Twelve Kinds of Proverbs                                  Study No. 253

Proverbs, ancient or modern, are very helpful.  They stimulate our thought and teach us important lessons.  We should cherish every proverb.


Modern Proverbs


Here are some “Old American West” proverbs:

Don’t squat with your spurs on.

The three most deadly diseases in the old West were:  smallpox, cholera, and the ignorance to argue with a long-haired, whisky-drinkin’ liar.

A woman’s heart is like a campfire.  If you don’t tend to it regular, you’ll soon lose it.

Always drink upstream from the herd.

Comin’ as close to the truth as a man can come without actually gettin’ there is comin’ pretty close, but it still ain’t the truth.

The basics of roping are a sense of rhythm, good timing, and an eye for distance.  You might also wanta keep this in mind when you’re two stepping around the dance floor.

Marry a woman with brains enough for two, and you’ll come out even.

Never approach a bull from the front, a horse from the rear, or a fool from any direction.

Treat a mule-headed man the same way you’d treat a mule you’re fixin’ to corral.  Don’t try to drive ‘em in.  Jus’ leave the gate open a crack and let ‘em bust in.

Here are some proverbs from other countries:

If it wasn’t for the elephant, the buffalo would be a great animal in the jungle (Ghana).

Rain beats on a leopard’s skin, but it does not wash out the spots (Ashanti).

A husband and wife in perfect concord are like the music of the harp and lute (China).

Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched (English).

You can’t hang people before you’ve caught them (German).

Don’t curse the crocodile before you have crossed the river (Swahili).

A man who has once been tossed by a buffalo, when he sees a black ox, thinks it’s another buffalo  (Kenya).

In a Greek tragedy, everybody dies.  In a Russian tragedy, everybody dies.  In fact, in a Russian comedy, everybody dies — they just die happy (Russia).

Better to have more lightning in the hand and less thunder in the mouth (Apache).

Don’t ask God to give it to you — ask Him to put you where there is some (Spain).

Love is a sweet dream, and marriage is the alarm clock (Jewish).

You can’t straighten out a snake by passing it through a bamboo tube (Japan).


Twelve Major Topics of Book of Proverbs


1. Corporate proverbs — “king and country” proverbs that teach organization and authority dynamics in business, education, government, and in many respects, even the church.

Proverbs 16:14-15, “As messengers of death is the king’s wrath, But a wise man will appease it.  In the light of the king’s face is life, And his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain” (NKJV throughout).

2. Communication proverbs — principles of personal, family, and corporate communication.

Proverbs 15:1-2, “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.  The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.”

Proverbs 25:11-12, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.  Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold, Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.”

3. Leadership proverbs — contain the es­sential principles how to be a good leader (or follower), speak to diligence, power of wisdom, goal setting, anti-slothfulness, getting counsel, reputation, etc.  Included in some king and coun­try, communica­tion, and other proverb types.

Proverbs 4:26-27, “Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established.  Do not turn to the right or the left; Remove your foot from evil.”

Proverbs 12:24, “The hand of the diligent will rule, But the lazy man will be put to forced labor.”

Ecclesiastes 10:1, “Dead flies putrefy the perfumer’s ointment, And cause it to give off a foul odor; So does a little folly to one respected for wisdom and honor.”

4. Wealth proverbs — the first principle of financial success, teaching on thrift, savings, honest earning, warnings against greed, financial selfishness and false friends.

Proverbs 3:9-10, “Honor the Lord with your possessions, And with the firstfruits of all your increase; So your barns will be filled with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine.”

Proverbs 1:19, “So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners.”

Proverbs 13:11, 22, “Wealth gained by dis­honesty will be diminished, But he who gathers by labor will increase . . . . A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.”

5. Parenting proverbs — how to bring up your children as happy, well adjusted, productive, and successful young people who grow in favor with God and man.

Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

6. Husband-Wife proverbs — dynamics of marriage, becoming a good husband or wife, enjoying the romantic and sexual bond, working together to make a home and family.

Proverbs 31:10-12, “Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.  The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.  She does him good and not evil all the days of her life.”  Proverbs 5:18-19, “Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice with the wife of your youth.  As a loving deer and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; And always be enraptured with her love.”

7. Sexual Immorality proverbs — warnings against the destructiveness of adultery and any sexual deviancy, forewarnings of the dynamics of seduction and temptation.

Proverbs 6:32, “Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding; He who does so destroys his own soul.”

8. Health and Stress proverbs — directions on staying fit and well, physically, mentally, emo­tionally and spiritually.  Principles of diet, exer­cise, positive mental attitude, etc.

Proverbs 17:22, “A merry heart does good, like medicine, But a broken spirit dries the bones.”

Proverbs 3:7-8, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.” Proverbs 31:17, “She girds herself with strength, And strengthens her arms.”

9. Friendship proverbs — actually speaks to all relationships, loyalty in friendship, how to accumulate friends, how to serve your friends, the great value of good and true friendships.

Proverbs 27:9, “Ointment and perfume delight the heart, And the sweetness of a man’s friend gives delight by hearty counsel.”

Proverbs 27:5-6, “Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”

10. Fool proverbs — all the things you don’t want to think, don’t what to say, don’t want to do and don’t want to be.  Includes proverbs on the foibles of human nature, especially dealing with anger, self-justification, and the incredibly inept, know-it-all attitude.

Proverbs 26:12, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?  There is more hope for a fool than for him.”

11. Righteous-Wicked proverbs — these are the overarching proverbs about mankind illustrat­ing the evil of wickedness compared to the good­ness of righteousness, provide depth of under­standing about true justice.

Proverbs 11:5, “The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way aright, But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.”

Proverbs 11:23, “The desire of the righteous is only good, But the expectation of the wicked is wrath.”

12. Greatness and Goodness of God proverbs — address the greatness and goodness of God directly, include themes of faith, faithfulness, and obedience.

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own under­standing; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.”


How to Use the Book of Proverbs


1. Pray for Wisdom.  God wants to give us wisdom, but only when we ask Him, James 1:5.

2. Issue-driven Research.  What issues are you facing in life? Study them first.

3. Study to Quote the ProverbsProverbs are meant to be quoted in conversation and your mind. Memorize the key ones and your favorites.

4. “Dating” the Chapter of Proverbs.  A chapter a day is plenty.  Read the chapter of Proverbs that corresponds to the day of the month, plus Ecclesiastes the first 12 days of the month. 

5. Testing Laboratory for ArgumentsPractice evaluating wise sayings or statements you hear or read, in the light of God’s proverbs.  Great fellowship conversation topics.


— by Randy Stiver, Young Adult Bible Seminar, Feast of Tabernacles 2003.Ω