The Book of Proverbs
Proverbs or The Book of Proverbs is the second text of the Ketuvim section of the Jewish Bible. The Book of Proverbs contains writings that pertain to a way of life during the Biblical times that lasted for more than a thousand years. An example of Biblical Wisdom tradition, the Book of Proverbs raises important questions on moral behavior, values, ethics, proper conduct and the deeper truths and meanings of human existence. The theme that can be predominantly noticed in this book of proverbs is that fearing the power of God is the first step towards acquiring of wisdom. Wisdom is believed to play an important part in all of creation; it was acquired by God before anyone else and it was with wisdom that He brought order from a world of chaos. Since conforming to this divine order of creation brings peace and prosperity to humans, searching for wisdom is the ultimate essence and goal of human spiritual life.
The English name of the book of Proverbs, “Proverbs” is derived from the Hebrew term “mashal”. However, “mashal” has a rather wider range of meanings rather than the obvious meaning presented by the word in English language. The other meanings commonly associated with the Hebrew word include “oracle”, “parable” and “taunt”. One part of the book of Proverbs is comprised of sayings, and the other part of the book is composed of longer poetic pieces that express a variety of ideas. These include “instructions” that are presented as advice given to a parent or student by a parent or teacher; dramatic personifications of abstract ideas such as Wisdom and Folly; as well as sayings that are bracketed as “words of the wise”. These sayings are longer than the traditional Solomonic “sayings” but much shorter and diverse in range than the “instructions”. Most of the “Proverbs” are short in length; they are presented as compact statements expressing various truths about human nature.
The book of Proverbs is divided into 31 chapters which are again divided into separate sections based on their underlying themes. The first section of the Book of Proverbs (i.e. chapters 1 to 9) bears the name of Solomon, the Son David and King of Israel, and presents an invitation to men of young age to pursue the path of wisdom. This is followed by ten instructions as well as five poems that deal with personified Woman Wisdom. Then Proverbs 10:1 to 22:16 are also labeled as Proverbs of Solomon, and include 375 sayings which can be further subdivided into two parts. The first part contrasts the characteristics of the wise individual and the fool, or in other words, the righteous man and the wicked, and the second part addresses the speech of the wise and the foolish. The Proverbs 22:17 to 24:34 discuss the various “sayings of the Wise”. The chapters 25 through 29 is attributed to the editorial activities of men of Hezekiah, presents a contrast between the wicked and the just, and illustrates on the topic of the rich and poor. Chapter 30 presents the words and sayings of Agur. Finally chapter 31 presents the sayings of King Lemuel and discusses the concept of ideal wise woman or the woman of substance.