Proverbs 1:1-7: The beginning of wisdom
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 9-16)
Verse 1 “The proverbs of Solomon”—Solomon is listed as the author, but later chapters include other authors. All these proverbs were collected at a later date and put into one book.
The fool is the opposite of the wise. The fool may be very intelligent, but he or she is morally and spiritually weak, lacking both the insight and the will to live in a God-pleasing way.—“Fools”Verse 7
1. The first six verses provide a thorough understanding of what Proverbs gives us. The wisdom that Proverbs teaches is not abstract book learning but practical principles that help us live our lives under God in a proper way. Look at each phrase in verses 1-6 that describes what the book of Proverbs is “for.” Try to define each phrase in your own words.
• “attaining wisdom and discipline” (verse 2)
• “understanding words of insight” (verse 2)
• “acquiring a disciplined and prudent life” (verse 3)
• “doing what is right and just and fair” (verse 3)
• “giving prudence to the simple” (verse 4)
• “giving . . . knowledge and discretion to the young” (verse 4)
• “understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise” (verse 6)
2. “The fear of the Lord” (verse 7) is the reverence, love, and respect we have for the Lord because of his greatness and goodness. Why does wisdom begin here?
We can only live and act with wisdom when we have a right understanding of the Lord and a firm relationship with him. Proverbs enables us to build on that foundation.
Proverbs 1:8-33: Wisdom calls to the young to avoid sinful company
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 17-24)
Verse 10 “If sinners entice you”—Proverbs especially warns against two enticements: sexual impurity and getting things dishonestly. This section focuses on the second of these.
Verses 20,22 Here, and in later chapters, wisdom is personified as a wise woman. She calls out away from their foolishness.“mockers” and “simple ones” and in public places to try to steer “in the street”
1. What instruction does wisdom give children?
2. What are the sinners tempting the righteous to do?
3. What does wisdom tell the righteous to do?
4. How does “ill-gotten gain” take away the lives of those who get it? (verse 19)
5. Wisdom is now personified. She is seen walking in the streets and calling out in the marketplace and in the conference chamber of the city counsel—in other words, wherever people can be found. What warning does she give? What encouragement does she give? (verses 20-33)
6. Do you need help knowing what to say to your child? Where might you find help?
7. Is it ever too late to grow in wisdom?.
Solomon encouraged us to listen to our parents.
He also encouraged us to listen to the voice of wisdom and not reject her call.
Proverbs 2: Promises to those who seek and find wisdom
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 24-31)
There are ten separate discourses on wisdom to “my son” in the first seven chapters of Proverbs. This is the second discourse of those ten. (The first was 1:8-33.)
Verse 1 “My words”—These words were written or spoken by Solomon, but as you read them, remember that they are really God’s words to all of us.
Verse 9 “Every good path”—A person’s life is compared to a journey. When wisdom enters our hearts, we are able to walk on pleasant and safe paths.
1. Look carefully at each action wisdom encourages us to do. As you do this, think of specific ways you can do what wisdom says.
2. Where alone does wisdom come from? (verse 6) What is the heart and core of all wisdom? (verse 5)
3. Look first at verses 12-15 and then at verses 16-19. Which are the two main things against which wisdom will guard us? What is the “victory” (verse 7) that wisdom will give us?
4. How will “the fear of the Lord” and “the knowledge of God” (verse 5) help a person who is faced with the influence of “wicked men”? of “the adulteress”?
5. What does it mean that wisdom is “pleasant” to the soul of the one who finds her? (verse 10)
As you grow in wisdom, you will be equipped to win victories over sin and temptation.
Proverbs 3:1-18: The blessings of wisdom
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 31-38)
Verse 2 “Prosperity”—This is the familiar Hebrew word shalom, and it includes the idea of peace, happiness, and all that you need for a satisfying life. It is the word that Hebrew people use to greet one another.
Verses 11,12 This verse is quoted in the New Testament in Hebrews 12:5,6 to encourage believers who suffer for their faith. God uses such suffering to purify believers from the sins that remain in their lives and to make them more fruitful.
Verse 18 “Tree of life”—This is one of four times this phrase is used. It refers to the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.
1. Wisdom encourages us to follow her. Read verses 1-10. What blessings does the person receive who follows wisdom?
2. What further blessing is spoken of in verses 11 and 12?
3. In verses 13-18, Solomon heaps praise on wisdom. Look at each description of wisdom.
4. If Solomon had gone into a local bookstore and had seen all the self-help books, what do you think he would have thought?
A life lived with the wisdom that comes from the Lord will result in many blessings.
Proverbs 3:19-35: The blessings of wisdom
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 38-43):
Verses 33-35 Note the three contrasts between the wicked and the righteous.
Verse 34 This verse is quoted twice in the New Testament—James 4:6 and
1 Peter 5:5—to show how God blesses those who are humble and cuts the proud down to size.
1. Some people equate wisdom with the second person of the Trinity. Read John 1:1-3, and then comment on that idea.
2. Name all the blessings listed in verses 21-26, which the Lord will give to the person who finds wisdom.
3. Most of Proverbs consists of short sentences that give wisdom. What wisdom does Solomon give us in verses 27-32?
4. Does God want us to use our own intelligence and common sense when we face difficult situations? If so, how does that harmonize with 3:5, “Lean not on your own understanding”? (verses 5,6,26)
5. Agree or disagree: People who practice generous giving can expect to become wealthy. (verses 9,10,27,28)
Wisdom results in many blessings.
