You will find an introduction and outline to the book of Proverbs, here.
A prayer of John Calvin to use before reading.
May the Lord grant that we may engage in the heavenly contemplation of the mysteries of God’s heavenly wisdom with ever increasing devotion to God’s glory and our edification. Amen.
1:1-9:18 wisdom poems and instructions
1:1 The Title : Solomon was king of the united kingdom in the mid fourth century BCE.
1:2-7 The purpose. These verses are a complete sentence in Hebrew.
1:8-19: “My child” may mean someone’s child or may refer to a student.These verses are warnings against the temptations of the wicked. Sheol and the Pit refer to death and to the place of the dead. Verse 17 is a popular proverb.
1:20-33 Wisdom personified as a woman and a prophet. Verses 20 and 21 refer to the location of community life where legal decisions were made.
2:1-22 a poem on the advantages of searching for wisdom. This poem has 22 lines, the same number as letters in the Hebrew alphabet. What themes or images are repeated?
3:1-12 Instruction in the fear of the Lord. There are six admonitions. Verse 5 is not against thinking, but a caution against arrogance.
3:13-20 a description of Wisdom. “Happy are those..” is a typical wisdom formula, sometimes called a beatitude.Beatitudes hold up a virtue or an experience. Notice how many times in this book wisdom is compared to jewels, riches, adornments, precious metals and jewels. Verses 19-20 are the first time in Proverbs that Wisdom is linked with creation.
3:21-35 An admonition and six prohibitions and three aphorisms on the fate of the righteous and of the wicked. What are the benefits of wisdom? “Do not”, occurs six times. In Proverbs an “Abomination” has a particular meaning, a moral offense that God finds abhorrent.
4:1-9 An appeal to acquire wisdom from a father remembering his own father’s words.
4:10-27 The Two Paths: Notice how commonly used the imagery of two paths is in Proverbs.
5:1-23 A warning, avoid the loose woman. The loose woman is the opposite of woman Wisdom. The loose woman is also described as an adulteress. Wormwood is a bitter and poisonous herbal extract. Water is a euphemism for sexual activity.
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of the Book of Proverbs
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Dell, Katharine, “Proverbs” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version.Coogan, Michael D.; Brettler, Marc Z.; Perkins, Pheme; Newsom, Carol A. (2010-01-20) Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.
Fontaine, Carole R. “Proverbs” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
Van Leeuwen, Raymond C “Proverbs”,in The New Interpreter’s Bible Vol 5, Keck, Leander E. ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press) 1996.