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.
Outline of Proverbs ( after Fontaine)
1:1-9:18 wisdom poems and instructions
6:1-19 Practical admonitions:
Verses 1-5 concern offering your property as collateral for someone else’s debt. Verses 6-11 are a mashal, a proverb about an ant. Making comparisons with plants or animals was common in wisdom literature. Verses 12-15 concern the “scoundrel”. Verses 16-19 are an example of a numerical saying.
6:20-35 concern adultery: These verses begin with a reminder about the importance of commandment, teaching, instruction. Notice the comparison between adultery and thievery. Consider what this might tell us about the status of women in the ancient world.
7:1-27 Another warning about “loose women”. Verse 3 may be an echo of the Deuteronomic commands about Torah (Deut 6:8; 11:18). What do you think of this narrative about the “loose woman”?
8:1-36 Wisdom’s second speech. Recall “Wisdom” is “Woman Wisdom”. How does this compare and contrast with the previous chapter? Again, Wisdom stands and speaks in the public forum. . Verses 12-16 describe Wisdom’s authority and verses 17-21 describe her rewards. Verses 22-31 describe Wisdom’s origin, relationship with God and give an account of creation.
9:1-18 Woman Wisdom invites the “simple” to her feast. The seven pillars may be a reference to fullness or completion. Verses 7-12 discuss scoffers. Verses 13-18 present the foolish woman in contrast to Woman Wisdom.
10:1-22:16 “The Proverbs of Solomon” This is a distinct section of the book of Proverbs. We now have a series of proverbs or sayings. There are 375 proverbs in this section. This is the same numerical value the name “Solomon” has in Hebrew. Sometimes we can discern a structure in this section based on content, wordplay or catchwords or parallelism. Sometimes not. Notice how phrases reinforce one another or are in antithesis with one another. Look for pairs, mother/father; wise/fool; righteous/wicked and so on.
10:1-32 See verses 1 as an example:
wise child…. glad father
foolish child… mother grief.
verse 4 slack hand…. poverty
Notice the concern about life in this world and the deuteronomistic perspective that good is rewarded and evil punished in this life. Recall that Job presents a counter perspective. Do these proverbs oversimplify life? Or do they provide generally worthwhile guidelines? Have you heard someone quote any of these proverbs?
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.