Uncovering Wisdom in the Book of Proverbs
The Bible is meant to be read by people who seek guidance and wisdom from God. It is full of stories of trials and triumphs made possible by following the words of God. People all over the world get everyday inspiration from men and women of the bible. However, if there is one book in the Bible that speaks of vital wisdom to people of every background, is it most definitely the Book of Proverbs. This book speaks of God’s promise of life and honor to those who will live their lives in constant search for wisdom. Moreover, the book also instructs on how a person should think and act in order to attain and keep the knowledge ranted to him by God.
The authorship of the Book of Proverbs is often attributed to King Solomon, a Hebrew king famed for his justice and extensive wisdom. In the earlier translation of the Christian bible, the book is often called the Proverbs of Solomon, after the said son of David and purported writer of this wisdom literature. However, since it has been determined that in the time of the united Kingdom of Israel (1000 BCE), itt was customary to include the name of the ruler or other prominent people in writings in order to (1) honor them, or to (2) give those writings more prestige (Murphy, 1981). In addition to this, a majority of scholars, such as J.L. Crenshaw, R.E. Murphy and L.G. Purdue, hold to the belief that much of Proverbs was brought together from a time well after Solomon. Nevertheless, even with its indistinct authorship, the Book of Proverbs conveys knowledge and wisdom that can be applied by every person in the world, irregardless of his gender, racial background, age or other qualifications in life..
In Bruce Waltke’s The Book of Proverbs, Vol. 1 it was stated that the intended audience of the Bible’s Book of Proverbs is the group of young adults. More specifically, the author described the audience to be nearing the end of his education and entering manhood. In context of the book of Proverbs, it can be seen that the warnings and advices given in the book is directed to someone who is just about to come out in the real world. Often, the advices from God to his people is likened to the words given by a father to his son. In this sense, the book provides the guiding principles to young people. However, the universality of the teachings found in this book makes it a good foundation for everyone and the wisdom it carries should well be followed in all the years to come.
Along with the book of Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon; the book of Proverbs is labeled as the wisdom literature. In this particular book, the central theme runs around seeking knowledge and wisdom from God’s teachings. In Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction (TNIV®) – the start of wisdom is given as the obedience to God’s will. Moreover, it was stated here that those who are called fools are those who loathe wisdom.
For a young person, following God is really a crucial choice to make. Bad things can be inviting at the start; but if one is to hold on to God and his words, then he can foresee that in the long run, distancing himself from wrongdoers is the best thing to do. On the other hand, there are people who feint deaf ears to instructions given to them and thus, they let go of opportunities to make themselves better. In a way, instructions from God, and from older people like parents, teachers and other people in the community should not be seen as something that will give a young person a hard time. Instead, these teachings should be viewed as potential things that will make a better person out of the anyone who follows them.
In the strictest sense, knowledge is observed only and only if it is applied. Simply put, wisdom does not only pertain to what a person knows but also, to his choice to do the right thing based on what he knows. In a practical view, this can be regarded as following a simple rule since rules are made to maintain order in a certain place like the school and the community. Those who follow rules are often regarded as the better people since they know how to listen to instructions and carry on the rules; while those who keep breaking the rules are regarded as people lacking of knowledge. The latter include those who are either ignorant of the rules or too hardheaded to follow them. However, since the application of knowledge is essential in letting other people know that a certain person is not ignorant of the rules, then in the end, even those hardheaded people will be treated in the same way as the ignorant ones.
Simple things that happen everyday in the campus can also illustrate wisdom. Knowing that cheating is bad does not make a person wise; but instead, one’s determination to avoid cheating in examinations because he knows that it is bad is wisdom. In the same way, knowing that bullying is bad is not a sign of wisdom; but instead, it is the resolution to put a stop to bullying directly (standing up against the bully) or indirectly (calling the attention of school officials concerned) that makes a person wise.
To a great extent, wisdom can also be illustrated by the act of foreseeing something and doing good based on that information. In example, knowing that a classmate is too shy to ask you to help him understand the previous lesson and doing something about it like offering to start a study group is a sign of wisdom. This way, a person is able to do good by following through what he knows.
In addition, the book speaks of one of the surest way to gain knowledge and that is to listen to what other people has to say. This is very important in the sense that not everyone spoken to will acquire the information from the speaker. Just like in a classroom setting, the professor/ instructor speaks to numerous students but these students have varying levels of understanding of the lesson. Thus, it is very important to listen and to understand what is being said.
