Old Testament Lesson 36 (Proverbs 1–4; 15–16; 22; 31; Eccl. 1–3; 11–12)
August 28–September 3

THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON

When Solomon became king of Israel he was still quite young. He also had huge shoes to fill, following his father David on the throne—perhaps the most renowned and beloved king of Israel ever. He prayed mightily for the ability to leader his people.

● The Lord appeared to Solomon and asked him what blessing he desired (1 Kings 3:5–14; JST 1 Kings 3:5–9,12,14).

● Solomon asked for wisdom, which greatly pleased the Lord. The Lord granted this wish but added other blessings also:
— Wisdom.
— Riches.
— Honor.
— Length of days.
— All of which were conditioned upon his keeping of the commandments.

● Solomon began his reign very humbly and was greatly blessed by the Lord (1 Kings 9:3–9). The Lord promised Solomon that the royal line of his father, David, would not fail if Solomon and his children were faithful (vv. 5–7).

● Solomon judged which harlot was the mother of a baby (1 Kings 3:16–28). This is perhaps the most famous of Solomon’s wise actions and decisions.

● Solomon was wiser than all other men of that time (1 Kings 4:29–34).

THE BOOK OF PROVERBS

The Nature of the Proverbs

● The book of Proverbs is classified as wisdom literature. It contains various collections of proverbs, wise sayings, and some poems. Most were written mainly to get younger people to accept counsel from those with more experience, especially their parents and the Lord.

● The Old Testament records that Solomon “spake three thousand proverbs” (1 Kings 4:32). Some of these wise sayings are included in the book of Proverbs.

● The book of Proverbs contains sayings by more than just Solomon—it is composed of proverbs written by various authors at different times. But of these, only Solomon is known to us.

● Although Solomon and the other authors of this book were not prophets, much of what they wrote was inspired by the Lord. Their writings generally reflect a belief that true wisdom comes from God.

● Here are a few selected proverbs written by Solomon on various aspects of life, wisdom, righteousness, and happiness.

●  1 Kings 3:16–28   Solomon judged which harlot was the mother of a baby.

●  1 Kings 4:29–34   Solomon was wiser than all other men of that time.

THE BOOK OF PROVERBS

●  Author:  Solomon and successors who imitated his craft.

●  Purpose:   The Proverbs of Solomon (together with the pronouncements of the “Preacher” in the Book of Ecclesiastes) include a veritable garden of wisdom in the form of cogent maxims, exhortations, and poems for governing one’s life. Solomon was enormously prolific: “And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five” (1 Kings 4:32).

●  Position:   Proverbs is one of the 11 books of the Old Testament that belong to the Hagiographa (“sacred writings”) of the Jewish canon, along with the books of Ruth, Chronicles (counted as one book), Ezra-Nehemiah (see also counted as one book), Esther, Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, and Daniel.

●  Time Span:   The reign of Solomon was from around 1015 BC until his death around 975 BC.

●  Length:   31 chapters.

●  Key Sections:

— Chapters 1–9 An exposition concerning wisdom of the genuine kind.
— Chapters 10–24 Maxims and sentences contrasting right & wrong ways to live.
— Chapters 25–29 Proverbs of Solomon that were copied out by scribes during the administration of Hezekiah, king of Judah.
— Chapters 30–31 Writings of Agur and Lemuel, including the latter’s portrait of the ideal wife.

The Nature of the Proverbs

●  The book of Proverbs is classified as wisdom literature. It contains various collections of proverbs, wise sayings, and some poems. Most were written mainly to get younger people to accept counsel from those with more experience, especially their parents and the Lord.

●   1 Kings 4:32   The Old Testament records that Solomon “spake three thousand proverbs.”  Some of these wise sayings are included in the book of Proverbs.

●  The book of Proverbs contains sayings by more than just Solomon—it is composed of proverbs written by various authors at different times.  But of these, only Solomon is known to us.

