Lesson 1 of 6
In Progress

Summary of Proverbs


The book of Proverbs is a collection of essays, poems, and sayings expressing the wisdom of ancient Israel. Some of the material probably originated as folk wisdom, circulating in the family or the clan. Other parts reflect the life of the royal court. Arrangement began during the time of Solomon (about 961-922 B.C.E.), and the final edition was likely produced during the exile in Babylon (about 587-539 B.C.E.). Jeremiah 18:18 refers to the priest, the wise, and the prophet as leaders in Israel; the book of Proverbs is the product of the work of “the wise.”


One does not need to deal with the big questions each day, like the meaning of life or the problem of evil or why bad things happen to good people. In day by day living there are all sorts of smaller questions: How should I handle my financial affairs? How should I relate to friends and colleagues? What about falling in love? What can I do to maintain a healthy marriage? How can I responsibly help the poor? These are the sorts of things that the book of Proverbs can help with. If the major theme in the Psalms is the praise of God in heaven, the chief concern of Proverbs is the pursuit of a happy and good life on earth.


Proverbs is the twentieth book of the Old Testament, falling immediately after Psalms and just before Ecclesiastes.


The book came into being through a long process. Some of these sayings no doubt originated with Solomon or with those in his court (1 Kings 4:29-34; Proverbs 1:1; 10:1; 25:1). Much of it originated in folk wisdom of the sort found in all cultures at all times. Other parts were composed as essays or poems (chapters 1-9, 31). As is characteristic of such materials, the names of the composers and poets are mostly lost to us.


The original impetus for the collection of folk wisdom and also much new composition likely came during the time of Solomon, around 961-922 B.C.E. These materials were preserved, collected, expanded, and edited by persons in the royal courts (25:1). The book was likely put into its final form during the flurry of literary activity which took place in the period of the Babylonian exile and beyond (587 B.C.E. and after).


The book of Proverbs is a manual for conducting one’s everyday affairs in a manner that is happy and successful in worldly matters and responsible before God.


Proverbs lends itself to being read a chapter a day, matching the number of the day of the month (there are 31 chapters). The short sayings should be taken individually, like a variety of expensive chocolates in a gift box. Some may be enjoyed and savored; others can be swallowed quickly or even skipped over.