Proverbs provides God's detailed instructions for His people to deal successfully with the practical affairs of everyday life: how to relate to God, parents, children, neighbors, and government. Solomon, the principal author, uses a combination of poetry, parables, pithy questions, short stories, and wise maxims to give in strikingly memorable form the common sense and divine perspective necessary to handle life's challenges.

Because Solomon, the prototype of Israel's wise man, was the principle contributor, the Hebrew title of the book is

Mishle Shelomoh ("Parables of Solomon"). The English title of the book is derived from the Latin Liber Proverbiorum, or "Book of Proverbs."


Solomon's name appears at the beginning of the three sections he wrote: chapters 1-9; Pro. 10:1-22:16; chapters 25-29. According to 1 Kings

1Ki_4:32, Solomon spoke three thousand proverbs, of which about 800 are included in Proverbs. It is likely that Solomon collected and edited proverbs other than his own (Ecc_12:9).

Pro. 22:17-24:34 consists of "the words of the wise" (

Pro_22:17; Pro_24:23). Some of these sayings are quite similar to those found in The Wisdom of Amenemope, a document of teachings on civil service by an Egyptian who probably lived between 1000 and 600 B.C. It is possible that Egyptian wisdom traditions borrowed certain aphorisms from Hebrew literature. In addition, Proverbs includes oracles by the unknown figures named Agur the son of Jakeh (Pro_30:1) and King Lemuel (Pro_31:1).


Solomon's proverbs were written before 931 B.C., and his proverbs in chapters 25-29 were collected by Hezekiah about 230 years later. Thus portions of the book were completed no earlier than the time of the reign of Hezekiah and a reasonable date for completion is sometime in the fifth century B.C.

Such wisdom literature was not unique to Israel, and is found in other countries of the ancient Near East. In Egypt, written examples can be found as early as 2700 B.C. Although the style was similar to Israel's wisdom literature, the proverbs and sayings of these countries differed from those of Israel in content because they lacked the character of the righteous standards of the Lord.

Themes and Literary Structure

The book of Proverbs may be divided into six segments: the purpose of Proverbs (

Pro_1:1-7), the proverbs to the youth (Pro. 1:8-9:18), the proverbs of Solomon (Pro. 10:1-24:34), the proverbs of Solomon copied by Hezekiah's men (Pro. 25:1-29:27), the words of Agur (Pro_30:1-33), and the words of King Lemuel (Pro_31:1-31).

Proverbs is one of the few biblical books that clearly spells out its purpose: to impart moral discernment and discretion (

Pro_1:3-5), and to develop mental clarity and perception (Pro_1:2, Pro_1:6). The "wisdom" of which Proverbs speaks is literally "skill" in living. Wisdom is more than shrewdness or intelligence. Instead, it relates to practical righteousness and moral acumen. Proverbs deals with the most fundamental skill of all: practical righteousness before God in every area of life.

Typical of the proverbs in the ancient Near East, many proverbs seem to have arisen in the context of the home. The term "son" occurs in forty-four verses in the book, "father" in fifteen, and "mother" in eleven. Husband and wife are admonished to be united joyfully in a clearly monogamous union (despite the polygamy practiced at the time, especially by Solomon). Both parents are directed to share in the training of the children and nurturing them in faith. Sins which attack the order of the home are straightforwardly exposed.

Many proverbs present a contrast between wisdom and folly. Wisdom is to be preferred to folly because of its divine origin and rich benefits. There are different kinds of fools, ranging from those who are naive and uncommitted to scoffers who arrogantly despise the way of God. The fool is not mentally deficient, but appears self-sufficient and orders life as if there is no God.

In Proverbs chapter 8, wisdom is personified and seen in its perfection. It is divine (

Pro_8:22-31), it is the source of biological and spiritual life (Pro_8:35, Pro_8:36), it is righteous and moral (Pro_8:8, Pro_8:9), and it is available to all who will receive it (Pro_8:1-6, Pro_8:32-35). This wisdom became incarnate in Christ "in whom is hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col_2:3; cf. 1Co_1:30).