The book of Proverbs and its central theme of acquiring wisdom is very essential to a student not only because young people go to institutions of learning to gain knowledge but also because this book describes how one should use the knowledge granted to him.
The book of Proverbs states that humility comes with wisdom. In truth, the wise people are those who are not ashamed to admit that they do not know everything. They are the people who are not afraid of getting and following instructions from others. In contrast, the proud ones always act like they know everything. They are the ones who are ashamed of being told what to do next because they see this as a sign of ignorance.
In chapters 11 and 22 of the book of Proverbs, humility is describe as the act of following the Lord’s orders. Here, humility is also summed as fearing God. In the Christian context, being humble in front of God should be foremost to everyone. God created everyone and as part of His creations, people should learn to submit everything to God. In consequence, this submission should not be seen as a sign of weakness but instead, this should be viewed as a sign of humility.
In Proverbs 22:4, the line goes as follow: “Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life” (TNIV®). Here, the result of being humble before God is stated as riches, honor and life. While the riches stated here may not speak of the material richness, everyone can be sure that humility before God will result in submission to goodness and righteousness. Thus, even though a person may be lacking in material things, he can be sure that his knowledge is increased and so is his potential to do good for God and for other people. It is also stated that humility and the fear of God will result in honor and life. While the life promised here will carry on to the promise of heaven, it also includes the promise of a meaningful life for someone who follows God. This means that whoever follows God moves and lives beyond mere existence. Living is not the same as existing since a person who is really living, in all humility, is able to touch other’s lives as well. Lastly, the promise of honor for God’s follower is rationalized by the potential of the person to do good and be respected by others for it. To be honorable in the eyes of God and other people, a person has to live his life in truth and goodness and in order to do this, he has to learn his way from God. Thus, being humble in front of God and other people is essential for a meaningful life.
In a student’s life, humility can be shown in a number of ways. To start with, accepting one’s mistakes is a great sign of humility. When one accepts the fact that he has done something wrong, he gives himself the chance to repent and to be a better person. Also, he gives others the chance to help him and to do good themselves. In this case, humility paves the way for reconciliation – within a person and among people. Also, humility is exemplified by a person’s desire to be a better student, son/daughter, or co-worker. Wanting to be better means that a person is aware of his limitations and imperfections. Also, wanting to be better could mean that he is willing to be taught and be trained by others in order to improve his abilities.
The virtue of humility should be practiced by everyone, everywhere since humility paves the way for improvement, and understanding. In life, the acceptance of a person’s weakness/es is the first step in improving them. Acknowledgment of the fear is the first thing towards combating it. In all these, humility is needed since humility is the virtue that lets a person acknowledge his mistake and also, humility, gives the person the chance to become a better person. In the same way, humility paves the way for people to understand each other. Since the acceptance of a person’s mistake could explain to other people that the mistake was not really intentional, it will be easier for them to understand and forgive.
Submission to Discipline
The book of Proverbs maintains that wisdom is knowing what to do and how to do properly. In addition to this, the book is also full of the ways in which a person can attain wisdom and one of these is to know how to respond to people who wants to discipline you. Proverbs 3:12 states that “because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in” (TNIV®). Here, the line conveys the fact that the God disciplines not for Himself but for the good of the person in the receiving end. This means that a person should not think badly of those who wants to discipline him. The passage talks of God and the similarity of the situation to a father and a son is portrayed. In the same way, young people should be submissive to older people and they should embrace the disciplinary words and actions given to them. While it is said that wisdom comes to those who have disciplined minds, it also follows that those who are wise enough to know what is right and what is wrong should know that restraints and orders are given for their wellbeing and protection, as well.
In an examination, instructions are often at the forefront of questions and most of the time, failure to follow instructions lead to deductions in the final score. This rationale is found outside the classroom too – in fact, life also hold a series of instructions to follow. Only, outside the classrooms, these instructions are called laws, rules and regulations and the like. While there are no tangible tally sheets that will show the deductions upon going against the rules, a person’s worth in the eyes of God and in the eyes of other people, as well, is dependent on how he goes about following or breaking these rules.
In a sense, the reason why people are outraged every time they hear talks of murders and theft is because every one knows that these things are wrong. People know that these are bad things to do and thus, people tend to look down on murderers and thieves because the latter portrayed actions that are far less than what is expected of a person.
