OLD TESTAMENT - LESSON 31
Proverbs & Ecclesiastes
Themes from these books:
- Trust in the Lord
- The words we speak
- Raising children
- Happiness and humor
A study of this lesson should inspire us to be more Christlike as we
apply the wise counsel found in these books.
Introduction To The Books Of Proverbs & Ecclesiastes
- These two books are sometimes referred to as the "wisdom literature".
- The Book of Proverbs.
The Book of Ecclesiastes.
- WHO WROTE THE BOOK OF PROVERBS?
- Proverbs is not a revelation.
- The primary author was Solomon.
- Proverbs 1:1: "The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king
- According to 1 Kings 4:32 Solomon spoke or compiled 3,000 proverbs
and 1,005 songs.
- Whether he was both the author and compiler is not known.
- Proverbs also contains a collection of sayings from other wise men
of ancient Israel and the Near East.
- One Bible commentary states: "...the proverbs in this book
are not so much popular sayings as the distillation of the wisdom of teachers
who knew the law of God and were applying its principles to the whole of
- Solomon is also considered the author of this book.
- Ecclesiastes 1:1: "The words of the Preacher, the son of David,
king in Jerusalem."
- One of the main themes of these books: "The fear of the Lord
is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7) and "The
fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10).
READ PROVERBS 2:2-6. Wisdom, knowledge, and understanding
comes from the Lord.
- WHAT DID SOLOMON MEAN BY THIS?
- One Bible Dictionary states: "The 'fear of the Lord' is frequently
spoken of as part of man's duty (e.g., Ps. 111:10; Eccl. 12:13; Isa. 11:2-3;
Luke 1:50); it is also described as 'godly fear' (Heb. 12:28). In such
passages fear is equivalent to reverence, awe, worship, and is therefore
an essential part of the attitude of mind in which we ought to stand toward
the All-holy God."
- As we attain this attitude of reverence and respect towards God, we
are then opening ourselves up to learn from His words and His prophets.
- HOW HAVE YOUR EXPERIENCES SHOWN SOLOMON TO BE RIGHT?
- The Prophet Joseph Smith once said: "Could you gaze into heaven
five minutes, you would know more than you would by reading all that ever
was written on the subject" (TPJS, p324). As we learn to "fear"
the Lord, we are opening ourselves up to an increase in our wisdom and
knowledge of the things of heaven, which can best be learned through revelation
READ PROVERBS 3:5-7. Trust in the Lord, not in our own understanding.
- Proverbs emphasizes that wisdom is a gift of God and is obtained only
by our diligent effort.
- WHY DO YOU THINK IT REQUIRES DILIGENCE TO OBTAIN THIS KNOWLEDGE?
- I think knowledge and wisdom is like any other thing in our lives.
We appreciate it more and are more likely to utilize it if there has been
effort and diligence applied in obtaining it. It is easy to read from the
scriptures and say to ourselves that the principles contained therein make
sense. But until we read, ponder, pray, and attempt to apply these principles,
we cannot begin to understand what the Lord is telling us.
- Again we find emphasis on the source of truth.
- WHAT EXPERIENCES HAVE YOU HAD THAT REINFORCE THE WISDOM OF THIS COUNSEL?
- In my life, I find myself falling on my face when I "lean"
unto my own understanding and attempting to be "wise" in my own
eyes. Several years ago I served as a counselor in a bishopric. I had some
disagreement with the bishop over the direction of the youth programs in
the ward. I insisted that I was right in my opinions and refused to concede
to the bishop's counsel. I allowed this insistence and pride to cause me
to resign the position. Oh, what folly for not trusting in the Lord and
his appointed servants. My resignation did not help the youth programs,
but did lead to several years of spiritual anguish on my part. We must
trust in the Lord. When we do so, he will direct our paths. If we do not
trust the Lord, the paths we take often lead to places we did not intend
- WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ACKNOWLEDGE GOD?
- D&C 59:21: "And in nothing doth man offend God, or against
none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things,
and obey not his commandments."
- D&C 78:19: "And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness
shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto
him, even an hundred fold, yea, more."
- WHAT EXPERIENCES HAVE TAUGHT YOU THE IMPORTANCE OF ACKNOWLEDGING GOD
AND BEING THANKFUL TO HIM?
- Have there been experiences where you had no other source for help
other than the Lord? Such experiences remind me that we ought to be grateful
at all times.
Other Teachings From Proverbs
- READ PROVERBS 6:16-19.
Proverbs 13:10: "Only by pride cometh contention".
