Proverbs 1–31

Old Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2003), 160–61


The book of Proverbs is a collection of short statements that express truths about human behavior. It is the third of the poetic books in the Old Testament. The books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes are sometimes called the wisdom literature. They contain less material attributed to divine revelation and more attributed to human wisdom than do the Law, the History, or the Prophets (see “How Is the Old Testament Organized,” p. 8; Bible Dictionary, “Proverbs, book of,” p. 754; introduction to Proverbs in Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, p. 13).

Proverbs are usually simple and direct. Examples of modern proverbs are “A penny saved is a penny earned,” “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” and “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Some proverbs are more complex and obscure. The word proverb is translated from the Hebrew word mashal, which means “to represent” or “be like.”

There are several proverbs found in other books of scripture (see 1 Samuel 24:13; Job 28:28; Ezekiel 18:2). The Savior also used proverbs in His teaching (see Luke 4:23; John 16:25). The proverbs found in the Old Testament can be a source of inspiration, counsel, and direction to those who read and ponder their messages of wisdom. As you study Proverbs, ponder how its teachings might be applied to life in our day. By replacing ancient comparisons with modern ones, we often find its wisdom to be as appropriate today as it was then.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Suggestions for Teaching

video icon Old Testament Video presentation 20, “Trust in the Lord” (19:56), can be used in teaching Proverbs 1–31 (see Old Testament Video Guide for teaching suggestions).

Proverbs 1–31. The wisdom found in the book of Proverbs can help us make decisions, answer questions, and understand important truths. (25–30 minutes)

Ask students to think about a major crisis, decision, or problem they had to deal with. Then ask:

  • Do you prefer facing those kinds of problems alone, or does it help to ask others for advice and direction?

  • Who do you trust with some of your most difficult problems? Why?

  • Do you try to follow their advice, or do you tend to ignore it?

Help students understand that the book of Proverbs is a collection of wise sayings, many of which were inspired by the Lord, that can help us with many problems. Read Proverbs 1:1; 10:1; 25:1; 30:1; and 31:1 and look for who wrote most of the book of Proverbs. Read 1 Kings 4:29–34 and find out how many proverbs Solomon wrote.

Share with your students the information found in the introduction, and discuss how a study of the book of Proverbs could be valuable. Have them read Proverbs 1:1–7; 2:1–12; 3:13–20; 4:7–8; and 16:16. Ask:

  • What do these verses say about the value of wisdom?

  • Why would it be important to use wisdom in our day-to-day choices?

  • Why would the Lord’s instructions about our problems always be wise counsel?

The book of Proverbs contains much wisdom. Have each of your students choose (or you could assign) a different chapter of Proverbs to read and to choose one proverb with a helpful insight or doctrine to share with the class. Have them read the proverb aloud and tell how they believe it relates to us and the blessings that could come if we live that proverb.

Proverbs 1–31. Everyone has some wisdom that is valuable enough to be shared with other people. (25–30 minutes)

Invite students to think of a favorite inspirational quotation that they have memorized or written down somewhere. Ask:

  • How often do you think of that quotation?

  • How has it helped you?

Explain that the book of Proverbs contains many well-known passages that can be helpful when applied in our lives. Have students write their own proverbs by following the simple pattern Elder Boyd K. Packer described:

“Jesus as a teacher taught unlettered audiences about the invisible, intangible ideals of the gospel. In teaching faith and love and brotherhood and repentance, he employed the technique of likening the intangible, invisible ideal to a well-known, ordinary object about which His disciples already knew. That is known as apperception, and here is the formula: “ is like

“In the first blank enter the idea or ideal that you must teach. For example, in the first blank write FAITH.

“Faith is like

“Now use your imagination and think of a tangible object the student will recognize that might be likened unto faith. The homier, more commonplace, more ordinary it is, the better your illustration. Perhaps you will use this one: FAITH is like A SEED. Faith really is like a seed—at least Alma thought so. … (Alma 32:28–29).

“Once you have likened faith to something tangible, you can form word pictures of it, describe it, measure it; you can tell the size, the shape, the color, the texture” (Teach Ye Diligently, 28–29).

Encourage students to be creative in writing their proverbs. Have them share with the class Luke 20:9–19 some of the proverbs they write.

scripture mastery icon Proverbs 3:5–6 (Scripture Mastery). The Lord directs the paths of those who trust Him. (30–35 minutes)

Ask students to write down the names of the three people they would most trust to help them if they were in serious trouble (for example, if their lives were in jeopardy or they had legal trouble). Have them write by each name the reason they feel that person is trustworthy. Invite several students who would like to share the names on their lists to do so and to tell why they chose them. Have the class read Proverbs 3:5–6. Ask:

  • Who do those verses say we should trust?

  • What promise is given there to those who trust in the Lord?

  • What other requirements are listed?

  • How important is it to you to receive the Lord’s direction?

If it is not already there, ask students to write the name of Jesus Christ on their lists. Have them read the following scripture references and write down reasons He is worthy of our trust: 2 Nephi 2:5–8; Mosiah 3:5–11; Alma 7:11–13; Moses 1:39. Ask students how the reasons given for us to trust Christ compare with those of the other people on their lists. Share your testimony of the Savior’s love for each of them and that they can place their trust in Him.

It is important when studying Proverbs 3:5–6 to help students understand how the Lord fulfills His promise of directing our paths and the means He uses to accomplish this. Use the following three comparisons to help them understand that the Lord directs our paths through the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, and a living prophet.

  • Compare the promptings of the Holy Ghost to the advice and encouragement of loved ones. Ask:

  • Why do those who love you give you advice?

  • Does the frequency with which they give you help or encouragement change depending on how well you listen and respond? Why?

  • Have students read John 14:26; Moroni 7:16–19 looking for ways the Lord speaks to us. Read Mosiah 2:36–37 and ask:

  • What does that passage say will happen if we ignore the Spirit of the Lord?

  • How important has the guidance of the Holy Ghost been in your life?

  • How has that influence given you peace, protection, and happiness?

  • Compare the scriptures to a set of instructions. Ask:

  • If you were going to pack your own parachute for the first time, how closely would you follow the instruction manual?

  • What dangers would come from just casually reading the instructions?

  • In what ways are the scriptures like an instruction manual?

  • What directions have you received from the Lord through the scriptures?

  • What do you do that helps you study scriptures in more than just a casual way?

  • Compare the living prophet to a jungle guide. Ask:

  • How important would it be for you to have a guide on a trip through the Amazon?

  • What qualities would you like a jungle guide to have?

  • In what ways is a living prophet like an experienced and knowledgeable guide?

  • How does the guidance of the Lord come to us through a living prophet?

  • What dangers exist if we don’t follow His counsel?

Have students read Moroni 10:4–5; Doctrine and Covenants 1:14–18; and 33:16–18. Discuss what they add to our understanding of following the Spirit, studying the scriptures, and following the prophet. Invite students to share experiences of receiving direction from the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, or the prophet. Ask:

  • How did those influences help you personally?

  • What helped prepare you to receive those directions?

Share your testimony of how the Lord has blessed your life.

Proverbs 31:10–31. We should marry someone who has Christlike characteristics. (10–15 minutes)

Invite each student to imagine being ready to marry in the temple and that they expect to get engaged tonight. Ask: What do you hope your future spouse will be like? List the characteristics they describe on the board under the title Your List. Ask why those characteristics are important to them.

Have students read Proverbs 31:10–31 and identify qualities of a righteous woman. Ask how those qualities also apply to righteous men. Discuss why those qualities are important.