SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Proverbs 25:1 through 31:31
KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
Proverbs 25:1 marks the conclusion of proverbs of the wise men of Israel and the beginning of the third and final section of the Book of Proverbs. According to this verse, the final proverbs authored by Solomon (chapters 25 through 29) were collected and copied by the aides of Hezekiah, King of Judah (715-686 B.C.), who restored the Temple some two hundred years after the time of Solomon. The word translated copied in this verse literally means “removed from one document to another,” likely indicating that by the time of Hezekiah, the original documents were in poor condition and needed to be copied in order to preserve the teachings. It is possible that these men also incorporated some of the oral proverbs attributed to Solomon into their collection, along with those that had been written down. Chapter 30 was written by Agur, of whom little is known except that he was a wise teacher who may have come from the kingdom of Massa in northern Arabia. Chapter 31 was written by King Lemuel, who is believed to have been from the kingdom of Massa as well.
This portion of the book contains a special emphasis on wisdom for leaders: it stresses the king’s role and covers topics associated with royal responsibility and appropriate behavior of officials. Rather than reminding leaders what good conduct entails, many of these proverbs instruct the court in what behaviors to encourage in their leaders. Relationships with others is another common thread that runs throughout these chapters, with insight offered regarding one’s association not only with rulers, but with fools, scoundrels, the poor, the wicked, and the righteous.
Chapters 25 through 29 vary somewhat in style and form from the portions of the book attributed to Solomon. These proverbs are arranged more frequently by topic; at times several sequential verses may address the same subject. While chapters 30 and 31 were authored by individuals other than Solomon, it is significant that their words were considered worthy of inclusion in this collection. The Book of Proverbs ends with the beautiful portrait of a virtuous wife and mother written in the style of an acrostic poem — each of the twenty-two stanzas begins with a successive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
- What advice is given in Proverbs 25:6-7, and how does it apply to us today?
The proverb advises a person to refrain from sitting in a place of honor without being asked to do so. It makes the point that those who exalt themselves shall be abased and those who humble themselves shall be exalted.
The proverb applies in our day because the love of approbation, which leads one to seek selfishly for advancement, still exists. If we put ourselves ahead of others, pride has gained a foothold in our lives. Class discussion should bring out that God hates pride. He tells us the haughty and proud will fall, so it is vital to guard against self-exaltation or self-promotion. God will bless those who are humble.
- Proverbs 25:11-12; 27:5-6; and 28:23 refer to the benefits of wise counsel and encouragement. Give an example of a time when the good advice of a godly friend helped you or someone you know avoid making a harmful mistake.
Responses to this question will be personal in nature, but some in your class may be willing to share their personal experiences. Amplify the discussion by referring to Proverbs 27:17. Have this verse read aloud, and then ask the group to explain how iron sharpening iron is like friendship. It should be brought out that verbal exchanges between Christians can be a tremendous source of encouragement to one another. Conversations with other godly individuals can clarify our thinking, refine and shape our thoughts, and stimulate new ideas. A similar thought is presented in the New Testament, where we are told to exhort one another daily (Hebrews 3:13).
- The counsel given in Proverbs 25:21 is straightforward: we are to treat our enemies with kindness by meeting their basic needs of food and water. Bible scholars differ somewhat in their explanations of how doing so will “heap coals of fire” on the heads of our adversaries (verse 22). It may indicate that kindness will melt hardened hearts or angry feelings. Others suggest that kindness will shame our enemies into contrition and repentance. However the original meaning is explained, Solomon was indicating that the most effective response to animosity is to do good in return. Why is this response so effective?
Class discussion should bring out that a person who is treated kindly after being mean or disrespectful to another will often feel ashamed. Kindness begets kindness. In addition, treating those who despitefully use us with graciousness and mercy provides an undeniable Christian witness, for a person who can treat his enemies in that manner surely has the love of God in his or her heart. The same principle is reiterated in the New Testament: Paul quotes this proverb in Romans 12:19-21, and Jesus himself taught us to pray for those who treat us harshly (see Matthew 5:44).
Your group may be able to offer examples of those who responded with kindness after being treated wrongly, and the positive results that ensued.
- Proverbs 26:13-16 contains a series of four warnings regarding indolence. What descriptive word picture of a lazy person is given in Proverbs 26:14? What principle is developed in these four verses?
Proverbs 26:14 compares a lazy man turning on his bed to the creaking of a door turning on its hinges, possibly because one who is slothful is as attached to his bed as a door is attached to its hinges.
The prevailing thought of these verses is that a lazy person will find all manner of excuses for his indolence. Rather than explaining away or justifying a lack of effort, we should be diligent in whatever we undertake and not let challenges deter us from accomplishing our tasks, though it may not always be easy to persevere. Proverbs 27:23-27 is a good companion passage. It brings out that the one who pursues a good goal will have a harvest in the end, in contrast to the one who does not even try.
- We are warned in Proverbs 27:1 against assertively stating what we will do in the future. How can realizing we have no guarantee of tomorrow help us have a proper respect and humility before God?
God is the only One who knows what tomorrow will bring, so to “boast” of what we will or will not do may reveal a lack of submission to Him, or an arrogant or presumptuous spirit. When a person refuses to seek the will of God in the plans he makes, he is relying upon his own abilities and discernment. How quickly that can become self-sufficiency and pride! One who seeks the Lord’s will, makes plans with the Lord as his Guide, and acknowledges and submits to God’s providential arrangement for his life is evidencing a proper respect and humility before the Lord.
- Solomon has much to say about fools. According to Proverbs 28:26, what causes a person to become a fool? How can we avoid that and be wise?
Proverbs 28:26 says, “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.” Ask your class to explain what is meant by trusting in one’s own heart. They should conclude that it occurs when an individual decides that he or she knows better than God, or is fully capable of handling his or her own affairs without divine help. It is folly to rely on one’s own capabilities; the one who does so is actually wandering in darkness and in danger of being deceived.
In response to the second question, your group should conclude that we can avoid being foolish by choosing to seek the Lord and His wisdom. We will read His Word and look to Him for guidance rather than attempting to live according to our own ways.
You may wish to discuss with your class what happens when people trust in themselves and fail to look to God and follow His ways. A quick review of current news headlines will no doubt offer many contemporary examples. Your group should recognize that without God’s wisdom, homes are broken, children have no anchor, violence is rampant, and many other dysfunctional situations flourish in society and in individual lives.
- In Proverbs 31 we find a beautiful tribute to a godly woman. Outer beauty is not mentioned as being important, but inner beauty is highly commended. While godly women of our day will not necessarily perform every activity in this description, they will exemplify the character from which these activities originated. Given that the Book of Proverbs is a challenge to seek and find true wisdom, why do you think a composite picture of virtuous womanhood is included in this final chapter?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question, but it should elicit some valuable class discussion. You may wish to point out that many of these principles of industry and strength of character can apply to men as well.
It might be interesting to generate a list of the virtues mentioned in this description. Such a list would include: trustworthy, a helpmate and asset to the spouse, industrious, benevolent, a maker of beautiful things, a tasteful dresser, strong, honorable, wise, kind, praiseworthy, someone who takes care of the household, honors and respects her spouse in actions and words, and fears the Lord.
Much has been said throughout the Book of Proverbs about the contentious woman. In addition, there have been repeated condemnations of the adulterous and sinful woman. It is appropriate that in this closing chapter, a description is given of commendable womanhood. Without doubt, an individual who has these qualities will be wise and successful in the things that matter, not only in this life, but in the life to come.
A person who heeds the wisdom offered in the Book of Proverbs will have a successful and fulfilling life.