the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26
Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical Lange's Commentary
by Johann Peter Lange
PROVERBS OF SOLOMON
THEOLOGICALLY AND HOMILETICALLY EXPOUNDED
DR. OTTO ZÖCKLER,
Professor Of Theology At Greifswald
TRANSLATED AND EDITED BY
Rev. CHARLES A. AIKEN, Ph. D.,
Union College, Schenectady, N. Y.
VOL. X. OF THE OLD TESTAMENT: CONTAINING PROVERBS, ECCLESIASTES, AND THE SONG OF SOLOMON.
GENERAL SUPERSCRIPTION OF THE COLLECTION
Announcement of the author of the collection (Proverbs 1:1) of its object Proverbs 1:2-3), and of its great value Proverbs 1:4-6)
I. Introductory Division
Proverbs 1:7 to Proverbs 9:18
True wisdom as the basis and end of all moral effort, impressed by admonition and commendation upon the hearts of youth
Motto: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all knowledge;” Proverbs 1:7
1. Group of admonitory discourses; Proverbs 1:8 to Proverbs 3:35.
1. Admonition of the teacher of wisdom to his son to avoid the way of vice; Proverbs 1:8-19
2. Warning delineation of the perverse and ruinous conduct of the fool, put into the mouth of Wisdom (personified); Proverbs 1:20-33
3. Exhibition of the blessed consequences of obedience and of striving after Wis 2:1-22.
4. Continuation of the exhibition of the salutary results of this devout and pious life; Proverbs 3:1-18.
5. Description of the powerful protection which God, the wise Creator of the world, grants to those that fear Him; Proverbs 3:19-26.
6. Admonition to charity and justice; Proverbs 3:27-35.
2. Group of admonitory discourses; Proverbs 4:1 to Proverbs 7:27.
7. Report of the teacher of wisdom concerning the good counsels in favor of piety, and the warnings against vice, which were addressed to him in his youth by his father; Proverbs 4:1-27.
8. Warning against intercourse with lewd women, and against the ruinous consequences of licentiousness; Proverbs 5:1-23.
9. Warning against inconsiderate suretyship; Proverbs 6:1-5.
10. Rebuke of the sluggard; Proverbs 6:6-11.
11. Warning against malice and wanton violence; Proverbs 6:12-19.
12. Admonition to chastity, with a warning delineation of the fearful consequences of adultery; Proverbs 6:20-35.
13. New admonition to chastity, with a reference to the repulsive example of a youth led astray by a harlot; Proverbs 7:1-27.
3. Group of admonitory discourses; Proverbs 8:1 to Proverbs 9:18
14. A second public discourse of Wisdom (personified) Proverbs 8:0, having reference
a) to the richness of her gifts (Proverbs 8:1-21);
b) to the origin of her nature in God (Proverbs 8:21-31); and
c) to the blessing that flows from the possession of her (Proverbs 8:32-36).
15. Allegorical exhibition of the call of men to the possession and enjoyment of true wisdom, under the figure of an invitation to two banquets (Proverbs 9:0),
a) that of Wisdom; Proverbs 9:1-12.
b) that of Folly; Proverbs 9:13-18.
II. Original nucleus of the collection,—genuine proverbs of Solomon; Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16
Ethical maxims, precepts, and admonitions, with respect to the most diverse relations of human life.
Exhibition of the difference between the pious and the ungodly, and their respective lots in life; Proverbs 10-15*.
*The justification for comprehending the contents of these chapters under the above heading is to be found in this,—that the so called antithetic Maschal form is decidedly predominant in them. Comp. above § 14, p. 32, and also the general prefatory remarks which introduce the exegetical comments on Proverbs 10:0.
a) Comparison between the pious and the ungodly with reference to their life and conduct in general; Proverbs 10:1-32.
b) Comparison between the good results of piety, and the disadvantages and penalties of ungodliness (Proverbs 11-15), and particularly
α) with reference to just and unjust, benevolent and malevolent conduct toward one’s neighbor; Proverbs 11:0;
β) with reference to domestic, civil and public avocations; Proverbs 12:0;
γ) with reference to the use of temporal good, and of the word of God as the highest good: Proverbs 13:0;
δ) with reference to the relation between the wise and the foolish, the rich and the poor, masters and servants: Proverbs 14:0;
ε) with reference to various other relations and callings in life, especially within the sphere of religion: Proverbs 15:0;
2. Exhortations to a life in the fear of God, and in obedience; (Proverbs 16:1 to Proverbs 22:16); and in particular
α) to confidence in God as the wise regulator and ruler of the world; Proverbs 16:0;
β) to contentment and a peaceable disposition; Proverbs 17:0;
γ) to affability, fidelity, and the other virtues of social life; Proverbs 18:0;
δ) to humility, meekness and gentleness; Proverbs 19:0;
ε) to the avoidance of drunkenness, indolence, quarrelsomeness, etc.; Proverbs 20:0;
ζ) to justice, patience, and dutiful submission to God’s gracious control; Proverbs 21:0;
η) to the obtaining and preserving of a good name; Proverbs 22:1-16.
III. Additions made before Hezekiah’s day to the genuine proverbs of Solomon which form the nucleus of the collection; Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34
1st Addition: Various injunctions of justice and prudence in life; Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22.
a) Introductory admonition to lay to heart the words of the wise; Proverbs 22:17-21;
b) Admonition to justice toward others, especially the poor; Proverbs 22:22-29;
c) Warning against avarice, intemperance, licentiousness and other such vices: Proverbs 23:0;
d) Warning against companionship with the wicked and foolish; Proverbs 24:1-22.
2d Addition: Proverbs 24:23-34.
a) Various admonitions to right conduct toward one’s neighbor; Proverbs 24:23-29.
b) Warning against indolence and its evil consequences: Proverbs 24:30-34.
IV. Gleanings by the men of Hezekiah; Proverbs 25-29
True wisdom proclaimed as the highest good to Kings and their subjects. Superscription; Proverbs 25:1.
1. Admonition to the fear of God and to righteousness, addressed to Kings and subjects; Proverbs 25:0.
2. Various warnings: viz.
a) Against disgraceful conduct (especially folly, indolence, and malice) Proverbs 26:0.
b) Against vain self-praise and arrogance; Proverbs 27:0. (with an exhortation to prudence and frugality in husbandry; Proverbs 27:23-27).
c) Against unscrupulous, unlawful dealing, especially of the rich with the poor; Proverbs 28:0.
d) Against stubbornness and insubordination; Proverbs 29:0.
V. The Supplements: Proverbs 30:31
1st Supplement: the words of Agur; Proverbs 30:0.
a) Introduction: Of the word of God as the source of all wisdom; Proverbs 30:1-6.
b) Various pithy numerical apothegms, having reference to the golden, mean between rich and poor, to profligacy, insatiable greed, pride, arrogance, etc.; Proverbs 30:7-33.
2d Supplement: The words of Lemuel, together with the poem in praise of the matron: Proverbs 31:0.
a) Lemuel’s philosophy for kings; Proverbs 31:1-9.
b) Alphabetic poem in praise of the virtuous, wise, and industrious woman; Proverbs 31:10-31.
Note. The more thorough presentation of the didactic substance of the proverbs is reserved for the exposition that is to follow, and especially for the rubric “Doctrinal and Practical.” As the best connected discussion of this subject (biblical and theological) we should be able without hesitation to commend that of Bruch (Weisheitslehre der Hebräer, pp. 110 sq.), if it were not characterized by the fault which pervades Bruch’s treatise, so meritorious, in other respects,—that in the interest of critical and humanitarian views it misrepresents the stand-point and the tendency of the Hhokmah-doctrine. That is to say, it insists that there is in this attitude of mind a relation of indifference or even of hostility toward the theocratic cultus and the ceremonial law, like the relation of the philosophers and free-thinkers of Christendom to, the orthodox creed. No less clearly does he insist upon the general limitation to the present life of every assumption of a moral retribution; and in his view there is an entire absence of the hope of immortality from the view of the world taken in our book. For the refutation of these misconceptions of Bruch (which are undeniably in conflict with such passages as, on the one side, Proverbs 14:9; Proverbs 28:4 sq.; Proverbs 29:18; Proverbs 29:24; Proverbs 30:17; and on the other Proverbs 12:28; Proverbs 14:32; Proverbs 15:24; Proverbs 23:18, etc.), Oehler’s able treatise may be referred to: “Grundzüge der alttestamentl. Weisheit” (Tüb. 1854, 4); although this deals more especially with the doctrinal teachings of the Book of Job, than with Proverbs. See likewise Ewald (as above quoted, pp. 8 sq.; Elster, § 1, pp. 1–6; Delitzsch, pp. 714–716, and even Hitzig, pp. 12. sq.)
§ 16. Theological and Homiletical Literature on The Book of Proverbs
Beside the general commentaries (of which we shall have especial occasion to make use of Starke’s Synopsis, the Berleburg Bible, J. Lange’s Licht und Recht, Wohlfarth and Fischer’s Prediger-Bibel, the Calwer Handbuch, and Von Gerlach’s Commentary) we must mention the following as the most important exegetical helps to the study of the Proverbs. Melanchthon: Explicatio Proverbiorum, 1525 (Opp., T. XIV.); Sebast. Munster, Prov. Salom.juxta hebr. verit. translate et annotationibus illustrata (without date); J. Mercerus, Comm. in Salomonis Proverbia, Eccl, et Cantic., 1573; Maldonatus, Comm. in prœcipuos libros V. Testamenti, 1643; F. Q. Salazar, In Prov. Sal. Commentarius, 1636–7; Mart. Geier, Prov. Salomonis cum cura enucleata, 1653,1725; Thom. Cartwright, Commentarii succincti et dilucidi in Prov. Sal., 1663; Chr. Ben. Michaelis, Annotationes in Prov. (in J. H. Michaelis, “Uberiores annotationes in Hagiogr. V. Test, libros,” 1720, Vol. 1); A. Schultens, Prov. Salom. vers. integram ad Hebr. fontem expressit atque comm. adjecit, 1748; (In compend. redegit et obss. critt. auxit G. J. L. Vogel, Hal., 1768–9); J. D. Michaelis, Die Sprüche Sal. und der Prediger übs. mit Anmerkungen, für Ungelehrte, 1778; J. Chr. Döderlein, Die Sprüche Salomonis mit Anmerkungen, 1778, 3d edn. 1786; W. C. Ziegler, Neue Uebers. der Denksprüche Salomonis, 1791; H. Muntinghe, Uebers. der Spr., a. d. Holländ. von Scholl, 1800–2; Chr. G. Hensler, Erläuterungen des 1 Buches Samuels und der Salom. Denksprüche, 1796; J. Fr. Schelling, Salomonis quæ supersunt omnia lat. vertit notasque adjecit, 1806; J. G. Dahler, Denk-und Sitlensprüche Salomos, nebst den Abweichungen der Alex. Vers. ins Deutsche übers. mit Vorrede von Blessig, 1810; C. P. W. Gramberg, Das Buch der Sprüche Sal., neu überselzt, systemat. geordnet, mit erkl. Anm. u. Parall., 1828; F. W. C. Umbreit, Philol.-Krit. und Philos. Comm. über die Sprüche Sal., nebst einer neuen Uebers. Einl. in die morgenl. Weisheit überhaupt u. in d. Salomonische insbes., 1826; H. Ewald, die poetischen Bücher des A. Bundes, Th. 4, 1837; F. Maurer, Comm. gram. crit. in Prov., in usum academiarum adornatus, 1841; C. Bridges, An exposition of the Book of Proverbs , 2 Vols.; Lond., 1847 [1 Vol., New York, 1847]; E. Bertheau, Die Sprüche Sal. in the “Kurzgef. exeg. Handb. z. A. T.,” 1847; Vaihinger, Die Spr. Sal., 1857; F. Hitzig, Die Spr. Sal. übers. u. ausgelegt, 1858; E. Elster, Comm. über d. Salomonischen Sprüche, 1858. [Adolf Kamphausen, in Bunsen’s Bibelwerk, 1865].
[Besides the standard general Commentaries of Henry, Patrick, Adam Clarke, Gill, Orton, Scott, Trapp and others, a considerable number of special commentaries on Proverbs have been written by English and American scholars. Among these are Bede, Expositio allegorica in Salom. Proverbia; M. Cope, Exposition upon Proverbs, translated by M. Outred, London, 1580; P. A. Muffet, a Commentary on the Proverbs of Solomon, 2d ed. London, 1598; republished in Nichol’s Series of Commentaries, Edinburgh, 1868; T. Wilcocks a short yet sound Commentary on the Proverbs of Solomon (in his works); John Dod, a plain and familiar exposition of Proverbs (Proverbs 9-17), 1608–9; Jermin, Paraphrastical Meditations by way of Commentary on the whole Book of Proverbs, London, 1638; F. Taylor (Exposition with practical reflections on Proverbs 1-9), London, 1655–7; Sir Edward Leigh, in his “Annotations on the Five Poetical Books of the Old Testament,” London, 1657; H. Hammond, Paraphrase and Annotations, etc.; Richard Grey, The Book of Proverbs divided according to metre, etc., London, 1738; D. Durell, in his “Critical Remarks on Job, Proverbs, etc., Oxford, 1772; T. Hunt, Observations on several passages, etc., Oxford, 1775; B. Hodgson, The Proverbs of Solomon translated from the Hebrew, Oxford, 1788; G. Holden, An Attempt towards an Improved Translation, etc., Liverpool, 1819; G. Lawson, Exposition of the Book of Proverbs, Edinb., 1821; R. J. Case, Comm. on the Proverbs of Solomon, London, 1822; French and Skinner, a new translation, etc., Camb., 1831; W. Newman, The Proverbs of Solomon, an improved version, London, 1839; B. E. Nicholls, The Proverbs of Solomon explained and illustrated, London, 1842; G. R. Noyes, in his “New Translation of the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Canticles,” etc., Boston, 1846; M. Stuart, Commentary on the Book of Proverbs, Andover, 1852; J. Muenscher, The Book of Proverbs in an amended Version, etc., Gambier, 1866; Chr. Wordsworth, Vol. 4, Part 3 of his Commentary on the Bible, London, 1868.]
Jewish Rabbinic Expositions; Ant. Giggejus, In Proverbia Salomonis commentarii trium Rabbinorum; Sal. Isacidis, Abr. Aben Ezrœ, Levi ben Ghersom, quos A. Gigg. interpret. est, castig., illustr., Mediolan, 1620. Of the more recent Rabbinical commentaries, that in Hebrew by Löwenstein, Frkft. a. M., 1838, is of special importance, and also that by L. Dukes, in Cohen’s Commentary (Paris, 1847; Proverbes), where the earlier expositions of learned Jews upon our book, 38 in all, from Saadia to Löwenstein, are enumerated and estimated.
Literature in Monographs. 1. Critical and exegetical: J. F. Hoffmann and J. Th. Sprenger, Observationes ad quœdam loca Proverbb. Sal., Tubing. 1776;* J. J. Reiske, Conjecturæ in Jobum et Provv. Salom., Lips. 1779; A. S. Arnoldi, Zur Exegetik und Kritik des A. Tests., 1. Beitrag; Anmerkungen über einzelne Stellen d. Spr. Sal., 1781; J. J. Bellermann, Ænigmata hebraica, Proverbs 30:11 sq., 15 sq., explicata, spec. 1–3, Erford. 1798–9; H. F. Muehlau, De proverbiorum quæ dicuntur Aguri et Lemuelis (Proverbs 30:1 to Proverbs 31:9) origine atque indole, Leips., 1869.—Compare moreover the works already named in § 13, note 1, among which especial prominence should be given to Fr. Böttcher’s “Neue exegetisch-kritische Aehrenlese z. A. Test. (Abth. 3, herausg. von. F. Muehlau, Lips. 1865), as likewise to the treatises which are there mentioned by P. de Lagarde and M. Heidenheim (the former judging somewhat too unfavorably of the LXX, the latter in some cases contesting the exaggerations of the former, and in other instances reducing them to their proper measure); for these are important aids to the criticism and exegesis of single passages.
