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Best Resources on Proverbs

A collection of wisdom and insight attributed to four authors. One of the wisdom books of the Old Testament—along with Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs. Presents “wisdom” (חָכְמָ֣ה, chokhmah) as rooted in God and the key to a successful and righteous life.

The title comes from Proverbs 1:1 and the word “proverb” (מָשָׁל, mashal), a term “applied to a great range of utterances, from one-line adages to extended poems” (Fox, Proverbs 1–9, 54).

The Lexham Bible Dictionary, Lexham Press

Best Commentaries on Proverbs

Bruce Waltke, New International Commentary on the Old Testament (NICOT), Eerdmans, 2004–2005, 1,352 pp.

Grounded in the literary criticism that has so strengthened biblical interpretation, Waltke’s commentary on Proverbs demonstrates the profound, ongoing relevance of this Old Testament book for Christian faith and life. A thorough introduction addresses such issues as text and versions, structure, authorship, and theology. The detailed commentary itself explains and elucidates Proverbs as “theological literature.” Waltke’s highly readable style—evident even in his original translation of the Hebrew text—makes his scholarly work accessible to teachers, pastors, Bible students, and general readers alike.

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Type: Expository

Tremper Longman III, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament: Wisdom and Psalms (BCOTWP), Baker, 2006, 608 pp.

In Proverbs, Old Testament scholar Tremper Longman III offers an accessible commentary on one of Scripture’s most frequently quoted and visited books. With his deft exegetical and expositional skill, the resulting work is full of fresh insight into the meaning of the text.

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Type: Expository

Derek Kidner, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (TOTC), InterVarsity Press, 1964, 189 pp.

Proverbs is a book full of wisdom, yet a book demanding all one"s wisdom to understand. Derek Kidner has not only provided a running commentary on the whole of Proverbs but has also included two helpful study aids: a set of subject guides that bring together teaching scattered throughout the book and a short concordance that helps locate lost sayings (in territory notoriously hard to search) and encourages further subject studies. In short, this volume is a wise person"s guide to wisdom.

  • Level: Basic
  • Type: Devotional

Roland E. Murphy, Word Biblical Commentary (WBC), Thomas Nelson, 1998, 305 pp.

Roland Murphy approaches Proverbs as “a collection of collections.” The long poems of chapters 1–9 introduce the collections of short sayings in chapters 10–31. With this division, Murphy accepts “the unproven but likely assumption” that during the postexilic period chapters 1–9 set the tone for the mostly preexilic collections in chapters 10–31. Murphy cautions his readers to consider the limitations of proverbial sayings. The Israelite sages sought in their optimistic teachings to express “the mystery that surrounds all human action: not only self-knowledge but knowledge of the mysterious role of God.” Much of the wisdom of Proverbs points out the ambiguities of life, yet they do not provide the final word—""rather they act as a goad, a prod to further thought.""

  • Level: Advanced
  • Type: Technical

Michael V. Fox, Anchor Yale Bible (AYB), Yale University Press, 2008, 496 pp.

In Proverbs 1–9, Bible scholar Michael V. Fox translates and explains the meaning of the first nine chapters of this profound, timeless book and examines their place in the intellectual history of ancient Israel. This thorough study of Proverbs includes a survey of the collections of ancient Near Eastern Wisdom Literature, as well as innovative and insightful comments. In addition to the translation and commentary proper, Fox includes several extended thematic essays on Proverbs 1–9, covering such themes as the origins of personified wisdom, what wisdom is, and where wisdom can be heard, plus an appendix of textual notes. The format of the commentary makes it accessible to the general reader and also provides materials of special interest to scholars. This is the first of a two-volume commentary that accords Proverbs the depth of study it deserves.

  • Level: Advanced
  • Type: Technical

Best Books on Proverbs

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The Composition of the Book of Proverbs
The Composition of the Book of Proverbs

In this book, R. N. Whybray presents his classic exposition on the book of Proverbs. Readable yet academic, he outlines the entire book of Proverbs, with the purpose of tracing the development of composition. Much attention is given to the intended audience, the many authors of the book, and purpose of the book itself. Whybray provides helpful observations on the overall style and history of Proverbs, going chapter-by-chapter. In the final chapter, he discusses the actual process of how the book was put together.

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Wealth and Poverty in the Book of Proverbs
Wealth and Poverty in the Book of Proverbs

Biblical scholar, R. N. Whybray, examines the presented views of poverty and riches in the book of Proverbs. Believing that the Bible provides social relevance for today, he focuses on chapters within Proverbs that address this issue. Whybray does not provide a sociological commentary but one that relies purely on the texts themselves. He gathers the varying views contained in the text to compile a comprehensive view of this particular society and its beliefs on class structure, poverty, and wealth.