- OF THESE THINGS WHICH THE LORD HATES, THREE OF THEM ARE LYING, BEARING
FALSE WITNESS, AND SOWING DISCORD. WHY DO YOU THINK THE LORD IS SO CONCERNED
WITH THE WORDS WE SPEAK?
- Matthew 12:36-37: "But I say unto you, That every idle word
that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be
- Proverbs 18:21: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue".
- We have the power to build up and tear down by the words we speak.
Several years ago I read the story of a great educator who was attempting
to teach the power of language. The instructor assigned several individuals
to go up to a selected person, who appeared to be in good health, and ask
that person if he was feeling well and indicate that he didn't look well.
The individuals followed through on their assignment. In this situation,
the man in fact became ill and nearly died. Obviously, the instructor suspended
this particular experiment in future seminars, but he was left with an
incredible example of the power of our words..
- Proverbs 12:25: "Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop:
but a good word maketh it glad."
- Additional verses on the importance of the words we speak:
- Proverbs 21:23: "Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth
his soul from troubles."
- Proverbs 18:6-8: "A fool's lips enter into contention, and
his mouth calleth for strokes.
"A fool's mouth is his destruction,
and his lips are the snare of his soul.
"The words of a talebearer are
as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly."
- Proverbs 16:24: "Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet
to the soul, and health to the bones."
- Ecclesiates 5:6: "Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to
- 2 Timothy 2:16-17: "But shun profane and vain babblings: for
they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth
- Is not this ancient wisdom as true today as it was 3000 years ago?
Proverbs 13:20: "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise:
but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."
- Proverbs 28:25: "He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife".
- These verses indicate that pride is the root of contention.
- HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THIS TO BE TRUE?
- HOW CAN UNDERSTANDING THIS HELP US AVOID OR RESOLVE CONTENTION?
- President Ezra Taft Benson: "The central feature of pride is
enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means
'hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.' It is the power
by which Satan wishes to reign over us.
"Pride is essentially competitive
in nature. We pit our will against God's. When we direct our pride toward
God, it is in the spirit of 'my will and not thine be done.' As Paul said,
they 'seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's.' (Philip.
"Our will in competition to God's
will allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled. (See Alma
38:12; 3 Ne.12:30.)
"The proud cannot accept the
authority of God giving direction to their lives. (See Hel.12:6.) They
pit their perceptions of truth against God's great knowledge, their abilities
versus God's priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty
"Our enmity toward God takes
on many labels, such as rebellion, hard-heartedness, stiff-neckedness,
unrepentant, puffed up, easily offended, and sign seekers. The proud wish
God would agree with them. They aren't interested in changing their opinions
to agree with God's....
"Pride is a damning sin in the
true sense of that word. It limits or stops progression (see Alma 12:10-11).
The proud are not easily taught (see 1 Nephi 15:3, 7-11). They won't change
their minds to accept truths, because to do so implies they have been wrong."
(Ensign, May 1989, pp4&6)
- WHY IS IT IMPORTANT THAT WE CHOOSE GOOD FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES?
- It has been said that what we will be in five years is dependent upon
what we read and who we associate with.
- Andrew Carnegie (founder of US Steel) said: "One's major purpose
must be backed up and followed through by continuous effort, the most important
part which consists in the sort of relationship one maintains with others....
"Every man has a tendency to
take on the mannerisms, beliefs, mental attitude, political and economic
viewpoint, as well as the other traits of the more outspoken of the men
with whom he assoicates in his daily work." (Master Key to Riches,
- In their study of influences on youth within the Church, Brent L. Top
and Bruce A. Chadwick concluded: "Our statistical analysis of the
youth's responses showed a strong relationship between peer pressure and
delinquency. Peer example also makes a statistically significant contribution."
One student in their study stated: "Public
schools expose you to very awful, vulgar language and gestures. I'm forced
to see and hear the bad things they do and say. A year ago I had some bad
friends who pressured me to do bad things. At first it wasn't such obviously
bad things. But when I'd lower my standards to their level, they'd lower
theirs more. Finally, with the help of my parents, I went to my bishop
On a more positive note, another student
reported: "My friends have been the strongest pressures to live
the standards of the Church. I know I've been blessed with good friends
who are members of the Church and who have helped me be a better person.
I can see the effects bad friends have on people, and I'm thankful for
the ones I have." (BYU Magazine, Summer 1998, pp44-45)
- HOW HAVE THE PEOPLE YOU ASSOCIATED WITH AFFECTED YOUR LIFE?
