The Proverbs of Solomon

Discovery for Teachers

The Proverbs of Solomon

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Proverbs 10:1 through 22:16

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!” (Proverbs 16:16)

BACKGROUND

This central section of the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 10:1 through Proverbs 22:16) contains the bulk of the sayings which the Israelites attributed to King Solomon. Both this and the first section begin with the same four words: “The proverbs of Solomon…” These maxims offer practical wisdom for godly living applicable at every stage of life.

Five major themes in which virtues are contrasted with their corresponding vices are the focus of this portion of the book.

  • Over sixty verses contrast righteousness with wickedness.
  • Approximately sixty verses contrast wisdom with foolishness.
  • More than fifty verses contrast good conversation with evil speaking.
  • Over forty verses contrast riches with poverty.
  • Approximately twenty verses contrast diligence with laziness.

While references to these themes appear throughout the section, Solomon did not group the proverbs by theme. Rather, he moved from one subject to another in a natural order, similar to a conversation. For example, one proverb might explain the previous one. Another proverb might contrast with the previous one.

A variety of stand-alone proverbs are also found in these twelve chapters. Most are couplets — two sentences or phrases in one verse. In the majority of these, the parallelism is antithetic (the two phrases are directly opposed to each other).

SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

  1. The key verse, Proverbs 16:16, states that it is better to get wisdom than to get gold, and that understanding is to be chosen over silver. Why is this true? Why are wisdom and understanding so valuable?

    Your class should conclude that material wealth is perishable, while true wisdom and understanding help in every part of life and bring eternal benefits as well. Wealth can purchase material goods, but cannot purchase satisfaction, righteousness, peace, long life, or the blessings of God. While those who obtain true wisdom and understanding may or may not receive material benefits, they are guaranteed spiritual blessings that are more valuable than gold or silver. Wisdom and understanding, which includes coming to the knowledge of salvation, bring true satisfaction and enrich the soul.

    You might wish to point out that Solomon — who was a very wealthy man and thus could speak with authority on this topic — made this statement of comparison with great assurance. The exclamatory phrase, “How much better…!” indicates that as he pondered this, he was amazed at the disproportion.

  2. The wisdom contained in these proverbs is presented in several distinct literary forms. In an antithetical (contrasting) proverb, a virtue identified in the first part of the proverb is contrasted with a corresponding vice in the second part, or vice-versa. A synonymous (amplifying) proverb repeats and reaffirms the same thought in different words. A synthetic (explanatory) proverb presents one thought in an initial section and then explains or completes this thought in the concluding portion. Using these descriptions, identify which literary form is used in each of the following proverbs.

    Your students should identify these literary forms:

    Proverbs 14:12 — explain

    Proverbs 14:19 — amplify

    Proverbs 14:34 — contrast

    You could use the following verses as a group activity, having class members read a proverb aloud and identify its form.

    Proverbs 10:12 — contrast  

    Proverbs 10:22 — explain

    Proverbs 11:7 — amplify
     
    Proverbs 12:22 — contrast

    Proverbs 15:3 — explain
     
    Proverbs 15:23 — amplify

    Proverbs 15:29 — contrast

    Proverbs 16:18 — amplify

    Proverbs 16:31 — explain

    Proverbs 17:22 — contrast

    Proverbs 17:28 — amplify

    Proverbs 18:10 — explain

    Proverbs 19:5 — amplify  

    Proverbs 20:22 — explain

    Proverbs 22:3 — contrast


  3. Over sixty verses in this section of Proverbs contrast the righteous with the wicked. In the following verses, what are the positive consequences of righteousness and the negative consequences of wickedness? Proverbs 10:6; 11:19; 12:2; 15:29

    Proverbs 10:6 promises blessings to the righteous, but violence to the wicked. Proverbs 11:19 states that the righteous will enjoy life, but the wicked will die. Proverbs 12:2 brings out that the Lord’s favor will rest upon the righteous, but He will condemn the wicked. Proverbs 15:29 indicates that the prayers of the righteous will be heard while the prayers of the wicked will be ignored.

    You may wish to amplify your students’ answers by bringing out that consequences can be divided into two categories: physical/material consequences and spiritual consequences. These proverbs illustrate that in both areas, righteousness is man’s best security.

    You may wish to point out that passages which allude to wealth and prosperity as being rewards for the righteous should not be interpreted as teaching that following God is a way to obtain material benefits. While the righteous may or may not be blessed with prosperity, those in this category are assured of a glorious eternity.

