Handout 31: Proverbs, Mashal, Solomon, Ketuvim,
Themes, 3 sections, Agur, Ecclesiastes, Qoheleth,
Chapters, key verses August 2014

Book of Proverbs (Heb. Mashal) of Shlomo/Solomon, is the second book of third section of the Bible: Ketuvim– Writings. Collection of short statements that express truths about human behavior. Part of biblical wisdom tradition. Assumed written about 950 b.c.
Mashal originally meant “comparison”.

Proverb: simple, concrete saying, popularly known and revered, which expresses a truth, based on common sense or the practical experience of humanity. They are often metaphorical. A proverb that describes a basic rule of conduct may also be known as a maxim. If a proverb is distinguished by particularly good phrasing, it may be known as an aphorism.

Themes: submission to will of God=beginning of wisdom. Essence, goal of religious life. Raises questions of values, moral behavior, meaning of life, righteousness. Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs are called “Wisdom literature”.

•Proverbs 1–9: “Proverbs of Solomon, Son of David, King of Israel”
• Proverbs 10–22:16: “Proverbs of Solomon”
• Proverbs 22:17–24:22: “The Sayings of the Wise”
• Proverbs 24:23–34: “These Also are Sayings of the Wise”
• Proverbs 25–29: “These are Other Proverbs of Solomon that
the Officials of King Hezekiah of Judah Copied”
• Proverbs 30: “The Words of Agur”
• Proverbs 31:1–9: “The Words of King Lemuel of Massa,
Which his Mother Taught Him”
• Proverbs 31:10–31: the ideal wise woman (elsewhere called
the “woman of substance”).

Half the book is made up of “sayings”, the other half is made up of longer poetic units of various types. These include “instructions” formulated as advice from a teacher or parent addressed to a student or child, dramatic personifications of both Wisdom and Folly, and the “words of the wise” sayings, longer than the Solomonic “sayings” but shorter and more diverse than the “instructions.”

The first section: chapters 1–9 consists of an initial invitation to young men to take up the course of wisdom, ten “instructions”, and five poems on personified Woman Wisdom.

Section 2: Chapters 10:1–22:16, with 375 sayings, consists of two parts, the first contrasting the wise man and the fool (or the righteous and the wicked), the second addressing wise and foolish speech.

Section 3: Chapters 25–29, attributed to editorial activity of “the men of Hezekiah,” contrasts the just and the wicked and broaches the topic of rich and poor.Chapter 30:1–4, the “sayings of Agur”, introduces creation, divine power, and human ignorance.

Proverbs contains contradictions: the reader is told, for example, both to “not answer a dolt according to his folly”, according to 26:4, and to “answer the dolt by his folly”, as 26:5 advises. More pervasively, the recurring theme of the initial unit = fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but the following units are much less theological, presenting wisdom as a transmissible human craft, until with 30:1–14, the “words of Agur,” we return once more to the idea that God alone possesses wisdom. The contradictions are the result of the book’s origins as not just an anthology but an anthology of anthologies.

There are several proverbs found in other books of scripture (see 1 Samuel 24:13; Job 28:28; Ezekiel 18:2). The Savior also used proverbs in His teaching (see Luke 4:23; John 16:25). The proverbs found in the Old Testament can be a source of inspiration, counsel, and direction to those who read and ponder their messages of wisdom. As you study Proverbs, ponder how its teachings might be applied to life in our day. By replacing ancient comparisons with modern ones, we often find its wisdom to be as appropriate today as it was then. We can make better decisions, answer question and understand important truths.

Proverbs 3:5-6 is Scripture Mastery: the Lord directs the path of those who acknowledge Him. He does it through scriptures, the Holy Ghost and the living prophet of our church.

Alma 32:28-29 tells how to trust: Faith is like a seed. …as the seed swelleth, and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, then you must needs say that the seed is good…Yea, it will strengthen your faith:

Proverbs 31: We should marry a woman with Christian characteristics. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also,and he praiseth her.

Proverbs 1:6, 22:17: Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge; See Ch 37-39 in Alma as he counsels sons.

