Best Proverbs Commentary

A proverb is a short and pithy saying designed to make a point about the way life works. In other words, it is a poetic saying that reveals some aspect of how to walk wisely in God’s world. In the proverbs, the poet will state big truths in a few words. The poet uses repetition, imagery, figures of speech, and parallelism to get the point across. Yesterday, our church completed a seven month expositional series through the Proverbs. Prior to this study I had only ever taken somewhat short and shallow passes through the book of Proverbs and I had never personally heard a sermon series through the book. I assume it is because of the difficulty of the book’s structure. Chapters 10 through 29 are especially challenging since they consist of mostly unconnected individual sayings of wisdom. That makes it difficult to sermonize a book like Proverbs. The book does not naturally follow a logical and teachable format that fits nicely into weekly sermonic structures.

The book of Proverbs often feels like real life. It is messy. The wisdom you might find in one chapter may reflect the messy variety of life situations on a busy day. The Proverbs, therefore, have been considered by many to be not too dissimilar to short fortune cookie slogans for wise living that are occasionally useful. This is an unfortunate assumption. There is so much more for us in this God-inspired book. Over the last few weeks and months, I have found depths and heights within the fabric of this book that have challenged, convicted, motivated, and excited our congregation. Every week, God guided us into a deeper understanding of his wisdom, an awareness of our own foolishness, and an appreciation for Christ Jesus who became wisdom for us.

My Favorite Proverbs Commentary:

Throughout my study and sermon preparation, one commentary stood out above all the rest. I can’t remember a sermon series where one commentary so outshined the rest in helpfulness. Proverbs is a big book. Many commentaries are forced to take very broad strokes in their explanation of the text. Bruce Waltke’s two volume commentary is different. He is thorough. His insights on the structure of Proverbs give wonderful starting points for the expositional preacher. His commentary on the original language is pointed and helpful. His analysis is academic, but his applications are pastoral. While Waltke’s two volume commentary is pricey, it is really the only commentary I needed. I began the preaching series reading 3 to 5 commentaries each week. By the end of the series, I found that I only needed to read Waltke, because no other resource exceeded his attention to detail and thorough coverage of each verse. If you are looking to preach through Proverbs, bite the bullet and get the two volume work by Waltke or, if your pushed for time, consider his condensed version.

Honorable mention:

If I had to have only one other commentary on Proverbs, David Hubbard’s contribution to the Preacher’s Commentary would be my choice. He covers every chapter with considerable detail. His commentary is less academic and more sermonic, but in a helpful way. Some commentaries that are devotional in nature overlook much of the textual considerations and move too quickly into application or implication. Hubbard follows the actual words of the text and gives adequate explanation before moving to pastoral application.

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