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
10:1-22:16 “The Proverbs of Solomon”
11:1-31 The proper use of weights and balances will be a common topic of proverbs. Again, notice the parallelism in these proverbs. Do you find some words that might serve to link the proverbs in this chapter together?
12:1-28 Discipline is also a common topic in proverbs. The topic of a “good wife” will also appear often in proverbs. As with other proverbs the comparison is made between the wicked/evil and the righteous/upright and between the wise and the foolish. Verse 9 is a “better” saying, a favorite of sages. “Despised” in verse 9 could also, and perhaps more accurately,be translated “of little account”.
13:1-25 More antithetical pairs. Are there some new pairings in this chapter? In verse 13 “word” and “commandment” refer to the teaching of sages. Messengers (v 17) were trained to high standards and had a high status in society. A version of verse 24 is still commonly cited in modern society.
14:1-35 Wise women reappear in verse 1. Beginning in this chapter, Proverbs begin to mention the Lord more often. Verse 20 may reflect social reality, both in ancient times and now, but verse 21 corrects social reality.
15:1-33 The antithetic pairs continue. Language and how we use it continue to be a topic of proverbs. This chapter has many proverbs concerning the Lord. Sheol is the underworld, the place of the dead. Abaddon (lit. destruction) is an alternate place and state of the dead. Verses 16 and 17 are two “better”sayings. Verse 25, boundaries refers to the markers for the boarders of a field. Widows were particularly vulnerable members of society.
As you think over these proverbs, are there some that are familiar? Are there some that strike you as worth memorizing and remembering?
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.