Bible Dictionary

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Proverbs, book of

The Hebrew word rendered proverb is mashal, a similitude or parable, but the book contains many maxims and sayings not properly so called, and also connected poems of considerable length. There is much in it that does not rise above the plane of worldly wisdom, but throughout it is taken for granted that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (1:7; 9:10). The least spiritual of the Proverbs are valuable as reminding us that the voice of divine inspiration does not disdain to utter homely truths. The first section, Prov. 1–9, is the most poetic and contains an exposition of true wisdom. Prov. 10–24 contain a collection of proverbs and sentences about the right and wrong ways of living. Prov. 25–29 contain the proverbs of Solomon that the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, copied out. Prov. 30–31 contain the “burden” of Agur and Lemuel, the latter including a picture of the ideal wife, arranged in acrostic form. The book is frequently quoted in the New Testament, the use of Prov. 3 being specially noteworthy.