The Proverbs of Solomon
A common challenge with reading a book like Proverbs is getting lost in the text. It’s hard to remember exactly where you were, or what proverb you read last. A modern-day proverb aptly warns us of this kind of situation, when we “can’t see the forest for the trees.”
So let’s step back for a moment to survey the forest of Proverbs, before we focus on the Sayings of the Wise. The book of Proverbs is traditionally divided into a few sections:
- A Father’s Wisdom (1-9)
- Proverbs of Solomon: Part 1 (10-22:16)
- Sayings of the Wise (22:17-24)
- Proverbs of Solomon: Part 2 (25-29)
- Final Wisdom (30-31)
Compared to the first section of Proverbs, which made an argument for the importance of wisdom, the collection of Wise Sayings (which Proverbs 24 is right at the end of) probably seems much more random. It doesn’t really feel like there is a uniting purpose or theme, or a narrative driving the section. And that’s exactly right! This section is a collection of proverbs, which by definition are short and pithy, but unrelated, wise sayings.
This part of the book is really best enjoyed meditatively with a cup of tea, so after each individual proverb you can pause to reflect, as you sip your tea.
Because these sayings are mostly unrelated to one another, and feel somewhat random as we read through them, this is also a section that will read very differently in different seasons of life.
Ten years ago reading Proverbs, I was sure every verse was written to young men.
Five years ago, I was sure it was all about husbands and wives.
This year, I’m sure every verse is about children, and wisdom for parenting.
Different passages will stand out to you as you read and reflect on Proverbs throughout your life, as your situation and the challenges you are facing change. But you can be sure that no matter where you are, and what you’re dealing with, Proverbs has something to say about it.
30 Sayings of the Wise
We can survey the 30 Sayings in Proverbs 22:17-24:23 as a small picture of the whole book. In my own study, I find it useful to ask two questions when reading through Proverbs:
- What is the emphasis of the text?
- What stands out to me?
First then: What is the emphasis of the text?
Or to put it another way, what theme or idea appears the most?
In these 30 Sayings, a father is imparting wisdom to his son. What does the father emphasize?
The father himself says that his wants his son “to be honest and to speak the truth.” How does that theme appear in this section?
Second: What stands out to me?
Today I noticed this proverb in particular, and I was encouraged to seek the wisdom of the Lord:
Eat honey, my son, for it is good;
honey from the comb is sweet to your taste.
Know also that wisdom is like honey for you:
if you find it, there is a future hope for you,
and your hope will not be cut off. (24:13-14)
So what stood out to you? What speaks to your life right now? What is the Holy Spirit nudging, encouraging or exhorting you with? Read through the Thirty Sayings again, and notice what grabs your attention. Meditate and pray over it, and as you do ask the Holy Spirit to continue to work in your heart through the wisdom of the Word of God.
Holy Spirit, we thank you for your very presence in us. We thank you that you are indeed the one who is with us, indwelling our very hearts as a temple of God. Would you continue your work of illumination, making clear not only the meaning of the Bible as we read, but how our lives and hearts must be refined by it. Would you make clear to us today and this week, how what we’ve seen in Proverbs should grow and change us. Amen.