Kindness, faithfulness, and generosity to one’s neighbors
are part of God’s wisdom. The end of the
righteous and the wicked will be complete
Proverbs 4 - Acquiring wisdom is a matter of urgency
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 43-49)
This chapter contains three discourses that begin with urgent appeals to listen
(Verses 1, 10, 20). Our minds wander and must constantly be brought back to attention on these important matters.
Verse 3 King David apparently took time to sit with his son and give him instructions about life—a good example for fathers and mothers.
Verse 7 Jesus may have had this verse in mind when he told the story of the pearl of great price (Matthew 13:45,46).
Verse 10 "The years of your life will be many.” Long life is a frequent promise held out to a child of God. (See chapter 3:2,16 and the Fourth Commandment.)
1. Look up 2 Chronicles 1:7-10. What did Solomon ask for when he became king after his father’s death? Compare his request to verses 5-9 of this chapter. How did the course of Solomon’s life bear out the truths in verses 5-9?
2. The book of Proverbs contains a fair amount of repetition, which we need. Verses 10-19 repeat Solomon’s warning against casting your lot with evil people. How does Solomon describe the eagerness of wicked people to do what is wrong?
3. What parts of the body need to be guarded from doing what is evil? On the basis of the text, discuss how each of these can be involved in sin.
4. The contrast between the righteous and the wicked in verses 18 and 19 is very striking. Comment on your growth in wisdom and righteousness. Is this promise for you?
5. What difficulties do you face when trying to teach your children? How and when have you been trying to teach your children?
The greatest challenge parents face is to impart thewisdom of God and wisdom for life to their children.
Proverbs 5: Keep yourself pure
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 49-54)
Verse 1 “My son”—Three of the ten discourses to “my son” in chapters 1–7, including this one, warn against an adulterous woman and emphasize sexual purity.
1. In verses 3-6, Solomon describes the adulterous woman. What does he say about her?
2. What is the first line of defense in avoiding sexual temptation? (verse 8)
3. What will happen to the person whose life is bound up with adultery and other sexual sins?
4. On the positive side, what does Solomon tell us to do in verses 15-17?
5. Historically, some Christians disparaged and avoided sexual intimacy between husbands and wives, equating it with lust. How does Solomon correct that idea in verses 18 and 19?
6. How would you compare Solomon’s view of casual sex or the use of pornography with the view portrayed in today’s media?
7. What good does it do to warn and instruct our youth about these matters when so much of what we say goes in one ear and out the other?
8. How can a person “keep to a path far from her” (that is, far from the temptation to sexual sin, verse 8) when these temptations are everywhere we turn?
Adultery is the path to ruin, whereas a faithful marriage brings joy to heart and life.
Proverbs 6:1-19: Warnings against adultery and other kinds of foolish living
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 55-60)
Verse 1 “Put up security.”—To put up one’s own money as a guarantee on a loan or a business deal for someone else.
Verse 16 "Six . . . seven”—A poetic way to intensify a thought. The same technique is used elsewhere in the Old Testament.
1. Instruction is given to a person who puts up his or her own property as security for another person’s loan. Such an act would probably be done in a weak moment when one’s emotions got the better of him or her. What should that person do? (verses 1-5)
2. What wisdom can we learn from an ant? (verses 6-8)
3. Some people find themselves in a state of poverty through no fault of their own. However, some bring themselves to poverty. What wisdom does Solomon give to the person who is tempted to be lazy? (verses 9-11)
4. Look at each characteristic of the wicked scoundrel described in verses 12-15. Do you understand what each refers to?
5. Look at the seven things the Lord hates. What words describe God’s attitude toward the actions of a scoundrel? (verses 16-19)
6. Is there a difference between an industrious person and a workaholic?
7. Are you surprised about the sins that made the Lord’s list of “detestable” things compared to other sins that are not listed? What does this tell us about sin?
Solomon gave instructions on bad loans, hard work,
laziness, deceit, and gave a list of what the Lord detests.
Proverbs 6:20-35: Further warnings against adultery and other kinds of foolish living
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 60-64)
Verse 20 “Father’s commands . . . mother’s teaching”—This refers to the teaching contained in Proverbs. Solomon is talking about the instruction of his father, David, and, no doubt, that of his mother, Bathsheba.
Verse 26—Something not very valuable, meant only for being consumed by others.“A loaf of bread”
1. What does Solomon want us to do with his words of instruction in Proverbs (as well as with the wise instruction of all fathers and mothers)? (verses 20-23)
2. In verse 24, Solomon warns against two kinds of women. What are they?
3. The Lord forgives the sin of adultery as he forgives other sins. But what kind of punishments is Solomon referring to in verses 27-29?
4. How does Solomon compare and contrast stealing with adultery? (verses 30,31)
5. In our day and age, people are drawn to self-help books to answer their life’s problems and to find personal happiness. Would Solomon have suggested we use such self-help books?
6. Apply verse 24 to the widespread use of pornography, to which some Christians are addicted.
The Christian will strive to avoid all sins, but the sin of adultery is especially destructive. Solomon described the shame and punishment it brings.
Proverbs 7, Final warnings against adultery and other kinds of foolish living
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 64-71)
Verse 2 “Apple of your eye”—The pupil, something we guard very carefully.
