by Robert Brow   (

J.L.P Digital Publications, Odessa ON, 2001


Wisdom and Spirit
Way and Walking
Women and Fools
Words and Tongue
Work and Laziness
Wealth and Money
Wholeness and Joy

Introduction to the Book of Proverbs
In the ancient world ordinary people looked to three kinds of person for guidance in living their lives. And three thousand years later we still look for the same kinds of help. Historians tell us what has happened in the past. There are wise persons who share their insight into the meaning of life. And prophets point out what is going wrong and give us their vision for what we should do in the future. Such persons may not claim to believe in God as we do. These three categories are represented in the Old Testament by the Historical books (Genesis to Esther), the Prophetic books (Isaiah to Malachi), and the Wisdom books (Job to Song of Solomon).

Jeremiah said "instruction shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet" (Jeremiah 18:18). So we might think of priests as those who keep a record of our religious history, and maintain our traditions, customs, and manners. Wise people include psychologists, counselors, poets, and writers on topics such as family life, health, money, sex, and gardening. And prophets interpret the signs of the times, and exhort us to right wrongs in the light of the future. A look in any bookshop will show that these are still the main kinds of book in demand today.

The Book of Proverbs (in Hebrew titled mishle, proverbs) is part of the wisdom literature of the Old Testament. And the first verse ascribes them to Solomon, son of David, king of Israel (1:1). Certainly when he was young (before his many wives led him into idolatry) "God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore" (1 Kings 4:29, 10:23, 2 Chronicles 1:7-12). He "spoke (not composed) 3000 proverbs, and his songs numbered 1005." He was also an avid collector of what later became the sciences of Botany and Zoology. "He would speak of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows in the wall; he would speak of animals, and birds, and reptiles, and fish" (1 Kings 4:32-34).

Though the impetus for collecting the Book of Proverbs came from Solomon, the collections of others were included (perhaps later) in the book (The Wise Men, 22:17-24:34), Agur, 30:1-33, and the mother of King Lemuel, 31:1-9).

Proverbs are common in every country of the world. In English for example we have "a stitch in time saves nine; a fool and his money are soon parted; penny wise and pound foolish; a bird in the hand is worth ten in the bush, the road to hell is paved with good intentions; a bad workman blames his tools - the Hindi equivalent is natch na jane angan terha which means that if you can't dance you complain the floor isn't level. The way they work is that the proverb is learned and stored in one's sub-conscious ready to come up to give insight at the appropriate moment.

But why would the Bible include a book of proverbs that hardly seem "spiritual"? One answer might be that God does not want his children to be "so heavenly-minded that they are no earthly good." We can cope with ordinary sinners, but what do you do with those who are full of pious talk, but haven't an ounce of sense in their head? As Jesus said, "Give to the emperor what is the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's" (Matthew 22:21), which means that we are to be spiritual in our devotion to God, but we also need to be responsible in how we conduct our lives as citizens.

These proverbs serve to remind us that Christian faith needs to be practical. Nobody is impressed with the man who says "With God I don't need insurance," and then splurges the family money and dies leaving his wife and children destitute and without a home. On the other hand when someone has done a good job in the carpentry business for 27 years (as Jesus did) people are ready to listen when he begins to talk about God.

Wisdom and Spirit