Proverbs is one of the most ruthlessly practical books in the whole Bible. In this lab, John Piper breaks down several lines, asking what they mean and how they relate to each other. Before getting into one specific example, he makes some observations about the nature and purpose of the Proverbs.
Principle for Bible Reading
In the Bible, and especially in the book of Proverbs, you will get pairs of lines, or even pairs of couplets. Study the relationships between the lines and pairs of lines, looking for any structural observations that might help make sense of the whole.
- If Proverbs 22:21 is stating the purpose of the thirty sayings in Proverbs 22:17–24:20, restate that purpose in your own words.
- Now, read Proverbs 22:18. How does that verse change or fill out your answer to the first question?
- Proverb 22:17 and Proverbs 22:18 are a pair of couplets. Study the relationships between each of the four lines. Why might the author structure these ideas this way?
Getting Started (01:29–05:26)
- “Words of the wise” is a title over the passage from Proverbs 22:17–24:20.
- In this passage (Proverbs 22:17–24:22), the author gives us thirty sayings. (Proverbs 22:20)
- There are more than thirty verses, but you can find thirty distinct sayings in all those verses.
- There is a lot of overlap between these thirty sayings and Egyptian sayings. Is that a problem?
- No, because the Proverbs send us into the world to learn (e.g. ants), assuming that the world testifies to the truth. And because the author of the Proverbs has chosen these sayings carefully in order that you would believe (choosing only what serves that purpose). (Proverbs 22:19)
Wisdom for You and Through You (05:26–06:45)
- The stated aim in these thirty sayings is that you know what is right and give a right answer. (Proverbs 22:21)
- The double purpose in these Proverbs, then, is to know things that are right and true with a view to being sent and giving those things to others.
- We see in Proverbs 22:18 that the Proverbs are there for us to enjoy (“within you”) and to share with others (“on your lips”).
Inside Out (06:45–10:34)
- Proverbs 22:17–18 give us two couplets of ideas.
- The progression from 22:17a to 22:17b moves us from our ears to our hearts, and from words to knowledge (knowledge is based on words and is communicated through words, but it is more than words).
- In 22:18a, the heart is delighting within us (“pleasant”) in the knowledge that has now sunk in (from 22:17b).
- And 22:18b move outside of us again through our lips, beginning the process again (for those who will hear with their ears). (Proverbs 22:17)
- 22:17b–22:18a deals with the inside of us, and 22:17a and 22:18b sandwich that with the external pieces.
Back to School: A Biblical Perspective (article)
“The Lips of Knowledge Are a Precious Jewel” (message on Proverbs 20:15)