Verse 14 “I have fellowship offerings at home; today I fulfilled my vows.” We are not told what vow she had taken, only that she finished it. How very religious! Now it was time to seduce someone.
1. In chapter 6, Solomon used various pictures to describe how closely we should bind wisdom to ourselves. What additional pictures does he use in 7:1-5? How does this help you understand the value of the book of Proverbs?
2. Once again, Solomon moves from the value of wisdom to its ability to keep us from sexual immorality. He presents a detailed and vivid description of how a young man who did not listen to the teachings of his parents became trapped by a loose woman and the tragic results. What value is there in such a vivid picture?
3. What foolish things did the young man do that contributed to his temptation?
4. Work through the story. How did the wife seduce the young man?
5. How does Solomon describe the young man’s activity of going along with her?
6. What are some things we can do today to avoid sexual sins or, as Paul says, “avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3)?
Christians will strive to avoid all sins, but the sin of adultery is especially destructive.
Proverbs 8:1-21, Characteristics and power of wisdom
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 71-74)
Wisdom is pictured in the next two chapters as a wise woman who calls people to listen to her. Note the contrast between this woman of wisdom and the adulteress described in the previous two chapters.
1. Why is “where the paths meet” (verse 2) a good place for wisdom to stand?
2. In this world, corruption, vice, and injustice run rampant. List some of the characteristics of wisdom. (verses 6-9, 12-21)
3. How valuable is wisdom compared to the other valuable things in this world? (verse 11)
4. Not only is wisdom better than earthly wealth, wisdom is a source of physical blessings. What are some of the things wisdom gains for those who have her?
5. A person says, “I am foolish and simple. The Lord could never make me wise, even if he wanted to.” Evaluate that statement on the basis of verses 4 and 5.
6. Is our biggest problem in life to know what is right or to do what is right? Explain.
7. To what extent can unbelievers live and act according to wisdom?
Wisdom includes knowing what is right and then acting properly on that knowledge.
Proverbs 8:22-36, Wisdom will guide you through life to eternal life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 74-79)
Verse 30 “The craftsman at his side”—Some interpreters believe verses 22-31 refer to Christ and the part he played in creation (John 1:10), making him the wisdom that created all things. Others believe wisdom is personified in these verses, almost as if she was another person watching God as he created the world, serving as the pattern he used when he created the world.
1. When did wisdom come into being? (verses 22-26)
2. Note verses 27-29. What did wisdom see God do?
3. What role did wisdom play in God’s creating activity according to verse 30?
4. How did wisdom feel about the results of God’s creative efforts? (verses 30,31)
5. God created this world according to a specific plan, wisdom’s blueprint. What is God’s will for us as we go through life? (verses 32-35)
6. What is the result of living according to wisdom? of ignoring wisdom?
7. One of the ideas implicit in the theory of evolution is that our system of right and wrong, and our system of morality as a whole, evolved as human beings discovered what was right and wrong and established a sort of collective consciousness about wisdom and foolishness. How would you evaluate this idea from this section of Proverbs?
Wisdom was God’s pattern as he formed the world. We are to live according to that pattern.
Proverbs 9, Wisdom and folly give competing invitations
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 79-84)
Verses 1,13 “Wisdom has built her house. . . . The woman Folly . . .”—Wisdom is again personified as a wise woman. In this chapter she is put in contrast to another woman called Folly.
1. Who especially needs to listen to and follow the call of wisdom? (verse 4)
2. Where is the house where we can find the “food” and “wine” that wisdom offers at her banquet (verses 1-6)?
3. What is the “food and drink” wisdom has to offer?
4. In verses 7-9, Solomon encourages us to be wise people and to listen to his instruction. How do the wise and foolish differ in the ways they listen to and accept wisdom?
5. In what ways does Folly imitate wisdom? (verses 13-18)
6. What does Folly mean when she says, “Stolen water is sweet” (verse 17)?
7. What does it mean that “the dead” are in the house of Folly (verse 18)?
8. How can wisdom add years to your life? (verse 11)
There are two houses that contain feasts. Flee Folly’s invitation.
Listen to wisdom’s invitation, and enjoy her heavenly banquet.
Proverbs 10, Living a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 85-98)
Verse 1 “The proverbs of Solomon”—From chapters 10 to 22 there are 375 individual two-line proverbs organized in no particular order. Each proverb stands alone, usually without a connection to the one before it or the one after it. Almost all of the proverbs express contrasts between a wise and a foolish course of action.
Because of the amount of material and its varied nature, the Bible study handouts on these chapters will contain only selected proverbs drawn from the general subject categories Solomon uses. You may want to discuss other proverbs the class members find interesting. Applications are included in the Discuss section.
1. What are two ways that parents can feel about the behavior of their children? (verses 1,5)
2. What does verse 2 say about righteousness and unrighteousness?
3. Verses 4 and 26 deal with diligence and laziness. Look at verse 26. How is a lazy person who is sent on an errand like “vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes”? (Hint: What do vinegar and smoke have in common?)
4. Solomon often speaks about the speech of the righteous and the wicked. What do you picture in your mind when you read verse 8?
5. Have you experienced the truth of verse 12? If so, share this with the class.
6. Verse 22 speaks about riches. Solomon speaks about another blessing that the Lord gives. What is that?
7. Most proverbs describe the difference between the righteous and the wicked. Verse 15, however, simply describes a reality, something we should bear in mind. What situation is described in verse 15?