●  Although Solomon and the other authors of this book were not prophets, much of what they wrote was inspired by the Lord. Their writings generally reflect a belief that true wisdom comes from God.

Selected Wisdom from Proverbs

●  Proverbs on Wisdom

Proverbs 1:1–7   The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, which is not the same thing as being “learned” (2 Nephi 9:28–29).
Proverbs 9:9–10   

— Proverbs 2.1–9  God will reward those who earnestly seek knowledge.
Proverbs 2:6  The Lord gives wisdom, which is an attribute of God (Mosiah 4:9) and a gift of the Spirit (D&C 47:16).
Proverbs 2:16–19  Wisdom will protect us from evil.
Proverbs 3:13–18   How wisdom compares to the value of earthly treasures.
                        Eccl 7:12    Note the use of “she” and “her” when referring to wisdom.  Also note that wisdom is called a “tree of life” (v. 18).
Proverbs 15:31–33   The qualities of wise people are listed in these verses.

●  Trusting in the Lord

Proverbs 3:5–8   Trust in the Lord with all thine heart.
Proverbs 4:7   Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
—  Proverbs 30:5   Every word of God is pure: he is a shield to them that trust in him.

●  Obedience

Proverbs 1:7   Fools reject counsel.
Proverbs 15:5

Proverbs 3:11–12   Whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
Proverbs 6:23   For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.
Proverbs 12:15   A fool’s way is right in his own eyes.

●  Righteousness

Proverbs 4:14–19   Do not enter the path of the wicked.
Proverbs 4:24–27   Guard your heart; walk the strait and narrow.
Proverbs 6:16–19   Six things the Lord hates.
Proverbs 10:3   The souls of the righteous will not famish.

Proverbs 10:27–32   The results of righteousness are contrasted with the results of unrighteousness.
Proverbs 11:1–4
Proverbs 19:16

Proverbs 12:28   Righteousness brings life.
Proverbs 15:8–9   The Lord loves the righteous and despises the ways of the wicked.
Proverbs 23:7   As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.
Proverbs 7:4–7,22–27   Stay away from “strange” (immoral) women.
Proverbs 5:3–6   Those who embrace immoral women go down to hell.

●  Righteous Communication

Proverbs 11:13   Righteous people keep confidences.
Proverbs 12:22   The Lord abhors lying and delights in truth.
Proverbs 12:25   The results of speaking kindly.
Proverbs 15:1
Proverbs 16:24
Proverbs 15:1   A soft answer turneth away wrath.

President Gordon B. Hinckley said:

“We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention.”
(endnote: 1)
Proverbs 15:23   A well-chosen utterance is beneficial.
Proverbs 16:23–24   Pleasant words are sweet to the soul.
Proverbs 16:27–28   Gossipers create dissension and sever relationships.
Proverbs 17:28   Even a fool who remains silent is thought to be wise.
Proverbs 29:11

Proverbs 18:8   The words of talebearers wound people deeply.
Proverbs 25:18

Proverbs 19:5, 9   Liars will be punished.
Proverbs 21:23   Wise people choose what they speak with care.
Proverbs 22:10   Removing a scorner will solve dissension in groups.

●  Avoiding Anger

Proverbs 14:29   Wise people are slow to anger.
—  Proverbs 15:18   An angry person causes problems; a wise person solves them.
Proverbs 16:32   An individual who is slow to anger is stronger than the mighty.

●  Pride

Proverbs 8:13   The Lord hates pride. Why?

President Ezra Taft Benson said:

“The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellow men. Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.’ It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.

“Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God’s. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of ‘my will and not thine be done.’ As Paul said, they ‘seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s’ (Philippians 2:21).

“Our will in competition to God’s will allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled (Alma 38:12; 3 Nephi 12:30).

“The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction to their lives (Helaman 12:6). They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works.

“Our enmity toward God takes on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness, unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s. . . .