- HOW CAN WE HELP CHILDREN CHOOSE GOOD FRIENDS?
- Brother Top and Brother Chadwick made the following suggestions (see
BYU Magazine, Summer 1998, p45):
READ PROVERBS 13:24 & 22:6.
- Encourage teens to participate in good groups, organizations, and activities.
- Make the home available as a place to hang out.
- Make teenagers' friends feel welcome in the home.
- Choose a neighborhood with reputable schools and low rates of delinquency.
- Develop friendships with families whose children would be good friends
for your own.
- Teach friendship skills.
- Set family rules and boundries.
Proverbs 15:1: "A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous
words stir up anger."
- WHAT DO THESE VERSES SUGGEST ABOUT TEACHING AND DISCIPLINING CHILDREN?
- Parents must take an active role in teaching correct principles to
their children and "Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved
upon by the Holy Ghost" (D&C 121:43).
READ PROVERBS 15:31-32.
- WHAT BENEFITS HAVE COME IN YOUR LIFE FROM SPEAKING SOFTLY WHEN YOU
DISAGREED WITH SOMEONE OR WERE ANGRY?
- My experiences in working at the public counter at the Passport Office.
- President Gordon B. Hinckley: "We seldom get into trouble when
we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that sparks fly and
tiny molehills become great mountains of contention." (Ensign,
June 1971, p.72)
ARE THERE OTHER PROVERBS WHICH HAVE MEANING TO YOU?
- WHAT DOES THIS VERSE SUGGEST ABOUT BEING WISE AND ACCEPTING REPROOF?
- We could go chapter by chapter and find a wealth of wisdom. Following
are a few additional proverbs:
- 2:11: "Discretion shall preserve thee".
- Do we often say to much about things we should keep to ourselves.
- 4:19: "The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not
at what they stumble."
- 8:11: "For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things
that may be desired are not to be compared to it."
- 10:4: "He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but
the hand of the diligent maketh rich."
- 16:22: "Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that
hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly."
- 17:22: "A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken
spirit drieth the bones."
- 20:13: "Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine
eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread."
- 21:19: "It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with
a contentious and an angry woman."
- 23:7: "For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he".
- 25:14: "Whoso boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds
and wind without rain."
- 26:21: "As coals are to burning coals, and wood to fire; so
is a contentious man to kindle strife."
- 27:17: "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance
of his friend."
- 28:15: "As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked
ruler over the poor people."
- 29:15: "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to
himself bringeth his mother to shame."
- 29:18: "Where there is no vision, the people perish".
- Theme of the Book of Ecclesiastes: "...the vanity of all human
pursuits when made the chief end, and the consequent wisdom of making the
fear of God and His commandments our main aim."
- READ ECCLESIASTES 3:1-8. To everything there is
READ ECCLESIASTES 9:11. The race is not to the
- HOW CAN THESE VERSES BE USEFUL TO US?
- President Spencer W. Kimball: "One can have all the blessings
if he is in control and takes the experiences in proper turn: first some
limited social get-aquainted contacts, then his mission, then his courting,
then his temple marriage and his schooling and his family, then his life's
work. In any other sequence he could run into difficulty." (Ensign,
Feb. 1975, p.4)
The Law of the Harvest - 11:1: "Cast thy bread upon the waters:
for thou shalt find it after many days" (11:1).
- IF THE SWIFT DO NOT WIN THE RACE AND THE STRONG DO NOT WIN THE BATTLE,
WHO DOES WIN?
- 3 Nephi 15:9: "Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto
me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth
to the end will I give eternal life."
- Brigham Young: "The race is not to the swift, nor riches to
men of wisdom. Do not fret, nor be so anxious about property, nor think
that when you have gathered treasures, they alone will produce joy and
comfort; for it is not so.
"The race is not to the swift,
nor the battle to the strong, nor riches to men of wisdom. The Lord gives
the increase: he mades rich whom he pleases. You may inquire, 'Why not
make us rich?' Perhaps, because we would not know what to do with riches."
- "A person reaps what he sows; he casts his bread on the waters
and gets a just return. Every good deed will have its reward, and every
unworthy thought will register in some recess of the mind." (Old
Testament Student Manual 2:20)
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and
keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man" (Ecclesiastes
12:13). What more can be said? These two books contain a sayings written
thousands of years ago, but still remain gems of wisdom we can use to guide
out lives today.
Lesson 32: Job 1-2; 13; 19; 27; 42
Additional Reading: Other chapters in Job; D&C 121-1-10.
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