“The way of the Lord is a refuge for the righteous” (verse 29).
Proverbs 11, Living a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 98-108)
Verse 1 “Dishonest scales”—There was no Bureau of Weights and Measures at Solomon’s time. A merchant could use a weight on his scales that might or might not represent the value that he claimed for his product. A customer was at his mercy, and cheating was widespread. (See Amos 8:5.)
Verse 26 “People curse the man who hoards grain.” The law of supply and demand can lead to sin. In a time of famine, a farmer with a storehouse full of grain can refuse to sell in order to drive up the price, pushing the poor to the verge of starvation. They curse him for his heartlessness.
1. Can you name a time in your life when you experienced a situation when weights and measures were used against you?
2. How could pride lead to disgrace? (verse 2)
3. What point does Solomon make in verse 4?
4. According to verse 10, who benefits from righteousness?
5. According to verse 16, what is more valuable, respect or money?
6. What is the point of comparison between “a gold ring in a pig’s snout” (verse 22) and a beautiful woman who shows poor judgment?
7. Verses 24-26 talk about generosity. What observations does Solomon make? What general instruction is there for us in his words?
“The Lord detests men of perverse heart but he delights in those whose ways are blameless” (verse 20).
Proverbs 12, Living a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 108-118)
When we are cleansed in Christ’s blood, we are washed of our sins and are perfect in God’s sight. God also created us to be new people, and according to our new man, we are completely committed to serving the Lord. Look at the words in this chapter that are used to describe the person who thinks and acts in God-pleasing ways. He is “good” (verse 2), “righteous” (verse 3), “upright” (verse 6), “wise” (verse 15), “prudent” (verse 16), and “diligent” (verse 27). Solomon encourages God’s people to act more and more in line with what we have become in Christ.
By contrast, look at the words that describe the person who lives and acts contrary to God’s will. That person is “stupid” (verse 1), “crafty” (verse 2), “disgraceful” (verse 4), “wicked” (verse 5), “evil” (verse 12), “false” (verse 17), “foolish” (verse 23), and “lazy” (verse 27). It is sobering to hear what God thinks of those who are not made clean in Christ and who disobey his will.
1. Why is a person who hates correction “stupid”? (verse 1)
2. Give the reasoning behind what Solomon says in verse 3.
3. What characteristics does a wife of “noble character” possess? (verse 4)
4. How does Solomon compare the sensitive heart of the righteous person with the heart of the wicked person?
5. What are examples of ways in which a person “chases fantasies” in an effort to strike it rich (verse 11)? What should we do instead?
6. Why does a prudent man listen to advice? (verse 15)
7. What word in verse 22 expresses how God feels about a person who lies? Have you always thought of lying as being that serious?
“In the way of righteousness there is life; along that path is immortality” (verse 28).
Proverbs 13, Advice for living a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 118-127)
Verse 1 - “A wise son”—The early chapters of Proverbs were addressed to “my son.” Throughout these later chapters, Solomon occasionally reminds his son to keep listening.
1. Watching carefully what you say is a major theme in Proverbs. How does guarding one’s lips serve to guard one’s life? (verse 3)
2. Why do you think Solomon says the sluggard “craves” but the diligent person “desires”? (verse 4)
3. Verse 7 says that some people pretend to be rich, some to be poor. Why would someone pretend to be rich? Why would someone pretend to be poor?
4. According to verse 8, what is the advantage of being poor?
5. What does verse 20 tell us about choosing friends?
6. Spanking has become politically incorrect, but God’s Word recommends it (verse 24). For what situations is spanking appropriate? When is it not appropriate?
7. Poor people can be victims of circumstances beyond their control (see verse 23). But some are poor through their own faults. Find verses in this chapter that point out how they may have failed.
“The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
turning a man from the snares of death” (verse 14).
Proverbs 14, Advice for living a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 127-138)
Verse 1 “The wise woman builds her house.” This refers to the way she looks after her family, not to an actual construction project.
Verse 4 “Where there are no oxen”—Oxen were the ultimate farm machines in Israel. If you didn’t own an ox, you would have likely had an empty manger and also an empty pantry. This is another of Solomon’s observations, which he uses here to encourage diligence and hard work to gain the tools we need to do our jobs.
Verses 13,20 “Even in laughter . . . end in grief” “The poor are shunned . . . but the rich”—Two more of Solomon’s observations. Things are not always what they seem. The wise will take this to heart in working with other people. A person is not always judged on his or her integrity and uprightness. The righteous should take that to heart and find comfort in it.
1. Have the changing standards of family life changed how a wise woman will build her house?
2. The wicked man hatches what seems to be a solid plan, but it leads only to his own ruin. Apply this to whenever human wisdom is used to determine spiritual truth. Where will it end? How does this apply to what is taught in your church? (verse 12)
3. What is one of the best gifts parents can give to their children? (verse 26)
4. What does envy do to a person? (verse 30) Explain. See also James 4:1,2.
5. What is the believer’s “refuge” in times of calamity and death? (verse 32)
6. How can you as a Christian exalt our nation with your righteousness? (verse 34)
“The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death” (verse 27).
Proverbs 15, Advice for living a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 138-150)
Verse 3 The eyes of the Lord”—Since God is a Spirit, he does not have eyes. But the Bible frequently uses this kind of language to make God’s actions and attributes clear to us. Here his “eyes” indicate that he knows what is going on in our lives.
