Matthew Holst – Wisdom for Reading the Proverbs

The Wisdom literature is among the most neglected of all genres in Scripture. This is, no doubt, partly on account of the fact that there are an abundance of difficulties when we approach the reading and study of Proverbs — our historical distance from them, the apparent similarity with writings of other wisdom literature from the Ancient Near East, the apparent lack of Gospel focus and the fact that, at times, the Proverbs seem to over promise. Yet as we read them we find that we begin to discover life, wisdom and the fear of the Lord. Facing the difficulties of reading the Proverbs–while knowing that they are necessary for our spiritual growth in grace–here are seven tips on how to get the most out of reading Proverbs.

1. Remember the authors and audience of Proverbs. Context always ought to be your starting point. Large portions of Proverbs were written by Solomon and addressed to his son(s). That puts Proverbs, first and foremost, in the sphere of the history and theology of the kings of Israel and, specifically, that of the Davidic covenant. When you are reading Proverbs (and many of the Psalms) you are reading the wisdom of the Kings’ Charter (read Deuteronomy 17:14ff). How should a king be good and righteous king? By knowing and living the Proverbs! Clearly these leadership and life principles apply to everyone in authority – Proverbs speak especially now to pastors, elders, deacons and heads of households, as well as those they instruct.

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