Sunday School Bible Survey:      PROVERBS

Theme: Conduct

Key words: Wise, Wisdom

Key verses: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:7). "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding" (Proverbs 9:10).

From the Scofield Study Bible:

This collection of sententious sayings is divine wisdom applied to the earthly conditions of the people of God. That the Proverbs were Solomon's (Proverbs 1:1) implies no more than that he gathered into orderly arrangement sayings already current amongst the people, the wisdom of the Spirit, perhaps through many centuries (Ecclesiastes 12:9). Chapters 25-29 were current in Hezekiah's time (25:1). Chapters 30 and 31 are by Agur and Lemuel.

The book is in six parts:

  1. To sons (1-7).
  2. The praise of wisdom (8-9).
  3. The folly of sin (10-19).
  4. Warnings and instructions (20-29).
  5. The words of Agur (30).
  6. The words of King Lemuel (31).


  1. "If the book of Psalms was the believer's manual of devotion, then the book of Proverbs may be said to be our handbook of ethics or behavior" (Eric W. Hayden, Preaching Through the Bible).
  2. The book of Proverbs is a collection of pithy sayings, important truths that are expressed with brevity and vividness so that they can easily be remembered.
  • "The memory of the just is blessed: but the name of the wicked shall rot" (10:7).
  • "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise" (11:30).
  • "Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall" (16:18).
  • "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise" (20:1).
  • "Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (22:6).
  • "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him" (22:15).
  1. According to I Kings 4:32, King Solomon wrote 3,000 proverbs and 1,005 songs. Solomon wrote three books in our Bible — Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon.
  2. Ecclesiastes 12:9 says, "And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs."
  3. Not of all the proverbs were written by Solomon, and not all were collected by him (cf. 25:1; 30:1; 31:1).
  4. Regarding "King Lemuel" (31:1), many expositors think this is another name for King Solomon.
  5. Matthew Henry wrote, "Most interpreters are of opinion that Lemuel is Solomon; the name signifies one that is for God, or devoted to God; and so it agrees well enough with that honorable name which, by divine appointment, was given to Solomon (II Sam. 12:25), Jedediah -- beloved of the Lord. Lemuel is supposed to be a pretty, fond, endearing name, by which his mother used to call him; and so much did he value himself upon the interest he had in his mother's affections that he was not ashamed to call himself by it. One would the rather incline to think it is Solomon that here tells us what his mother taught him because he tells us (4:4) what his father taught him. But some think (and the conjecture is not improbable) that Lemuel was a prince of some neighboring country, whose mother was a daughter of Israel, perhaps of the house of David, and taught him these good lessons."
  6. Solomon was a younger son and not the natural one in line to be king. When David was old and close to death, his son Adonijah exalted himself and set himself up as king (I Kings 1:5).
  7. Upon the advice of Nathan the prophet, Bathsheba went to King David and said, "My lord, thou swarest by the LORD thy God unto thine handmaid, saying, Assuredly Solomon thy son shall reign after me, and he shall sit upon my throne" (I Kings 1:17).
  8. David agreed that the king to succeed him was to be Solomon (I Kings 1:29, 30). The words in Proverbs 31 are presented as a "prophecy" given to King Lemuel from his mother (Proverbs 31:2). Perhaps this refers to Bathsheba telling Solomon how he will need to act when he is king.
  9. The advice in chapter 31 is advice that King Solomon would need to hear. Lemuel's mother warned her son against giving his strength unto women (Proverbs 31:3). King Solomon's multiple marriages led to his decline (cf. I Kings 11:1-9).
  10. King Lemuel's mother also warned against strong drink (Proverbs 31:4-7; cf. Ecclesiastes 2:3). "I sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine..." (Eccl. 2:3).
  11. Therefore, there is a strong possibility that Solomon is referring to himself in Proverbs 31.


  1. The book of Proverbs is mostly in the form of couplets.
  2. Hebrew poetry does not have rhyme or meter like our English poetry. Hebrew poetry uses parallelism.
  • Synonymous parallelism — the second clause restates what has already been said in the first clause. "Judgments are prepared for scorners, and stripes for the back of fools" (Proverbs 19:29).
  • Contrast parallelism — the second statement states the same truth as the first statement, but from the opposite point of view by way of contrast. "The light of the righteous rejoiceth: but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out" (Proverbs 13:9).
  • Synthetic parallelism — the second clause develops the thought of the first clause. "Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise" (Proverbs 20:1; cf. 20:2, 3, etc.).


  1. The words "wise" and "wisdom" appear 120 times in the book of Proverbs.
  2. The words "fools," "foolish," "foolishness," and "folly" appear 82 times.
  • "The wise in heart will receive commandments: but a prating fool shall fall" (10:8).
  • "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise" (12:15).
  • "A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident" (14:16).
  • "A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool" (17:10).
  • "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise" (17:28).
  • "Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him" (26:12).
  • "A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards" (29:11).


  1. There are no unscientific statements or inaccurate observations. J. Vernon McGee uses Proverbs 4:23 as an example. "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." Dr. McGee says, "This is a remarkable statement because it was about 2,700 years later that Harvey (referring to William Harvey, the 17th century English physician) found that the blood circulates and that the heart is the pump" (Thru the Bible).
  2. Proverbs is a book full of good moral instruction. "My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not" (Proverbs 1:10).
  3. Unlike the proverbial sayings of men, there are no contradictions in the book of Proverbs. Dr. McGee gives several examples.
  • "Look before you leap." "He who hesitates is lost."
  • "A man gets no more than what he pays for." "The best things in life are free."
  1. Some have imagined there are contradictions in the book of Proverbs (cf. 26:4, 5).
  2. "When I was a boy, our town atheist enjoyed pointing out contradictions in the Bible. This was one that he used. My friend, there is no contradiction here at all. These two proverbs simply set before us two possible lines of conduct in response to a fool." Dr. McGee then used as an illustration how he responded to various crank letters he received from his radio listeners.
  3. "Wise men have need to be directed how to deal with fools; and they have never more need of wisdom than in dealing with such, to know when to keep silence and when to speak, for there may be a time for both" (Matthew Henry).

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —