Proverbs 10

Preface To The Books Of Solomon

(1545 and 1534)

Three books bear the name of Solomon. The first is Proverbia , “Proverbs,” which may rightly be called a book of good works, for in it he teaches us how to lead a good life before God and the world.

He pays especial attention to the young people and instructs them, in fatherly fashion, according to God’s commandments, with comforting promises of how well it shall go with the good, and with threats of how the wicked will have to be punished. For young people are of themselves inclined to all evil and, besides, because of their inexperience, they do not understand the wiles and wickedness of the world and the devil, and are far too weak to withstand bad examples and causes of offense, and are not able to govern themselves, but if they are not trained they are ruined and lost before they get their bearings.
Ehe sie sich umsicht.

Therefore they need and must have teachers and rulers, to exhort, warn, rebuke, and chastise them, to hold them constantly to the fear of God and to His commandments, and to keep off the devil, the world, and the flesh. This, then, is what Solomon does diligently and richly, in this book, putting his doctrine into proverbs, so that it can be grasped the more easily and kept the more gladly. Any man who intends to become righteous might well take this book as a hand-book, or prayer-book, for daily use, and read it often, and see his own life in it.

For a man must go one of two ways — he must either let his father chastise him or let the executioner punish him; as they say, “You may escape me, but not the hangman”; and it would be good to impress this constantly on the young people, so that they might know without doubt that they must suffer either the father’s rod, or the executioner’s sword, just as Solomon, in this book, is constantly threatening the disobedient with death. There is no way out of it; God leaves nothing unpunished. We see in our own experience that disobedient knaves perish in strange ways, and finally get into the headman’s hands when they least expect it and feel most secure. Public witnesses and signs of all this are the gallows, wheels,
i.e., The torturer’s wheels.
and places of execution at the gates of all the cities. God, through the temporal government, has put them there to terrify all those who will not let themselves be trained by God’s Word into obedience to their elders.

Therefore in this book
i.e., Proverbs.
Solomon calls all those who despise God’s Word “fools,” and all those who keep God’s commandments “wise.” This does not hit the young people only, though his chief purpose is to teach them, but people of all stations, from the highest to the lowest. For just as youth has its own vices, against God’s commandments, so every other station has its own vices, and they are worse than the vices of youth. So the proverb says, “The older, the worse”; and again, “Age helps no folly.”

Even if there were nothing evil in the higher stations, no such vices as greed, pride, hatred, envy, etc., nevertheless this one vice would be bad enough, namely, that they want to be shrewd and wise when they ought not to be, and everybody is inclined to do something else than what is committed to him, and to leave undone that which is committed to him. For example, a man in the spiritual office wants to be wise and active in worldly things, and there is no end to his knowledge of them; on the other hand, a man in worldly office has a head too small to hold all his superfluous knowledge about the conduct of the spiritual office.

Of such fools all lands, all cities, all houses are full, and in this book they are diligently rebuked, and everyone is exhorted to mind his own business and to do faithfully and diligently the duty that is committed to him. Such people are called wise men; the disobedient are called fools, though they do not want to be, or be called, either disobedient men or fools.

The second book is called Koheleth; we call it “The Preacher.” It is a book of comfort. When a man would live an obedient life, according to the teaching of the first book, and attend to his duty or office, then the devil, the world, and his own flesh block the way against him, so that he becomes weary and disgusted with his duty, and is sorry for everything that he has begun; for things will not go as he wants them to. Then arise worry, labor, disgust, impatience, and murmuring, and a man is ready to let go hand and foot, and do nothing more. For if the devil cannot prevent obedience on the right hand, by means of curiosity and desire, he will hinder it on the left hand with worry and vexation.

Now as Solomon, in the first book, teaches obedience in the face of mad lust and curiosity, so in this book he teaches that men are to be patient and steadfast in obedience, in the face of unpleasantness and temptation, and are constantly to do the duty of the hour with peace and joy. What they cannot keep or alter, they are to let go; they will be well off.

The third book is a song of praise, in which Solomon praises God for obedience, as for a gift of God. For where” God is not the householder and ruler, there is neither obedience nor peace in any station of life; but where there is obedience and good rule, there God dwells, and kisses and embraces His dear bride with His Word, which is the kiss of His lips. Therefore, when things, in the land or the home, go, so far as possible, according to the first two books; then one may well sing this third book, and thank God, who has not only taught us this, but has Himself done it.


Preface To The Proverbs Of Solomon


Because this book deals especially with fools and wise men and everywhere praises wisdom and rebukes folly, it is necessary to consider its language and its words, to see what he means by fools and wise men. Therefore, in order that this profitable book may be the plainer, I shall here sketch this out in a few words, as clearly as I can.

It is the way of King David, in the Psalter, and especially of King Solomon (and perhaps it was the manner of speaking in their time) to give the name of fool
Narren oder Thoren.
not to those whom the world calls fools, or who are born fools, but to all kinds of loose, frivolous, heedless people, most of all to those who live without God’s Word and act and speak according to their own reason or purposes; though usually these are, before the world, the greatest, wisest, mightiest, richest. and holiest. Thus Paul calls the Galatians, and Christ the Pharisees, and even His own disciples, fools, so that you may know that when Solomon speaks of fools, he is speaking not of plain or insignificant people, but of the greatest people in the world.

That which Solomon here calls wisdom is nothing else than the wisdom of God, which is taught in God’s words and works; therefore he is constantly citing God’s commandments and works. Besides, no proverbs have their origin anywhere else than in God’s words and works, since all human proposals are vain and deceptive, and nothing comes out of them except what God wills and does; as we say in German, Es ist dir bedacht, abet nicht bescheret
“Wanted, but not granted.”
, and Wer das Gluck hat, fuhrt die Braut heim .
“Who has luck, gets the bride.”
These and like proverbs come from the fact that men have to see and learn that men’s proposals and hopes constantly fail and turn out otherwise than they intend, and they have at last to observe that another turns the wheel. Some, then, have called this Other God, some Fate. Accordingly the proverbs in all tongues and languages are sure and certain, since they are founded on God’s works and come out of God’s works, even though God’s Word is not there. On the other hand, by folly he means nothing else than what takes place without God’s Word and works. A wise man is one who guides himself by God’s Word and works; a fool one who presumptuously guides himself by his own mind and notions.

From this we see what a splendid, wise, and fine man King Solomon was. He took things so seriously that amid so many royal duties, he undertook to be a teacher, and especially a teacher of the most necessary thing of all, teaching and training the young people how they should act blessedly before God according to the spirit, and wisely before the world with body and goods. For this is the most important thing that men can have on earth, as King Solomon saw very well; and they cannot have it unless they are trained in youth. This book, therefore, ought early be impressed on the young people throughout the world and put into daily use and practice; undoubtedly it was for this purpose that it was made and written by King Solomon, as an example to all kings and lords to take an interest in the young people. To this may God give His grace. Amen.

Copyright information for Luther