“Pride is a damning sin in the true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression (Alma 12:10–11). The proud are not easily taught (1 Nephi 15:3, 7–11). They won’t change their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong.”
(endnote: 2)
Proverbs 13:10   Pride leads to contention.

President Ezra Taft Benson said:

“Another face of pride is contention. Arguments, fights, unrighteous dominion, generation gaps, divorces, spouse abuse, riots, and disturbances all fall into this category of pride. Contention in our families drives the Spirit of the Lord away. It also drives many of our family members away. . . .  Pride adversely affects all our relationships—our relationship with God and His servants, between husband and wife, parent and child.”
(endnote: 3)
Proverbs 16:18–19   Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.

●  Family relationships

Proverbs 6:20–33   Following parental counsel protects a person from evil.
Proverbs 10:1   A wise son makes his parents happy.
Proverbs 17:25

Proverbs 22:6   Train up a child in the way he should go, and he will not depart from it.

Elder Richard G. Scott said:

“You must be willing to forgo personal pleasure and self-interest for family-centered activity, and not turn over to church, school, or society the principal role of fostering a child’s well-rounded development. It takes time, great effort, and significant personal sacrifice to ‘train up a child in the way he should go.’ But where can you find greater rewards for a job well done?”
(endnote: 4)
 
— Proverbs 19:18   Parents should chasten and discipline children when necessary.
Proverbs 23:13–14

Proverbs 29:15–17   An un-trained child shames its mother.
Proverbs 19:14  Having a good wife is a blessing from the Lord.
Proverbs 31:10–31   A virtuous woman should be prized above rubies.

— v. 11   She can be trusted
       — v. 13   She works willingly
       — v. 20   She is compassionate
       — v. 25   She is strong and honorable
       — v. 26   She speaks with wisdom and kindness
       — v. 28   She is a dedicated wife and mother
       — v. 30   She obeys the Lord

●  Friendship

Proverbs 13:20   Warnings about unrighteous friends
     Proverbs 22:24–25

Proverbs 17:17  Characteristics of good friends.
Proverbs 27:9

Proverbs 18:24   What we can we do to gain true friends?

●  Diligent Labor

Proverbs 10:4–5   Wise people work diligently and serve faithfully.
Proverbs 19:15   Laziness results in deprivation.
Proverbs 20:4   The sluggard will end up with nothing.

●  The Pursuit of Riches

Proverbs 22:7   The rich rule over the poor, and the lender over the borrower.
Proverbs 11:24–25   Those who are wise and liberal will prosper.
Proverbs 13:7  The rich and poor are contrasted.
Proverbs 30:8–9   The risks inherent in having too much or too little.
Proverbs 16:8   Possessing little with righteousness is better than having great possessions without righteousness.
      Proverbs 15:16

—  Proverbs 22:1–2   A good name is better than riches.
—  Proverbs 23:4–5   Don’t work for riches, which fly away.

Elder Boyd K. Packer said:

“We come into mortal life to receive a body and to be tested, to learn to choose. We want our children and their children to know that the choice of life is not between fame and obscurity, nor is the choice between wealth and poverty. The choice is between good and evil, and that is a very different matter indeed.

“When we fully understand this lesson, thereafter our happiness will not be determined by material things. We may be happy without them or successful in spite of them. . . .  Our lives are made up of thousands of everyday choices. Over the years these little choices will be bundled together and show clearly what we value.”
(endnote: 5)

Happiness and Good Humor

Proverbs 15:13   The importance of a happy attitude and a good sense of humor.
Proverbs 17:22

Elder Hugh B. Brown said:

“I would like to have you smile because after all we must keep a sense of humor whatever comes. I think of all the people in the world we should be the happiest. We have the greatest and most joyous message in the world. I think when we get on the other side, someone will meet us with a smile (unless we go to the wrong place and then someone will grin), so let us be happy. But let our happiness be genuine—let it come from within.”
(endnote: 6)

●  The Importance of Vision

Proverbs 29:18   Where there is no vision the people perish.

