sex Life and the Home.

In the sphere of sex life and the home, modern youth is asking such questions as these: Is sex appeal indecent? Why monogamy instead of polygamy? Is there harm in sexual intercourse outside of marriage? How can one control his passions? How does love differ from passion? Is woman the equal of man? What is a home? What is due honour to parents? Many of these questions which are of acute importance to modern youth were not central in the world which Proverbs was born. For one thing, marriage came much earlier then, than it does now on average. The requirements of modern life prolong the period of training, and youth cannot assume the responsibilities of matrimony for nearly a decade later than the Hebrew boy and girl did. This delay in the normal expression of sex life in marriage has given rise to grave problems of control of this master passion. Yet the basic principles of a well-ordered sex life are discoverable in Proverbs.


  1) Sex Appeal. Is sex appeal indecent? Not in its normal and proper satisfactions, Proverbs would say, as the hunger for bread is normal even though gluttony is to be abhorred.

Proverbs 23:20--21

20 Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:

21 For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.

The union of sexes is a holy thing.

Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.

The physical relationship of husband and wife is recognised as a fundamental good, quite as frankly as we are coming to regard it today.

Proverbs 5:18—19

18 Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.

19 Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. 

The harlot and the adulteress are denounced, and by implication the fools who are led astray by them are also scored. (Proverbs 5:3—13. 6:1—5, 20—35. 7:4—27. 22:14. 23:27—28. 29:3. 30:20).


2) Standard of Marriage. The standard of marriage in Proverbs is clearly monogamy. The writers do not argue the case, however, even though the earlier centuries of their people’s history had been marked by the practice of polygamy. Their method seems to have been to state the conclusions to which by experience the social order had arrived, namely that monogamy was the ideal of marriage, and leave it to the individual to thresh out for himself the supporting arguments. modern youth has a wealth of literature to peruse on this and kindred problems, in which he will find the wiser moderns supporting the conclusion of Proverbs.


3) Sexual Intercourse. Is there any harm in sexual intercourse outside of marriage? Proverbs is unequivocal (leaving no doubt) in its affirmation of the perils in sexual promiscuity. Death is the penalty (see passages 1) above). Possibly the writers have in mind the ancient penalty which their people had prescribed for adultery as a legal provision; more probably the perils of disease are intended.

Proverbs 5:11 And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and the jealous vengeance of a wronged husband (Proverbs 6:29 forward). Modern sociology agrees with the conclusions of Proverbs. Promiscuity in sexual relations exposes one to diseases of a most deadly nature, disrupts social bonds, and creates fatal antagonisms. Probably the writers of Proverbs had not come to appreciate the most deadly peril in promiscuity which modern writers find, in the breakdown of moral character and loss of the finer capacities of the emotional nature. Sexual life must be controlled and regulated not only before marriage but within wedlock. If proverbs does not specifically teach this, yet self-discipline, and self –control are keywords of the book.

Proverbs has no specific answer to to the problem of sexual control, for early marriages prevented the rise of this question in large measure.

(For modern discussion see Exner, Rational Sex Life for Men;                                                               

  Royden, Sex and Common Sense;

  Gray, Men Women and God).


4) Equality of Women. Is woman the equal of man? Proverbs is written from the male point of view, for its age was adjusted to male supremacy. The book expresses a higher regard for women, however, than any earlier period of Hebrew history had produced. Monogamy is assumed to be the normal the normal order of marriage for one thing, and woman is highly exalted in her wifehood.

Proverbs 18:22 Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.

Proverbs 19:14 House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the Lord.

These appreciative passages offset the repeated denunciations of garrulity (Excessive talkativeness, especially on trivial matters :) in women which mark Proverbs (21:9, 19. 25:24. 27:15). The worthy woman is praised in no measured terms. (12:4. 31: 10—31); but our English translations have rather perverted the significance of these passages by rendering a Hebrew word as “virtuous” which is best translated “good.” Not only skill in household management colours a picture of the worthy woman, but social and moral, if not intellectual, abilities as well.


