Someone on the radio was talking about money. They said "Money is the root of all evil" and nobody phoned or Emailed in to tell him this was a misquote. It is of course the "love" of money which leads to all kinds of sin . . . but when the Bible uses the word "money" it does not mean just coins and paper. The word ‘money" is put for, first of all "money" but in its wider sense, "anything which we value, or desire." This can include just about anything you like to name: land, house, woman, antiques, world trip, the neighbours’ car, top job, music collection, that one card you need to complete the set . . . and it is because people feel incomplete unless they have ‘X’ they will sometimes do anything to get what they want.
"For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
1 Timothy 6:10
In context the Bible warns us that if we stoop to covetousness, we sin, and if we persist we bring upon ourselves "many sorrows". This is not to say that it is wrong to want things. We are not supposed to sink into a trance, as some religions do, or deny that we have needs. Food, water, shelter, a sense of usefulness and so on, are all important, but coveting is wrong, greed and lust are wrong, wanting something which belongs to someone else is wrong, and if we focus on wanting these things we make ourselves miserable. This is so obvious it hardly needs to be pointed out, but that is what the proverbs are about: they constantly point out the obvious.
Before we start, I must apologise for the incompleteness of this essay. Life’s demands and shortness of time prevented me from getting further than chapter 20. Also, to avoid bulking up the study I have not included the Bible verses, so you will need a Bible to check the references.
The Proverbs of Solomon are a collection of observations of the obvious, and expressions of truth which we need to know. Truth doesn’t bow to our whims. Truth continues to stand despite our ignorance or opposition. Like gravity, if we know about it, we can avoid the harm which comes from not knowing about it. If we understand truth we can join its happy band and fight with truth on our side, instead of struggling uselessly against it. If I know that greed leads to misery I ought to avoid being greedy, and that way make myself a little wiser and of course happier. And let’s face it – who goes around trying to make themselves unhappy?
The Proverbs are mainly principles, or general rules. They are generalizations, not specific, narrow rules, and cannot be pressed beyond their limits. If we take them in their narrowest, literal sense, we can end up in trouble! We have secular proverbs which serve a good purpose, but which we know are not to be pressed beyond their usefulness, for example a stitch I time saves nine, he who hesitates is lost. Lost?
I remember when I started these studies. I was frustrated by my lack of understanding of the Proverbs. I knew many of them, but often discovered that the ones I was familiar with had some slightly different meaning when they were examined more closely. They were multi-layered, like the leaves of a cabbage. I was also very puzzled by a whole bunch of Proverbs, which made little sense to me. I could not speak Hebrew, and I knew of no Hebrew Christian who could interpret for me, so I resorted to books by several qualified experts and tried to work out what God was actually saying.
In the following studies, I would like to express my gratitude to other scholars who went before, whose books I discovered in Latimer House, Christchurch, and several other private collections, including some ‘ancient tomes’ in a dusty old church shelf, plus some more modern volumes – Bullinger, Unger, etc and a stack of different translations and commentaries. My notes were originally part of a daily study, which ended up in a diary, but now, some twenty years later I thought they might be of some use to other students of the Word. I have stripped them down to the bare bones and edited out huge amounts of personal observations. Most of the quoted words from Proverbs in the study were taken from the King James Version so it might help for you to keep that version handy.
Please feel free to copy, correct and update this study for your own use as you see fit.
First, an outline of the whole book: Click the link to read each part.
PART ONE Solomon’s proverbs 1:1-9:18
a. Wisdom’s call 1:1-33
b. Wisdom’s rewards 2:1-7:27
c. Wisdom’s praise 8:1-9:18
PART TWO Solomon’s various sayings 10:1-22:16
e. Chapter 19
PART THREE The words to the wise
PART FOUR Solomon’s proverbs set down by Hezekiah’s scribes 25:1-2:29:27
PART FIVE Agur’s words 30:1-33
PART SIX Lemuel’s words 31:1-9
PART SEVEN An acrostic poem about the virtuous wife 31:10-31