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Lesson Plan for Proverbs & Ecclesiastes

 Proverbs - derives from "mšl" in Hebrew and simply means "comparison" or "resemblance"

Ecclesiastes - in Hebrew the word is "Qoheleth" and more specifically means "assembler" or "collector"


I have always wanted to document all the proverbial wisdom my Father has extended me throughout the years. Sometimes the wisdom is very helpful while at other times his proverbs were very funny. Some of my favorites of his are:

"Some will, some won't. So What? Next."

"Enough is enough and too much is nasty."

"You smell like the north end of a southbound mule." (Maybe this isn't proverbial, but I treat it as one lol)

"Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care."

The Book of Proverbs is filled with proverbial wisdom and the setting for much of it appears to be a Father giving or compiling sayings for his son.

The Books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job comprise what biblical scholarship calls the Wisdom Books. No doubt even the casual reader of these books would have noticed the pedigree of value that the authors of these books put upon Wisdom and its benefits. Traditionally and within the subtitles throughout the text, the author of these books was, mostly, King Solomon, even though modern scholarship dates most, if not all, of the sections after the time of King Solomon.

King Solomon was known for his impeccable wisdom. It was wisdom he asked for as a young lad when he was insecure about being a leader in Israel. The Lord granted him that gift (see 1 Kings 3:7-12). This is why these wisdom books are attributed to him because he was a great example of wisdom in the ancient world, even though later did some unsavory things.

Even further, the Wisdom Books are a relic of what scholars call the Wisdom Tradition (or Wisdom Literature) in ancient Israel. In short (and very watered down), scholars generally believe there was a Jewish Wisdom tradition that differed in style and somewhat in beliefs from the conventional style we get in most places in the Old Testament. No doubt as we have read through the poetic biblical literature over the past month, you would have noticed the tone, theology, and focus to be different than much of what is read in the Torah, and the writings about the Kings and Judges of Israel.

Wisdom literature was popular among other near ancient cultures like Egypt, Babylon, and others. These cultures appear to have influenced or, at least, have some sort of relationship with the wisdom writings we have in the Bible (Note: as an interesting example, the Egyptian sage Amenemope wrote his own proverbial book and Proverbs appears to borrow somewhat heavily from it, see here).

Interestingly, the peculiarity of these books and tradition find their way into our Book of Mormon.

Daniel Peterson explains some characteristics of the wisdom tradition and where we find it in the Book of Mormon:

"Among the characteristics of this type of writing, not surprisingly, is frequent use of the term wisdom. But also common to such literature, and very striking in texts from a Hebrew cultural background, is the absence of typical Israelite or Jewish themes. We read nothing there about the promises to the patriarchs, the story of Moses and the Exodus, the covenant at Sinai, or the divine promise of kingship to David. There is, instead, a strong emphasis on the teachings of parents, and especially on instruction by fathers. Careful readers will note that all of these characteristics are present in the accounts of the visions of Lehi and Nephi as they are treated in the Book of Mormon... Certain other motifs common to wisdom literature are also typical of the Book of Mormon as a whole. For example, both the canonical and extracanonical wisdom books are much concerned with the proper or improper use of speech. The book of Proverbs warns against the dangerous enticements of “the strange woman, even . . . the stranger which flattereth with her words,” and advises us to “meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.” “Flattering” and “cunning words,” generally used for evil purposes and with an implication of deceit, are also a recurring concern of the Nephite record. Another consistent theme in both the Book of Mormon and Near Eastern wisdom literature is the notion that wisdom or justice or righteousness brings prosperity, while folly or wickedness leads to suffering and destruction. The vocabulary of Proverbs 1–6, which stresses learning, understanding, righteousness, discernment, and knowledge, is obviously related to important messages of the Book of Mormon in general, and of the visions of Lehi and Nephi in particular. Similarly, Proverbs 3:1–12 focuses on our need to “hear” inspired wisdom, as well as on the promise of “life” and our duty to trust in the Lord rather than being wise in our own eyes. Each of these admonitions can also be documented abundantly throughout the text of the Book of Mormon— notably Nephi’s repeated invitation to us to put our trust in the Lord rather than in “the arm of flesh.” In Nephi’s vision of the tree of life, the “great and spacious building” symbolizes the wisdom and pride of the world, which shall fall."

One of the most interesting things about wisdom literature is that it personifies "Wisdom" as a female and ties that female personification to the tree of life.

Read Proverbs 3:13-18

We get these themes in the Book of Mormon as well when Nephi uses the same adjectives to describe Mary and the tree of life (see this study). King Lemhi does the same thing by personifying wisdom as a "she" (see Mosiah 8:20).

The Book of Proverbs

What is Wisdom?

Split the group into groups and have them collectively discuss and come up with a list of qualities about wisdom.

Scriptures to assign:

Proverbs 1:7-9, 1:20-22, 3:11-15, 4:5-9, 15:21 & 33

Why is wisdom, or the acquisition of knowledge from divine sources, important?

Joseph Smith once wrote:

"The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss, and the broad expanse of eternity--thou must commune with God... How vain and trifling have been our spirits, our conferences, our councils, our meetings, our private as well as public conversations, too low, too mean, too vulgar, too condescending, for the dignified characters of the called and chosen of God." (1)

Read Proverbs 3:5-6

This might be the most popular scripture in the Bible after John 3:16.

What does it mean to trust in the Lord with all thine heart?

How do we lean not unto our own understanding, but follow the counsel to get wisdom?

Read Proverbs 15:1-4

From the manual, Elder W. Crag Zwick said:

“A ‘soft answer’ consists of a reasoned response—disciplined words from a humble heart. It does not mean we never speak directly or that we compromise doctrinal truth. Words that may be firm in information can be soft in spirit” (“What Are You Thinking?” Ensign or Liahona, May 2014, 42).

How do we give a soft answer?

What characteristics does a soft answer have?

President Oaks has said:

"Push[ing] back against the world... is to stand clear from the current atmosphere of hate and to refrain from participating in the contentious communications that are so common today... Modern technology fosters conflicts by expanding the audience and speed of dissemination, making it possible for careless charges, false representations, and “ugly innuendos” to be instantly flashed around the world. This widens and intensifies the distance between different parties and positions. I am not referring to difference in policies, which need to be debated publicly, but to the current ugliness and personal meanness of the communications... Don’t be part of such communications. As followers of Christ, we know that all of the inhabitants of this earth are children of God. Use that knowledge to push back against the worldly prejudices that preach hate or hostility toward other nations, ethnic groups, or even political parties. … Followers of Christ should be examples of civility.” (2)

Read Proverbs 16:32

What does this verse teach us about self-rule?

"We do need, however, to secure mastery over ourselves. This lies at the foundation of life in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. It has been talked about here time and time again. To conquer an army, it was said in olden days, is a very great achievement, but to conquer oneself is greater still. It is the duty of Latter-day Saints to learn little by little to be conquerors of themselves. Self-conquest is the great desire of all Latter-day Saints who understand the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ." (John A. Widtsoe, Universal Brotherhood, Conference Report, April 1950)

Read Proverbs 22:6

How do we make sense of this scripture? What about Lehi's sons, Laman & Lemuel? How does this verse give room for the agency of our children?

We might get a deeper look at what is meant in this scripture in D&C 31:1-2. Thomas B. Marsh is called on a mission and he has a deep concern about the welfare of his family before he leaves. Brother Marsh's kids, at this time, were 9 years old or younger. Here the Lord gives him the promise that the day will come that his kids will believe and know the truth. We must remember that "the day" much of the time is not what we think or hope for. Remember, Elder Holland once counseled:

"Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come." (3)

With that eternal and cosmic timeline in mind, Elder Orson F. Whitney recalls that Joseph Smith taught the following:

“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared—and he never taught a more comforting doctrine—that the eternal sealings of faithful parents and the divine promises made to them for valiant service in the Cause of Truth, would save not only themselves, but likewise their posterity. Though some of the sheep may wander, the eye of the Shepherd is upon them, and sooner or later they will feel the tentacles of Divine Providence reaching out after them and drawing them back to the fold. Either in this life or the life to come, they will return. They will have to pay their debt to justice; they will suffer for their sins; and may tread a thorny path; but if it leads them at last, like the penitent Prodigal, to a loving and forgiving father’s heart and home, the painful experience will not have been in vain. Pray for your careless and disobedient children; hold on to them with your faith. Hope on, trust on, till you see the salvation of God” (Orson F. Whitney, in Conference Report, Apr. 1929, 110).

We might call this principle, "Divine Tentacles".

Read Proverbs 29:18

What can this teach us about revelation?

This verse isn't about having a vision for setting goals or wanting to accomplish long-term plans. The Hebrew word for "vision" here is used 35 times in the Old Testament and has the obvious connotation of referring to revelatory visions. It refers to the visions prophets had like Ezekiel, Isaiah, Samuel, and others.

Without revelation, we perish? How?

"... in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost. My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation... for the Lord has promised that “if thou shalt [seek], thou shalt receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things—that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal. Oh, there is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!”” (4)

Having a people that receive revelation is a sign that they have not yet suffered spiritual death.

Read Proverbs 31:10-31

These verses are astounding literature. It is an acrostic poem and has a chiastic structure. With it being acrostic, the idea is this is the beginning and the end of holy women. Each Line within the 22 verses starts with the following subsequent letter in the Hebrew alphabet.

The Book of Ecclesiastes 

To be frank, Ecclesiastes sort of mocks the absolutist framework that Proverbs paints. The actual Hebrew name of the book is Qoholet. In Hebrew, this basically means a preacher or teacher. This book is some sort of compilation that this teacher or preacher pieced together. We get the title of the book in our English bibles from the transliteration of the Greek term Ἐκκλησιαστής (Ekklesiastes) and that word is a literal translation in The Septuagint of the Hebrew "Qoholet". Interestingly, the transliteration of the Greek word here is where we get the term "ecclesiastical", referring to Church leadership.

Despite its sort of skeptical and, at times, somewhat hedonistic tone, Ecclesiastes ends with a nice bow on top.

Read Ecclesiastes 12:13-14


  1. I love the lesson! I appreciate the clarification in the final comment regarding Ecclesiastes. "We become the whole man."


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