Verse 25 “Boundaries”—The corners of an Israelite’s property were marked with boundary stones. Dishonest people would move these markers to steal someone’s property (see Deuteronomy 19:14 and 27:17). Widows especially would be targets of such dishonesty.
1. Suppose you are in your car and another driver cuts you off. What do you naturally feel like doing? What does verse 1 have to say about this?
2. How does verse 3 contribute to instilling in us “the fear of the Lord?”
3. What is the treasure in the house of the righteous? Why does the income of the wicked merely bring them trouble?
4. How does the Lord view people who are “religious” (offering prayers, sacrifices, and offerings) but continue to live in unrepented sin? (verse 8)
5. What do verses 16 and 17 teach us about striving to acquire wealth?
6. Several verses in this chapter (verses 10,12,31,32) refer to the ways a person reacts to correction. Summarize what they say.
7. Some people always want to make sure they get recognition and honor for what they do. What is a better path to honor? (verse 33)
“A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word” (verse 23).
Proverbs 16 - Advice for liveing a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 150-160)
Verse 1 Note the change in the way the proverbs are stated in the next seven chapters. Beginning back in chapter 10, almost every proverb was presented as a two-part contrast with the second line expressing the opposite thought of the first. From chapters 16 to 22, almost every proverb will be presented with the second line repeating the thought of the first.
Verse 11 “Honest scales and balances are from the Lord.” An honest merchant uses honest weights because he or she wants to do what is right in the Lord’s eyes. That’s why honest weights “are from the Lord.”
- Explain verse 2 in your own words.
- What will happen when you put every undertaking into the Lord’s hands? (verse 3) How does verse 4 support your answer?
- According to verse 6, how is sin atoned for? Explain this as it might happen in a family situation. Who can make atonement for his or her sins before God?
- How might verse 7 help you when one of your enemies is giving you a hard time?
- Who is more admired in this world, someone with money or with wisdom? Who is admired more, an entertainment/sports hero or a person who can control himself? What does verse 16 say about this?
- Read verse 25. What way “seems right” to a person contemplating an unscriptural divorce? to someone with an unplanned pregnancy? to someone who feels his or her employer has cheated him or her out of some pay?
“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (verse 18).
Proverbs 17 - Advice for living a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 160-170)
Verse 3 “The crucible for silver . . .”—A crucible was a heavy metal container in which gold or silver was melted to remove impurities. The Lord wants to remove the impurities of sin from our lives. His trials are the crucibles of our lives. He may use troubles or sufferings to purify us.
Verse 19 “He who builds a high gate”—This is keeping up with the Joneses. If one’s neighbor has a big, impressive gate in front of his or her house, the temptation is to build a higher one. Solomon says that such competition “invites destruction.”
Have you ever been secretly happy when you heard bad news about someone? (verse 5) What makes a person feel that way?
Note the wonderful way parents and children benefit one another. What does Solomon mean by “crown” and “pride”? (verse 6)
What are people tempted to do when they hear gossip? What happens because of this? (verse 9) According to this verse, what should you do instead?
What often happens to little quarrels? Is it always best to “drop the matter” (verse 14) and leave it unresolved? Now read verse 27. How can you keep a small matter from becoming a major dispute?
The Lord wants justice to be served. Compare the way this concern is expressed in verses 15, 23, and 26. Why might an official be “flog[ged]” (verse 26) for doing a just and honorable thing? (Verse 23 gives a reason.)
Why is “keep[ing] silent” advised in verse 28? How does James express this idea in James 1:19?
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (verse 22).
Proverbs 18 - Advice for living a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 170-178)
Verse 10 “The name of the Lord”—God’s personal name is Lord, distinguishing him from the idol gods of Israel’s neighbors. This name reminded the Israelites of God’s covenant promises: he would be their God and they would be his people. It always carried with it the idea of grace and mercy and the idea that God would fulfill his promises for his people. That’s why Solomon says that God’s name is a “strong tower.” The God of grace declares sinners to be righteous for Christ’s sake, and this makes them “safe” from sin’s punishment. In the NIV Old Testament, Lord is always printed in capital letters.
1. Verse ave you ever been at a meeting where one person gives his or her opinion on every issue? (verse 2) Have you ever been that person? What are some dangers in doing this?
2. Why are the words of a gossip labeled “choice morsels”? (verse 8)
3. A person once said that a gossip always has three victims. Can you guess who they are? How is each one harmed?
4. What warning does Solomon give the rich in verse 11?
5. What rude behavior is exposed in verse 13? Why do people do that? What does this indicate about a person?
6. What helps a person deal with an illness or a handicap? (verse 14) How can you develop that spirit?
7. What advice is Solomon giving us in view of the observation in verse 17?
8. What two blessings does Solomon speak of in verses 22 and 24?
“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (verse 10).
Proverbs 19 - Advice for living a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 178-187)
Verse 13 “A quarrelsome wife”—Most of these proverbs were addressed to fathers and sons who were the leaders and future leaders of Israel. That’s why wives, both “prudent” and “quarrelsome,” are often discussed but not husbands. In our day most of these statements need to be applied to both sexes. Husbands can certainly also be quarrelsome, and young girls need to look for a husband who is prudent.
Verse 25 “Flog a mocker”—The thought is that a discerning person will learn from the punishments that fall on others.
1. What does verse 2 encourage us to do?
2. When people have troubles in life, whom are they quick to blame? (verse 3) What may actually be the cause of their trouble?