Practical and Homiletical: Sam. Bohlius, Ethica sacra, Rost. 1640 (compare note to § 1); J. Stöcker (Pastor at Eisleben, died in 1649) Sermons on the Proverbs of Solomon; Oetinger, Die Wahrheit des sensus communis in den Sprüchen und dem Prediger Salomonis, Stuttg., 1753; Staudenmaier, Die Lehre von der Idee (1840), pp. 37 sq. (valuable observations on Proverbs 8:22 sq.); C. I. Nitzsch, on the essential Trinity of God, Theod. Stud. u. Krit., 1841, II., 295 (on the same passage; see especially pp. 310 sq.); R. Stier, Der Weise ein König, Solomon’s Proverbs according to the compilation of the men of Hezekiah (Proverbs 25-29), expounded for the School and the Life of all times, Barmen, 1849 (the same work also elaborated for the laity, under the title “Solomon’s wisdom in Hezekiah’s days”); same author: “The Politics of Wisdom in the words of Agur and Lemuel,” Proverbs 30:31. Timely scriptural exposition for every man, with an appendix for scholars, Barmen, 1850. [In English no other recent work of this sort can be compared with Arnot’s “Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth,” 2d edn. Lond., 1866. Bishop Hall’s “Characters of Virtues and Vices,” London, 1609, is designed to be an epitome of the Ethics of Solomon. R. Wardlaw: Lectures on the Book of Proverbs (a posthumous publication), 3 Vols., London, 1861].
PREFACE BY THE GENERAL EDITOR
The present volume corresponds to Parts XII. and XIII. of the Old Testament Division of Dr. Lange’s Biblework, and contains the Solomonic writings, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. They form an important part of the Old Testament, and give us the poetry and practical philosophy of the wisest of men, with none of his follies and sins, which were overruled in his writings for the advancement of wisdom and virtue.
The English translation, with additions and improvements, was intrusted to three eminent Oriental and Biblical Scholars, too well known in America to need an introduction. They have done their work well, and have added very materially to the value as well as the size of the original.
In this volume the text of the Authorized Version is superseded by a new metrical version in accordance with the laws of Hebrew poetry. The same will be the case in the other poetical books of the O. T. To retain the prose version of King James’ revisers, and to insert the corrections in brackets, would conceal to the reader the beauties of the original as a work of art. In Ecclesiastes, Prof. Tayler Lewis has thought best to retain the common version for the Commentary, and to give his metrical version as a separate appendix.
Some remarks will introduce the author of this part of the Biblework, and explain the relation which the several parts of the American edition sustain to the German.
The author of this Commentary on the Solomonic writings belongs to the younger generation of German divines, and appears now for the first time in an English dress; none of his previous writings having been translated.
Dr. Otto Zöckler was born at Grünberg, in the Grand Duchy of Hesse, May 27, 1833. After a thorough training in classical and oriental philology, philosophy and theology, he entered the career of an academic teacher of theology, A. D., 1856, as privatim docens, in the University of Giessen; he advanced to the position of professor extraordinarius in 1863, and in the autumn of 1866 he was called by the Prussian Government as professor ordinarius to the University of Greifswald, in Pomerania, where he still labors with fidelity and success. He is a very able and learned divine, a fertile author, a modest, retiring and amiable gentleman, of unblemished character, a little hard of hearing, and hence the more devoted to the cultivation of the inner life by study and contemplation, yet wide awake to all the living questions of the age. His learning covers a large ground, especially Exegesis of the O. and N. Testaments, Church History, Apologetics, Natural Sciences. His biography of St. Jerome, with which I am quite familiar, is one of the best historical monographs. He is now engaged on Daniel for Lange’s Biblework.
The following is a chronological list of Dr. Zöckler’s writings to the present date:
De vi ac notione vocabuli ἐλπίς in N. To. diss. inauguralis. Giss., 1857.
Theologia naturalis. Entwurf einer systematischen Naturtheologie vom offenbarungsgläubigen Standpuncte aus. Bd. I. Frankft. a M., 1860.
Kritische Geschichte der Askese (Critical History of Asceticism); ein Beitrag zur Geschichte christlicher Sitte und Cultur. Frankft. 1862.
Hieronymus; sein Leben u. Wirken aus seinen Schriften dargestellt. Gotha, 1864.
Die Evangelienkritik und das Lebensbild Christi nach der Schrift. 4 Vorträge. Darmstadt, 1864.
Commentar zu den Spruechen Salomonis. 1866.
Commentar zum Hohenlied u. Prediger. 1868.
Commentar zum Propheten Daniel (in course of preparation). in Lange’s Biblework.
Die Urgeschichte der Erde u. des Menschen (The Primitive History of Earth and Man). 6 Vorträge gehalten in Hamburg. Gütersloh, 1868.
Prof. Zöckler is also the principal editor of a valuable apologetic monthly entitled: Der Beweis des Glaubens (The Evidence of Faith), Gütersloh (Westphalia), since 1865, and of the Allgemeine Literarische Anzeiger für das evang. Deutschland (General Literary Intelligencer for Evangelical Germany), published at Gütersloh, since 1869.
Prof. Zöckler introduces his commentary on this storehouse of practical philosophy and heavenly wisdom with the following preface:
“A theological and homiletic exposition of the Book of Proverbs has difficulties to contend with which exist in an equal degree in but few books of the Old Testament, and in none in quite the same form. Even the most searching investigation is able to gain only partially and approximately fixed points for the determination of the time when the book originated, and of the editorship of its several main divisions as it is now constructed. In almost every new group of Proverbs the linguistic and theological exposition of the individual Proverbs encounters new difficulties—and these difficulties are, in many cases, of such a sort that we must utterly despair of fully assured exegetical results. And finally, to treat the book homiletically and practically, in so far as it regards only brief passages, is rendered more difficult by the obscurity of many single sentences; and in so far as it attempts to embrace large sections, by the unquestionable lack of fixed order and methodical structure, which appears at least in the central main division of the collection (Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16), as well as in the supplement added by Hezekiah’s men (Proverbs 25-29).”
“To this is to be added the imperfection of previous expository works, both the scientific and the practical.” [The author then reviews the recent commentaries of Hitzig, Umbreit, Ewald, Bertheau, Vaihinger, and Elster, as well as the older works of Michaelis, Geier, Starke, Stöcker, Melanchthon, and concludes:]
“In view of this condition of exegetical literature, heretofore so unsatisfactory in many ways, the author has at least attempted, with the most conscientious application of his powers, and with the use of the most important works that have hitherto appeared, to effect what might be done to relieve these difficulties, which exist in all directions in considerable numbers. . . . Over many of the obscurities that exist, he hopes that he has thrown substantially the right light; with regard to others, that he has turned attention to the most promising avenues to an appropriate exposition and a useful application; and that for the whole he has proposed a meaning essentially sound, scientifically defensible, and, for that very reason, edifying.”
The work on Proverbs was first committed to the hands of the late Robinson P. Dunn, D. D., Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature in Brown University. He was one of the most accomplished scholars of New England, and “one of those rare men who, by a happy combination of the gifts of nature and of grace, seemed adapted to usefulness in every department of life.” But he had scarcely collected a complete apparatus and finished the rough draft of his translation as far as the opening sentences of § 9 of the Introduction, when he was suddenly called to his rest, Aug. 28, 1867, in Newport, R. I., the place of his birth, at the age of forty-three. His last words were similar to those of Dr. Neander: “Good-by, I am going home.” His pen was found in the Commentary on the Proverbs, at the page he had reached, as a sign of his last study on earth. His initials are attached to the notes he added.1
After the lamented death of Professor Dunn, I secured the valuable services of Dr. Aiken, then Professor of Latin Literature in Princeton College, and since called to the Presidency of Union College, in the State of New York. A hasty glance at the translation and the grammatical and critical notes is sufficient to convince the reader how much of original research and learning, in addition to the labor of a faithful translation, has been bestowed upon this part of the American edition of Lange. In compliance with my suggestion, the purely grammatical parts of the Commentary have been transferred as far as practicable to the textual department, in small type, which the lay reader may pass by. The same rule has been followed in Ecclesiastes, and the Song, as it had already been done in Genesis. An unusual number of grammatical references has been made to Böttcher’s encyclopædic Grammar, which, in the exhaustive fullness of its citations, amounts almost to a commentary on the Hebrew Scriptures. The same scholarly hand is seen in the large number of supplementary and illustrative notes which are scattered through the exegetical parts. The elder English commentators, like Trapp, Muffet, are cited not for their scientific, but for their sterling practical value. Of recent commentators, Stuart and Muenscher, of our own country, both unknown to Dr. Zöckler, have justly been laid under contribution. Considerable additions have also been made to the homiletical department from our rich and varied literature.
After the translating and editing of Zöckler’s Koheleth had been undertaken by Prof. Tayler Lewis, who had so admirably edited the greater part of Genesis, it was found that the state of his health, and the heavy additions which he felt it necessary to make, rendered assistance indispensable. By my advice, therefore, there was procured the valuable aid of his colleague, Prof. Wells, of Union College. To him that important part, the translation, is due. For the added introductions, dissertations, annotations, the Metrical Version, and the editing generally, Prof. Lewis is responsible. It is trusted that these will afford no little aid to a better comprehension of this strange and wonderfully impressive portion of Holy Scripture. We have here the ripe fruits of long continued biblical studies from one of our most venerable scholars, who is a man of genius as well as learning. The Metrical Version in Iambic measure, with an introduction thereto, is a new feature, to which we direct the special attention of the lovers of Hebrew poetry.
As a help to the reader, it is thought best to give, as was done in the volume containing Genesis, an index to the principal additions of Prof. Lewis. Some of these are of considerable extent and unusual interest, and they may all be divided into two classes, according as they are contained in the body of the pages, or in marginal notes.
I. extended dissertations on leading ideas
1. Appendix to Zöckler’s Introduction, defending the Solomonic origin of the book against the objections drawn from the style, and the alleged later Hebrew
2. Excursus on the Olamic or Æonian Words in Scripture—Eternities, or World-times in the plural. Proverbs 1:8
3. The Inquisition of the Ages. Proverbs 3:11-15. Cyclical Ideas in Koheleth
4. Alleged Historical Allusions in Koheleth. Proverbs 4:14-15
5. Koheleth’s Idea of the Dead. Proverbs 9:15
6. The Alleged Epicureanism of Koheleth. His Mournful Irony. Proverbs 9:7-10; Proverbs 11:9-10.
7. The Unknown Way of the Spirit. Life. The Divine Secret in Nature. Proverbs 11:5
8. Koheleth’s Description of Old Age intended for the Sensualist
9. Beth Olam, or “the Eternal House.” Proverbs 12:5
10. Introduction to Metrical Version, maintaining the Poetical Character of the Book
11. Metrical Version, divided into 40 Meditations
II. The Principal Marginal Notes
1. The metaphor of the Horses of the Sun. Proverbs 1:5
2. The Reining of the Flesh; the Word משׁך. Proverbs 2:3
3. שדה ושדות, Proverbs 2:8, falsely rendered “musical instruments”
4. The word chance
5. Exclamatory style of Koheleth
6. “There is nothing better for a man,” etc. (controverted). Pro 2:24
7. “The world in their heart.” Proverbs 3:11
8. Here, there—Diesseits, Jenseits, or the coming retribution. Proverbs 3:17
9. “Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward?” Proverbs 3:21
10. The Melancholy of Epicureanism, as contrasted with the style of the Sacred Poetry
11. Vain Predictings, Superstitions, etc.
12. The King, and the Field
13. Spirituality of the Hebrew Accents, “The Good that is Fair”
14. The Naming—Adam. Proverbs 6:10
15. The “Light of thy countenance”
16. The oppression of the wise man
17. “Wisdom giveth life.” Proverbs 7:12
18. Over-righteousness, Over-wisdom
19. Soliloquizing style of Koheleth
20. “The wicked buried”—the “going to and from the Holy Place.” Proverbs 8:10
21. “The days of thy vain life.” Pathetic Repetition. Proverbs 9:9
22. False logical and ethical divisions of many commentators
23. “Dead flies.” 10
24. “Knows not how to go to the city;” interpretation of Proverbs 10:14-15
25. Speech of the prattling fool. False view of Hitzig
26. “The sight of the eyes,” and “the way of the heart.” Proverbs 11:9
27. “Keepers of the house”—“the Grinders”—“the Light darkened”—“Clouds after rain.”
28. “Those who look out of the windows.” “The doors shut in the streets.”
29. The Mill, and the constant grinding of an ancient household; with illustration from the Odyssey
30. The Almond Tree
31. Images of the Silver cord, the Golden bowl, the Fountain, etc
32. Creationism. Proverbs 12:27
33. The “making many books”
To these may be added many minor marginal notes, together with the notes on particular words, the ancient versions, and various readings, as they are attached to each division of the text. Special attention is here paid to words alleged to belong to the later Hebrew.
THE SONG OF SOLOMON
The Commentary on the Song of songs [שִׁיר הַשִּׁירִים, Sept.: Ἆσμα ᾀσμάτων, Vulg.: Canticum canticorum], as this most beautiful of poems of pure arid holy love is called, was prepared by the Rev. Dr. Green, Professor in the Theological Seminary at Princeton.
The difficulty of the book is such as to allow considerable latitude of individual opinion, but it is all important to have a proper view of its spirit and aim. The German author justly rejects both the profane rationalistic exposition which can see no more in the Song than a sensual erotic poem, and the opposite allegorical interpretation which regards the persons and objects described as mere figures or names for spiritual persons and objects, leaving a large margin for random guess-work and unbridled extravagance.2 Most nearly agreeing with his friend, Prof. Delitzsch, he adopts the typical or typico-Messianic view, which is not so old and generally received among orthodox divines as the allegorical, but which has the sanction of such eminent names as Lightfoot, Bossuet, Lowth, and is more natural and in harmony with the typical and prophetical character of the whole ancient theoracy, as foreshadowing the substance of Christianity, and preparing the way for its introduction.
The Canticles are probably a nuptial song or lyric drama (melo-drama) from Solomon’s best period, and present the ideal Hebrew view of marriage as established by God Himself in Paradise on the basis of the strongest and tenderest passion He has implanted in man; and this ideal is realized in the highest and holiest sense in the relation of Christ to His Church (Comp. Ephesians 5:32).
The American editor, while recording his approval of Zöckler’s method and standpoint in general, especially his typical view (see pp. 19–25), has expressed his dissent from certain parts of his scheme. He inclines to regard the Canticles as a series of unconnected scenes rather than a well-arranged, continuous drama, with a regularly unfolded plot, as is done by Zöckler and Delitzsch, also, with various modifications, by Lowth, Ewald, Umbreit, Böttcher, Hitzig, Renan. He is moreover of the opinion that the Song should be more favorably interpreted by itself than from the history and later character of Solomon as given in the first book of Kings. In this last point I entirely agree. Any reference to Solomon’s polygamy, unless it be in the way of rebuke, would mar the beauty and purity of the poem, and make it unworthy of its place in the canon.
The next most considerable addition is to the bibliography at the close of the Introduction (pp. 43–47), where a pretty full account is given of English and American Commentators on the Song. The critical and grammatical notes have been very materially enriched both from the editor’s own researches and from the early English translations, and from English commentators.
I must add that Dr. Green had inserted a considerable number of Arabic and Persian words, but erased nearly all of them in the proof sheets, because, after the type had been procured at considerable trouble, it was found almost impossible to obtain accuracy in characters unknown to the compositors, and because they rather disfigured the pages.
I now commit this new volume to the churches of the English tongue, with the wish that it may be as cordially welcomed, and prove as useful, as the other parts of this Commentary.
5, Bible House, New York, Nov. 19, 1869.
PROVERBS OF SOLOMON
§ 1. the ethical and religious rank and significance of the proverbs of solomon
The collection of Proverbs which bears the name of Solomon is the chief storehouse of moral instruction and of practical wisdom for the chosen people of God under the old dispensation. It forms, therefore, the principal documentary source of the Ethics of the Old Testament, just as in the successive steps of a gradual revelation, it is the peculiar office of the Pentateuch to exhibit the fundamental truths of its Theology, the Psalter those of its Anthropology, and the Prophetical Books those of its Christology and Soteriology. Some of the more general principles and postulates of Ethics, especially much of what belongs to the province of the so-called doctrine of the Highest Good, and, as might be expected, the whole doctrine of the Moral Law, are indeed found in the Books of Moses. Single topics connected with the doctrine of virtue and obligation are occasionally more fully discussed in the Psalms and the Prophets. But the special doctrine of virtue and duty, which must ever hold the chief place in the system of Ethics, finds nowhere else in the Old Testament so thorough, so individualizing, and so lively a presentation as in the Proverbs; and even the more general principles of Ethics, as well as the fundamental maxims of rectitude and law are, if not directly referred to in them, at least incidentally assumed.3
Resting on the basis of the widest and most diverse experience, and adopting the form of the most thoughtful, pithy and suggestive apothegms, they apply to the life of man in all positions, relations and conditions, the moral precepts contained in the law. In other words, what the law reveals as a universal rule for the national life of the covenant people in a religious and a political aspect, the Proverbs apply to the relations and obligations of the private life of each individual of that people. The principle of consecration through fellowship with Jehovah, the God of the Covenant, which was revealed through Moses, and established in general in his legislation, is individualized and developed in detail by Solomon with reference to the special domestic and social relations of his countrymen.