The Book of Kings indicates Solomon was blessed with wisdom from God (1Kings 4:29), he was a man of humility (1Kings 3:7), and a great diplomat (1Kings 3:16-28; 5:12). People came from all over the world to hear his wisdom (1Kings 4:30; 1 Kings 10:1-13). Solomon wrote over 3000 proverbs, more than the Book contains. Click on: http://www.bible-history.com/old-testament/book of proverbs.html. The Book is a series of compilations made at different times; even the work of a whole guild of writers. Was Solomon the originator of this species and type of literature?
Ecclesiastes 3:1: To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.

The book of Ecclesiastes is a Latin transliteration of Greek. (Heb. Koheleth – gatherer, teacher) contains Proverbs, maxims, sayings, and is largely an autobiographical story. Solomon wrote it late in his life, approximately 935 B.C. He had become aware of the mistakes that he made throughout his life and began to document them. Written by Solomon.

The purpose of Ecclesiastes is to spare future generations the suffering and misery of seeking after foolish, meaningless, materialistic emptiness, and to offer wisdom by discovering truth in seeking after God. The book is in the form of an autobiography telling of his investigation of the meaning of life and the best way of life. It is inspired scripture.

There are 12 chapters, dealing with multiple subjects.

•Chapter 1-2 deal with Solomon’s personal experiences throughout his life. He describes that everything he sought was selfish pleasure and meant nothing eternally.
•In chapters 3-5, Solomon gives common explanations and observations.
•Chapters 6-8, Solomon gives advice for having a meaningful life, “Consider the work of God, for who is able to straighten what He has bent?” (7:13).
•In chapters 9-12, Solomon writes a conclusion that clears up the entire book, everyone will eventually die and all the deeds of man are vanity (useless) without God; our obedience must be to Him. “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” (12:13).

The word Qoheleth occurs seven times in the book of Ecclesiastes (Eccl 1:1-2, 12; Eccl 7:27; Eccl 12:8-10) and nowhere else in biblical literature. As a noun, designating the speaker, it also gives the Hebrew name Qoheleth to the book itself. Read in synagogue on Sukkot, one of the 7 Feasts of Israel – comparable to Fall harvest.

The Talmud states that, at first, the sages wished to hide the work (they refused to endow it with the sanctity of sacred Scripture) because some of its statements contra¬dict the Torah and are even self contradictory. Eventually, the book was accepted as a biblical book on the grounds that it begins and ends with “the fear of heaven.” Teaching which shines through is: “Fear God and keep His commandments” (12: 13). The usual Mid¬rashic interpretation of the book is that the description of all human life “under the sun” as “vanity of vanities” applies only to earthly pur¬suits (“under the sun”), not to the way of the Torah, which is “above the sun,” eternal and beyond time.

By the first century AD, Josephus implies (“contains hymns to God”) that Ecclesiastes is part of the inspired canon. Fragments of Ecclesiastes were found at Qumran. Many of the early church fathers call it canonical (Melito of Sardis, Epiphanium, Origen, Jerome)

Outline of the Book:
1. Introduction (1:1-2)
2. On time and the World (1:3-11)
3. On Wisdom (1:12-18)
4. On Wealth (2:1-11)
5. On Wisdom (2:12-17)
6. On Wealth (2:18-26)
7. On Time and the World (3:1-15b)
8. On Politics (3:15c-17)
9. On Death (3:18-22)
10. On Politics (4:1-3)
11. On Wealth (4:4-8)
12. On Friendship (4:9-12)
13. On Politics (4:13-16)
14. On Religion (5:1-7)
15. On Politics (5:8-9)
16. On Wealth (5:10-6:6)
17. Transition (6:7-9)
18. On Wisdom and Death (6:10-7:4)
19. Transition (7:5-6)
20. On Wisdom and Politics (7:7-9)
21. Transition (7:10)
22. On Wisdom and Wealth (7:11-14)
23. On Wisdom and Religion (7:15-29)
24. Transition (8:1)
25. On Politics (8:2-6)
26. Transition (8:7-8)
27. On Theodicy (8:9-9:1)
28. Transition (9:2)
29. On Death and Contentment (9:3-10)
30. Transition (9:11-12)
31. On Politics (9:13-10:17)
32. Transition (10:18-20)
33. On Wealth (11:1-6)
34. On Death and Contentment (11:7-12:7)
35. Conclusion (12:8-14)

Key Verses:
Ecclesiastes 1:2, “’Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher, ‘vanity of vanities, all is vanity’” (NKJV).

Ecclesiastes 1:18, “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”

Ecclesiastes 2:11, “Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them.'”

Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”

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