3. According to verses 5, 9, 15, 16, 19, and 29, what will be the outcome for those who live unrighteously? Does it discourage you when you don’t see this happening? How do you deal with that?
4. What should be the first thing a young person does when he or she thinks about marriage? (verse 14)
5. Some people don’t want to give to the poor because they will get nothing in return. How does verse 17 put everything into perspective?
6. An old aphorism says, “Man proposes, God disposes.” Find a verse in this chapter that contains that
“Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise” (verse 20).
Proverbs 20 - Advice for living a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 187-199)
Verse 1 “Mocker . . . brawler”—These are two characteristics of a fool. Wine seems pleasant, but if we drink too much, it will mock us. Beer seems like a good party drink, but if we drink too much, our good times will end in fighting.
Verse 2 “A king’s wrath . . .”—Four verses in this chapter make reference to the life and work of a king, a subject of great importance to Solomon and the people of his court. Kings had the power of life and death over their subjects, but God expected them to be like shepherds who care for their sheep (see Ezekiel chapter 34). Times have changed, but God still expects his people to respect and obey their political leaders, and he expects these leaders to serve their people.
1. What is a person encouraged to do in verses 4 and 13 in order to prosper in life?
2. How can a person lead a “blameless life” (verse 7) although Solomon made it clear that no one can say,
“I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”? (verse 9)
3. When does living an upright life begin? What does that tell you about the faith of children? (verse 11)
4. According to verse 15, what is more precious than gold or rubies?
5. Why is it not necessary to take revenge for some wrong done to you? (verse 22)
6. How might verse 21 apply to parents who give their children everything they ask for? to a person who wins the lottery?
to a person who receives a windfall inheritance at a young age?
7. Every age of life has its advantages. (verse 29) What advantage is there in being a young child? a young adult? a retired person?
“The righteous man leads a blameless life; blessed are his children after him” (verse 7).
Proverbs 21 - Advice for living a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 199-211)
Verse 1 “Watercourse”—This refers to an irrigation system. Just as farmers control the water they use to irrigate their fields, so the Lord controls the affairs of people, including even great kings. Examples would be Caesar Augustus at the time of Christ’s birth and King Cyrus permitting the people of Judah to return to Jerusalem after 70 years of captivity. The Lord controls a “king’s heart.”
Verse 9 “A quarrelsome wife”—Before women get too upset about this verse and verse 19, count the number of times the “wicked” are described as men!
1. What word or words would you use today to replace the word sacrifice in verse 3?
2. If you are driving in your car and see someone pulled over for speeding, what do you instinctively do? How does that apply to verse 11? Can you think of other examples?
3. According to verse 13, what will happen to the person who had an opportunity to help someone but didn’t do it? What will that person probably think about later?
4. What application does Paul make to verse 15 in Romans 13:3,4?
5. How might loving “pleasure” and loving “wine and oil” (verse 17) make someone poor?
6. What does verse 20 suggest that a wise person will do with some of his or her money?
7. What word or words could replace horse if verse 31 was written in the 21st century? What point is being made in this verse?
“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord” (verse 30).
Proverbs 22 -- Advice for living a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 211-221)
Verse 16 marks the end of a long collection of 375 short proverbs that began in chapter 10. At verse 17, the form of the proverbs changes. Each concept is now carried out in greater detail. Some have suggested that Solomon may here have included the words of other wise men.“Sayings of the wise”Verse 17
Verse 20 “Have I not written thirty sayings . . .”—It is possible to divide the next three chapters into thirty sections. It is also possible to translate the verse “Have I not previously written.”
Verse 28 “Ancient boundary stone”—In Old Testament times, the corners of property were marked by large rocks. This was the property God had deeded to the various tribes and families when Israel had settled the Promised Land. Already in Deuteronomy 19:14, God warned against moving these boundary stones. Some five hundred years later, Solomon had to repeat this prohibition, because some people were trying to steal their neighbor’s property.
- Why should the rich not despise the poor? (verse 2) What example of this do we find in James 2:2-4? Do you see any signs of this in the church today?
- Why do “humility” and “fear of the Lord” make good partners? (verse 4)
- Verse 6 is probably the most quoted verse from the book of Proverbs. How do these words encourage parents?
- According to verse 7, what should you try to avoid? Even if you do not borrow, what do verses 26 and 27 warn against? Why?
- Why does a “sluggard” say the preposterous things mentioned in verse 13?
- How might verse 3 be applied to the kind of church a person chooses to attend and join?
“A good name is more desirable than great riches;
Proverbs 23 -- Advice for living a righteous life
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (verse 1).
The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 222-233
Verse 2 “Put a knife to your throat.” Don’t eat too much of this man’s delicacies.
Verse 11 “Defender”—This is the same word Job used when he said, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25). God is the defender of the weak and powerless. He can be counted on to help even in the greatest trouble, including death.
- What might a naïve person begin to think when he or she is invited to dinner by someone important? Why should this person be careful? (verses 1-3)
- Why is wealth, or riches, such a poor goal to have in life? (verses 4,5)
- A child who is being spanked might scream bloody murder, but Solomon assures parents that their child “will not die.” (verse 13) But how might failing to punish a child in an appropriate way actually lead to his or her death, both physical and spiritual? (verse 14)
- Parents are often quick to criticize, correct, and punish their children. But what should they also remember to do even more often? (verses 15,16) What would you say to a parent who says, “I would like to praise my child, but I can’t find a reason to do it”?
