Proverbs is a wisdom book, mostly by King Solomon. The theme of the book is imparting wisdom in the life of the believer. The first nine chapters of the book are short essays of instruction, exhortations directed toward the young in particular to listen to fatherly wisdom. 

Most of the rest of the book consists of 100’s of individual truths on a variety of issues and situations in life. Each proverb is a short moral principle, easily learned and memorized. The book is meant to be practical, and foment a disposition of pursuing the path of wisdom. We need this book to think and act wisely. If you haven’t read Proverbs recently, now is the time to take it up again.

The necessity of wisdom (and the foundation of the book) is found in verse 7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The assumption is that all lack wisdom by nature (due to sin) and only those who acquire a fear of the Lord can obtain wisdom.

The theme of foolishness and folly runs throughout the book. The world is depicted as a home of foolish people. It directs us to recognize and reject folly and see the practical advantage of acquiring wisdom. Much of Proverbs is about reaping and sowing in this life. It is full of general principles that though wise, may not necessarily be certain and absolute with respect to temporal consequences.

For example, the folly of laziness or idleness is one theme. The idle person is warned of impoverishing himself, while the diligent man has a sturdy home. So it is foolish to continue in laziness. However, we know a lazy man may have a benefactor or inheritance; whereas a hardworking man may run into hard providences such as famine or thieves.

Nevertheless, it is wise to be diligent and usually it will benefit you. On the other hand, a hardworking man may impoverish his soul if he is not wise with respect to the Lord. The Lord Jesus told the crowds with respect to his teaching: “One greater than Solomon is here.” He didn’t mean to disregard the proverbs of Solomon; he meant that all Scripture must be interpreted in light of his coming, and the truth connected to it.

Jesus also depicted the world to be a foolish place, and him only able to impart true light and wisdom to men. We can easily apply this to the theme of foolishness we find in Proverbs. Proverbs 17:16 says, “Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom, when he has no sense.” It doesn’t do a fool any good to be at a market that sells wisdom, because though he has money, he has no intention of buying or using wisdom. He will not change his ways.

People have seasons of grace and convictions, exposure to God’s word, and many other opportunities and spiritual privileges. Yet it does them no good because they do not put it to use; like the foolish man, with pockets full of money and wisdom for sale, passes by and remains foolish.

Proverbs 27:22 says, “Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain; yet his folly will not depart from him.” A mortar is a bowl, a pestle a club to pound grain into meal. Here we have a man, who no matter the hardships his folly brings to him, continues on the same path. We have all known people this is plainly and painfully true of, and all done it to some extent.

In this world, all men face hardships, troubles, and death. There is affliction around the next bend in the road. Sometimes we see godly men who have terrible hardships, and foolish men who seem to have little comparatively. Nevertheless, foolish people do not consider the truth of God and the light of Christ, when hardship and death call out to seek wisdom for the soul. And they lose their soul because of it. So the proverb is practical for everyday life, yet points to greater application for the soul. 

In Ephesians 5, Paul exhorts Christians to put off foolishness because of the state of the world we live in: “Look carefully how you live; not as unwise, but wise; make the best use of time, because the days are evil.”

So then, as you read Proverbs, find help to change bad habits or to resist temptation; but above all, have the intention of finding wisdom for your soul, and seek the Kingdom of God first.