Progress through the Bible continues, and God's character is being revealed to us through the ages. Today, we read through Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. What incredible books about wisdom and the meaning of life!
There are some key notes to take away from the book of Proverbs. Most of the book is ascribed to King Solomon. Solomon asks for wisdom in 1 Kings 3:9 (recounted in 2 Chronicles 1:10). "He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five" (1 Kings 4:32), such that the Queen of Sheba visited him in 1 Kings 10. The book of Proverbs is written from a father's perspective to his son. We read the narrative of a father telling his son to listen to his instructions several times: Proverbs 1:8, 4:1, 6:20, 7:24, 23:22 and are reminded of the importance of wisdom countlessly. The word "wisdom" occurs 50 times in the NIV, 46 times in the ESV, and 45 times in the HCSB. That is not including the additional times that the word "wise" occurs: 56 in the NIV, 58 in the ESV, and 59 in the HCSB. The book of Proverbs is a book of imparting wisdom to the holy nation of God.
Proverbs uses literary devices of poetry and parables: namely, truism, synonymous parallelism, antithetic parallelism, synthetic parallelism, and several other illustrations consistent in ancient Hebrew poetry.
Each sentence is constructed using a literary device called a truism. Truisms are statements of fact that are obvious so as to be nearly worthless to mention; but when used literarily, they are statements that are only generally true. For example: "A faithful man will have many blessings, but one in a hurry to get rich will not go unpunished" (Proverbs 28:20). How many blessings will a faithful man have? Is this a message of definite prosperity? Will someone that gets wealthy quickly be punished? Not necessarily. These two statements are examples of truisms as well as an example of antithetic parallelism. It is a truism because there may be instances that a faithful man is not "blessed", depending on how you view being blessed. (Consider Job. He suffered greatly for being faithful, though he was later blessed). Likewise, there are likely circumstances that come to mind of wealthy individuals who seem to be greatly blessed. Thus, the truism in Proverbs 28:20 is generally true. Also, the antithethic parallelism shows when the first statement is a direct opposite of the second declaration.
Synonymous parallelism is when the second statement repeats the intent of the first statement, and synthetic parallelism is when the second statement progresses the thought of the first statement.
Notwithstanding, Solomon takes special care to be intentionally redundant in his approach to wisdom, using truisms to deal with the many disciplines of life. He uses parables to personify Wisdom and to teach the way is which "she" acts. Likewise, he contrasts the woman of Wisdom with the character of Folly, taking special care to illustrate the destruction of Folly. Solomon gives instructions for living a disciplined life, for seeking advice, for being humble, for remaining pure, for having sound judgment, for being obedient to God, and much more.
There is an incredible 31-day series on each Proverb on Douglas Jacoby's website available to members. The first three are free to the public, and the first one can be found here.
This book, also traditionally ascribed to Solomon, is a reflection on a long life. Because Solomon was given wisdom, and because he was "wiser than anyone else" (1 Kings 4:31), he imparts valuable insight for what really matters in life. After a long life of seeking the desires of his heart, of learning all there is to know, of being obsessively studious and studying the meaning of life and the nature around him, he concludes his twelve chapter synopsis on the value of life in one sentence: "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (Ecc 12:13).
Solomon had all the wisdom he could ever want, and he was a great King; however, nothing fulfilled him as fearing God did. Ecclesiastes is often viewed as a negative book, but one can appreciate the blunt vulnerability of the author. The author is exhausted of trying to find fulfillment in anything else in life other than being in God's presence, and he presents his spiritual fatigue masterfully, warning each following generation not to waste life trying to seek something other than God. Let Ecclesiastes serve as an example for us. Nothing in all the universe compares to being in God's presence.