Purpose of Proverbs
Woven into human fabric is the desire to learn and understand. Our mind sets us apart from animals, and we analyze, conceptualize, theorize, discuss, and debate everything from science to the supernatural. We build schools, institutes, and universities, where learned professors can teach us about the world and about life.
Knowledge is good, but there is a vast difference between “knowledge” (having the facts) and “wisdom” (applying those facts to life). We may amass knowledge, but without wisdom our knowledge is useless. We must learn how to live out what we know.
The wisest man who ever lived, Solomon, left us a legacy of written wisdom in three volumes—Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. In these books, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he gives practical insights and guidelines for life.
In the first of these three volumes, Solomon passes on his practical advice in the form of proverbs. A proverb is a short, concise sentence that conveys moral truth. The book of Proverbs is a collection of these wise statements. The main theme of Proverbs, as we might expect, is the nature of true wisdom. Solomon writes, “Fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. Only fools despise wisdom and discipline” (1:7). He then proceeds to give hundreds of practical examples of how to live according to godly wisdom.
Proverbs covers a wide range of topics, including youth and discipline, family life, self-control and resisting temptation, business matters, words and the tongue, knowing God, marriage, seeking the truth, wealth and poverty, immorality, and, of course, wisdom. These proverbs are short poems (usually in couplet form), containing a holy mixture of common sense and timely warnings. Although they are not meant to teach doctrine, a person who follows their advice will walk closely with God. The word proverb comes from a Hebrew word that means “to rule or to govern,” and these sayings, reminders, and admonitions provide profound advice for governing our life.
It tells how to order one’s values, which leads to character, which leads to wholeness, which leads to satisfaction. It warns of the pitfalls along the way, and declares the folly of not developing the fear of the Lord. Because the thirty-one-chapter book contains so much that is worth daily meditation and is relevant for every era, many Bible readers have found it desirable to read a chapter a day, thus covering the entire book every month.
As you read Proverbs, understand that knowing God is the key to wisdom. Listen to the thoughts and lessons from the world’s wisest man, and apply these truths to your life. Don’t just read these proverbs; act on them!