The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;
Dear reader, consider these words carefully and slowly. They are wonderful words. You have entered the personal library of inspired royalty. Secrets of wisdom have been collected and preserved for you. Solomon, the rich and wise king of Israel, son of beloved king David, will teach you to be great in the sight of God and men (Pr 3:1-4; 10:1; 25:1).
You stand before an open door of knowledge, prudence, honor, riches, and life, among many other blessings. These are not the mere words of a pagan thinker, whose sayings have long ago been proven false. These are the inspired words of God as learned, proven, and written down by the world’s greatest analyst and philosopher (Eccl 1:12-18; 2:1-12).
What is a proverb? Before you read this wonderful book and attempt to understand these words of Solomon, consider the definition and nature of a proverb. The English word, according to The Oxford English Dictionary, means the following:
1. A short pithy saying in common and recognized use; a concise sentence, often metaphorical or alliterative in form, which is held to express some truth ascertained by experience or observation and familiar to all; an adage, a wise saw.
2. A common word or phrase of contempt or reproach, a byword.
3. An oracular or enigmatical saying that requires interpretation; an allegory, a parable.
The Bible uses the word “proverb” in all three ways, and it contains all three types of proverbs. Solomon’s book of Proverbs contains all three kinds as well.
Proverbs can be difficult to understand. As the definitions show, they are often metaphorical, which means they use words figuratively, not literally. And they are often enigmatical, which means they were composed intentionally with obscure metaphors or other figures of speech to challenge the reader to discover their hidden lesson. They can be obscure and perplexing by design, which gives them unique appeal, beauty, and force.
Solomon in his introduction describes proverbs as needing interpretation and being the dark sayings of wise men (Pr 1:6). You may almost see him admitting definitions one and three above, for metaphors need interpretation and enigmas are truly dark sayings. His proverbs are not for speed-reading or light reading. They are for careful and slow reading, with much thought on the lesson or lessons and how to apply the wisdom to your life.
These sayings need interpretation and application, which means finding the sense intended by God and Solomon (II Pet 1:20-21). As with all proper Bible study, the words are to be read distinctly, and then the proper sense given to cause understanding (Neh 8:8). This procedure must be followed in all books of the Bible, but especially here.
Jesus and His disciples further show the difficulty of understanding proverbs. Consider the following two verses showing the obscure nature of a proverb:
“These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.”
“His disciples said unto him, Lo, now speakest thou plainly, and speakest no proverb.”
Jesus knew proverbs were not plain speech, and the disciples knew proverbs were not plain speech. Proverbs need careful analysis and interpretation to know the full and correct meaning and application. Instead of being intimidated, get excited at the prospect.
These proverbs provide short, valuable, and challenging rules for living life successfully by the wisdom of God. You will learn the fastest way to honor and riches and be saved from the pitfalls that trap others. What an exciting literary form! What an interesting way of communicating truth! And all by the Divine inspiration of the LORD Jehovah!
But these are not just any proverbs, they are the proverbs of Solomon, son of David and king of Israel. Begotten and trained by the man after God’s own heart, God gave Solomon largeness of heart and wisdom above all other men (I Kings 3:12; 4:29-31). As a rich king with a peaceful reign, he explored the purpose and rules for life more than any other man could even attempt, as is recorded in his philosophical book, Ecclesiastes.
God inspired Solomon to write many proverbs, by which he taught the people knowledge and set out acceptable words, even words of truth (Eccl 12:9-11). Of a total of three thousand proverbs (I Kgs 4:32), the best five hundred are here. What a collection! You will learn truth and wisdom to cover most areas of your life. Honor, long life, peace, prosperity, and safety are right before you. Your part is simply to read, learn, and do.
Tremble before the Bible – God’s divine library of perfect revelation – and celebrate the opportunity to find great spoil from the mind of God and the observations of Solomon. Ask God by His Spirit to reveal precious things to you (Ps 119:18). Make learning and obedience your goals, without even a trace of mere academic interest or knowledge for the sake of pride. Let your ambition be to grow in wisdom to please God and men.