Note.—It has been often observed that the Proverbs of Solomon are the chief source of the Old Testament Ethics. Origen, in the Preface to his exposition of the Song of Solomon, expressed the opinion that in the Proverbs Solomon .had aimed to discuss the ἠθική, in Ecclesiastes the φυσική), and in the Canticles the λογική or θεωρική (the science of the contemplation of Divine things), and Jerome adopted from him this view (Preface to the Comm. on Eccles., Ep. 30 to Paula).4
Luther, in his Preface to the Books of Solomon, written in 1524 (Erlangen ed., Vol. LXIII., p. 35), says of the Proverbs: “It may be rightly called a book of good works; for he (Solomon) there teaches the nature of a godly and useful life,—so that every man aiming at godliness should make it his daily Handbook or Book of Devotion, and often read in it and compare with it his life.” Starke (Introd. to the Proverbs, Synops., Pt. IV., p. 1591) thus describes its contents: “It is for the most part a school of Christian Morals; upon the basis of faith it founds the wisest counsels in reference to the believer’s duties towards God, towards his neighbor, and towards himself..… By means of a great variety of sententious maxims this book teaches man how to escape from sin, to please God, and to secure true blessedness.” The elder Michaelis (Christian Benedict) gives a like estimate of the ethical value of the Proverbs. He passes from an exposition of the Psalms to one of the Proverbs with these words: “From the oratory of David we now proceed to the school of Solomon, to find in the son of the greatest of theologians the first of philosophers.” On account of the ethical wisdom of the Proverbs of Solomon, the Würtemberg Theosophists, Bengel and Oetinger, preferred them to most of the other books of the Old Testament. They made them the theme of their devout meditations, and earnestly sought to penetrate their deeper meaning. (See for Bengel: Osk. Waechter’s “Joh. Alb. Bengel: Life, Character, &c, p. 166). Oetinger, when, as a youthful master of arts, he resided at Halle, thought of lecturing on “Philosophiam sacram et applicatam, drawn from the Scriptures, especially the Proverbs of Solomon.” This plan he did not, however, carry out. At a later period, when he was a pastor first at Hirsau and then at Walddorf, he diligently studied the Proverbs as the chief repository and source of what he called “Sensus communis.” He used them for purposes of religious instruction; he wrote them on separate, slips of paper, put them in a box, and made his scholars draw them out as lots. He also published a little book of a catechetical nature, with the title “How shall the head of a family exemplify at home the Proverbs of Solomon?” and a larger work called “Common Sense in the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes,” Stuttgard, 1753. “the Proverbs,” he once observed, “exhibit Jesus with unusual clearness, and he who cannot perceive this knows not Paul’s meaning when he says, 1 Corinthians 14:20, ‘In understanding be men’ ” (see Ehmann’s “Life and Letters of Oetinger;” also the essay in Vilmar’s Past.-theol. Bll., 1865, I., pp. 265 sq., on “Theosophy: Oetinger and the Lutheran Church.”—Still earlier the Rostock theologian, Samuel Bohl, had attempted in his Ethica Sacra (1640) a systematic exhibition of the ethics of Solomon, in the form of a continuous commentary on the first nine and the last two chapters of Proverbs. Most of the modern interpreters have in like manner justly appreciated the superior ethical value of this book. According to Kahnis (Luth. Dogmatik, I., 282) its peculiar excellence lies in the skill with which its author “has presented the maxims of a practical wisdom which aims in all the human relations of the Kingdom of God to govern the lives of men in harmony with the intentions of its founder.” Elster (Deutsche Zeitschr. für Christl. Wissenschaft, 1859, and in his Commentary on the Proverbs) ascribes the importance of this book of Solomon to the fact that “it consists of a didactic religious discussion of practical experience,” in the form of proverbial wisdom, which is not mere human prudence, but “a new emanation from the Divine essence itself, a new communication of eternal wisdom, which alone is true wisdom.” It is a proverbial wisdom which, “like the Law and the Prophets, has its own peculiar and most important province,” and has upon the varied and symmetrical development of the individual man an influence which should be deeply felt and fully recognized. Bruch (Weisheitslehre der Hebräer, pp. 102 sq.), Oehler (Die Grundzüge der alttestamentl. Weisheit, pp. 5 sq.), Delitzsch (Article Sprüche Salomo’s in Herzog’s Real-Encyclopädie), express themselves in similar terms with reference to the high ethical and religious rank of this book. Even Hitzig, while denying its inspiration, and perceiving in it nothing but human wisdom, recognizes in it “a religious consecration and an irresistible attraction of the heart towards morality,” which distinguish this monument of Hebrew proverbial wisdom above all similar productions, whether of Arabian literature or of the Semitic mind in general (“Die Sprüche Salomo’s übersetzt und ausgelegt,” p. xii.).
[Coleridge says: “The Book of Proverbs is the best statesman’s manual which was ever written. An adherent to the political economy and spirit of that collection of apothegms and essays would do more to eradicate from a people the causes of extravagance, debasement and ruin, than all the contributions to political economy of Say, Smith, Malthus and Chalmers together.”—Prof. M. Stuart says (Preface to his Comm. on Proverbs, p. 9): “All the heathen moralists and proverbialists joined together cannot furnish us with one such book as that of the Proverbs.” In his Introd., p. 64, he says: “After all the light which Christianity has shed upon us, we could not part with this book without a severe loss.” “The book contains a striking exhibition of practical wisdom, so striking that it can never be antiquated.’ ’—J. Muenscher, in his Introd. to his Comm. on Proverbs, says, p. xliv. “The moral precepts of Solomon rest on the foundation of religion and true piety, and in this respect differ heaven-wide from the systems of the ancient heathen moralists.”—R. P. D.]
[Dr. Gray observes, The Proverbs of the inspired son of David “are so justly founded on principles of human nature, and so adapted to the permanent interests of man, that they agree with the manners of every age, and may be assumed as rules for the direction of our conduct in every condition and rank of life, however varied in its complexion or diversified by circumstances; they embrace not only the concerns of private morality, but the great objects of political importance.”—Dr. Jortin says: “They have not that air of smartness and vivacity and wit which modern writers have usually affected in their maxims and sentences; but they have what is better, truth and solid good sense.” “Though the composition be of the disjointed kind, yet there is a general design running through the whole, which the author keeps always in view; that is, to instruct the people, and particularly young people, at their entrance into public and active life,—to give them an early love and an earnest desire of real wisdom, and to lay down such clear rules for their behaviour as shall carry them through the world with peace and credit.” (See D’Oyly and Mant, Introd. to Proverbs).
Bridges (Exposition of the Proverbs, Am. Ed., Pref., pp. iii., vii., ix., etc.) says: “This wonderful book is indeed a mine of Divine wisdom. The views of God are holy and reverential. The observation of human nature is minute and accurate.” “Doubtless its pervading character is not either explicit statement of doctrinal truth or lively exercises of Christian experience. Hence the superficial reader passes over to some (in his view) richer portion of the Scriptural field.” “While other parts of Scripture show us the glory of our high calling, this may instruct in all minuteness of detail how to ‘walk worthy of it.’ Elsewhere we learn our completeness in Christ (Colossians 2:10); and most justly we glory in our high exaltation as “joint heirs with Christ,” etc. (Romans 8:17; Ephesians 2:6). We look into this book, and, as by the aid of the microscope, we see the minuteness of our Christian obligations; that there is not a temper, a look, a word, a movement, the most important action of the day, the smallest relative duty, in which we do not either deface or adorn the image of our Lord, and the profession of His name.”
Wordsworth (Introd. to Proverbs, pp. ix., x.) says: “The Book of Proverbs is an inspired book adapted to the circumstances of the times of Solomon.” “The Holy Spirit, in inspiring Solomon to write the Book of Proverbs, supplied an antidote to the poison of those influences (temptations attending the splendor and prosperity of the times), and has given to the world a moral and spiritual manual, which has its special uses for those who dwell in populous towns and cities, and who are busily engaged in worldly traffic, and are exposed to such temptations as are rife in an age and country like our own, distinguished by commercial enterprise and mechanical skill, and by the production of great works of human industry, in Art, Literature and Science, and also by religious activity, especially of that kind which aims to give to Religion external dignity and beauty, such as reached its highest pitch in the Temple of Solomon.” Again, “The Proverbs of Solomon come from above, and they also look upward: They teach that all True Wisdom is the gift of God, and is grounded on the fear of the Lord. They dwell with the strongest emphasis on the necessity of careful vigilance over the heart which is manifest only to God; and on the right government of the tongue, whose sins are rarely punished by human laws; and on the duty of acting, in all the daily business and social intercourse of life, with an eye steadily fixed on the throne of God, and with habitual reference to the only unerring standard of human practice, His Will and Word. In this respect the Book of Proverbs prepared the way for the preaching of the Gospel; and we recognize in it an anticipation of the Apostolic precept concerning all domestic and social relations, ‘Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord.’ ”
Dean Stanley (History of the Jewish Church, II., 269, Am. Ed.), looking at the other side of the shield, says, This book “has even something of a worldly, prudential look, unlike the rest of the Bible. But this is the very reason why its recognition as a Sacred Book is so useful. It is the philosophy of practical life. It is the sign to us that the Bible does not despise common sense and discretion. It impresses upon us in the most forcible manner the value of intelligence and prudence, and of a good education. The whole strength of the Hebrew language, and of the sacred authority of the book, is thrown upon these homely truths. It deals too in that refined, discriminating, careful view of the finer shades of human character, so often overlooked by theologians, but so necessary to any true estimate of human life.”
Dr. Guthrie (Sunday Magazine, Oct., 1868, p. 15) calls attention in his forcible way to other qualities of the book, and bears a valuable testimony to its experimental worth in a wide sphere. “It fulfils in a unique and pre-eminent degree the requirements of effective oratory, not only every chapter, but every verse, and almost every clause of every verse expressing something which both ‘strikes and sticks.’ ” “The day was in Scotland when all her children were initiated into the art of reading through the Book of Proverbs.… I have no doubt whatever—neither had the late Principal Lee, as appears by the evidence he gave before a committee of parliament—that the high character which Scotsmen earned in bygone years was mainly due to their early acquaintance with the Proverbs, the practical sagacity and wisdom of Solomon.…. The book has unfortunately disappeared from our schools; and with its disappearance my countrymen are more and more losing their national virtues—in self-denial and self-reliance, in foresight and economy, in reverence of parents and abhorrence of public charity, some of the best characteristics of old manners and old times.”—A.]
A.—GENERAL INTRODUCTION TO THE PHILOSOPHICAL LITERATURE ASCRIBED TO SOLOMON
§2. the philosophy of the old testament in general, in its relation to the philosophy of other nations
The peculiar form in which the ethical doctrines and precepts of the Proverbs are presented is that of the Hhokmah, or Proverbial Philosophy of the Hebrews. It is a species of moral and philosophical instruction in practical wisdom, which though distinguished by its thoroughly religious character from the secular philosophy of all other races, stands in the same relation to the spiritual development of the covenant people as that occupied by this philosophy in reference to the general culture of men who are without the Scriptures. For, whatever answer be given to the somewhat perplexing question, whether the Hebrews can be properly said to have had a philosophy, it is certainly true, that the essential feature of philosophy, the striving after objective wisdom, or after a true conception of the absolute fitness of the world to accomplish its ends, in both a theoretical and a practical aspect, is most completely presented in the Hhokmah of the old dispensation; and that in fact it is only the peculiar form in which this striving develops itself in the Old Testament literature, which distinguishes this Hhokmah from the philosophy of Greek and Roman antiquity. The wisdom of the people of God under the Old Testament is the art of so shaping life in harmony with the divine will, and in obedience to its peculiar laws learned by experience and reflection, as to make one an upright subject of the kingdom of God, in other words, so as to secure at once the divine favor and earthly blessedness. [When Noyes (A new Translation of the Proverbs, etc., Introd. to Proverbs, p. xiv.) says: “It is true that the religion and morality of the Book of Proverbs will not bear a favorable comparison with those of Jesus Christ. Its morality is much less disinterested, being for the most part founded in prudence rather than in love. Its motives generally are of a much less elevated kind than those which Christianity presents…. Prudential motives, founded on a strict earthly retribution, are the principal encouragements to a life of virtue which he presents,” etc., we recognize the truth which he exhibits, but notwithstanding his supplementary and balancing statements prefer Isaac Taylor’s mode of exhibiting the truth. Speaking immediately of the 23d Psalm he says (Spirit of Hebrew Poetry, Amos 1:02mo. ed., p. 38): “The bright idea of earthly well-being pervades the Old Testament Scriptures; and this worldly sunshine is their distinction as compared with the New Testament; but then there are many cognate ideas which properly come into their places around the terrestrial idea…. A feeling is here indicated which was of that age, and which was approvable then, although it has been superseded since by sentiments of a higher order, and which draw their reason from the substitution of future for present good.”—A.] In so far as God is alike the beginning and the end of this pursuit of wisdom, or in so far as it both necessarily springs from the fear of God,—Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10; comp. Job 28:28; Psalms 111:10; Sir 1:16,—and leads to a purifying fellowship with Him, Proverbs 8:35; Proverbs 3:16, etc., it has an essentially religious and practical character. Its sphere of reflection and of action must therefore be also more limited than that of the old classical or of the modern philosophy, both of which delight in profound theoretical inquiries in reference to created existence, and investigations of not only the end but also the origin of both nature and man. Those questions concerning the origin of the world and the origin of evil which play so conspicuous a part in the philosophy of ancient and of modern times, are only incidentally discussed in the Hebrew literature of wisdom, whether in the works ascribed to Solomon, the book of Job, or the kindred Psalms; and then only in their relation to the motives and tendencies to practical morality. The divine wisdom which establishes the relation of God to the world, and is at once the chief source and fundamental law of both the subjective and the objective wisdom of men, (Proverbs 8:21; Proverbs 9:12; Job 28:24 sq.; Sirach 24) is always represented rather as the medium of the foreknowledge and the providence of God, than as a creative power, or even as the ideal pattern of the world (the κόσμος νοητός of Plato). In fine, the essential character of the Hebrew philosophy is far more practical than speculative; it is as little inclined to pursue or to prompt genuine speculation as it is to identify itself with secular philosophy in general, and with unaided human reason to investigate the final causes of things. It is essentially a divine philosophy planting its feet upon the basis of the divine revelation, and staying itself upon the eternal principles of the divine law; and it is this determinate and positive character of its method of conceiving and teaching, that chiefly distinguishes it from the philosophy of other nations and of other times. Moreover, the habitual, and not as was the case with many ancient philosophers, the occasional, adoption of the poetical form of the Gnome or didactic apothegm for conveying its instructions, must be regarded as a marked and important feature of this whole body of Old Testament literature, and as a decided indication of its method and of its tendencies.
Note 1.—The Strasburg theologian, J. F. Bruch, in his “Weisheitslehre der Hebräer; ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Philosophie,” Strasburg, 1851, thoroughly discusses the question whether or not the doctrine of the Hhokmah in the Old Testament is to be considered philosophy in the strict sense, and decides it in the affirmative. This was the prevailing opinion in former times among the theologians of all the churches. Jesuits, e.g. Menochius in his learned work, “De Republica Hebræorum,” Book VII., Proverbs 1:0; many of the Reformers of the 17th and 18th centuries, especially the followers of Descartes and Cocceius; and Lutherans like the aforementioned Bohlius in his “Ethica Sacra,” or the eminent Buddæus in his “Introductio ad Historiam philosophiæ Hebræorum,” 2d ed., Leipsic, 1720, all spoke without hesitation of the Hebrew philosophy, of the philosophy of Solomon, David, Moses, Joseph, and Abraham. Indeed they often ventured to trace the philosophy of the patriarchs as far back as to Adam. Even at the beginning of the present century Blessig, in his Introduction to J. G. Dahler’s “Denk- und Sittensprüchen Salomo’s” (Strasburg, 1810), unqualifiedly characterized the proverbial poetry of the Hebrews as philosophical; De Wette, in his Hebrew Archæology, spoke of “the speculative and practical philosophy of the Hebrews;” and Staeudlin wrote a dissertation on “The Philosophy, the Origin and Design of the Book of Job.” (See his “Beiträge zur Philosophie und Geschichte der Religion und Sittenlehre,” II., 133 sq.; compare the same author’s “Geist der Sitlenlehre Jesu,” I., 74 sq.). Theologians of the most diverse schools agreed in assuming in general the existence among the early Hebrews of a style of wisdom which might claim the undisputed title of a philosophy.
The opposite view is represented not only by many later philosophers, especially those of the critical school of Kant, but also by such theologians as limit the notion “philosophy” to the scholarly scientific speculative inquiries peculiar to modern times, and must therefore consider not only the Hebrews, but all the Semitic races, and indeed the Orientals in general, as totally destitute of a philosophical habit of mind. Such was the opinion of Brucker before the time of Kant, when he asserted in his Critical History of Philosophy (Leipsic, 1767, I., 64), “non confundendam esse Hebræorum sapientiam cum philosophia proprii nominis atque significationis.” Krug (Philosophisch-Encyclopädisches Lexicon, II., 328) thinks that anything like philosophy or philosophical wisdom is not to be looked for among the ancient Hebrews.” Reinhold (Lehrbuch der Geschichte der Philosophie, p. 15) denies in general the existence of any proper old Oriental philosophy side by side with the Greek. Ritter (Geschichte der Philosophie, I., 48) bluntly says, “Of the only Asiatic nations whose literature is known to us, we may venture to assert, without fear of much contradiction, that in the early times they had no philosophy. Among these are the Hebrews,” etc.
Of the more recent theologians R. F. Grau (“Semiten und Indogermanen in ihrer Beziehung zu Religion und Wissenschaft,” p. 28 sq.) has warmly and zealously supported the proposition that “the Semitic mind in general has no capacity for either philosophy or science,” and Luthardt (in the “Leipziger Vorträge über die Kirche, nach Ursprung, Geschichte und Gegenwart, pp. 18 sq. [pp. 19 sq. of the translation published by Messrs. T. & T. Clark, Edinburgh, 1867]) adopts his opinion at least in reference to the Hebrews.
All these scholars manifestly have too limited and partial a conception of philosophy. They with one consent understand by it an exercise of the human intellect controlled by the rigid laws of logic and carried on in a scientific method such as was never seen among the early Hebrews, or indeed among any of the older Eastern nations. But philosophy means far more than this. It is in itself, as its etymology, φιλοσοφία, i.e. studium sapientiœ [love of wisdom], indicates, and as the whole practice and method of the oldest Greek philosophers down to the time of Aristotle demonstrates, nothing but a love for wisdom; an earnest endeavor to find a theoretical and a practical solution of the problems of our earthly life; that intellectual effort which strives to re-establish the proper relation between the absolute omniscience of God, and the relative knowledge possessed by the reason of man. A philosophy and philosophical science in this wider sense must be claimed for the people of God under the Old Testament. We cannot, however, quite agree with Bruch (ut supra, p. 20 sq.) when, having defined philosophy in its objective aspect as “the science of the Absolute, or the science of the supreme necessary causes of all that is or that must be,” and in its subjective aspect, “as the unaided inquiry after the absolute, or rational thinking in so far as renouncing all external authority it investigates the supreme necessary causes of all that is or that must be,” he ascribes both to the Hebrews. For, in the first place, that which among them corresponds to the philosophy of other nations is not properly science, but rather a knowledge and comprehension, an intellectual effort and reflective process in general; and in the next place, it is not so much the “supreme necessary causes” as the chief practical ends of our earthly life and being which occupied the mind of the Hebrew thinker. It is then only philosophy in its subjective character, as above defined, which can in the main be ascribed to the Hebrews, and even this in a form quite unlike that in which it presents itself to Bruch, one which secures the full recognition of its predominant practical and theological character. A philosophy consisting in such an essentially practical or ethical tendency of the mind, which by an examination of the highest moral and religious ends of all human and superhuman existence, seeks to determine the normal relation between God and the world, and thus to point out the way to truth and blessedness, may without hesitation be ascribed to the people of the Old Covenant. It is indeed a philosophy, which though its shape and dress are religious and poetical rather than didactic and scientific, contains within itself all the elements which are essential to strictly scientific development; or to an entrance into the sphere of dogmatic and moral and theological speculation.
In this properly limited sense has Ewald, among others, (Geschichte des Volkes Israel, III., 82) recognized the existence of an old Hebrew Philosophy. “Philosophy,” says he, “may exist even where the rigid laws of thought (logic) are not observed, or where no attempt is made to reduce all truths and conceptions to a symmetrical whole (a system). This, it may be admitted, is its final aim,—though this aim like every other human aspiration is so often thoroughly erroneous and misleading;—it is not, however, its beginning nor its constant living impulse. Its beginning and very life is rather the intense and unquenchable desire for investigation, and for the investigation of all objects, both higher and lower, remote and near, human and divine. Where the problems of existence allow thoughtful men no rest, where they provoke among the mightiest intellects of any people, or of several nations at once, an unwearied rivalry in the attempt to solve them, Philosophy is in the bloom and vigor of youth. In that earlier time the noblest of the Semitic races had plainly reached that stage when the Greeks were far from having approached it; and Israel, whose higher religion furnished besides a special impulse to reflection on the relations of things, now entered with them upon this nobler field of honor in the most generous rivalry.”
Similar views are expressed by Umbreit in his ingenious and instructive, though somewhat prolix observations “on the wisdom of the East” (Commentar über die Sprüche Salomo’s, Einleitung, pp. iii. sq.); by Delitzsch (Article “Sprüche Salomo’s,” in Herzog’s Real-Encycl., XIV., pp. 712 sq.), as well as by the editor of this Biblework in his General Introduction to the Old Testament (Genesis p. 19, [Am. Ed.]). Oehler in his work “Die Grundzüge der alttestam. Weisheit, pp. 5 sq., as well as his follower Kahnis (Lutherische Dogmatik, I., 304), essentially agrees with the above statements. The latter says excellently, among other things, “To find in the life of nature and of man, in the revelations of the kingdom of God, in the whole world, the divine ‘wherefore,’ the divine fitness to accomplish the proposed end, was the great aim of the wisdom of Solomon. Here unquestionably existed a tendency to science, to philosophy. But the national life of Israel rested on too divine a foundation to permit great freedom of inquiry, and the kingdom of God had too many practical aims to favor a purely theoretical exploration of the objects of existence. Springing from the practical this wisdom sought to further the practical,” etc.
Note 2.—In harmony with his above-quoted definition of the philosophy of the Hebrews, as an inquiry into the highest necessary causes of all that is or that shall be, Bruch (pp. 69 sq.) introduces the cosmogony of the first two chapters of Genesis into his representation of the philosophy of the Old Testament. He thus regards the substance of these chapters as a portion of a philosophical system, and indeed in its essential features as the earliest instance of philosophical reflection among the Hebrew race. (Herder, as is well known, held similar views. In his “Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit” he termed the Mosaic cosmogony “an ancient philosophy of the history of man”). This view of Bruch’s is connected with his assumption of the purely human and moreover half-mythical character of the Mosaic narrative. It is therefore to be decidedly rejected, together with his opinion that the Old Testament “wisdom” is the product of unaided human speculation, and that no divine or specifically supernatural factor is to be recognized in the Old Testament revelation in general.
Note 3.—The word חָכְמָה primarily denotes (in accordance with the fundamental meaning of the הכם, root حَگمَ in Arabic, where it means to fasten, to hold fast, and then to separate, to decide) the fixing of an object for cognition, and secondarily, simply knowledge, insight. It is therefore in Proverbs 1:2 used as precisely synonymous with דַּעַת, and elsewhere, as in Isaiah 11:2 sq., as at least parallel with בִּינָה. The חָכָם is then in the first instance the wise, the learned man in general (comp. Jeremiah 8:9), whether he be a judge (1 Kings 3:28 : comp. the corresponding Arabic word which always signifies a judge), or an artificer (Exodus 28:3; Exodus 31:6; Jeremiah 10:9), or finally a cunning, subtle man who can use his craft for his own or for others’ advantage (Job 5:13, camp. 2 Samuel 13:3; 2 Samuel 20:16). In the religious realm חָכְמָה naturally denotes insight into that upright dealing which pleases God and conforms to the divine law, a knowledge of the right way which is to be followed before God, and of the wrong one which is to be shunned. In short it is that practical uprightness, founded on religious enlightenment, in which the true happiness of man consists, and which is therefore frequently represented by תּוּשִׁיָה (i.e. well being and wisdom in one), e.g. Proverbs 2:7; Proverbs 3:21; Proverbs 8:14; Proverbs 18:1; Job 11:6; Job 12:16; Job 26:3. Compare in general Hitzig, Die Sprüche Salomo’s, Einleitung, p. lii. sq. The latter, however, gives a somewhat different and less correct etymology of the word. He defines חָכָם as one who possesses the spiritual power of control and determination, and חָכְמָה as the power of moral self-subjugation. He thus gives to the notion of government a prominence which is by no means justified by the Arabic حكم.
Note 4.—The מָשָׁל or Hebrew gnome, as the distinctive artistic form adopted by the Old Testament philosophy and proverbial poetry, will be particularly discussed in a later section. We may, however, here observe that of all the titles borrowed from kindred secular literature, and applied to the Proverbs of Solomon on account of their peculiar form, none appears more just and appropriate than that adopted by Bruch, who terms them (p. 104) an Anthology of Hebrew Gnomes. In the explanation and justification of this title he, however, as he does elsewhere, disparages the theopneustic character of this Book of Scripture.
§ 3. the age of solomon, or the golden age of the hebrew literature of wisdom
As among other nations philosophy is not wont to assume its proper form till a long time after the religious and civil foundations of national culture are securely laid, so in Israel no season of undisturbed reflection and of philosophical inquiry and instruction could be enjoyed, before the protracted storms and conflicts of the period of the Judges had fixed the religion of the law in the depths of the popular consciousness, or before the reigns of Saul and David, the earliest kings, had firmly established the theocratic national life. The power of external enemies must first in some way be broken and overthrown, and the prosperity of the citizen and the political and social influence of the nation upon the life of the surrounding nations must be to a certain degree secured; but this could not be effected before the brilliant and glorious though warlike reign of David. Furthermore, as an element of the internal culture of the nation, the spirit of the law must have begun to receive a new invigoration and a fresh inculcation, which it derived from the schools of the prophets which sprung up after the time of Samuel. Hand in hand with the directly religious activity of this prophetic company the national poetry must make its earliest start, and create for that philosophy a proper literary and æsthetic form.
These conditions were not all of them fully realized until the time of Solomon, when the people were blessed with a long period of peace, rich in earthly possessions and enjoyments of all sorts; they then began a lively and widely extended intercourse with foreign nations, and with an extending view reaching even to Tarshish and Ophir, their thought and their activity received the most various impulses in a direction which was no longer narrow and strictly national, but more or less universal and as broad as humanity itself.5 There was therefore associated with the priests, the prophets, the warriors, the judges, a new class of notables, that of the Hhakamim (חֲכָמִים, 1 Kings 4:30-31; Jeremiah 18:18; Proverbs 1:6; Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 22:17), the wise, or the teachers of wisdom, who began to bear their part in the whole work of training the nation. A pretty large number of such wise men, of considerable importance, must have appeared under Solomon, and have been associated with him as the most famous of all. For the books of the Kings mention besides him some of his contemporaries, viz.: “Ethan, the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol,” as representatives of the wisdom of that time (1 Kings 4:31; comp. 1 Chronicles 2:6), and compare the wisdom of these Hebrew Hhakamim with that of all the children of the East country, and all the wisdom of Egypt” (1 Kings 4:30). Whether they did or did not form a well defined, exclusive class of popular teachers gathered about some leader or master, whether there were thus special schools for the wise, or the schools of the prophets were also chief places of culture for the disciples of the Hhokmah, these Hhakamim of the age of Solomon and of subsequent ages must be considered a very important factor in the limited mental development of the people, and as a factor possessing, like the prophetic and the priestly order, an independent importance (comp. Jeremiah 18:18; Ezekiel 7:26). They had doubtless offered a vigorous resistance to those frivolous impulses of the לֵצִים, the freethinkers and insolent scoffers, that had manifested themselves since the times of Saul and of David. Their positive agency was exerted in the propagation and dissemination of that deeper religious knowledge and practical wisdom of life, beside which all worldly prudence, fine culture and enlightenment must appear as foolishness (comp. נְבָלוֹת ,נְבָלָה ,נָבָל, etc.; Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 17:21; Psalms 14:1; Isaiah 32:6). The first decided manifestation of this new intellectual tendency, together with the literature produced by it under Solomon’s peaceful reign, marks this bright summit of the entire theocratic development in the Old Testament as the golden age and the really classic epoch of this especially important branch of the intellectual culture in the life of the covenant people.
Note 1.—The independent significance of the חָכְמָה as a special tendency of the mind, exerting with the נְבוּאָה, or the gift of prophecy, an important influence has been recently estimated with special correctness by Ewald. In his dissertation “on the popular and intellectual freedom of Israel in the time of the great prophets down to the destruction of Jerusalem” (Bibl. Jahrbücher, I, 96 sq.), he says, among other things, “It is not easy to conceive correctly how high a development was reached in the pursuit of wisdom (Philosophy) in the first centuries after David—and it is not usual to consider how mighty was the influence which it exerted on the entire development of the national life of Israel. The more closely those centuries are reviewed, the greater must be the astonishment at the vast power so early exerted on all sides by wisdom as the peculiar concern of many men among the people. It first openly manifested itself in especial circles of the nation, whilst in the peculiarly propitious age after Solomon eager and inquisitive pupils gathered about individual teachers until ever-improving schools were thus formed. But its influence gradually pervaded all the other pursuits of the people, and acted upon the most diverse branches of authorship.” The existence of especial schools of the wise, like those of the Prophets, thus asserted, cannot be satisfactorily proved. Delitzsch’s remark in favor of this assumption (ut supra, p. 717), that the usual form of address in the Proverbs, בְּנִי, my son, which is not that of a father to a son, but of a teacher to a scholar, implies that there were then בְּנֵי חָכְמָה, i.e., pupils of the wise, just as there were “sons of the prophets,” and that there must also have been “schools of wisdom,” is and must remain a mere hypothesis. It is moreover an hypothesis, which from the acknowledged wide application of the conception בֵּן, son, in Hebrew, and its almost absolute lack of all support in the Proverbs as well as in the other books of the Old Testament, must always be regarded as a rather unsafe one. Comp. Bruch, pp. 57 sq., who is at all events so far correct that he observes: “The Hebrew wise men were not philosophers by profession; they constituted no class distinct from others, but might belong to different classes.” For there is the less reason for supposing from the above cited passage (Jeremiah 18:18) that there was a special class of Hhakamim, beside that of the priests and the prophets, from the fact that in the parallel passage, Ezekiel 7:26, the notion of “the wise” is represented by that of “the ancient,” זְקֵנִים.
Note 2.—The antithesis between לֵץ and חָכָם which runs through the entire body of Old Testament literature pertaining to wisdom has been discussed in an eminently instructive manner by Delitzsch, ut supra, pp. 713 sq. He shows very strikingly how “in the age of Solomon, which was peculiarly exposed to the danger of sensuality and worldliness, to religious indifference and freethinking latitudinarianism,” the number of לֵצִים necessarily increased, and their skepticism and mockery must have assumed a more decided and aggravated form. “For those men who despised what is holy, and in doing so laid claim to wisdom (Proverbs 14:6), who, when permitted to speak, indulged in contention and bitterness (Proverbs 22:10), who carefully shunned the company of the Hhakamim, because they fancied themselves superior to their reproofs (Proverbs 15:12), the age of Solomon,” he says, “first invented the title לֵץ [scorner]. For in the Psalms of the time of David their common designation is נָֹבָל (which occurs in Proverbs 17:21 only in the general sense of low fellow, Germ. Bube [Eng. ‘Booby.’ It occurs also in Proverbs 17:7; Proverbs 30:22, and the corresponding verb in Proverbs 30:32—R. P. D.], while the word לֵץ is found in no other than the 1st Psalm, which has a later origin. One of the proverbs of Solomon (Proverbs 21:24, comp. Proverbs 24:8) gives a definition of the new term: “Proud and haughty scorner (לֵץ) is his name who dealeth in proud wrath.” The conscious self-sufficiency of his ungodly thoughts and deeds distinguishes him from the פֶּתִי, the simple, who has been only misled, and may therefore be reclaimed (Proverbs 19:25; Proverbs 21:11). His disowning the Holy, in opposition to a better knowledge and better opportunities, distinguishes him from the כְּסִיל [“foolish,” i.e., gross or stupid], the אֱוֵיל [“foolish,” i.e., lax or remiss], and the הֲסַר־לֵב [the man “void of understanding,” lit., lacking heart, i.e., sense], all of whom despise truth and instruction through want of understanding, narrowness and forgetfulness of God, rather than from essential perverseness.”
Note 3.—Of the four wise contemporaries of Solomon mentioned in 1 Kings 5:11 (1 Kings 4:31 according to the older division of chapters [the one followed in our English Bible]) Heman and Ethan appear in Psalms 88:1; Psalms 89:1 as “Ezrahites,” i.e., descendants of Ezrah or Zerah, the son of Judah (Numbers 24:13; Numbers 24:20). Chalcol and Darda (in the parallel passage, 1 Chronicles 2:6, Dara) are designated as בְּנֵי מָחוֹל, i.e., either “sons of Machal,” a man otherwise unknown, or if מָהוֹל be taken as an appellative, “sons of verse,” i.e., singers, leaders of the chorus (comp. Ecclesiastes 12:4). Luther’s translation, “poets,” and his reference of the title to all the four, are unsupported by the original. Comp. Keil, Commentar zu den Büchern der Könige, pp. 42 sq.
§ 4. solomon and the poetry of wisdom which may be called solomon’s in the strictest sense
As the chief representative and promoter of the Jewish literature of wisdom, we have Solomon himself [“not only the Augustus of his age, but its Aristotle” (Stanley)]. The Old Testament exalts the wisdom of this monarch, as a direct gift of Divine grace6 (1 Kings 3:5-12; 1 Kings 4:29), high above that of all other wise men, whether of his own or of other nations,—especially above that of the teachers of wisdom already named, Heman, Ethan, Chalcol and Darda (1 Kings 4:30-31). This is described as consisting, in the first place, in the highest virtues of the ruler and the judge, or, as it is expressed in 1 Kings 3:9, in “an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad;” and in the second place, in an unusually wide and varied knowledge as the basis of his teaching, which related to all the possible relations of created existence. [Comp. Stanley’s Jewish Church, II., pp. 254 sq.]
It is this vast erudition which is referred to in the expression “largeness of heart7 (רֹחַב לֵב) even as the sand that is on the sea shore,” which, with the words “wisdom and understanding exceeding much,” is used in 1 Kings 4:29 to describe his extraordinary endowments. With the same intent it is said of him, ver. 33, that “he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall; he spake also of beasts, and of fowl and of creeping things and of fishes.” Among these discourses of his upon all possible manifestations of life in nature are doubtless meant wise sayings in reference to their deeper sense, and the Divine majesty and wisdom reflected in them, physico-theological observations and descriptions, therefore, such, for example, as still present themselves to us in the concluding chapters of the Book of Job (Proverbs 38–41), and in several of the sublimest Psalms (8; 9; 104, etc.); or shorter aphorisms, parabolic reflections and pointed sentences, such as are quite numerous in the Proverbs and in Ecclesiastes (e.g., Proverbs 6:6-8; Proverbs 20:1 sq.; Proverbs 26:1 sq.; Proverbs 27:3 sq.; Proverbs 30:15 sq.; comp. Ecclesiastes 1:5 sq.; Proverbs 7:1 sq.; Proverbs 10:1 sq.; Proverbs 12:1 sq.). It is the manifold materials and themes of both the lyrical and the didactic poetry of Solomon (or, according to 1 Kings 4:32, his “Proverbs” and “Songs”), which in that noteworthy passage are mentioned as proofs of the unusual extent of his knowledge, this theoretical foundation of his wisdom, or are pointed out by the prominence given to a few noted examples from the vegetable and the animal world. Josephus indeed rightly understood the passage as a whole, when he found that it ascribed to Solomon a comprehensive knowledge and a profound philosophical view of natural objects (Antt., VIII., 2, Proverbs 5:0 : οὐδεμίαν τούσιν ᾐγνάησεν οὐδὲ παρῆλθεν�’ ἐν πάσαις ἐφιλοσόφησεν [he was not ignorant of the nature of any of these things, nor did he pass them by unexamined, but he philosophize I concerning them all]. A similar correct estimate of the nature and extent of the philosophical knowledge of this great monarch is found in Irenæus (Adv. haer., IV., 27, 1), who, on the authority of the same passage says of Solomon, “eam quœ est in conditione (i.e., κτίσει) sapientiam Dei exponebat physiologice.” He thus in like manner ascribes to him not perhaps a purely descriptive or historical knowledge of natural objects, but a knowledge of nature serving as a basis for fine religious and philosophical observations and ethical instructions in wisdom.
Many of the fruits of this learned pursuit of wisdom must have had a literary character. According to 1 Kings 4:32 “he spake three thousand proverbs, and his songs were a thousand and five.” Not only then had he inherited from his father David, in undiminished fertility, the power of composing songs, the gift of both sacred and secular lyrical verse, but he also originated and established a new species of Hebrew poetic art, that of gnomic didactic poetry, of which before his time there had existed but mere germs, imperfect attempts completely eclipsed by his achievements. Proportionably few specimens of either class of his poetical productions have come down to us. Instead of one thousand and five songs we have in the Canon but two Psalms, which bear his name, the 72d and the 127th. The exclusion of so large a number of his lyrics from the collection of the religious verse of his nation may have been occasioned either by their lack of a directly religious character, or by their too individual bearing. In reference to another monument of the lyrical poetry associated with the name of Solomon, the Canticles, it is still an undecided and controverted question whether Solomon was the proper and immediate author of it, or rather some contemporary poet who chose him as its subject (see § 5).
The remains of his gnomic didactic poetry, as they are presented in the Proverbs, are much more numerous. Even this collection, however, contains not more, perhaps, than one quarter of those 3,000 sayings which Solomon uttered; inasmuch as several parts of the book are by their titles expressly ascribed to other authors, and of the remaining 746 verses hardly the whole can be directly ascribed to him (see § 12). It will always be uncertain whether those 3,000 proverbs of which it is expressly said that he “spake” them, were all actually recorded by him or one of his contemporaries, or whether many of them, as matters of merely oral tradition, were not gradually lost.
That in general he spoke more than he wrote, so that the greater part of the utterances of his wisdom consisted in pithy maxims and acute sayings, like the riddles of the modern Orientals, may be pretty safely inferred from the statement, that “there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom” (1 Kings 4:34). The same inference may be drawn partly from the Scripture narrative, and partly from the old Jewish tradition preserved by Josephus in reference to the Queen of Sheba’s visit to his court (1 Kings 10:1 sq.), as well as from the account of his contest with King Hiram, and with the Tyrian Abdemon, in the proposing of ingenious riddles. (Josephus, Antt. VIII., 5, 3).
Note 1.—Besides songs (שִׁירִים), gnomes or maxims (מְשָׁלִים), and riddles (חִידוֹת), Hitzig, ut supra, p. xvi., ascribes fables to Solomon. “The discourse concerning beasts, trees, fowl, etc., ascribed to him (in 1 Kings 4:33),’ ’ he thinks, “cannot be properly referred to the substance of his maxims, but is most naturally understood of his invention of fables.” This is a rather arbitrary conceit of Hitzig’s, which he unsuccessfully tries to sustain by the hypothesis which he throws in, that “perhaps in the אֵזוֹב, 1 Kings 4:33 (hyssop), the name of Æsop lies concealed” (Αἴσωπος=ὔσσωποζ??). Notwithstanding the contrary assertion of Herder, in his well-known work, “The Spirit of Hebrew Poetry” (II., p. 13), the Old Testament offers no example of a proper fable. The story of the bramble invited by the trees to be their king (Judges 9:8-15) is in its whole plan and tendency much more of a parable than a fable.
Note 2.—According to Oriental traditions in reference to Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, her name was Balkis or Belkis; she became Solomon’s concubine, or his actual wife (the first is asserted by the Himyaritic Arabs, the latter by the Æthiopians); she bore him a son, Menilehek, with the surname Ibn-el-hagim, son of the wise; she first brought to Palestine the root of the genuine balsam, afterwards cultivated at Jericho and near Engedi (comp. 1 Kings 10:10, and in addition Josephus, Antt. VIII. 6, 6), etc. Legends of this sort, invented especially by the Rabbis to heighten the kingly glory and wisdom of Solomon, and found some of them in Josephus (ut supra), others in the Talmud (e.g. Jalkub Melachim, p. 195), others in the Koran (Sura 27), others in later Arabic, Æthiopic and Persian documents, abound in the comprehensive Turkish work Suleiman name, i.e. the Book of Solomon, which, according to Von Hammer, consists of 70 folio volumes. Comp. Von Hammer “Rosenöl, or Oriental Legends and Traditions from Arabic, Persian and Turkish sources,” Vol. I., pp. 147–257. See also H. Ludolf, Hist. Æthiop., II., c.3, Proverbs 4:0 : Pococke, Specimen hist. Arab., p. 60; Caussin de Perceval, Essai sur l’histoire des Arabes, I., pp. 76 sq.; and P. Cassel, Elagabal, in the Elberfeld “Vorträge f. d. gebildete Publikum,” 1864, p. 182.
Note 3.—[The question of Solomon’s moral qualification to be the author of some of the books contained in the canon of the Scriptures has sometimes perplexed honest disciples, and been made a specious argument in the mouths of cavillers. The point is well put and the answer well given by Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, pp. 11–13. “The choice of Solomon as one of the writers of the Bible at first sight startles, but on deeper study instructs. We would have expected a man of more exemplary life—a man of uniform holiness. It is certain that, in the main, the vessels which the Spirit used were sanctified vessels: ‘Holy men of old spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.’…. But the diversity in all its extent is like all the other ways of God; and He knows how to make either extreme fall into its place in the concert of His praise. He who made Saul an apostle did not disdain to use Solomon as a prophet.…. If all the writers of the Bible had been perfect in holiness,—if no stain of sin could be traced on their character, no error noted in their life, it is certain that the Bible would not have served all the purposes which it now serves among men. It would have been Godlike indeed in matter and mould, but it would not have reached down to the low estate of man—it would not have penetrated to the sores of a human heart.…. Practical lessons on some subjects come better through the heart and lips of the weary, repentant king than through a man who had tasted fewer pleasures, and led a more even life.…. Here is a marvel; not a line of Solomon’s writings tends to palliate Solomon’s sins.…. The glaring imperfections of the man’s life have been used as a dark ground to set off the lustre of that pure righteousness which the Spirit has spoken by his lips.”—A.]
§ 5. the song of solomon in its relation to the literature of wisdom associated with solomon.8
The opinion that the Song of Solomon is not only a production of the age of Solomon, but most probably the work of Solomon himself, is favored both by its numerous allusions to the personal and historical relations of this king (e.g. Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 4:4; Proverbs 6:8; Proverbs 7:5; Proverbs 8:11), and by its general æsthetic character, its lively conception of nature. Thus it manifests a decided preference for comparisons with natural objects of all sorts, especially with such as are distinguished either by their beauty or their variety; it refers not only to numerous important places of both Northern and Southern Palestine, but also to regions, cities and persons beyond the limits of Palestine (e.g. Kedar, Damascus, Pharaoh, etc.). Had it been composed merely with reference to Solomon, it would not have been ascribed to this monarch either in the title of the Masoretic text, or by the unanimous tradition of Jewish antiquity. It is manifestly a product of that extremely rich and fruitful poetical activity of Solomon, described in 1 Kings 4:32-33. In virtue of its erotic contents it belongs essentially to that division of his poetry which is there indicated by the mention of the songs which were a thousand and five, and thus to the lyrical class, whose characteristic features must be recognized in it, though with Umbreit, Ewald, Delitzsch and others, we regard it as a dramatic composition. For even though this pre-eminently probable view of its artistic form be adopted,—a view which alone offers a thorough and generally satisfactory refutation of the recently somewhat popular theory, which divides the entire composition into a simple cycle of “love songs,”—the essentially lyrical and erotic character of its separate parts is ever unmistakable; so that the name of a drama in the narrower and stricter sense of the word is not on the whole applicable to it, but rather only that of a “lyrical drama” (Böttcher), a garland of erotic songs joined in dramatic unity (Delitzsch). But notwithstanding this its lyric, and dramatic, or perhaps even melo-dramatic form, and notwithstanding its somewhat wide deviation from the Maschal form of the Proverbs, there exists between its fundamental idea and that of the strictly didactic or aphoristic poetry of Solomon a significant inner connection. The Song of Solomon must undoubtedly be classed with the Hhokmah poetry in its wider sense, because its fundamental idea when rightly viewed, must be admitted to belong to the circle of those ethical ideas which form the chief and the favorite subjects of Solomon’s doctrine of wisdom. This fundamental idea consists in the exaltation of conjugal love and faithfulness as the most excellent and sure foundation of earthly prosperity, as a moral force in life triumphing over all the misery and mischief of this earth and even death itself. This fundamental idea is prominent in passages like Proverbs 7:7-8; Proverbs 8:6-8, which are closely related to expressions like those found in Proverbs 5:18-19; Proverbs 18:22; Proverbs 19:14; Proverbs 31:10 sq. This must be admitted to be the chief topic in the poem and the central point in its descriptions, whether we assume, with Ewald and others, that the design is to celebrate the changeless constancy and innocence of the Shulamite, that was proof against all the flatteries and artful temptations of the luxurious Solomon, or with Delitzsch, that the work belongs to an earlier period in the life of that king, before he had sunk into the foul depths of polygamy and idolatry, and that consequently it refers to his chaste relations to a single wife. It is evident that the latter view is more harmonious with the opinion which, on both internal and external grounds asserts the authorship of Solomon, than is that of Ewald, or than the interpretation most nearly related to it adopted by Hug, Böttcher and the author of this general commentary; it also favors equally, if not still better, the recognition of a secondary or a mystical reference of the poem to the Messiah. For as a representation of the rapturous joy and bliss arising from the conjugal relation between Solomon, the prince of peace, and his beloved Shulamite, the poem admits of innumerable typical and prophetic applications to Christ and His Church, And these applications render superfluous all other expositions of its Christological contents, such as have resorted to various allegorizing expedients, from the earliest periods of the Church down to the time of H. A. Hahn and Hengstenberg [with whom must be reckoned as in general sympathy a considerable number of British and American expositors, among the most conspicuous and emphatic of whom is Bishop Wordsworth]. The mystery of the Song of Solomon is that of the marriage relation, and therefore the poem not only admits of that somewhat general Messianic sense which belongs to every poetical celebration of bridal love and conjugal faithfulness within the range of the Scriptures (comp. Ephesians 5:32), but also appears as a Messianic prophecy of a specific typical significance, as a prediction in which the marriage of a theocratic king of Israel is described as an especially suggestive analogue and type of the relation of Christ to the Church of the New Testament. In this aspect it closely resembles the 45th Psalm, which likewise celebrates an Old Testament royal marriage as a type of the New Testament covenant relation between Christ and His Church; this Psalm, however, probably refers to a later prince than Solomon, and both by this its origin, in a period after Solomon, and by the unmistakable decrease, in its delineations, of the favorite ideas and characteristic imagery of Solomon’s poetry, it shows that it must have sprung from another sphere of spiritual culture and production than that of the classic Hhokmah literature of the earlier age.
[All comment on this view of Solomon’s Song, together with all comparative and supplementary presentation of views that have been held in Great Britain and America, is deferred to the Introduction and Exegetical notes connected with our author’s companion Commentary on the Book, which is contained in the present series and will be found translated in the present volume].
Note.—In these hints with reference to the relation in which the Song of Solomon stands to the literature of wisdom which bears his name, we have mainly followed Delitzsch. In his “Untersuchung und Auslegung des Hohenliedes,” 1851, p. 171, he does not hesitate to designate it as “a production of the Hhokmah,”—a species of literature cultivated and employed by Solomon with conspicuous skill. This he does in virtue of the broadly human and ethical character of the idea of conjugal love and union which forms its chief theme. “For,” he adds, arguing pertinently in support of his view, “the Hhokmah of the age of Solomon is devoted to the exposition of those creative ordinances of the Cosmos, which have a broader range than the national limits of Israel, and of the universal axioms of religion and morality. The poetry of the Hhokmah is therefore didactic; and both proverbial poetry and drama were developed by it.”
Delitzsch’s view of the Song of Solomon and of its ethical and theological value, is in general more interesting and in all respects more satisfactory than any other modern one; it is also preferable to that of the respected founder of this general Commentary, who, on p. 36 [Am. Ed.] of the General Introduction to the Old Testament, expresses the view “that the poem doubtless sprung from the theoretic indignation provoked by the anticipated allowance of religious freedom by Solomon, his polygamy implicating him with heathenism.” The fundamental idea is therefore held to be that “the Virgin of Israel, or the theocracy, refuses to be numbered with the heathen wives, or religions, as the favorite of Solomon, but turns to her true betrothed, the still remote Messiah.”