Proverbs 31:25—26 

25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.


If Proverbs does not rise to the standards of our modern era in which woman is finding emancipation from the age long conceit that man was her master, it should not be forgotten that in the interval between the writing of Proverbs and our own time the world has been profoundly affected by the teaching of the greatest Hebrew of all, Jesus.


5) Home. In answer to the question, What is a home? The book of Proverbs supplies food for thought, Home is a kinship group centred around a father and mother, inclusive of children, and the aged of a former generation as well.


Proverbs 17:6 Children's children are the crown of old men; and the glory of children are their fathers.


 The coherence of the group is mutual respect and honour. (See Proverbs 17:6. 19:26. 20: 20. 23:22. 28:24. 30; 11, 17). One of the prime objects of a worthy home is the development of worthy children. The home is a place of discipline and moral education (See Proverbs 13:1, 24. 19:18. 22:6, 15. 29: 15, 17). Possibly Proverbs emphasises the rod and chastisement more than many exponents of modern education would approve; nevertheless such rigorous discipline is far better than the foolish renunciation (the renunciation of all earthly pleasures) by parents of all attempt to control the child on the principle of letting him “express his natural self.” Discipline remains the most important principle of character education.


6) Children and Parents.

The supreme joy of parents is found in worthy children (See Proverbs 10:1. 15:20. 17:21, 25. 23:24—26. 28:7). In their turn children are blessed in the worth of their parents.


Proverbs 20:7 The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.


Home is a preparatory school for life, a culture centre for wisdom, which we have defined in an earlier chapter. Proverbs subscribes to the ancient law which demanded honour for mother and father. Paul interpreted the word “honour” as “obey”.


Ephesians 6:1—2

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

2 Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise;


And in this he was following Proverbs, which uses the word “hearken” in the sense of “obey,” thereby strengthening the requirement of the more ancient Decalogue of Moses.


Exodus 13:1 And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,


Exodus 23:22 But if thou shalt indeed obey His voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries.


The mother is included in the demand for respect and honour. The claims of parents upon children for honour and respect are still valid, ignored though they may be by such as Proverbs would call fools. See Proverbs 19:26. 20: 20. 28:24. 30:11—14, 17). Changes in social custom and in the substance of human knowledge were not as stupendously rapid in those days as they are in our time, yet parents were doubles “out of date” to their children then as they are today. Proverbs maintains rightly that one important social bond is respect of youth for age.


Economic Activities.

What is success? By what means can it be achieved? Is the making of a fortune a proper objective of life? Is not the policy of “No1 first” indispensable? Is “honesty the best policy?” Do wealth and success inevitably attend a moral man? Is there a place for the “A Golden Rule” in business? Such are the queries modern youth is asking as the sphere of economics.


1) Success. What is success? Not riches alone Proverbs 23:4—5), but Wisdom (16:15), and a good name (22:1). After all, neither wealth nor poverty is the criterion of life, but one should aim to win the favour of God. (22:24).God’s favour rest upon those who try to do what is right (Proverbs 11:20. 12:2. 16:7, 20. 21:3). Success is difficult of definition, but Proverbs emphasises diligence and hard work in so many passages that obviously to the writers regard the lazy man as doomed to failure. (Proverbs 10:4, 5, 26. 12:11, 24, 27. 13:4, 11. 14:4, 23. 16:16. 18: 9. 19:15. 20:4, 13. 21:5, 25. 22:29. 24:30—34. 27:23—27. 28:9). Generosity, good will, and unselfishness are also qualities which make for success.

(Proverbs 1124—26. 13:7. 22:9).   


2) Fortune. Is the making of a fortune the proper objective in life? In answering this question one has to consider what Proverbs has to say with regard to riches, as compared with poverty; and in doing this we shall come across the answer to other questions in the list—“is not the policy of number one first indispensable? Is honesty the best policy? Do wealth and success inevitably attend the moral man?” Riches bring power (22:7); they add to the number of one’s friends (14:20. 19:4, 7); wealth gives a sense of security and self-confidence (10:15. 18:11). Yet in a time of peril it is a man’s integrity, after all, that saves him.


Proverbs 11: 4 Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivereth from death.  Riches may ransom a man, but a poor man has no cause to fear the threats of kidnappers. Proverbs 13: 8 The ransom of a man's life are his riches: but the poor heareth not rebuke. A man may become hardened by wealth. Proverbs 18:23 The poor useth intreaties; but the rich answereth roughly. To get rich quickly is perilous Proverbs 13:11 Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished: but he that gathereth by labour shall increase. (Septuagint and Vulgate read “in haste” for “by vanity”); it is often accomplished at great risk to one’s moral character (28:20), and probably wealth thus won will soon be lost.


Proverbs 28:22 He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.


To get rich dishonestly is an abomination to God (11:1. 16:11. 20:10, 23). Poverty is no cause for shame (16:8. 17:5a. 19:1), for it may be merely the result of injustices suffered.


Proverbs 13:23 Much food is in the tillage of the poor: but there is that [which] is destroyed for want of judgment. Riches must be coupled with moral character and righteous conduct to be of value in the world. (10:2, 16. 11:18, 28. 13: 22, 25. 14:31. 15:6, 25—27. [for gifts read bribes] 16:8. 19: forward].


3) The Golden Rule. There remains the question, Is there a place for the Golden Rule in business? The answer rests upon the decision which one makes as to the ultimate objective of business. Proverbs sets up not merely wealth as the aim of economic life, but moral character must be inviolate as wealth is secured. In this we discover Proverbs to be one with Jesus, and the elements of His mastery summary of life’s method in the Golden Rule are written in the work of the wise men three centuries before His day.

Golden Rule =


Cultural Life:

1) Personal Aspect. The problems of cultural life are in the main of two trends—the one personal and the other social. In the personal aspect appear such questions as: What is education, and how can culture be secured? What is goodness? Why be good? Is goodness always blessed and prospered? What is the meaning of life? Is there a future life? What is religion? Is there a God? Of what value are religious exercise, prayer &c?

1) Appreciation of Values. Culture involves appreciation of moral (12:3. 23:15—19. 29:18, 24), æsthetics (11:22), and spiritual (15:33a. 21:30) values. The expression of this appreciation in conduct is assumed to follow in the manifestation of such virtues as those with which we are about to enumerate. There is no evidence that the writers of proverbs thought of such practical training as the modern educational programme involves. Yet they deemed culture to be the result of rigorous discipline and self-correction. (10:17. 12:1, 15. 15:5 31—32. 17:10. 22:6. 23:13—14). By observation. (17:24. 19:25. 20:12), and by endless effort (15: 14, 21, 28. 16:16. 29:20). Culture is not a commodity that may be bought (17:16).


Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.


Proverbs 17:16 Wherefore [Why] is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?


2) Goodness. What is goodness? We may note here the virtues and admirable qualities of life which Proverbs exalts; they form a list which compares favourably with that of Paul in the N.T. We find humility (11:2. 15: 33b. 16:5. 18:12.22:4. 25:14. 27:2. 29:23); various types of self-control (14:17, 29. 16:32. 17:27—28. 18:13. 19:11. 20:1. 25:28); veracity (devotion to the truth) (10:10. 12:22. 13:5. 16.6. 19:22. 21;21); generosity (11:25. 21:26. 22;9. 28:25); diligent activity (15:19. 22:13. 26:13--16). Good cheer (15:13. 17;22); Justice (21:15 ); and fidelity (25:13). All of these references will be found to be illuminating as to the moral ideals of Proverbs.


Proverbs 15:19 The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.


