AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
The term "Proverbs," which could also be translated "similies" or "parables," is used in this book more generally to include various other types of short, pithy statements as well. Although the book itself does have a clear order, and proverbs are sometimes grouped by subject matter, each proverb generally stands on its own and is without context. Proverbs, then, are timeless words of wise men concerning the way to conduct one's life, both in terms of what is right and what is prudent. Hence, Proverbs is the best Old Testament example of wisdom literature.
Wisdom sayings are markedly practical, rather than abstract or theoretical. Since the focus is about everyday life, the scope of subjects treated is rather wide. The authors of Proverbs, thus, did not concern themselves much with overtly sacred or religious matters, but that in no way diminishes the religious character of the book. There is a distinct optimism about the world and its workings, because they believed that God is in control. Because of this, the reader is assured repeatedly that he will reap what he has sown. God cannot be left out of the picture, because knowledge and wisdom begin with reverence for Yahweh (Prov.1v7; Prov.9v10). Numerous passages from Proverbs are reflected in the New Testament and are otherwise well known, but perhaps the most beautiful is the classical Old Testament description of ideal womanhood in Prov.31v10-31.
Solomon, who is known to have spoken 3,000 proverbs (1Kgs.4v32), is the principal author of the book, but others, both anonymous and identified, also have their maxims included. Proverbs reached its final form well beyond Solomon's day. Work was still being done on it in Hezekiah's time (Prov.25v1), and it is generally thought that its final editing occurred just after the return from the Babylonian exile.
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