These guidelines below are based on chapter 12 from the book; “How to Read the Bible for all its worth” by Gordon Fee & Douglas Stuart.
- The Proverbs are often short pithy memorable statements of truth that do not state/teach everything there is to know about an issue but point towards the fuller truth regarding that thing. An example in English is the saying; “Look before you leap”. That is easier to remember than “Before you commit yourself to a course of action you should always consider all the circumstances, consequences and options. The second statement says it much more completely, the first points to the general idea/truth/teaching.
- Proverbs are not specific legal guarantees from God of cause and effect so avoid extreme literalistic interpretations but look for the meaning that applies in your life situation. For example Proverbs 15:25 says; “The Lord tears down the house of the proud but maintains the widow’s boundaries”. We would have no neighbourhoods left if this was a cause and effect specific statement, no the idea is that God is opposed to pride and the protector of the vulnerable. So, don’t be proud!
- Proverbs must be read as a collection that balance each other and in the context of the whole bible.
- Some Proverbs need to be “translated” to be appreciated. Many of the proverbs express their truths according to practices of everyday life that no longer exist. Therefore, unless you think of these proverbs in terms of their modern day equivalents they may seem irrelevant to your life.
- Proverbs are often figurative and or even exaggerated to make their point, they are also intensely practical statements that are not meant to be technically or theologically precise or complete.
- Used right, Proverbs will provide practical life-advise for how to live in such a way that pleases God and results in a life that is blessed.
By Gareth Bowley