The Proverbs were complied mostly by King Solomon. They were not necessarily composed by him, but in Ecclesiastes 12:9 we read that he sought out and set in order many proverbs. The language of the east is rich in such sayings, and this collection might have been the fruit of many centuries. Those in Chs. 25 to 29 were current in Hezekiah’s time, see Ch. 25:1. In Ch. 30 we have the words of Agur, the son of Jakeh, and the last chapter contains the words of a certain king Lemuel. The book can be divided as follows:
1. Chs. 1 to 7. To sons.
2. Chs. 8 & 9. The praise of wisdom.
3. Chs. 10 to 29. The folly of sin, and instructions on how to live wisely.
4. Ch. 30. The words of Agur.
5. Ch. 31. The words of King Lemuel.
Sons who follow the path of wisdom bring delight to the home, but great grief without consolation follows in the wake of those who are wayward. Solomon as a young man was a son of whom his father could be proud. For some reason, he afterwards tasted of the many deceitful sweets of this world apparently reaped a harvest in his son, Rehoboam, through whose foolishness the kingdom was divided. In Chs. 1 to 7 we have many words of wisdom, which, if sons heed, will save them from the pitfalls, which await unwary feet. We are told that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” Ch.9:10. God is the Ancient of Days and 9:10 sends forth His word to keep us from the path of destruction. Whoso heeded starts in the right direction. To those who turn at His reproof, the Lord promises the outpouring of the Spirit, but to those who refuse, in the day of their calamity, God says He will mock them, vs.23, 24, and 26.
In Ch. 3 a promise of long life is made to those who take to heart the commandments of God, vs. 1-3. This is followed with some simple and direct words, e.g. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding, v.5. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths”, v.6. “Honor the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase; so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine,” vs.9-10.
In Ch. 6:1-2 the writer warns against hasty words wherewith one goes surety for his friend, and is the ensnared thereby if something untoward happens. A lazy man is an abomination to God for He knows how subtly poverty will get the upper hand, vs. 9-11. Warning is also given against the sins of the flesh. When his health is broken down a man is as a bird caught in a snare, and becomes the victim of his own self-deception, Ch. 7:23.
THE PRAISE OF WISDOM.
Someone has said that if we would remove the word Wisdom from Chs. 8 & 9 and in its place put the word Christ we would get a clearer idea of the meaning of same. He is the One Who calls unto the sons of men, Ch. 8:4, and those that seek Him early shall find Him, v.17. He was within the Lord in the beginning, and participated in the work of creation, vs. 22-30, and whoever finds Christ finds life, but they that hate Him love death, vs.35-36.
THE FOLLY OF SIN, ETC.
There is nothing more foolish than for a man to choose a life of sin and continue in sin, while he is suffering more and more because of it in one form or another. Chs. 10 to 29 are filled with contrasts between good and evil, and the wisdom of choosing the way of righteousness. God not only shows the folly of sin, but faithfully instructs us how to go through life that we might reap the greatest benefit this side of heaven.
THE WORD OF AGUR.
Agur means “gatherer”. The writer of Ch. 30 is an inspired Hebrew who addresses himself to Ithiel which means “God is”, and Ucal meaning “sorrowful”. These may be real characters that were his disciples, or they may be figurative terms. God is extolled because of the purity of His words, and man is warned of the folly of adding to them lest he be found a liar, vs.5-6. The writer makes a very wise request: “Give neither poverty nor riches...lest I be full, and deny Thee...or lest I be poor, and steal”. We might well pray such a prayer ourselves. Some many pithy sayings fill the chapters that one marvels and perceives there is real simplicity in true wisdom.
THE WORDS OF KING LEMUEL.
Lemuel means “devoted to God”. Some suppose it to be an enigmatical name for Solomon, to whom were addressed the words of wise counsel. Three things are said in the main. They are as follows:
a. A king should be a temperate man in his habits, vs.3-5.
b. A king should judge righteous judgment, vs. 8-9.
c. A man should use wisdom in choosing a wife, vs. 10-31. The mother of King Lemuel was evidently a good judge of such matters. God has allowed the book of Proverbs to be added to the canon of Scripture that we all may learn to make wise choices in our early days, so that we shall escape much of the sorrow of this world, which comes to those who refuse to think before they act.