Proverbs is often portrayed as a great collection of wise sayings. These thoughtful bits of wisdom are great for blowing the minds of your Christian fellows–if you can snag a relevant one from the sea of two-liners.
While Proverbs is a collection, as even a casual glance through the book will show, such a basic understanding does not come close to doing this book justice. It’s like describing Star Trek as the journeys of a spaceship, or Harry Potter as the adventures of a young wizard. There are many collections of wise sayings, but this is Proverbs. This is the one that tops them all.
With that said, there are some things you absolutely will not find in Proverbs. So, if any of these three are what you personally look for in a collection of wise sayings, you may wish to look elsewhere.
Proverbs is not a list of rules
Odd for a book dedicated solely to dispensing wisdom to ignorant masses, isn’t it? Indeed, Solomon, the author, may not be the wisest man who ever lived. After all, everyone knows that wisdom is found in the proper length of a young lady’s skirt, in long lectures on the evils of alcohol, and in the proper style of worship music. To say nothing of warning the wayward young against the devils of Pokemon, Harry Potter, and dancing.
Instead of a large list of do’s and don’ts, Solomon offers knowledge, understanding, and discernment. It as if Solomon and the Lord he speaks of expect young people to take what their parents have told them and think for themselves, decide for themselves. In all seriousness, I’ve never heard of such a thing (even though it’s in my Bible…).
It never leaves you with “Because I said so.”
It does not say, “Believe me, because I’m a book of the Bible and inspired by God.” For example, Proverbs does encourage trusting in God, but it always gives a reason as to why. Take Proverbs 3:5-6, which begins, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” and ends, “and He will direct your paths.” These verses promise that all who trust God completely will receive His direction in their lives.
The style of teaching based solely on authority and faith is completely contrary to the purpose of Proverbs, as laid out in the first 6 verses. “To understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles,” (Proverbs 1:6 NKJV). Note the words “to understand”. Why should the Lord, who claims to have all wisdom and understanding, fear when the young ask why? Never fear, young readers, Proverbs will always explain itself. Its purpose is to help the simple understand.
It Never Leaves Its Words to Subjective Interpretation
Proverbs explains all its own terms and interprets all its own concepts. It will often say the same thing twice using different words, which allows for greater understanding of what it is trying to say.
Take Proverbs 3:5, for example, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Anyone who has ever been told to trust in God knows that this phrase, standing alone, means very little. This verse, however, qualifies it by adding “with all your heart,” and then restates the concept. “With all your heart” tells me this decision is an all-or-nothing deal. Trusting God halfway won’t cut it.
“Lean not on your understanding” defines what trusting God means; that is, to abandon my own understanding of my world in favor of God’s. In the same way that the second line completes the meaning of the first, the first line helps explain the second. Not leaning on my own understanding means trusting God with my whole being.
Now that I know what “trust in God” entails, I can act accordingly, whereas before I could only discard the advice for lack of knowledge. I am also guarded against defining what “trust in God” means for myself, as the verse has already defined the phrase.
Of course, Proverbs 3:5 is only one example. Many, if not all, the themes in Proverbs are recurring, so there are multiple verses on the subject of wives, children, money, and so forth. Proverbs contains its own truth; when taken as a whole, there is no room for subjective interpretation.
Assuming the reader sticks around to consider the entirety of the book before drawing conclusions.
Many thanks to Redwinged Raven for this article! She has more great content on Youtube. Check it out!
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