3) Why be good? The questions, why be good? and is goodness always blessed and prospered? may be taken together. In a measure this problem has been considered under the caption of economic activities. The book declares that wickedness leads to disaster, whereas moral conduct has the favour of God. (10:30. 11:3 6, 8, 19, 20, 31. 12:13, 21. 13:6. 19:23. 22:5 12. 28:18, 25, 26. 29:1). The writers would probably allow that specific instances may seem to contradict this general assertion,  but that, taking life as a whole and in the long run, the balance is greatly on the side of goodness. One essential difference between goodness and evil lies in the power of recuperation which the good man has in the common lot of humanity to suffer in storms and calamity (10:25. 24:15—18).


4) Meaning of life.

What is the meaning of life? Proverb’s traces life’s significance primarily to God. Life is the reward of one who reverences God (19:23. 22:4).


Proverbs 22:4 By humility and the fear [reverence] of the Lord are riches, and honour, and life.


The translations render “reverence” as “fear,” however; mit is fear in the sense of awe which is intended. Reverence is a fountain of life. (14:27), and prolongs life (10:27). Life has also a moral content (11:19. 12:28. 21:21), and intelligence is an indispensable factor therein (10:17. 13:14). LXX, Ways of life are the thoughts of the wise, that he may turn away from Sheol and be saved. Proverbs 16:22 Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly. LXX Septuagint 16:22 Understanding is a fountain of life to its possessors; but the instruction of fools is evil.

Many passages in our English texts would seem to indicate a belief in a future life, however; a careful study of the Hebrew text, Proverbs, makes it clear that the writers are thinking rather of this present life. That is because we are here on this fallen earth to learn, and make a fundamental decision while we are here. Do we really want this present system of Satan’s; or The future system of Jehovah?  Proverbs more than accomplishes that goal and gives direction to the reader.                     (1)  (2)


5) God Jehovah. As to whether there is a God, Proverbs never indicates a doubt. In a masterly passage we read that the rich may lose their need of God and the poor may think that God has forgotten them (30:7—9), yet God still exists, supreme in Wisdom (21:30), and ruler over all 16:1, 2, 9. 20:24. 21:31). as the disposal of lots indicates (16:33. 19:21). Even kings are in His power (21:1), God made mankind, and has His purpose for them.


Proverbs 16:4 The Lord hath made all things for Himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.


Proverbs 20:12 The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them.


Proverbs 22:2 The rich and poor meet together: the Lord is the maker of them all. 


He tests men (17:3. 21:2), and defends and cherishes those who take His way (10:29. 12:2, 22. 14:26. 15:8, 9, 29. 16:5. 18:10. 22:12. 28:25. 29:25. 30:5—6). Nothing escapes His observation (15:3, 11. 20:27—instead of belly read soul in the sense of “inner being”.


6) Religion Since the writers believe in God, they had a religion even though there may not be an equivalent of our modern word “religion” in the book The phrase which comes close to it is “the fear of the Lord.” This reverence for God is a source of confidence and life (14:26—27. Compare 15:33). Trust in God is also involved in religion (16:20. 28:25b. 29:25b). Practical righteousness, furthermore, is a prime element in religion, to which ritual is secondary in the minds of the writers of Proverbs (15:8. 21;3, 27). Prayer also is a religious privilege, available for those whose conduct is righteous (10:8, 29. 28:9).


Cultural Life: (2) Social Aspect. In connection with his group such questions arise in the mind of modern youth as: What is friendship or brotherhood? Does a man’s group have the right to control him? Is charity a virtue? Is race antagonism natural, and inevitable? War? Social cleavages?

1) Friendship. Friendship according to Proverbs is a social bond far stronger than blood kinship (18:24—a necessary textual correction in the first line, noted in Toy, gives the reading, “There are friends for mere companionship”—(21:10c). Friendship develops character (27:17). Poverty is a severe test of friendship; it may alienate fair-weather friends (19:4, 7). Wisdom counsels to beware of friends who are spongers (19:4, 6). On the other hand remember friendship is not merely an anchor to windward. Work out your own salvation (27:10b—Toy indicates the lines in 27:10 are not properly parts of a single sentence, but disconnected lines dealing with the same theme; each is to be taken by itself). Friendship lies deeper in the being than professions in words; loud declarations of friendship may even cast doubt on the sincerity of the tie (27:14).

