The Book of Proverbs

King Solomon (or someone like him) brings wisdom to the people.

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The Book of Proverbs is the second book in the Ketuvim (or Writings), the third section of the Tanakh. The full Hebrew title is Mishlei Shlomo, or The Proverbs of Solomon, a reference to King Solomon, who, according to Jewish tradition, is the author of Mishlei.

Who Wrote the Book of Proverbs?

In spite of this attribution, it is unlikely that he, in fact, authored much of Proverbs. For one, several other authors are credited throughout the book, such as the officials of King Hezekiah, Agur son of Yakeh, and King Lemuel. Also, while much of the material may have been produced prior to the Jewish exile from Israel, some modern scholars set the book's true completion in the post-exile period, long after King Solomon's actual reign.
book of proverbs
The attribution more likely stems from the tradition of tying a book to a biblical figure known for a certain quality. For example, the Book of Psalms is associated with King David, who was known to be a poet and musician. King Solomon was known for his wisdom, and so Proverbs might have seemed like a natural fit.

Much of the book may be unfamiliar to many; however, it does include a few notable passages. One in particular, has become a focal point of the Torah service--etz hayim hi lamahazikim ba v'tomkheha m'ushar or "It is a tree of life to those who grasp her, and whoever holds on to her is happy (3:18)."

The Book of Proverbs fits within the genre of wisdom literature, as it is unconcerned with Israelite practices such as Temple worship or sacrifice.

Instead, Proverbs offers statements about how to conduct one's life wisely. While the book does not offer a systematic presentation of specific doctrinal principles, Israelite or otherwise, Proverbs does convey a clear view of reward and punishment connected directly to God. Chapter 1, verse 7 sets the tone: "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge." Then the text delves further: "For the upright will abide in the land, and the innocent shall remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it (2:21-22)."

Everything begins with God. The good shall be rewarded, and the evil punished. And those who truly pursue wisdom will find reward greater than material wealth: "Happy are those who find wisdom…for her income is better than silver, and her revenue better than gold (3:13-14)." Wisdom itself is the greatest reward of all.

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Elana Roth

Elana Roth is a graduate of Barnard College and the Jewish Theological Seminary, where she earned degrees in English Literature and Bible. She currently works as a literary agent in New York City.