- Solomon describes a pure heart in verse 17. What contrast does Solomon make? What gives a person a pure heart?
- What makes parents proud of their children? (verses 22-25)
- Verse 29 contains several rhetorical questions. Instead of asking for answers, what are the questions suggesting about people who abuse alcohol? Read the entire section through verse 35. What sad question does Solomon record at the end of verse 35?
“Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge” (verse 12).
Proverbs 24 - Advice for living a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 233-244)
Verse 7 “In the assembly at the gate”—Community leaders met at the city gates to discuss civic matters, settle disputes, and pass judgment on wrongdoers (see Deuteronomy 21:19). This is where having wisdom was especially important.
Verse 20 “The lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out.” When a lamp was extinguished, there was total darkness, which was symbolic of the eternal darkness the wicked will experience.
- Compare verse 1 with Psalm 37:1,2. What might cause someone to envy sinners? Why is it foolish to do that?
- What kind of “house” might wisdom build besides a physical dwelling? What kind of treasures will fill the “rooms” of the house? (verses 3,4)
- What makes a wise man so powerful? (verse 5)
- Give examples of times when people were being “led away to death” while others claimed that “we knew nothing about this.” (verses 11,12) What threat is made against those who dishonestly claim ignorance? What would you tell a person who is burdened with guilt because of these verses?
- According to verse 10, when will it become clear whether or not you are a person of strength? What does this suggest a person should do before times of trouble come?
- Why is it important to “get your fields ready” before “build[ing] your house”? (verse 27) What is the general principle here that applies to other areas of life as well?
“An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips” (verse 26).
Proverbs 25 - Advice for living a righteous life
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 245-255)
Verse 1 “Hezekiah”—King Hezekiah lived more than two hundred years after Solomon. First Kings 4:32 indicates that Solomon “spoke three thousand proverbs,” so the book of Proverbs is only a sampling of his wisdom. The collection beginning in chapter 25 was organized by people in Hezekiah’s day
Verses 6,7 “Better for him to say to you, ‘Come up here’”—Jesus referred to these two verses in Luke 14:7-14 when he watched people grab the best seats at a banquet. Discuss
What practical application does verse 2 have for present-day scientists?
What bad reputation will someone gain who “betray[s] another man’s confidence”? (verse 9)
Verses 7 and 8 give us wisdom as witnesses to a crime. What is that wisdom?
How is the rebuke of a wise man like an earring or ornament of gold? (verse 12)
What practical application might verse 20 have on a nursing-home visit?
Martin Luther quoted an old proverb that said, “Friends are thieves of time.” Verse 17 says much the same thing. Are there people in your life who visit but never leave? Could you be one of those people? Could this apply to your children who are always at someone else’s house? or to your use of the telephone? or to instant messages on the computer?
What will likely happen if you do nice things to someone who has been your enemy? (verse 21) Even if this doesn’t work, what promise is given in verse 22? See Romans 12:20.
“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (verse 11).
Proverbs 26 - The kind of people you don’t want to be
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 255-265)
Verse 1 “Fool”—Eleven of the first twelve verses in this chapter refer to the fool. A fool may be intelligent but is morally and spiritually weak and corrupt.
Verse 2 “Fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow”—First Kings 4:33 says that Solomon “taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish.” In this chapter he makes reference to a sparrow, swallow, horse, donkey, dog, and lion.
Verse 6 “Cutting off one’s feet”—This is like our expression “to shoot yourself in the foot.” If you trust a fool to deliver a message, you are shooting yourself in the foot. The message will surely get garbled.
1. Verses 4 and 5 seem to be contradictory. Can you reconcile these verses?
2. Describe a person who is “wise in his own eyes.” (verses 12 and 16)
3. “Don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong” is the advice of verse 17. What will happen if you do?
4. What do verses 18 and 19 tell us about playing practical jokes on others?
5. Explain the meaning of the proverb in verse 23.
6. Warnings against pride are common in Proverbs (see verse 12 for example). Is all pride sinful? Is there an appropriate pride? What will a proper pride always acknowledge?
All the verses in this chapter describe people and actions that are negative. The fool, the sluggard, the meddler, the gossip, the phony, the liar—they all are exposed and condemned. Christians need instruction on how to act and how not to act.
Proverbs 27 - Observations about people and life in general
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 265-274)
Verse 24 “Riches do not endure forever.” Verses 23-27 encourage people to be content with a dependable way to make a living. Even after you cut the hay in your pasture (verse 25), it’s not gone; it will grow again and provide food for your lambs and goats. Take care of your flocks, and they will take care of you.
1. Have you ever seen the abbreviation D.V.? It is sometimes used when a person writes that he or she is planning to go somewhere or do something. It stands for the Latin Deo volente, which means “God willing.” What do you need to remember as you plan for the future? (verse 1; see also James 4:13-16)
2. What are some modern proverbs that say the same things as verse 2?
3. Tough love is the opposite of “hidden love.” In the context of verse 5, what would be the difference?
4. Why can the wounds of a friend be trusted? Why can’t the kisses of your enemy be trusted? (verse 6)
5. Suppose you invite a fellow church member to attend Bible class with you, and the person replies, “I read my Bible at home.” How might verse 17 help you convince that person to come along with you?
