Prov. 1:1-4 The proverbs of Solomon…: For knowing wisdom and instruction; for discerning words of understanding; for receiving instruction in wise conduct, righteousness, justice, and equity; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young man.
Proverbs is a collection of the words of the wise. The main writers and collectors are Solomon, who wrote three thousand proverbs (1 Kings 4:32; cf. Eccl. 12:9), and Hezekiah, who added some proverbs of the forefathers in chapters 25 through 29.
The theme of Proverbs is that this book consists of words of wisdom teaching people how to behave and how to build up their character in the human life. Humanly speaking, this is the great subject, and all religions and philosophies are concerned with it. The matters of behavior and the building up of character have been the subjects of teaching ever since humankind came into being.
Proverbs stresses wisdom that man receives of God through his contacting of God and that teaches man how to behave in his human life. (Life-study of Proverbs, pp. 1-3)
Since the proverbs were collected mainly by two kings of Judah in the age of the law, the book of Proverbs may be considered a subsidiary to the law. The law is the portrait of God, demanding God’s people to keep it that they might be made copies of God for His expression and glorification. Proverbs, as a subsidiary to the law, helps God’s people to keep the law.
Because the law was written according to what God is, the law tells man how to behave and how to build up himself according to God’s attributes. God is love and light, and God is holy and righteous. These are some of God’s attributes. For God to create man in His own image means that God created man according to what He is, that is, according to His attributes. The law, which was written according to God’s attributes, demands that man behave and build himself up according to God. Regarding this, Proverbs is a subsidiary part of the law, instructing people how to behave and how to build themselves up according to what God is. This helps us to see what the position of Proverbs probably is in the divine revelation in the Scriptures.
The book of Proverbs … has a particular character; that is, it presents to us the words of wisdom by many ancient wise men, which is unanimously considered good by all the people who read it. But whether it is really good or not depends upon what kind of reader you are.
If you are an ethical person with a strong mind and have a desire to be perfect as a genuine moral person, surely this book would help you to make a success in your pursuit of perfection. But it helps you to cultivate yourself, that is, to cultivate the human “bright virtue” created for man by God according to His attributes, that is, according to what He is. However, it does not help you to be a person who lives in his spirit according to the Spirit of God who dwells in you for the accomplishment of God’s eternal economy, that is, to produce and build up the Body of Christ which consummates the New Jerusalem as God’s heart’s desire and ultimate goal. In the Old Testament Job was exactly such a person. He was satisfied with his integrity, with his pursuit of human perfection. But that was not what God wanted of him; rather, it replaced what God wanted of him and then it became an enemy of God frustrating him, a man created by God to fulfill God’s purpose. God’s purpose in creating man is to have man be filled with Him to be His expression, not an expression of human perfection. So the success of Job in human perfection was torn down by God. In this tearing down by God, God tore down Job also. Job was perplexed, not knowing what to do. Then God came in to reveal Himself to Job, indicating that He Himself is what Job should pursue, gain, and express. Then Job had a big turn from pursuing human perfection to pursue God Himself. (Life-study of Proverbs, pp. 2-5)
Further Reading: Life-study of Proverbs, msg. 1