Whenever you begin to study a book of the Bible, you should ask six questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? And how?
Today, then, as we begin to study Proverbs, let’s ask who wrote it. The book itself provides several answers.
Proverbs 1:1, for example, says: “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel.” Solomon is also named as a contributor or proverbs at 10:1 and 25:1. But Solomon is not the only contributor. At 22:17 and 24:23, we read that a group of otherwise anonymous individuals known as “the wise” contributed proverbs to the book. At 30:1, we learn that “Agur son of Jakeh” added his proverbs, and at 31:1, we read about “King Lemuel,” who passed on proverbs he learned from his mother.
The Book of Proverbs, in other words, is a group effort. Proverbs 25:1 suggests that Solomon and the others didn’t actually sit down and write the book. Rather, 25:1 says that their proverbs were “copied by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah.” With regard to the authorship of Proverbs, then, we can probably conclude that while Solomon and the others spoke their proverbs, still other people edited those sayings into a book.
What do we know about these people? With the exception of Solomon, very little. “The wise” and “the men of Hezekiah” are anonymous individuals. Agur and Lemuel do not otherwise appear in the Bible; they might not even be Jewish. But since Solomon looms large over the book, we can safely focus on him.
As Proverbs 1:1 makes clear, Solomon is the son of King David and the heir to his throne. According to 1 Kings 3:9, at the outset of his reign, Solomon asked God for “a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong.” Pleased with this request, God gave Solomon what he asked for. But he also went further. According to verse 13, God said, “I will give you what you have not asked for—both riches and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.” And indeed, the Bible portrays Solomon’s reign as the Golden Age of Israel’s history.
But it was Solomon’s wisdom that made the lasting impression. According to 1 Kings 4:29-34, “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.” He was wiser than the rulers of surrounding countries. Indeed, he was so wise that “men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.”
In other words, Solomon was one smart cookie. But the Bible emphasizes that Solomon’s wisdom was the gift of God to a man humble enough to ask for it. Perhaps that’s why Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge”—both for Solomon and for us.