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Wise King, Royal Fool: Semiotics, Satire and Proverbs 1-9
Wise King, Royal Fool: Semiotics, Satire and Proverbs 1-9

This study focuses on a reading of Proverbs 1–9 as satire and argues that it alludes to two points of critique against Solomon: his political policy of socio-economic injustice and his numerous sexual (in)discretions. That Solomon abandoned his divinely proscribed duty only evinces his lack of “fear of Yahweh.”

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The Leopard’s Spots: Biblical and African Wisdom in Proverbs
The Leopard’s Spots: Biblical and African Wisdom in Proverbs

Golka revisits three traditional ideas that have dominated current Old Testament scholarship: the claim that there were schools in ancient Israel; that in these schools a professional class of “wise men” taught; and that their teaching consisted of the moral standards of the civil service. Professor Golka disputes the claim of Old Testament scholarship that biblical proverbs were literary works of art, much of it influenced by the civilizations of Egypt and Mesopotamia. By comparing biblical proverbs to those of foreign tribal societies, he concludes that the proverbs of the Hebrew Bible derive from a tribal society of the Israel existing within the period of the Judges. In this groundbreaking work, Golka reveals the extent to which the sources and results of social anthropology can be used in Old Testament scholarship to make significant new findings.

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Old Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological Introduction
Old Testament Wisdom Literature: A Theological Introduction

The books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes are rooted in the order created by the one true God. Their steady gaze penetrates to the very nature of created reality and leads us toward peace and human flourishing. Craig G. Bartholomew and Ryan O"Dowd tune our ears to once again hear Lady Wisdom calling in the streets. Establishing the books in the context of ancient Near Eastern wisdom traditions and literature, the authors move beyond the scope of typical introductions to discuss the theological and hermeneutic implications of this literature.

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Best Courses on Proverbs

Mobile Ed: OT348 Book Study: Proverbs (6 hour course)
Mobile Ed: OT348 Book Study: Proverbs (6 hour course)

Tremper Longman opens up the book of Proverbs with this comprehensive study. Longman gives a big picture view of Proverbs, discussing critical ANE background texts, the nature of wisdom, the identification of Woman Wisdom, how to read proverbs Christologically, and the different types of proverbs and teaching found in the book. He includes a helpful comparison with two other Old Testament Wisdom books, Job and Ecclesiastes.

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Mobile Ed: CM333 Preaching Proverbs (6 hour course)
Mobile Ed: CM333 Preaching Proverbs (6 hour course)

In Preaching Proverbs, Dr. Tremper Longman III provides a thorough overview of the book of Proverbs and answers essential questions about the text. He begins by looking at the context of ancient Sumerian and Egyptian proverbs, then considers the structure of the biblical book of Proverbs. Dr. Longman covers the practical, ethical, and theological nature of this text and provides an in-depth look at wisdom. He addresses issues such as contradictions, repetition, and reliability and provides tips on how to preach a book that may appear to be disorganized. The course concludes with three topical studies followed by recommendations for further resources.

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Mobile Ed: OT203 Literary World of the Old Testament (6 hour course)
Mobile Ed: OT203 Literary World of the Old Testament (6 hour course)

Join David W. Baker on a whirlwind tour to explore the Old Testament from many different angles and how it relates to ancient Near Eastern literature. From creation accounts and stories of destruction to Wisdom Literature, discover different biblical literary genres that have parallels in ancient Near Eastern literature. Explore extrabiblical historical texts that mention key events and figures from the Old Testament. Understand how Israel fits into and is impacted by its ancient Near Eastern environment but also how it is separate and unique, mainly on a theological level, but also by its distinct worldview.

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Mobile Ed: OT102 Introducing the Old Testament: Its Poetry and Prophecy (6 hour course)
Mobile Ed: OT102 Introducing the Old Testament: Its Poetry and Prophecy (6 hour course)

This course provides a practical foundation for reading the poetry and prophecy of the Old Testament. Dr. David Baker begins by discussing poetic writing in general, then the elements specific to both Hebrew and English poetry. Applying these elements to the text, he examines the content, structure, and themes of the Psalms, Proverbs, Lamentations, Job, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. Dr. Baker then turns to the prophetic books, providing historical background, theological motifs, and the structure and content of specific books. He shows that these ancient messages remain relevant in modern life.

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