We cannot adopt this view, chiefly because the arguments for the genuineness of the poem or the authorship of Solomon, seem to us to outweigh all that lie against it. As little, and indeed still less, can we approve the two conceptions most nearly related to this of Lange. That of Hug (“Das Hohelied in einer noch unversuchten Deutung,” 1813) refers the poem to the time of Hezekiah, and considers it as a symbolical expression of the desire of the ten tribes of Israel for reunion with the kingdom of Judah represented by the king of peace, Hezekiah—Solomon. That advocated by Böttcher (Die ältesten Bühnendichtungen, 1850) regards it as a lyrical drama, produced and represented in the kingdom of Israel about the year 950 B. C., some time after Solomon’s death, and aimed at the royal house and the manners of the harem, so hostile to the life of the family. A more extended critical discussion of these views would here be out of place. An examination of the various modifications of the Messianic allegorical interpretation, as well as of the purely historical or profane erotic view (Theodore of Mopsuesta, Castellio, J. D. Michaelis, Herder, Eichhorn, Hitzig, etc.), must be left for the Introduction to this book of Scripture.
§ 6. the book of job, considered as a product of the poetry of wisdom, known in the broader sense as solomon’s
The Book of Job must also be without doubt classed with the productions of the poetical Hhokmah literature, and indeed, as a whole, with even more justice than the Song of Solomon. For although its composition cannot be confidently referred to the time of Solomon, since verbal and other considerations seem to indicate a later period for its origin, its inner relationship to the chief characteristic productions of that literature, to the Proverbs on the one hand and to Ecclesiastes on the other, is so much the less doubtful. Its ethical and religious tendency, developed in the representation of the conflict and the victory of a godly man in sore trial, and in the justification of the divine dealing in the face of the apparent injustice of such sufferings as his, and the peculiar method in which it develops this fundamental thought, by means of conversations and discourses which are made up now of gnomes or moral maxims strung together like pearls, and again of lively and symbolical pictures from nature and from human life,—both alike prove the close connection of this didactic poem with the proverbial poetry of Solomon, as we have above (§§ 3, 4) characterized it. Moreover, the manner in which the poet in Proverbs 28:0. rises to the idea of the absolute wisdom of God, and represents a participation in it as dependent on a godly and upright course, is very closely related to that which appears in passages like Proverbs 8:22; Proverbs 9:12; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 3:16, etc. The fundamental principle and the didactic tendency of the book seem in all essential features to have sprung from the same style of seeking after wisdom and of religious and philosophical inquiry as the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes; and if, in consequence of a certain tinge of skepticism peculiar to its theological views and reflections, in which the decidedly skeptical attitude of the Preacher to a certain extent betrays itself, it forms a sort of connecting link between these two books, so on the other hand it is by virtue of its poetical form most nearly related to the Song of Solomon. For like this it appears in the poetical garb of a drama, of a drama, however, which, in so far as it bears an impress of an epico-dramatic rather than of a lyrico-dramatic (melodramatic) kind, deviates from the pure central and typical form of this species of poetry in a different direction from that taken by the Song of Solomon. It is on this account, therefore, to be likened to such intellectual creations as Dante’s Divine Comedy (or even as the philosophical dialogues of Plato, so far as these may be considered as artistic poetical productions in the wider sense), rather than to the erotic lyrical dramas or idylls of other nations.9
At all events the interlocutory dramatic style of the poem prompts one to fix the time of its composition as near as possible to that of the Song of Solomon, and to regard it as having originated, if not under Solomon, at least in the age immediately following him. This period is indicated on the one hand by the sublime character of its descriptions of nature, reminding one strongly of the universally extended horizon of the epoch of Solomon (compare especially Proverbs 38–41. with 1 Kings 4:33), and on the other by the traces appearing in passages like 1 Kings 9:24; 1 Kings 12:17 sq.; 1 Kings 15:18 sq., of a decline already begun in the glory of the kingdom, and of heavy national calamities. That the whole book must in any case have appeared long before the Babylonish captivity, is evident from such a familiarity with its contents as a whole, and with individual descriptions in it, as is exhibited by the prophets Ezekiel (Ezekiel 20:14; Ezekiel 20:20) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:14 sq., comp. Job 3:3 sq.). This origin before, the exile is to be claimed also for the discourses of Elihu in Proverbs 32–37. the more confidently, in proportion as they unmistakably form an essential and indispensable link of connection between the conversation of Job with his three friends, and the manifestation of Jehovah which brings the final solution of the whole problem.
[Among English authors who agree in this classification of the Book of Job few are more emphatic in their assertions or more felicitous in their illustration than Dean Stanley(Jewish Church, II., 270–1): “Nothing but the wide contact of that age with the Gentile world could, humanly speaking, have admitted either a subject or a scene so remote from Jewish thought and customs, as that of Job.” “The allusions to the horse, the peacock, the crocodile and the hippopotamus, are such as in Palestine could hardly have been made till after the formation of Solomon’s collections. The knowledge of Egypt and Arabia is what could only have been acquired after the diffusion of Solomon’s commerce. The questions discussed are the same as those which agitate the mind of Solomon, but descending deeper and deeper into the difficulties of the world,” etc.—On the other side, apart from formal commentaries, one will hardly find a clearer and more vigorous presentation of the reasons, both in the style and substance of the Book of Job, for assigning it an earlier date, “an age as early at least as that of the Israelitish settlement in Palestine,” than is given in Proverbs 8:0 of Isaac Taylor’s Spirit of Hebrew Poetry.—A.]
Note.—If the Book of Job belongs to the epoch of Solomon, there is the more reason for regarding this period as one of unequalled richness in the manifold variety of its poetical ideas, its species and forms of poetic art. For besides the religious lyric and the proverbial poetry, both of the chief forms of the Old Testament drama, the religious-erotic and the religious-didactic or philosophical, must have attained their maturity during this period; and there is the more truth in what Ewald—who, moreover, refers the Book of Job to the period just before the exile—remarks in characterizing this epoch: “Thus at this time poetry expands, seeking new paths in every possible direction, though she could only enter them. This is the period of the full formation and broadest development of Hebrew poetry, when it reveals all its latent capacities, and gathers up all its scattered forces; and it is just this that is here new and peculiar” (Die poetischen Bücher des alten Bundes, I., p. 19). Compare Haevernick, Einleit. in das A. T., herausg. von Keil, Bd. III., p. Proverbs 12:0 : “Thus Solomon excels his father in fruitfulness of poetic inspiration, and this fruitfulness testifies to the great wealth of this period in poetical productions. As the splendor and richness of Solomon’s peaceful reign is a fruit of David’s strifes and victories, so the poetry of his time is but the rich unfolding of the fruit planted and nourished by David. It proves itself to be such by its peculiar character of peaceful objectiveness, while the poetry of David is the thorough expression of deeply stirred subjective emotion. The blessedness of the peace, which, after long and bitter, conflicts, the theocracy enjoyed under Solomon, reflects itself as clearly in the 72d and 127th Psalms as in the Song of Solomon, and gives to the latter, notwithstanding its thoroughly emotional contents, a repose and objectiveness of attitude which has long since overcome all struggle and conflict. With this is also connected the broader horizon which poetry gains under Solomon, as well as the complete development and rounding out of its form which likewise marks this period,” etc. Many of the characteristics here mentioned belong as well to the book of Job; this is not, however, the case with all of them. The passages above quoted [on the preceding page], for example, refer rather to a disturbed and troublous period, than to the peaceful repose and glory of Solomon’s reign. On this account we do not venture to adopt without hesitation the view that the book originated in this period, as held by Luther, Doederlein, Staeudlin, Haevernick, Keil, Schlottmann, Hahn, Vaihinger, and others. We regard as more probable the assumption of a somewhat later composition (adopted by the general Editor; see Introd., etc., p. 35). We do not, however, for that reason, with Ewald, Hirzel, Heiligstedt, Bleek, and others, assign its origin to the seventh century before Christ; or, with Clericus, Gesenius, Umbreit, Vatke, Bunsen, and others, refer it to the exile or the period that immediately followed it.
§ 7. the literature of wisdom after solomon; a) Ecclesiastes
To the productions of the Hhokmah that undoubtedly belong after Solomon is to be referred Koheleth or the Preacher (קֹחֶלֶת, ’Ἐκκλησιαστής). This is a didactic poem, which not only by its extended monologue in the Maschal form, but also by its express designation of the speaker as “the son of David,” and “King in Jerusalem,” seems to betray an origin direct from Solomon. The entire weight of all those considerations, whether of an internal or a verbal character, which claim attention, compel the assumption of an origin not only after Solomon, but even after the exile. For the numerous Chaldaisms in its diction, the references to the oppressive rule of unworthy kings of a non-Israelitish race, e.g., Proverbs 4:13-16; Proverbs 5:8; Proverbs 8:1 sq.; Proverbs 10:4 sq., as well as many allusions to circumstances and events after the exile, such, as Proverbs 6:2-3; Proverbs 8:10; Proverbs 9:13 sq.; Proverbs 12:12—all together compel us to recognize the book as a literary monument of the later Persian period. Complaints of the vanity of all earthly things, in the form of disconnected monologues, not, however, exactly separate aphoristic sentences like those of the Proverbs, but rather as somewhat extended reflections, are here put into the mouth of the wise King Solomon. The rhetorical dress by means of which this is accomplished appears the more suitable, since a king who had not only acquired an unusually extended knowledge of earthly things, but also had surrendered himself to the inordinate enjoyment of them, should be regarded as a pre-eminently appropriate preacher concerning their nothingness and transitoriness. The complaints which the book contains on this topic sometimes rise to doubts in reference to the moral government of the world; e.g., Proverbs 3:10 sq.; Proverbs 4:1 sq.; Proverbs 6:8 sq.; Proverbs 7:15 sq.; Proverbs 9:2 sq., or where this is not the case, at least leave apparently unreconciled the contradiction between the Divine perfection and the vanity of the world. Its philosophy of life has therefore with a certain degree of justice been explained as a sceptical one. It has indeed even received the name of a “Song of Songs of Scepticism.”10 The entire absence of the Divine covenant name, Jehovah, and the occurrence of frequent exhortations to the cheerful enjoyment of life, instead of possible admonitions to obedient subjection to the law (Pro 2:24–26; Proverbs 3:12 sq.; Proverbs 3:22; Proverbs 5:17-19; Proverbs 8:15; Proverbs 9:7-10; Proverbs 11:7 sq.; Proverbs 12:7 sq.), might besides seem to justify the suspicion of an attitude religiously indifferent and morally lax, which is not seldom charged upon the author. He was, however, far removed from proper Epicureanism, or indeed from atheistic impulses. He in fact never contents himself with uniting the traditional faith and his sceptical view of the world in a merely external “Concordat between the fear of God and the cheerful enjoyment of the present” (Kahnis, ut supra, p. 309). But in a time inclined to the abandonment of faith in God’s holy and just government of the world, he clings to such a faith with a touching constancy, and defends the fact of the wise rule of the Eternal and Omnipotent God against all the frivolous scoffs of fools (Pro 2:26; Proverbs 3:20 sq.; Proverbs 5:1; Proverbs 5:17-19; Proverbs 8:14; Proverbs 9:1-3; compare Proverbs 2:13; Proverbs 4:5; Proverbs 10:2 sq.; Proverbs 10:13-14). And in an age when his people had little or nothing to hope for in the way of external national prosperity and increase, when moral dullness, apathy and despondency might thus easily master the individual members of this people, he is never weary of pointing out the righteous retributions of the future as a motive to the fear of God, the chief and all-comprehending virtue of the wise (Proverbs 3:14-17; Proverbs 5:6; Proverbs 6:6; Proverbs 6:10; Proverbs 8:12 sq.; Proverbs 11:9; Proverbs 12:13-14), and of commending unwavering constancy in individual callings as the best prudence and the surest defence against the sufferings and the temptations of our earthly life (compare Proverbs 2:10; Proverbs 3:22; Proverbs 5:17-18; Proverbs 8:15, etc.). It is especially the high estimate which he puts upon this faithful endeavor to fulfil one’s earthly duty, this “cheerfulness in labor,” which reveals the close relationship between his practical view of life and that of the Proverbs of Solomon, and reveals his place within the circle of those Hhakamim whose spiritual thought and action in the earlier age has left its worthiest monument in that collection of Proverbs, and in the Book of Job.
Note 1.—The assumption that Solomon was the immediate author of the Book of Ecclesiastes, which once exclusively prevailed, and is still at this time defended by L. Van Essen (Der Prediger Salomo’s, Schaffh., 1856), H. A. Hahn, Commentar, etc., 1860), and E. Bohl (Dissertatio de Aramaismis libri Koheleth, Erlangen, 1860), is refuted not only by the arguments above given, which favor its origin in the period of the Persian sway, but still more especially by many passages in which the use of the name of King Solomon is manifestly but a free and poetical one; e.g.,Proverbs 1:12; Proverbs 1:16; Proverbs 2:6; and particularly Proverbs 12:9-14, in which the author speaks of his own person in distinction from the Preacher. Compare Bleek, Einleitung, p. 643; Keil, Einleitung, p. 435.
Note 2.—The charges which have of late been often brought against the Book of Ecclesiastes, viz., that it teaches merely a “religion of the present,” that its moral and religious tendency is simply negative, that it inclines to fatalistic scepticism and to the lax morality of Epicureanism (Lowth, Doederlein, De Wette, Knobel, in part also Hitzig and Bruch, to whom “the scepticism of this book rises even to bitter anguish and utter despair of finding any aim or order in human life” [ut supra, pp. 68, 238 sq., 383 sq.]), are met by the passages above cited, in which patient devotion to one’s personal earthly calling, together with a cheerful mind and thankful enjoyment of God’s temporal gifts, is recommended. These passages are of special importance, since they significantly exhibit the peculiar practical tendency of the book. It is the New Testament virtues, ὑπομονή, χαίρειν τῇ ἐλπίδι, ἐργάζεσθαι μετᾶ ἡσυχίας (Romans 12:12; 2 Thessalonians 3:12, etc.), in their peculiar Old Testament form, and in accordance with that view of the world inculcated in the more advanced Hhokmah doctrine, which are here substantially exhibited and commended to the tempted saints of the theocracy after the exile.
Compare Luther’s Preface to the writings of Solomon—“The other book is named Koheleth, which we call the Preacher; and it is a book of consolation. When a man would live obediently according to the teaching of the first book (i.e., the Proverbs), and perform the duties of his calling or of his office, the devil, the world, and his own flesh oppose, so that he is wearied of his condition..… Now as Solomon in the first book teaches obedience, as against foolish desire and curiosity, so in this book he teaches patience and constancy in opposition to discontent and temptation, and a peaceful and joyful waiting for the final hour.” Comp. the Preface to the Latin Commentary (Opp. exeget. ed. Schmid et Irmischer, T. XXI., p. 5): Hunc librum Ecclesiasten rectius nos vocaremus Politico vel Œconomica Salomonis, qui viro in politia versanti consulat in casibus tristibus et animum erudiat ac roboret ad patientiam, etc. [“This book, Ecclesiastes, we should more correctly call the Politics or Economics of Solomon; for he is giving counsel in adversity to a man engaged in public life, and is training and strengthening his spirit to patience,” etc.] For similar passages see Elster, Commentar über den Prediger Sal., 1855, Introd., pp. 14 sq. Besides this expositor (see especially pp. 27 sq.), Ewald (Einl. zu Koheleth, pp. 177 sq.), Haevernick (Einl. III.,449 sq.), Vaihinger (Ueber den Plan Koheleth’s, Stud, und Krit., 1848, pp. 442 sq.), and Hengstenberg (Der Prediger Salom. ausgelegt, 1859), have, among recent writers, with cogent arguments, defended the ethical character and contents of the book against such attacks. Compare also the profound essay of Vilmar, “Ueber Koheleth,” in the Pastoraltheol. Bll., 1863, 1; 241 sq.
