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Readings in Proverbs

Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes are the three books in the Old Testament known as "Wisdom" literature. Wisdom to the Jews of that time meant something like "practical philosophy" or "wise sayings on how to live to have a happy and successful life." While some of the sayings are religious, many are more secular than those in other parts of the Bible.

These "moral axioms" (or proverbs) were written and taught by a class of teachers who considered themselves to be "wise men." These "wise teachers" did not call themselves prophets, reported no visions, and seldom claimed divine sanction for what they taught. At least two of the Old Testament prophets criticized them (Isaiah 5:10; Jeremiah. 8:8-9). Some portions of the book are attributed to Solomon. Bible students are divided as to whether Solomon wrote these portions, or whether they are simply named in his honor.

It has sometimes been said that the statements in Proverbs are statements of probability, not Divine promises. That is to say, if you live in a certain way, certain things are likely to happen - not guaranteed to happen.

It will be very helpful to compare older versions (IV, KJ) to a contemporary translation such as the Good News Bible (the Today's English version), New English Bible, the Revised Standard Version, or the New Revised Standard Version. As you read through these statements, you will come across some classics. If you read carefully, you will also note some biases and some puzzling statements.

There are 31 chapters in Proverbs. You can read one a day and complete the book in a 31 day month.


1 Wisdom's call

2 Wisdom's reward

3 Advice

4 Wisdom's benefits

5-6 Warnings

7 The immoral woman

8 Wisdom's praise

9 Wisdom and Stupidity

10-21 Solomon's proverbs

22 More proverbs, begin 30 Wise Sayings*

23 30 Wise Sayings continued

24 30 Wise Sayings concluded, more wise sayings

25-29 More proverbs

30 The Word's of Agur, more proverbs

31 Advice to a King, A Virtuous Woman

* - Some versions will not refer to the 30 Wise Sayings (22:20).

March 19, 2002

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