Since using wise words is essential for speaking truth to your soul, it might interest you to see the origin of many of the wise sayings that we can store away in our thought closets. The book of Proverbs is an anthology of wise sayings. Israel’s King Solomon is the most famous contributor to the vast collection of wisdom contained in that book. (Proverbs 1:1; 10:1; 25:1).
“And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five. And men of all nations, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom, came to hear the wisdom of Solomon." (1 Kings 4:29, 32, 34)
While many sayings in the book of Proverbs came from Solomon, other authors are quoted also. A number of wise sayings probably came from a group of teachers known as Israel’s “wise people.” (Jeremiah 18:18) These teachers were known for their practical wisdom. These “wise people” were familiar with (and may have drawn from) comparable kinds of wisdom writings found in the literature of Israel's neighbors. For example, the thirty wise sayings in Proverbs 22;17- 24:22 are similar in style and language to an ancient Egyptian collection known as the Instruction of Amenemope. Other wisdom sayings are similar to those that are found in Mesopotamian and Assyrian wisdom literature. It is believed that the biblical collection of proverbs was most likely compiled into its final form between three and four hundred years after King Solomon died.
While the book of Proverbs may reflect the view of wisdom that was commonly held in the ancient world, there is one important difference in the wise sayings contained in Proverbs. As Matthew Henry notes, Proverbs was written and compiled “…by the Holy Ghost for making known the mind of God to us, writing as moved by the finger of God.” In the book of Proverbs, true wisdom is set apart because it comes from the Lord God, and wisdom is said to have been with the Lord at the beginning of time (Proverbs 8:22-31).
Here is a basic outline of Proverbs (as researched by the American Bible Society):
1. Introduction (Proverbs 1:1-7)
2. Seek wisdom avoid foolishness (Proverbs 1:8-7:27)
3. Find life through wisdom (Proverbs 8, 9)
4. Sayings of Solomon (Proverbs 10:1-22:17)
5. Sayings of wise people (Proverbs 22:17-24:34)
6. Sayings of Solomon copied by Judah’s King Hezekiah (Proverbs 25-29)
These proverbs are credited to Solomon, but they were copied sometime between 715-687 B.C.
7. Sayings of Agur and of Lemuel's Mother (Proverbs 30, 31). This final part (Proverbs 31:10-31) has been described as the epilog. It is an acrostic poem, which means the first word of each verse begins with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet.