Understanding Proverbs

If you want a book of the Bible that’s practical, memorable, and accessible, you can’t do much better than Proverbs. For example: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (16:18). Nothing hard to grasp about that!

But probe beneath the surface a bit, and you’re going to run into all sorts of interpretive trouble. Honest interpreters wonder, “If it’s true that pride leads to destruction, why do so many politicians, professional athletes, and CEOs seem to get away with blatant arrogance?” Theologically sensitive interpreters wonder, “Where is God and His glory in this book? Other than an occasional reference to the fear of the Lord, most of this stuff is just good common sense.” And self-consciously Christian interpreters wonder, “Why exactly do we need Jesus if we’re going to be and do what this book requires? It almost seems like Proverbs would still ‘work’ even if Jesus hadn’t come.”

So on the one hand, we have the common Christian who prefers this book over the rest of the Old Testament because of its personal focus and its relative disinterest in covenants, rituals, and other cultural weirdness. And on the other hand, we have the careful interpreter who is concerned that Proverbs might not be quite reliable enough, God-centered enough, or redemptive enough. It’s a delightful irony! …that is, until someone asks you to teach from this book. Then you might be in trouble!

That’s why our next PHBF Core Seminar will focus on understanding the Book of Proverbs. On Saturday, February 9, from 9AM-noon, we’ll wrestle with these exact issues—along with plenty of others. We’ll find that these three questions represent the three of the most common errors readers make in handling this book:

  • Absolutism, i.e., treating the proverbs as promises;
  • Practical Atheism, i.e., applying Proverbs without regard for God; and
  • Moralism, i.e., assuming that Proverbs is primarily about us and what we must do, rather than about Jesus and what He has done.

We hope you’ll join us next week Saturday for 3 hours of study on “Knowing and Using the Book of Proverbs.” Mark your calendar, and we’ll see you there!