What does it say?
Proverb in English means “a short, pithy saying in frequent and widespread use that expresses a basic truth of practical precept.” The Hebrew word translated (correctly) as proverb means that and much more. This is why some parts of the book are not strictly “proverbs in a strict, English literary sense. These sayings, maxims or proverbs are rules that govern life. J. Sidlow Baxter said Proverbs is learning “prudence through precept.”
Just as we associate Psalms with David, though he only wrote about half of them, we associate Proverbs with Solomon, though no one would insist he wrote them all. His name is given as author of portions (1:1; 10:1; 25:1) and 1Ki 4:32 confirms that he wrote and collected proverbs. All agree Solomon wrote the majority of the book, but others also participated (25:1; 30:1; 31:1).
The first nine chapters are “paternal,” fatherly advice, that are more like what we might call sonnets in English. Pro 1:1-9 is an introduction, followed by 15 “sonnets” that continue through the first 9 chapters. Pro 1:10-19 warns against associating with sinners. Pro 2 presents wisdom as our deliverer. Pro 3:1-10 reveals the rewards of righteousness, while Pro 3:11-20 holds up wisdom as the supreme prize. Pro 3:21-35 contrasts the ways of evil and wisdom.
What does it mean?
Proverbs opens by listing 9 purposes of proverbs that favorably compare to the fruit of the Spirit given in Galatians 5:22-23. Pro 1:5-6 reveals that wisdom begins with hearing, the exact same emphasis the Jesus made. Pro 1:7 is the heart of the introduction.
As you read these three opening chapters, keep in mind that the contrast between good and evil is constant. You’ll see repeated mentions of the evil man and/or the strange woman. You notice the constant intertwining of wisdom, knowledge and understanding.
God gives wisdom. (Jam 3:15-17; 1Cor 1:17-30). Words of understanding are those given by wisdom. Knowledge has to do with facts. Discretion knows how to use these facts. Understanding is to hear and obey. Justice has to do with discernment of right and wrong. Judgment discriminates differences in the issues involved. Equity is the ability to be fair, learning by contrast and comparison.
How will I respond?
Of the many words of wisdom I have read today, what is my proverb for the day upon which I will meditate, on the basis of which I will pray and in response to which I will take an action step today to make application to my personal walk.