  4. Approximately sixty verses in this section of Proverbs contrast wisdom and folly. Several of these proverbs point out the importance of listening to instruction, or receiving counsel (see Proverbs 12:15; 15:5; 17:10; and 19:20). Why is this so important?

    Class response to this question will likely bring out that we can obtain deep spiritual insights by drawing from the experiences and wise counsel of the godly. In this information age, knowledge is plentiful, but true wisdom is scarce. When wisdom is presented to us through the wise instruction and counsel of the godly, we will benefit if we take heed.

    As a follow-up, ask your students to share examples of times when they were given good instruction and benefited by heeding it. Be prepared with a personal example.

  5. Words have power. They can damage and destroy, or encourage and build up. The contrast between good words and evil speaking is also a focus of this section. What positive aspects of good speech are brought out in Proverbs 12:25; 15:23; and 16:24?

    Proverbs 12:25 brings out that a “good word” makes a heart glad. Ask your class to name some types of good words that we can employ. They will likely mention encouragement, commendation, appreciation, and most importantly, pointing others to God.

    In Proverbs 15:23, Solomon addressed the value of a word spoken “in due season.” Often when we speak is as important as what we say. Point out that the Spirit of God can direct us as to the appropriate timing of our words.

    Proverbs 16:24 compares pleasant words to a honeycomb, and states that they are “sweet to the soul.” This might be an opportunity for your class members to relate times when someone’s words were especially uplifting or encouraging to them.

    Lead your class to conclude that each of us no doubt has opportunities every day to speak words that will uplift and encourage someone. Not only will the individual we address be blessed, but we will be as well!

  6. Another frequent topic in this section of Proverbs is the contrast between riches and poverty, the rich and the poor. Find at least one example and cite the principle which the verse you chose expresses.

    You may wish to make a list with your class of the verses your students offer and the principles these verses express. Some options include:

    Proverbs 11:25 — Those who share their wealth will be blessed in return.

    Proverbs 11:28 — Do not put trust in riches or wealth.

    Proverbs 15:27 — Do not be greedy as that brings trouble.

    Proverbs 16:8 — It is better to be poor and good than rich and evil.

    Proverbs 22:16 — Those who oppress the poor will become needy themselves.

    Point out that how we handle our material resources matters in terms of our spiritual lives. Not only did Solomon reference this frequently in Proverbs, but God gave much instruction in the rest of Scripture as well about how we should earn, save, and spend our money.

  7. Over twenty verses in this section of Proverbs contrast diligence and laziness. A “sluggard” is a lazy or slothful person, and he is contrasted with a diligent or hardworking person. What are some reasons to be diligent and hardworking? Proverbs 10:4-5; 19:15

    Proverbs 10:4 and 19:15 bring out that diligence is needed in order to have life’s necessities such as food, clothing, and shelter. Proverbs 10:5 indicates that diligence results in one having a good reputation. The point should be made that every day offers opportunities to be productive in one way or another. We are accountable to carry out our work with diligence and discipline, not laziness — that is part of effective and wise living.

    If you wish to amplify this topic further, your class could look up the following verses together and discuss what motivation to work hard and be diligent is brought out by each verse.

    Proverbs 10:26 — A desire to avoid displeasing a supervisor.

    Proverbs 12:27 — A desire to take care of what one has.

    Proverbs 14:23 — A desire to avoid laboring in vain.

    Proverbs 20:4 — To avoid being reduced to begging.

    Proverbs 20:13 — To avoid poverty.

  8. Why are the five major themes developed in this section of Proverbs still so applicable today? (See the summary in the lesson background.)

    Your class should conclude that righteousness and wickedness, wisdom and foolishness, good words and evil speaking, riches and poverty, and diligence and laziness are still applicable today because they are timeless themes that have impact in every culture and era. In our day as in Solomon’s time, positive virtues still bring positive results, and negative vices still bring negative results. Across the ages of time, people gain when they apply these principles to their lives.
  9. Which of the proverbs in today’s text spoke most directly to your heart, and why?

    Since our text covers a range of different topics, there is no correct answer to this question. Encourage your students to explain how the verse they chose applies to their own lives. Be prepared to share a personal response to this question with your class.

CONCLUSION

As we study Proverbs, may God help us to discover the nuggets of wisdom which will most enrich our souls and enlighten our minds. These precious jewels of knowledge are of great value when they are applied to our own hearts and lives!