Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World
By Daniel L. Segraves
Welcome to the study of the Book of Proverbs! The wisdom in this ancient book is as relevant to life in today’s world as it was when it first began to be written in the tenth century B.C., some 3,000 years ago.
The wisdom of Proverbs is intended primarily to provide an education in life to youth (1:4). The specific audience was apparently Solomon’s son (1:1, 8), for whom the book was prepared as part of this training to assume royal responsibilities. The phrase “my son” appears twenty-three times in the book.
Proverbs sees the world as generally predictable and equitable. The proverbs are, however, generalizations, not hard-and-fast rules, much less guarantees that results are always certain. A proverb condenses wisdom gained by years of experience into short, memorable phrases or discourses. A proverb is often based on a comparison or similarity. It expresses a general principle or gives advice that has general application. Not every verse in this book is a proverb. The Hebrew word translated “proverb” is broader in scope and includes truths expressed in a more lengthy and complex manner.
The first verse of the book identifies the contents as “the proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel.” This may cover the section of the book through chapter 24. Additional proverbs of Solomon begin with 25:2. The first verse of chapter 30, however, introduces the words of Agur, son of Jakeh, spoken to Ithiel and Ucal. The first words of chapter 31 present the words of Lemuel. If Agur, Jakeh, Ithiel, Ucal and Lemuel are the names of people, we know nothing more for sure about them.
Another explanation is that these words simply refer to Solomon, David, and two of Solomon’s sons. One suggestion is that Agur means “the collector of wise sayings,” Jakeh means “the obedient one,” Ithiel means “God is with me,” and Ucal means “I shall be completed.” Ancient Jewish tradition identifies Agur as Solomon and Jakeh as David. It is not uncommon for persons in Scripture to be called by more than one name, each name having significance. For example, in II Samuel 12:25 Solomon is called Jedidiah, which means “Beloved of the Lord.”
If Lemuel is the name of a king, we have no certain knowledge of his identity. The name Lemuel means something like “for God,” so, as with Agur, it is possible that this name is a term for Solomon. If so, the mother was Bathsheba.
Summary of Proverbs
The principles found in the Book of Proverbs are timeless. They can help guide any person, of any generation, to true success in God’s eyes.
All of the insights in the book begin with the fear of the Lord (1:7). Without this starting point, all else is at best weak human effort.
Those who read this book carefully, thinking deeply about its principles, will discover that they gradually begin to think differently. To be immersed in the proverbs found in this book will tend to have a transforming and renewing effect on one’s mind. Readers will no longer respond hastily and automatically to situations by human reasoning; they will look for cause-and-effect relationships and learn to control their tongues, thoughts, and eyes.
It is a good form of discipline to read the chapter from the Book of Proverbs that corresponds to the day of the month. If a person starts by reading the first chapter on the first day of the month, he or she will read the entire book once each month. When you faithfully practice this habit for some time, the wisdom of the book will begin to sink deep within your mind and heart.
This wonderful book of wisdom, written by a king initially to prepare his son for the throne but inspired by God for every person in every age, addresses almost every area of life. Those who consult this work will spare themselves many bad decisions and actions, and they will tend to prosper in everything they do.
 Since these lessons focus on the Book of Proverbs, chapter and verse numbers from Proverbs to which the lessons refer will typically be identified only by chapter and verse numbers, like this: 1:4. In reference to other biblical books, an abbreviation for the name of the book will be used together with chapter and verse numbers, like this: Gen. 1:1.
 Some of the notes in this series of lessons are taken from the Apostolic Study Bible, edited by Robin Johnston (General Editor) and Lee Ann Alexander (Managing Editor) and published by World Aflame Press in Hazelwood, MO (2014). The notes on Proverbs in the Apostolic Study Bible were written by Daniel L. Segraves.
 Unless otherwise noted, all quotations from Scripture in this series of lessons are from the New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1996).
 Some of the content of these lessons will be taken from a book I have written titled Ancient Wisdom for Today’s World. This verse-by-verse commentary on Proverbs is published by Word Aflame Press (1990) and is available at www.pentecostalpublishing.com. The paperback version is $13.99. The e-book download is $9.99.