Friendship seems to be an important theme in the estimation of our writers, if we may judge by the scope of their lines. They give counsel as to the preservation of friendship. Beware of gossip about your friends (16:28. 17:9); some slander may injure them in your sight. Old tried friends deserve your loyalty (27:10a). Avoid friendship with an irascible man (22:24—25) (marked by hot temper and easily provoked anger). True friends overlook occasions for quarrel (17:9; compare 10;12. 16:28). Let not friendship become so close that it becomes wearisome (25:17).


2) Brotherly Kindness. The spirit of brotherly kindness pervades the book. Charity is exalted as as one of the chief social virtues (11:25—26. 14:31. 21:26. 22:9. 28:8, 27). Proverbs 22:9 He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.

Social cleavages are recognised as existent, particularly between the rich and the poor; but the writer’s sympathies are with the oppressed and poor (16:19. 17:5. 22:2, 16. 29:13. 30:10—14).The spirit of Proverbs rises to superb heights in its ideal of love toward one’s fellow men, even toward enemies (7:13. 20:22. 24:17—18, 29. 25:21—22). The verse last sited has become a common-place wherever the Bible is known by reason of its vigorous imagery.


Matthew 5:38—45

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:”

39 But I say unto you, “That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.”

44 But I say unto you,” Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”


Romans 12:19—21

19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath:” for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.’”

20 “Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”


The most poignant suffering that a vengeful man’s hand might work upon his enemy could not as swiftly touch the citadel of his hostility and capture it as the satisfaction of the enemy’s needs. Love and kindness toward an enemy are the most satisfactory kind of vengeance. Social frictions are deplored. Strife is termed the conduct of fools.


Proverbs 20:3 It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.


3) War and Peace. While war and the more extended frictions of the social order, the strife of nation with nation, are not in the direct line of their vision, yet the Writers of Proverbs have laid down the basic principles which point the way to peace and comity (social harmony). War had not been outlawed.


Proverbs 20:18 Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.


Proverbs 24:6 For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.


That a nation should have a conscience, however, and should study its march in the world to conform its steps to Wisdom even as the individual is advised to do—this appears to have been the mind of the sages.


Proverbs 14:34 Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.


It is not beyond possibility to say that they would have approved the extension of their advice for individuals to the broader sphere of national relationships.


4) Government. The book of Proverbs recognises the authority of social control as this is expressed in government. Monarchy was the typical order of those days. The right of the king to rule is unquestioned, but even the king is subordinate to God on high. (21:1. 29:26—“justice” is preferable to “judgement”). Revolutions are frowned upon as social upheavals (24:21—22). Like Paul, they would say that constituted authorities are of God. Revolution that is violent and destructive is often fatal, even to those who rebel.


Romans 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.


The way of amelioration (to make or become better, more bearable), of conditions lies in working with constituted channels of appeal for reform. A king must be righteous and a follower of wisdom (16:12. 20:28. 28:15. 29:4, 14). The virtues which should adorn the common man are the true crown of royalty.


5) Practice of Wisdom. Our modern life is not ordered like that of the ancient world in which this book took form; but the basic principles of life by which the solution of moral problems may be achieved now, as then, are written upon the pages of this work. Wisdom is not a body of knowledge, nor is it a book of rules. It is an achievement through the discipline of an intellectual struggle As one learns to play a game only by playing it, so with all helps of books and teachers, after all, a man learns Wisdom by practicing it. We learn to do by doing.”


Proverbs 8:34—36

34 Blessed is the man that heareth Me, watching daily at My gates, waiting at the posts of My doors.

35 For whoso findeth Me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.

36 But he that sinneth against Me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate Me love death.

Taken from the Companion Bible