SELECTED WISDOM FROM ECCLESIASTES

Problems of the Human Experience

Eccl. 1:1–11    All is vanity (v. 2); there is no new thing under the sun (v. 9).

●  Eccl. 1:12–18   He sought wisdom but found vanity, vexation, and sorrow instead.
Eccl. 2:12–18
Eccl. 12:8–12

Eccl. 2:1–11   He could not find contentment in pleasure, culture, or riches.

Eccl. 2:19–23   He felt that his labor was vain, for the fruits of his labor would probably be left to another.

Eccl. 3:16–22   He observed that man must die and leave all that pertains to mortality.
     Eccl. 8:6–8
     Eccl. 9:4–6

●  Eccl. 4:1–8, 13–16   He was disheartened by the oppressions and injustices of life.

●  Eccl. 5:8–17    It is fruitless to selfishly pursue riches.

●  Eccl. 6   Unless a man’s soul is filled with good, riches, honor, and posterity are of no advantage to him.

●  Eccl. 8:9–15   Although righteousness is rewarded and wickedness punished, the righteous and the wicked both
Eccl. 9:2–3          experience good and ill.

Maintaining Faith and Living a Good Life, Despite These Problems

●  Eccl. 2:24–26   To enjoy the benefits of one’s labor is a blessing from God.
Eccl. 3:9–15

●  Eccl. 3:1–8  To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose.

●  Eccl. 4:9–10   Two are better than one . . .  For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow.

Elder Marvin J. Ashton said:

“Someone has said, ‘A friend is a person who is willing to take me the way I am.’ Accepting this as one definition of the word, may I quickly suggest that we are something less than a real friend if we leave a person the same way we find him. . . .

“No greater reward can come to any of us as we serve than a sincere ‘Thank you for being my friend.’ When those who need assistance find their way back through and with us, it is friendship in action. When the weak are made strong and the strong stronger through our lives, friendship is real. If a man can be judged by his friends, he can also be measured by their heights. . . .

“Yes, a friend is a person who is willing to take me the way I am but who is willing and able to leave me better than he found me.”
(endnote: 7)

●  Eccl. 5:2   Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter.

●  Eccl. 5:12   The sleep of a laboring man is sweet.

●  Eccl. 5:18–20  One should be content with what God has given.

●  Eccl. 7:1   A good name is better than precious ointment.

●  Eccl. 7:16   Do not be over-righteous or over-wise.

●  Eccl. 8:1–6   In a kingdom it is wise to submit to the king.

●  Eccl. 8:16–9:1   Man, by himself, cannot find out God’s ways; all things are in God’s hands.

●  Eccl. 9:7–12   It is wise to make the most of life, for no one knows when death will come.

●  Eccl. 9:4   The preciousness of life: A living dog is better than a dead lion.

●  Eccl. 9:10   Work will all your energy because there is no opportunity to labor after death.

●  Eccl. 9:11   The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; time and chance happeneth to them all.

●  Eccl. 11:9   Rejoice in thy youth . . . and walk in the ways of thine heart: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.

●  Eccl. 12:1–7    One should serve God in his youth before death overtakes him.

The Preacher’s Conclusions Concerning Life

●  Eccl. 12:13–14   Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

FOOTNOTES

1: In Conference Report, Apr. 1971, 82; or Ensign, June 1971, 72.

2: In Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 3–5; or Ensign, May 1989, 4, 6.

3: In Conference Report, Apr. 1989, 5; or Ensign, May 1989, 6.

4: In Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 43; or Ensign, May 1993, 34.

5: In Conference Report, Oct. 1980, 28–29; or Ensign, Nov. 1980, 21.

6: The Abundant Life, 83.

7: In Conference Report, Oct. 1972, 32, 35; or Ensign, Jan. 1973, 41, 43.

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