6. How does verse 20 apply to pornography?
7. What does this mean: “Man is tested by the praise he receives”? (verse 21)
“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know
what a day may bring forth” (verse 1).
Proverbs 28 - Observations about people and life in general
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 275-286)
Verse 6 “Blameless”—When we see the word blameless in verses 10 and 18, elsewhere in Proverbs, and especially in the Psalms, it does not mean “sinless.” No one is sinless. But it refers to the person whose sins are forgiven and who sincerely strives to live a sanctified life.
1. Why are the wicked on the run when no one is chasing them? Why are the righteous always bold? (verse 1)
2. Why is a country that has many rulers invariably a rebellious country? What is the solution?
3. It’s bad enough to sin. What is even worse? (verse 10; see also Matthew 18:6)
4. Verses 8 and 22 speak about a certain attitude toward money. What is that attitude, and what is the irony about what will happen to the stingy person?
5. You may have heard of people who turn themselves in years later after stealing something or killing someone. Since they seem to have gotten away with it, why do they turn themselves in? How do verses 1,13, and 17 help explain this?
6. A man who was nearing the end of his life came to his pastor to confess some sins he had committed 60 years earlier. He had confessed those sins many times on Sunday at worship and had heard the absolution. Why would he want to speak personally to his pastor?
7. Name a special time when the sin referred to in verse 25 creates dissension among family members. How will a blameless person deal with the dissension?
“He who conceals his sins does not prosper,
but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (verse 13).
Proverbs 29 - Observations about people and life in general
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 286-294)
Verse 1 “Stiff-necked”—The Old Testament Israelites were often described as being a stiff-necked people because of their stubborn rebelliousness. After repeated warnings, God’s patience ran out and many of the people were destroyed. Beware of testing God’s patience; it has a limit.
Verse 2 “Wicked”—Notice all the different phrases in this chapter that describe sinful people. Examples are “greedy,” “evil,” “mockers,” “fool,” “bloodthirsty,” “angry,” “thief,” and others. Sin is all around us. It is also in us. We desperately need God’s remedy in Christ.
1. The main goal of Christianity is to bring people to faith and salvation through Jesus. Yet there are side benefits for society. Which side benefit does Solomon speak of in verse 7?
2. What will cause a child who is left to himself or herself to “disgrace his mother”?
3. Children left alone (verse 15) have been called latchkey kids. What are some of the troubles they can get into when no one is around to supervise and discipline them? What will likely be the long-term effects on these children?
4. What may be necessary beyond “mere words” when correcting a servant or a child? (verse 19) Why are mere words not enough?
5. Preaching and teaching God’s Word are vital. What happens when it is stopped or ignored? (verse 18)
6. Verses 25 and 26 speak about the relative importance we place on people and God. What two blessings come into our lives when we put our confidence in the Lord?
7. What are some of the many sins that a “hot-tempered” man may commit? (verse 22)
“Discipline your son, and he will give you peace;
he will bring delight to your soul” (verse 17).
Proverbs 30 - Stand in wonder and humility before God and his creation
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 295-309)
Verse 1 “Agur”—We have no other information about Agur. The footnote indicates that “Ithiel” and “Ucal” are probably not people but misunderstandings of the way the Hebrew letters are divided into words. They should be translated as the footnote says.
Verse 15 “Three things . . . four”—Several times in this chapter, Agur uses this sequence of numbers as a way to emphasize the importance of what he is saying.
1. What answer is expected to all five questions in verse 4? What message are these questions sending to people who claim to be so wise?
2. What do verses 5 and 6 tell us about Scripture?
3. Why is the prayer in verses 7-9 so important in our own day? What are the special dangers of both riches and poverty? What does Agur ask God to give him?
4. Four types of sinners are described in verses 11-14. In your own words, describe the failing of each. Why do you think Agur presents this list?
5. What warning does Agur give to children who disrespect their parents?
6. Verses 22 and 23 list four things that ought not to be. Can you state why Agur offers this list?
7. Verses 24-28 are saying, “Don’t underestimate small creatures. You can learn from them.” What can we learn from each of the creatures mentioned in these verses?
You can learn a lot about life by observing people and
nature. We need to bow before the Creator
and his will in all humility.
Proverbs 31 - Final advice and a wonderful woman
(The People’s Bible, Proverbs, pages 309-318)
Verse 1 “King Lemuel”—There are no other references in the Bible to this man. Notice that the wisdom he shares came originally from his mother. He listened and learned.
Verse 10 “A wife of noble character”—The final 22 verses of this chapter are an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The same technique is used in several Psalms, including Psalm 119, where the 22 letters of the alphabet are named in many Bibles.
1. Two things are the ruin of many kings. What are they? (verses 3-5) Why are they dangerous?
2. Give examples of “those who cannot speak for themselves” and need to be defended. (verses 8,9)
3. The woman described in this chapter has many good qualities. However, the qualities mentioned at the beginning (verse 10) and the end (verse 30) set the pace for all the other qualities listed here. What are those qualities?
4. Read the description of a wife of noble character. What about her impresses you the most?
5. Your son is dating one of the most attractive girls at his school, but you are concerned because she is not a Christian, seems to have no goals, and says she dislikes school. Which verses in this chapter would help you discuss this situation with your son?
6. Proverbs gives much godly advice. Agree or disagree: If a person conscientiously follows this advice, it will make him or her a better person.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”
The person who reverences and respects God
for his salvation in Christ has the starting point
for living a life of wisdom.