On the lighter side, submission is the first step towards the path to leadership. People say that the best leaders are those who know how to follow. Again, this shows that submission is another form of learning. A person who wants to be a good leader should first follow and learn from someone who has proven himself to be a good leader in the past. In life, there is no question that God is the best leader that a person can hope to know. Thus, in order to become a better person and eventually, a good leader, it is best if one is to listen to God and His instructions because in this way, that person will learn from the best leader that has already led hundred millions of people in the right path.
Submission is not a sign of weakness. Instead, it is an indication of a person’s desire to do good and eventually, to become a better person. Thus, a person should submit to discipline given by anyone who wants to help him improve his life.
A person who knows what is right should stand up for it no matter what. Just as knowledge is embedded in its application, the good virtues that a person wants to polish should be guided by no less than his principle. Since it is a person’s principle that cause him to hold on to his belief, it is also his principle that tells him that attaining and keeping wisdom is good for him. In turn, it is his acquired wisdom that prods a person to hold on to his principle and to act in no less than what his knowledge conveys. In the book of Proverbs, the writer warns of different things that will try a person’s virtues. In Chapters 1 and 3 of Proverbs, the passages convey that a person with wisdom will stand his ground and will not be daunted by the perversions, sinful acts and moral distortions around him.
Inside the campus, a person’s principles may seem contradictory to his goals, sometimes. For a young person, learning in school and getting good grades is important; but sometimes, getting along with as many people as possible may seem more important. This is a twisted but very realistic view. In this case, most students want to be admired and looked up to by others and they are usually, envious of the “popular kids”. Sometimes, they will do whatever it takes to please and be included in this crowd .
Often, wanting to please other people could cause a person to put aside his values for a while. For him, being “too nice” is “not cool” and he fears of being rejected by the crowd that he admires. Thus, he may resolve to doings things which his society dictates as cool (like bullying nerds) but his conscience remarks as bad. On the other hand, his principles will guide a person who has a strong foundation. He may not be liked by the popular crowd but this will not be a problem to a principled individual. Instead, he will come to accept the fact that it is impossible to be liked by every one; more so by the people who only cheer at the sight of misdemeanors. In addition, he will know that a true friend is someone who accepts a person for what he is and that a good friend is someone that takes delight in the good virtues exemplified by his friend.
Principle is always beside wisdom since the true wisdom is portrayed during trying times. The sign of real knowledge stands firm even if the current situation may cause everything else to fall into pieces. To be considered a principled individual, a person should not settle for things and actions below his virtues.
Acquiring knowledge is good and if something is better than this, it will be the attainment of more wisdom. In this sense, the book of Proverbs conveys the message of perseverance to attain wisdom and other good virtues in life.
If made applicable to other things, perseverance is one of the essential things in the achievment of success. Inside the classroom and in the workplace, it is the key towards self- improvement and big accomplishments. However, what is good about the book of Proverbs is that it instructs people to persevere for something good and something that is worth the time and effort of a person. Some people work hard for things that are superficial and immaterial; but the passages in the Proverbs teach that a person should persevere for things that will lead to righteousness and compassion. This means going after things that will not only result in the well being of a person; but instead, will bring goodness to other people as well.
Most of the time, the promise of God’s words does not pertain to material things but to the inner peace and satisfaction of a person’s soul. Modest living of Christians arise from the fact that they do not aim for material and superficial things but instead, they are satisfied with whatever they have. They know that what is important is that they follow God’s words because only God can grant them wisdom, humility, compassion and other virtues essential to have a life worth living for.
In the book of Proverbs, people are taught how to learn to be wise and how to apply the wisdom granted to them. Moreover, the passages speak of the virtues that will be developed by those who are in constant search of knowledge. To be able to attain the full promise of God as was written in the bible’s book of Proverbs, a person should not only search for knowledge, he should also apply this in his daily life and he should be unwavering in following the righteous instructions given to him by the Grace of God.
Book of Proverbs. Today’s New International Version. International Bible Society, Jet Stream Drive, Colorado Springs, CO 80921.
Book of Proverbs. (TNIV) Online Posting Gospel Communications International. 16 September 2007.
Waltke, Bruce (2004). Book Of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Waltke, Bruce (2005). The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Murphy, Roland E., Wisdom Literature: Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. Grand Rapids, 1981
Crenshaw, James L. “Book of Proverbs,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 1992
Perdue, Leo G. Proverbs: interpretation A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, 2000