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The Book of Proverbs is one of the Poetry books

The Book of Proverbs is the twentieth book of the Old Testament and also the twentieth book of Bible. It is a collection of proverbs, parables, and riddles[5], written in a poetic style. These poems were written to be advice and words of wisdom[6] from God.[7][8] Proverbs was mainly written by Solomon,[9] who asked God for the wisdom[10][11] in the book.

Authorship

Solomonic Proverbs

Many of Proverbs were written by Solomon.[1][9][12] After Solomon had been king for a while, he asked God for the same wisdom that had been given to his father David. He used this wisdom to write over three-thousand proverbs[12], many of these being those in the Book of Proverbs. Based on the amount of proverbs he wrote, the Book of Proverbs only contains a select few of the ones in which he has written. These other Proverbs were probably somewhat circulated throughout Israelite society, but with varying degrees of awareness. It is not known the process in which certain Proverbs of Solomon were selected for inclusion.

Aim and Audience

Solomon wrote his proverbs for multiple reasons: gaining wisdom in understanding insight[13], giving instruction in correct behavior and doing what is right[14], wisdom to the simple and knowledge to the young[15], for the wise to learn more discernment[16] and for interpreting proverbs, parables, sayings and riddles coming from wise men[5].

Many of the proverbs are often directed as wisdom for Solomon's sons[17], particularly his only named son Rehoboam. Many of these poems serve as reminders to listen to one's father and mother (possibly Naamah), as well as specific advice concerning choice of the right friends, adultery and sexual immorality, and accepting wisdom. Solomon also aims some of his advice at all of his sons (perhaps very numerous based on the size of his harem)[18].

Another meaning of "my son" may refer to Solomon's role as a teacher[19] and the audience of his proverbs being those younger as students.

The advice written in proverbs contained contributions from those who were considered wise, that is obeyed the instruction of God. From within Proverbs, and throughout the rest of the Bible, the attribute of true wisdom comes from God Himself. This is a major evidence for His authorship of the book.

There is a possibility that not only was Solomon writing Scripture, but caring for his family by writing his poetry. By the time he wrote Proverbs he could've had several sons by many members of his harem. The phrase "my sons" may be a literal reference to his sons that he had by his many wives. This would indicate that the Proverbs may have been written in part impart wisdom to then. This would've made many of the Proverbs personal when referring to a "father" or "mother".

Compilation by Hezekiah's men

At least some of Solomon's Proverbs were compiled and collected by scribes of King Hezekiah[1]. All of the Proverbs of Solomon, perhaps even for all the authors were compiled by these men commissioned by Hezekiah. Hezekiah likely did this from direction by God[20] and to preserve the most commonly known Proverbs for the Hebrew and Israelite culture. The men who compiled the Proverbs were likely well educated in the extant Scriptures who clearly understood the cultural context in which they had been written.

Other Authors

King Lemuel

King Lemuel records a minimum of nine sayings in the final chapter of the Book, and may have been the author of the Book's epilogue concerning the noble wife. King Lemuel records his sayings or phrases, recounted[21] from what his mother had taught him (which he states was inspired)[3]. His mother gave him knowledge specific to kings (but can be applied to others) such as not focus his strength on women (who ruin kings)[22], not to drink alcohol as a king, and to defend the poor.

It is also possible he could've written the epilogue about a wife of noble character, describing how a husband is to treat her and what qualities make her noble.

It is not known whether or not King Lemuel was an Israelite or Hebrew king or if he was from outside of Israel entirely.

Agur

King Agur has his sayings record in this Collection of Proverbs, specifically words told to a man named Ithiel and Ukai[2].

Other Wise men

There are also thirty sayings of various other wise men collection in the book.

Genre

Poetry

The Book of Proverbs is obviously a book of poetry. The Book of Proverbs is formatted in stanzas and combines several proverbs into groups of poems. Proverbs contains both lyric poetry and narrative poetry. The lyric poetry is present when various Proverbs are grouped together into multiple lines of stanzas. Often times stanzas are grouped thematically while other times they are often varying in message.

Narrative poetry is present when individual stanzas are not fully comprehensible unless they are explored in context. An example of this is when Solomon gives an account of witnessing a man falling for an adulteress having seen her from his window[23], which is detailed through multiple stanzas.

Being a book of proverbial literature, similes are heavily utilized. Often general truths of wisdom are compared to natural phenomena that occur in nature to show wisdom or folly.

Proverbs

A proverb (Heb: mashal: a rule) may be defined as any statement that contains a piece of wisdom or general truth. That is to say, "rules to live by." Some are as short as a single sentence, and others are as long as entire chapter.

Proverbs were used and known throughout Israel before the recording of the Proverbs in this book. The first reference to a proverb in the Bible is in the Book of Job when Job calls his associate Zophar's sayings "proverbs of ashes"[24].

Proverbs referenced that are not from the Bible

Since Solomon wrote three-thousand proverbs[12], not all of these proverbs are recorded in the book. It is also evident that the proverbs contained in the book were not the only ones recited and practiced by Israel[25], both before and after Solomon, Agur, Lemuel and others recorded theirs.

One example of a proverb not recorded in the Bible is "like mother, like daughter", that is quoted when God mentions that those who quote proverbs (not necessarily just biblical ones) will use this[26] to compare Jerusalem to her "mother"[27]. In this context God is comparing the idolatry of the city of Jerusalem to an adulterous prostitute for sins worse than that of the Hittites and Amorites.

Again, proverbs not mentioned in the Book of Proverbs are quoted by Jesus Christ. When in Nazareth he preaches in the synagogue and proclaims that He has fulfilled the Scripture that was read from the Book of Isaiah[28], the people began to question him[29]. Jesus responds to them by saying that He expected them to recite the proverb of "Physician heal yourself" since they expected him to do in his hometown what he had done in Capernaum[30]".

Similarly the Apostle Peter quotes the biblical proverb of a "dog returns to its vomit[31]", but then quotes the extra-biblical proverb concerning a washed sow which returns to her wallowing the mud[32].

Foolish Proverbs

"Proverbs" were often used for foolish intent, particularly when utilized by fools[33]. A prime example of this is a proverb quoted in Israel saying that "parents eat sour grapes, thus children's teeth are set on edge[34]". This proverb did not apply, and so God Himself proclaimed that this proverb would no longer be spoken[35]. It so happened that, though the sins of parents often affect everyone in the extended family[36], the ones complaining against God had sinned plenty themselves[37].

Themes

Verses


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