§ 8. continuation b) the psalms of wisdom
Proverbial poetry most clearly combined with lyrical appears not only in the writings of Solomon, but also in those of many poets of the later age. Certain intermediate forms of composition therefore occur which may be classed with one as well as with the other species of poetry. Such are those Psalms, which, though they do not directly teach wisdom, yet sing the praise of the fear of God as the; source of all wisdom, and exhibit a didactic tendency, both by the Maschal form which they adopt, and by proclaiming the praise of the law of the Lord and their exhortations to its faithful observance. They may be briefly designated as Hhokmah-Psalms, and may be regarded as gnomes expanded into lyrics, or as the combination of several wise adages into a lyrical didactic whole. The shortest of the two Psalms ascribed to Solomon, the 127th, appears to be in a measure a gnome thus expanded into a lyrical form. Of the later Psalms those belong to the same category, which consist of praises of a life led in the fear of God and the faithful observance of the law,—Psalms 1, 91, 92, 125, 128. Of these the second is especially worthy of notice, in that it closes with the same commendation of the fear of God as the beginning of wisdom (ver. 10), which is found at the beginning of Solomon’s Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 1:7, comp. Proverbs 9:10, etc.), and at the end of Ecclesiastes and of the 28th chapter of the Book of Job. The 119th Psalm is also a Psalm of wisdom on a magnificent scale, an alphabetical arrangement [lost of course in our versions] of inspired praises of the Divine word, and of the blessings which result from obeying it,—which Luther has well styled “the Christian A. B. C. of praise, love, power, and use of the word of God.” Here belongs also the 49th Psalm, which describes the transitoriness of the happiness of the ungodly, and contrasts with it the hope of the righteous resting on God. For this purpose it adopts a form which is expressly termed “speaking of wisdom” (ver. 3 [E. V.]), a “parable,” a “dark saying” (ver. 4 [E. V.]). The 78th Psalm, which belongs to Asaph, asserts its didactic character by the use of similar expressions. Yet its contents, which are descriptive of the history of redemption rather than gnomically instructive or contemplative, show that it ought not to be classed with the proper psalms of wisdom, even though its tendency, like that of several other of the Psalms of Asaph, might in general be called didactic. Those Psalms of David also, which contain didactic matter, differ almost throughout both in their contents and their form from the Hhokmah poetry of the age of Solomon, and of that immediately succeeding, and only incidentally coincide with a few of the above named psalms of wisdom; e.g., Psalms 15:2 sq., with Psalms 1, 111, 112; Ps. 14:8 sq., with Psalms 119:0.
The title מַשְׂכִּיל borne by some of David’s psalms, e.g., Psalms 32, 51., as well as by Asaph’s the 78th, affords no ground for regarding these songs as productions of the Hhokmah poetry, or in general as merely didactic poems; for מַשְׂכִּיל is to be rendered neither as “Instruction” nor as “Didactic poem,” but most probably with Delitzsch as “Meditation,” or even with Hitzig and others, as “Form, Image, Invention.” The Psalter then contains in general no Hhokmah poems of the period before Solomon, since the above named psalms of this class, all belong more probably to a later age, and indeed for the most part to the period after the exile; they are consequently contemporary with Ecclesiastes rather, perhaps, than with the Book of Job, or with the original materials of the Book of Proverbs.
§ 9, Conclusion.—c) the apocryphal literature of wisdom (sirach, barugh, the book of wisdom, etc.)
In the Apocryphal writings of Jesus, son of Sirach (Σοφία τοῦ Σειράχ, Ecclesiasticus), and of the anonymous author of the book of Baruch, and of the “Wisdom of Solomon,” the Hebrew literature of wisdom celebrates its second spring-time upon Alexandrian Hellenistic soil. No one of those works can have originated earlier than the second century before the Christian Era, at least in the linguistic form and structure in which they now exist. For the Ptolemy under whom the younger son of Sirach 11 clothed in its present Greek garb the Hebrew work of his grandfather of the same name (a Jew of Palestine), can be no other than Ptolemy Physcon, or Ptolemy Euergetes 2 (B. C. 170–117). The Book of Wisdom, according to internal evidence, belongs rather to the more advanced than to the earlier period of Alexandrianism; it must probably have been produced, therefore, not until near the age of Philo, rather than have been composed by a contemporary of Aristobulus, or, as some claim, by Aristobulus himself. The book Baruch, finally, which has as little to do with the old Baruch of the school of the prophets; as the “Letters of Jeremiah” which it contains have to do with the old prophetic teacher, is very certainly quite a late post-canonical production. No one of these works—and this is quite as true of the book Tobias, and the “Prayer of Manasseh,” which exhibit at least some points of contact with the later Jewish literature of wisdom—reaches back even as far as the time of Ecclesiastes, the latest production of the canonical or classical Hhokmah poetry. In their literary artistic character, and their religious didactic substance, the three works named above are distinguished one from another in this, that the collection of gnomes by Jesus, son of Sirach, in regard to contents as well as form, appears to be mainly an imitation of the Proverbs, without, however, attaining the classical excellence of its model; that, furthermore, the “Wisdom of Solomon,” less rich in genuine theological and ethical substance, in its didactic form (as a monologue) and its free poetical appropriation of the person of Solomon, approaches Ecclesiastes quite as much as it differs from it in the not sceptical but, Platonic speculative stamp of its argument; and that finally Baruch, which attempts to array the fundamental ideas of the doctrine of wisdom in the form of the old prophetic admonitions, commands, and letters, reaches nothing better than a dull, spiritless reproduction of these prophetic forms, of as little theological as philosophical value.
Note.—The Collection of proverbs by the son of Sirach, in spite of the occasional originality and beauty of its contents, still falls far below the poetic perfection and the theological ripeness of the model furnished by Solomon. It therefore cannot be regarded as a composition bearing the stamp of inspiration and worthy of a place in the Canon. These points are conceded even by several of the most recent defenders of the Apocrypha against the criticisms of the English Reformed School; e.g., Hengstenberg (Evang. Kirchen-Zeitung, 1853, Nos. 54 sq.; 1854, Nos. 29 sq.) and Bleek (Studien und Kritiken, 1853, 2). Bruch also, in particular, has commented very justly on the literary value of Ecclesiasticus as compared with the Proverbs. He says in his “Weisheitslehre der Hebräer,” p. Pro 273: “The true Hebrew gnome did indeed stand before this sage as a lofty ideal. This was the goal toward which he pressed, but which he was not able to reach. Only now and then does he attain in his proverbs the condensed brevity, the suggestive fullness of meaning, and the telling rhythm of proposition and antithesis, which distinguish the Proverbs of Solomon. In many cases it is only with difficulty that he succeeds in comprehending a thought, in its rounded fullness of meaning, within the narrow limits of a single proposition. Still less frequently does he bring corresponding members into a true antithetic relation. He usually carries out his thoughts through a series of complementary proverbs, which not seldom run out at last into dull prose. The true poetic spirit is altogether wanting to the son of Sirach. He frequently expresses himself, it is true, in imagery, but then he heaps figure upon figure improperly, and in his similes falls into the inflated and fantastic. The quiet attitude of reflection would better befit the whole individuality of this Jewish sage,” etc.
Furthermore, that Sirach, notwithstanding his comparative lack of originality and independent creative power, was still no mere imitator of Solomon’s Proverbs, but that besides this he made use of other collections of ancient and esteemed maxims, appears from some hints in his own book (e.g., Sir 24:28; Sir 33:16). It appears also from the fragments of ancient Hebrew proverbs which still occur here and there in the Talmudic literature of the Jews, which fragments point to the existence of similar collections of gnomes by the side of and before that of the son of Sirach. Comp. Bruce, p. 274; Delitzsch, “Zur Geschichte der Hebraischen Poesie,” pp. 204 sq.; Bertheau, “Exeget. Handbuch zu den Spr. Sal,” Introd., pp. 42. sq.
In regard to the literary and theological character of the Book of Wisdom, in its relations to the canonical literature of wisdom in the Old Testament, comp. Bruch (the work above cited), pp. 322 sq., and Grimm, in the “Kurzgef. exeget. Handbuch zu den Apocryphen,” Vol. 6, Introduction; and likewise Kuebel (Pastor in Würtemberg), “Die ethischen Grundanschauungen der Weisheit Salomos: ein Beitrag zur Apocryphenfrage,” Studien und Kritiken, 1865, IV., pp. 690 sq.
In regard to the book Baruch, see O. F. Fritzsche, in the “Kurzgef. exeg. Handb. zu den Apocr.,” 1., 167 sq., and Bruch, in the work already cited, pp. 319 sq. [Dean Stanley (Jewish Church, II., 272) says of the Book of Wisdom: “It is one link more in the chain by which the’ influence of Solomon communicated itself to succeeding ages. As the undoubted ‘Wisdom,’ or Proverbs of Solomon, formed the first expression of the contact of Jewish religion with the philosophy of Egypt and Arabia, so the apocryphal ‘Wisdom of Solomon’ is the first expression of the contact of Jewish religion with the Gentile philosophy of Greece. Still the apologue and the warning to kings keeps up the old strain; still the old ‘wisdom’ makes her voice to be heard; and out of the worldly prudence of Solomon springs, for the first time, in distinct terms, ‘the hope full of immortality’ ” (Wis 1:1; Wis 6:1; Wis 6:9; Wis 3:1-4; Wis 5:1-5, etc.)—A.]
§ 10. system of the literature of wisdom in the old testament, and the relative place of the proverbs of solomon
So far as the entire literature of wisdom in the Old Testament can be treated as an organic whole, and this whole be viewed as the didactic part of the religious literature of the Old Testament, as distinguished from its other main divisions, we recognize first a classical and a postclassical period [post-heroic, compared by the author to the age of the Epigoni in Greek legend.—A.] as the most strongly marked phases in the course of its development. And within each of these two periods there grows up side by side with gnomic poetry, or the Hhokmah literature in the narrower sense, a similar literature of broader range. In the classical period, or within the bounds of the canonical literature of the Old Testament, the Hhokmah poetry in the strictest sense is represented by the Proverbs of Solomon, with their maxims of wisdom aiming to secure a conception and treatment of nature and of the life of man that shall be conformed to the will of God. Side by side with its profound, concise, vigorous, marrowy sentences we find the glowing delineations and soaring lyrical effusions of Solomon’s Song, this glorification of the mystery of love, as it is contemplated from wisdom’s point of view. The traditional triple chord in the harmony,—the trilogy in the drama,—of the writings ascribed to Solomon, is completed by the broader reflections to which the Preacher (Ecclesiastes) gives utterance concerning the nothingness of all that is earthly, and the duty of a cheerful but also grateful and devout enjoyment of life. Outside this trilogy, which contains at least one work not immediately from Solomon, we find some other products of the Hhokmah literature in the wider sense. There are the didactic Psalms of later date than Solomon, which most resemble the Maschal poetry of the Book of Proverbs, since they are mainly nothing more than gnomes, developed in poetic form. And there is the Book of Job, the dramatic form of whose dialogue is analogous to that of Solomon’s Song, while it reveals a certain internal likeness to Ecclesiastes in its devotion to the problems of the day, although at the same time it gives expression to-many sceptical thoughts.
Of the productions of the post-classical age, or the literature of wisdom contained in the Jewish Apocrypha, the collection of proverbs by the son of Sirach [Ecclesiasticus], represents the Hhokmah poetry in the narrower sense; for it is a direct imitation of the Proverbs, and in part a later gleaning from the same field. Of the writings which are to be classed here only in the broader sense, the Book of Wisdom stands parallel to Ecclesiastes, and Baruch to the Song of Solomon; still further, if one will, in Tobit a counterpart may be found for Job, and in the Prayer of Manasseh for many of the didactic Psalms.
The Proverbs of Solomon appear therefore, as the central spring and storehouse of the gnomic wisdom of the Old Testament; or, as the true and main trunk of the tree of Hhokmah poetry, widely branching and laden with fruit. And it is mainly on account of this radical impulse, and because of this main trunk, consisting so largely of elements really furnished by Solomon, that the whole development deserves to be called in a general and comprehensive way an intellectual production of the wisest of all kings in Israel.
Note 1.—Exhibited in a tabular form the above representation of the literature of wisdom in the Old Testament would stand somewhat as follows,—according to its genetic development and its organic, relations:
I. Classical or Hebrew canonical period of the Hhokmah.
1. Hhokmah poetry in the strictest sense, or in the primitive form of the Maschal (the true gnomic poetry of Solomon):
2. Hhokmah poetry in the broader sense; or in various transformations and modifications of the primitive type:
A. The Maschal form transformed to dramatic dialogue:
a) Solomon’s Song,—a didactic drama, with strongly marked lyrical and erotic character.
b)Job,—a didactic drama, with a preponderance of the epic character.
B. The Maschal form expanded in monologue:
a) Ecclesiastes,—a collection of reflective philosophical monologues,constructed from the point of view of the Hhokmah.
b) The didactic Psalms,—specimens of the lyrical development of some fundamental ideas and principles of the Hhokmah.
II. Post-classical period, or Hhokmah literature of the Jewish Apocrypha
1. True Hhokmah poetry, with a direct imitation of the old Maschal form:
2. Hhokmah compositions in the broader sense:
A. With evident leaning toward the elder literature of the prophetic, or epic and dramatic style:
B. With leanings toward elder didactic and lyrical compositions, reflective and philosophical:
a) The Wisdom of Solomon.
b) The Prayer of Manasseh.
Note 2.—The grouping of Proverbs, Solomon’s Song and Ecclesiastes as a trilogy of compositions by Solomon cannot be critically and chronologically justified. Nevertheless it finds its partial truth and justification in the fact that precisely these three works constitute the normal types of the entire literature of wisdom, in respect both to substance and form (see the Table In note 1). If they be contemplated ideally from this point of view, we cannot refuse to recognize a degree of truth in the old parallel drawn by Origen and Jerome between this trilogy, and the philosophical triad,—Ethics, Logic, Physics. Attention has been already called to this in the note to §1. Compare also page 67 of the General Introduction to the Old Testament section of this Commentary, where the author has given a classification of the writings of Solomon, or, as he puts it, “of the general didactic system of Solomon,” which likewise includes the above trilogy.
An analysis of the literature of wisdom in the Old Testament which differs in several points from our own, while it also brings out clearly many correct points of view, is proposed by Bruch, pp. 67 sq. I. Period before the Exile: a) Monuments of the practical philosophy of this period: Proverbs; b)Theoretical philosophy: Job; c) compositions of partly practical, partly theoretical nature: the older didactic Psalms. II. Period after the exile: a) Practical philosophy; Ecclesiasticus; b) Theoretical: Solomon’s Song; c) partly practical, partly theoretical; the later didactic Psalms, and also the Book of Wisdom, which at the same time forms the transition to the Alexandrian philosophy.
By others the apocryphal literature is ordinarily excluded from the classification, and, on the other hand, all the lyrical poetry of the Psalter brought in, so that the result is a classification of all the poetical literature of the Old Testament Canon. See, e.g., Haevernick and Keil’s Einleitung, Vol. III., page 81, where the two great departments of lyrical poetry שִׁיר, and gnomic poetry מָשָׁל are distinguished, and to the first are assigned Psalms, Solomon’s Song, and Lamentations,—to the latter, Proverbs, the discourses of Job, and the reflections of Ecclesiastes. Frederic Schlegel (Lectures on the History of Literature, 4th Lecture), and following him, Delitzsch (in Herzog’s “Real-Encyclopädie,” XIV., 716), propose two main classes of Old Testament writings: 1, historico-prophetic, or books of the history of redemption,—and 2, poetical; or books of aspiration.
The latter class, according to them, includes Job, the Psalter, and the writings of Solomon, and these correspond to the triple chord of faith, hope and love. For Job is designed to maintain faith under trials: the Psalms breathe forth and exhibit hope in the conflict of earth’s longings; the writings of Solomon reveal to us the mystery of Divine love, and Proverbs in particular makes us acquainted with that wisdom which grows out of and is eternal love.
With reference to the position to be assigned to Proverbs within the circle of the poetical literature of the Old Testament, these classifications are very instructive. And this is especially true of that last mentioned, which is as evidently correct in its exhibition of the relation of Proverbs to Job and the Psalms, as it is defective with respect to the third of Solomon’s writings, Ecclesiastes (which surely has very little to do with “the mystery of Divine love”).
In one passage, J. A. Bengel (in his “Beiträge zur Schrifter klärung,” edited by Osc. Waechter, Leipsic, 1866, p. 27) expresses himself singularly in regard to the significance of the grouping, that has been so long traditional, of Proverbs, Job and Solomon’s Song in a trilogy. “The reason why Proverbs, Job and the Canticles stand together in the best Hebrew codices is this,—man standing under paternal discipline needs the Proverbs;. when he has passed out from this into the fellowship of suffering he needs Job; after he has been perfected he enters into the unio mystica (mystical union) and comprehends Canticles.”
B.—SPECIAL INTRODUCTION TO THE PROVERBS OF SOLOMON
§ 11. names of the collection
The superscription of the book which has been handed down in the Masoretic text, and which rests upon several passages of the book itself (see especially Proverbs 1:17; Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 25:1) is מִשְׁלֵי שְׁלֹמֹה is more correctly rendered, not “Proverbs” (Sprüchwörter), but Sayings of Solomon (Sprüche).12 This corresponds with the Παροιμιαί of the LXX, and the Parabolœ, not Proverbia, of the Vulgate. For the word מָשָׁל does indeed sometimes describe proverbs in the true sense, or general, practical maxims, growing out of the spirit of a people and expressed in popular form (e.g., 1 Samuel 10:12; Ezekiel 16:44; Ezekiel 18:2). But in itself it signifies only resemblance, likeness (simile, comparatio, παραβολή, παροιμία); it is therefore used, according to the peculiarity of Oriental poetry, to designate symbolical or parabolic apothegms, or poetic and philosophical maxims in the widest sense. [The verb מָשַׁלַ is found with two quite distinct significations—to command, and to compare. Gesenius (Thesaurus, s. v.), after proposing two different ways of deriving these from one primary radical meaning, suggests that possibly there are two independent radicals. Fuerst regards them as wholly distinct, the primary meaning of the one being “to be strong,” of the other “to combine, connect, entwine.” Some old commentators erroneously derive the noun from the first of these two verbal roots; e.g., Trapp (Comm on Proverbs 1:1): “Master sentences; maxims, axioms, speeches of special precellency and predominancy.”—A.] Accordingly prophetical predictions (e.g., those of Balaam, Numbers 23:7; Numbers 23:18; Numbers 24:3; comp. Isaiah 14:4; Micah 2:4,; Habakkuk 2:6), as well as didactic Psalms (e.g., Psalms 49:5; Psalms 78:2) or sententious discourses of wise men (e.g., Job 27:1; Job 24:1) are designated as מְשָׁלִים. In the special and predominant sense מָשָׁל is however the designation of a maxim or gnome from within the sphere of the Hhokmah; it is therefore the sentiment or the moral axiom of a Hhakam (see above, §§ 2,3). For it was just these men, the Hhakamim of the Old Testament economy, that exhibited their main strength in giving utterance to pertinent comparisons, and significant truths of general practical value, and who were accustomed to impart their instructions chiefly in the form of maxims (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 25:1). An old synonym of the title “Book of Proverbs” or “Proverbs of Solomon” is therefore “Book of Wisdom” סֵפֶר חָכְמָה. [Comp. Fuerst’s Kanon des alten Testaments, etc., 1868, pp. 73 sq.—A.]. The book probably received this title now and then in the old Hebrew times. At any rate it is so called several times in the Talmud (e.g., Tosephoth to Baba Bathra, f. 14, b), and among the earliest Fathers of the Greek Church, like Clement, Hegesippus, Irenæus, etc., it received the name ἡ πανάρετος σοφία [wisdom including all virtues]. Comp. Eusebius, Chh. Hist, IV., 22, 26, according to whom Melito of Sardis also gave the book a similar title, Σολομῶντος παροιμίαι ἤ καί Σοφία [similitudes of Solomon, which is also wisdom]. Compare further the titles σοφὴ βίβλος and παιδαγωγικὴ σοφία [“the wise book” and “instructive wisdom”] which Dionysius of Alexandria and Gregory of Nazianzum employ. We may therefore even now give to our collection of Proverbs the title of “Book of Wisdom,” as well as the more common designation of “Proverbs.” And this is all the more allowable, because this collection is far better entitled to be called a “Book of Wisdom” than the Alexandrian apocryphal work which has assumed the name; it is also far more worthy than Eccelesiastes and Ecclesiasticus, to which old Jewish and Christian works not unfrequently apply the title in question (חָכְמָה, Σοφία ).
Note 1. Haevernick (ΙΙΙ. 386) and keil § 117, p. 396) are in error when they dispute the opinion put forth by heau that the designation of the proverbs as סֵפֶר חָכְמָה originated among the early Jews. The words of Melito quoted by Eusebius (passage above cited) are a conclusive proof of the correctness of this view, as they belong to a passage whose express object is to give the designations of the books of the Bible that were current among the Jews. Comp. Delitzsch (work above quoted, p. 712).
Note 2. As synonymous with מָשָׁל there occur in the Proverbs of Solomon and elsewhere in the Old Testament the words חִידָה (Proverbs 1:6; Psalms 49:5; Psalms 78:2; Habakkuk 2:6) and מְלִיצָה (Proverbs 1:6; Habakkuk 2:6) The first expression, which properly signifies “enigma” (comp. Jdg 14:14; 1 Kings 10:1, etc.), [Etym., knotted, involved, intricate,. Gesen., Fuerst, etc.], stands for any dark, involved, profound utterance whatsoever; as in Matthew 13:35 the חִידוֹת מִנִּי קֶדֶם is rendered by κεκρυμμένα� (instead of the προβλήματα�’ ἀρχῆς of the LXX). Compare Augustine, who uniformly explains ænigma by obscura allegoria: comp. also Luther’s “in einem dunklen Worte” [through an obscure word] for the phrase ἐν αἰνίγματι [“darkly,” Eng. vers.,—“by means of a mirror in riddles,” De Wette,—“still darkly as in riddles,” Van Ess, Allioli]. If therefore an ethical axiom, a gnome or parable be designated as this חִידָה this is always done with reference to the deeper meaning hidden in it under a figurative veil (comp. in addition to the passages above cited Ezekiel 17:2). Examples of these enigmatical proverbs [“dark sayings”] in our collection are to be found especially in the “words of Agur,” in Proverbs 30:0 Comp. the remarks on Proverbs 30:15-16.
The meaning of מְלִיצָה is disputed. According to Gesenius, Bertheau, and Hitzig it is equivalent to “interpretation,” “discourse requiring interpretation,” (comp. the σκοτεινὸς λόγος of the LXX, Proverbs 1:6). According to Delitzsch, Haevernick and Keil it is “brilliant or pleasing discourse,” oratio splendida, luminibus ornata.” [Fuerst adheres to the derivation first preferred by Gesenius (following Schultens) according to which לוּץ (obs. in Kal), Arab. لاص signifies “to be involved, entangled,” and used of discourse, “to be obscure, and ambiguous,”—and מְלִיצָה “figurative, involved discourse.” Gesenius afterward developed the meaning of the noun from the radical idea of “stammering.”—A.]. A sure decision can hardly be reached; the analogy of מֵלִיץ, however, Job 33:23, Genesis 42:23, Isaiah 43:27, etc., seems to speak for the first interpretation, to which the second may be appended, as appropriate at least for Habakkuk 2:6. The radical word is then לוּץ, torquere, to twist,—and מְלְיצָה is properly oratio contorta sive difficilis [involved or difficult discourse], just as חִידָה (from חוּד deflectere [to turn aside]) is properly oratio obliqua sive per ambages [oblique or ambiguous discourse].
Note 3. With reference to the true conception of the “Proverbs” of Solomon as compared with the proverbs (properly so called) of the Hebrews, and of various other nations, see especially Bruch, p. 103. “The maxims which are here collected (in the Proverbs) are a product not of the popular spirit of the Hebrews, but of Hebrew wisdom. They have not sprung up unsought, but rather betray deliberate reflection.* * * * They do not lie separate and isolated, like the proverbs of a people, but rest upon certain fundamental conceptions, and together make up a whole. They bear the impress of the Hebrew spirit, but only so far forth as the wise men from whom they come themselves rendered homage to this spirit; in many other respects they rise, as their authors did, essentially above the spirit of the Hebrew nation. They contain rules for conduct in the most diverse conditions of life; but having a bond of connection in general truths, they reach far beyond the sphere of mere experience. Now and then they take a speculative flight, and give utterance to profound conceptions and doctrines of philosophy. * * * * All are clothed in the garb of poetry; every where the law of parallelism prevails in them. That elevation of language which is characteristic of Hebrew poetry is apparent in most of them, while the true proverbs of the people are for the most part expressed in prosaic forms, and often in very common language.
It is therefore altogether erroneous to compare this Book of Proverbs with the collections of Arabic proverbs; it might be more fitly compared with the gnomic poetry of the Greeks. It is strictly an Anthology of Hebrew gnomes.” Comp.§ 2, note 4.
The comparison of the Hebrew Maschal-poetry with the sententious and proverbial poetry of the Arabs, although so peremptorily denied by Bruch, is not without its justification. See Umbreit’s Commentary, Introduction, p. 55. where the two Arabic collections of proverbs, by the grammarian Al Meidani († 1141), are named as affording at least some parallels to the Proverbs of Solomon. Reference is made beside to H. A. Schultens’ Anthologia sententiarum Arabicarum(Leyden, 1772), and to the collections of Erpenius, Golius, Kallius, etc. (in Schnurrer’s Bibliotheca Arabica, pp. 210–221) as furnishing such parallels in rich abundance. The latest and best edition of these collections of Arabic proverbs is that of Freytag, Arabum proverbia sententiæque proverbiales, Bonn, 1838–43, which not only contains entire the collection of Meidani numbering above 9,000 proverbs, but also gives information concerning the 29 collections of gnomes existing in Arabic literature before Meidani. Comp. also Haevernick and Keil, III., 381 sq., and Bleek’s Introduction, p. 632, where among other things an interesting observation of Al Meidani is given, with reference to the great value of the proverbial wisdom; “acquaintance with proverbs does not merely adorn with their beauties all circles of society, and grace the inhabitants whether of cities or of the desert; it imparts brilliancy to the contents of books, and by the allusions which are hidden in them sweetens the words of the preacher and teacher. And why should it not ? since even the word of God, the Koran, is interwoven with them,—the discourses of the Prophet contain them,—the most eminent scholars, who have trodden the path of a mysterious wisdom have won this knowledge as their friend ?” “Proverbs are to the soul what a mirror is to the eyes.” Manifestly it is not common popular proverbs to which this enthusiastic praise refers, but maxims from the schools of the sages, and of a poetic, philosophic character, similar to those of the Old Testament, though mainly of far inferior worth. (This is pertinent also as a reply to Delitzsch, p. 694, who following Ewald, declares the comparison of the Hebrew with the Arabic collections of proverbs altogether inadmissible).
§ 12. origin and composition of the collection
The collection of the Proverbs of Solomon in its present form opens with a long superscription, which, in the style of oriental titles, praises the whole book for its important and practically useful contents. This is followed by three main divisions of the book, of unequal length and distinguished by separate titles, to which are appended two supplements. The first main division (Proverbs 1-9) subdivided into three sections (Proverbs 1-3, Proverbs 1:4-7, Proverbs 1:8-9) contains an exhibition of wisdom as the highest good to be attained. To the attainment and preservation of this in the face of the dangers that threaten the possession of it,—sensuality, impurity, adultery, etc.,—youth in particular are admonished: and this is done in the form of instructions or admonitions, somewhat prolonged, and having an inward connection of parts, addressed by a father to his son,—and not in brief, aphoristically separated maxims.
The second main division (Proverbs 10-24) again comprises three sections, not symmetrical but of quite unequal length; a Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16, with the superscription מִשְׁלֵי שְׁלֹמֹה; a collection of separate, loosely connected, and for the most part very short maxims, which in part depict wisdom and the fear of God, and in part folly and sin, according to their chief manifestations and results; and this they do without rigid adherence to a fixed train of ideas, with so loose a coherence of the individual sentences that either no connection of thought appears, or one merely external, brought about by certain characteristic words or terms of expression.
b) Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22; a Maschal introduced by a special injunction to hearken to the words of the wise (Proverbs 22:17-19), quite well connected in its parts, and evidently forming one whole; this contains various prescriptions of equity and worldly prudence.
c) Proverbs 24:23-34; a short appendix, which by its superscription גַּם אֵלֶּח לַחֲכָמִים [“these also are the words of the wise”], is described as the work of various wise men, no longer definitely known; it consists of some maxims which, although nearly all having the form of commands or prohibitions, have no internal mutual connection.
Then follows the third main division (Proverbs 25-29) having the superscription, “These also are proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah, the King of Judah, collected:”—a collection of single, loosely grouped proverbs, among which are found an unusually large number of pointed comparisons and antitheses.
The two supplements of the collection are, 1) Proverbs 30:0 “The words of Agur the son of Jakeh,” a compilation of maxims distinguished by their peculiarly artificial garb, and the partial obscurity of their meaning; 2) Proverbs 31:0 bearing the superscription “Words of Lemuel the king of Massa, which his mother taught him.”13 Under this title (in regard to which we shall soon have more to say) the chapter contains a) a series of maxims for kings, and b) the praise of a virtuous matron, which is clothed in the form of an alphabetic song (vers. 10–31).
That the collection as a whole is not the immediate work of Solomon, or in other words, that the introductory words of the first superscription (Proverbs 1:1) “Proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel,” so far as they relate to the whole, design to claim the authorship for Solomon only in the most general sense, appears from the most hasty glance at our abstract of the contents. For apart from the fact that at the opening of the second main division there is a repetition of the title “Proverbs of Solomon,”—the last divisions, from Proverbs 22:17 onward, are introduced by quite different superscriptions, two of which refer vaguely to “wise men” as the authors of the respective sections, and two to definite persons (although these are otherwise unknown), while the one which contains again the expression “Proverbs of Solomon” designates as the “collectors” of these “Proverbs of Solomon” the“men” of a king of Judah who did not live until 300 years after Solomon. [Fuerst’s inference from these diverse superscriptions and appellations is thus stated (Canon des alten Testaments, p. 74); “that it is not the originating of all the proverbs with Solomon that was emphasized, though he be regarded as their main source, but only the aim and effect of the proverbs to promote wisdom.”—Dean Stanley, (ubi supra, p. 268) says “as in the case of the word ‘wisdom,’ the connection of ‘Proverbs’ with Solomon can be traced by the immense multiplication of the word after his time.”—A.]. And not only these diverse superscriptions, but various peculiarities of language, style, etc., such as present themselves to the attentive observer in each section in a characteristic way, bear witness to the gradual growth of the collection under the hands of several authors of a later day than Solomon’s, each complementing the rest. We might put the whole work of compilation to the account of the “men of Hezekiah,” (Proverbs 25:1), and so assume that the maxims of Solomon, before scattered, and transmitted in part orally, in part by less complete written records, were collected, and, with the addition of sundry supplements brought into their present form by certain wise men from the court of the devout king Hezekiah (B. C. 727–697). The verb הֶעְתִּיקוּ which in the passage cited above is used to describe the agency of these men, would well accord with this assumption; for it signifies, not “appended” (Luther), but “brought together, arranged in order,” in as much as הֶעְתִּיק properly means “to remove from its place, to set or place somewhere;” and in the passage before us it is rendered correctly by the ἐξεγράψαντο of the LXX, and the transtulerunt of the Vulgate. But the relations of the matter are not quite so simple that the whole compilation and revision can be referred to these wismen of Hezekiah. For from the quite numerous repetitions of whole proverbs, or at least parts of proverbs from earlier sections, such as occur in the division chaps 25–29. (compare e.g., Proverbs 25:24 with Proverbs 21:9—Proverbs 26:22 with Proverbs 18:8 to Proverbs 27:12 with Proverbs 22:3 to Proverbs 27:21
with Proverbs 17:3 to Proverbs 29:22 with Proverbs 15:18, etc.) it seems altogether probable that the preceding sections existed as an independent whole, before the attachment of chaps 25. sq. This is confirmed by the fact that certain characteristics noticeable in the structure of clause and verse, and many peculiarities of phraseology and idiom likewise indicate that between the sections preceding Proverbs 25:0 and the last seven chapters a wide difference exists, and one that points to the greater antiquity of the first and largest division. Hezekiah’s wise men appear therefore substantially as supplementing, or more exactly as continuing and imitating a larger collection of Solomon’s proverbs already in existence before their day: and the existence of this they must not only have known but studiously regarded, for the great majority of the maxims and axioms there found they did not take into their new collection, but sought to present that which was mainly new and independent; in consequence however of the similarity of the sources from which they drew to those of the earlier collection, they could not but reproduce much in a similar form, and some things in a form exactly corresponding with the earlier. [The Jewish tradition as given by Fuerst (ubi supra, p. 75) ascribes the collection of the proverbs of the first three sections, Proverbs 1-9; Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16, and Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 26:28 to the men of Hezekiah. And it finds this view confirmed by the very fact that the next section begins (Proverbs 25:1) with the words “These also, are proverbs,” etc. But the subsequent collection (Proverbs 25:0. sq. is “continued” by them, the proverbs being searched out elsewhere and transferred to this place; “proverbs not hitherto publicly employed for the education of the people they brought into a collection, to be in like manner used as a collection of Solomon’s proverbs.” The “men of Hezekiah” he regards moreover as not all contemporaries and agents of the good king, but as organized into a “college,” continued for literary, religious, and judicial purposes 280 years, seven full generations. This is Jewish tradition.—A.].
That the older collection is not however to be itself regarded as all of one casting, but likewise as a product of the activity of one or several editors collecting and combining from still earlier sources, appears from several facts. Within this section, as well as the later, instances occur of the repetition of single proverbs in an identical or analogous form (comp. e.g. Proverbs 14:12 with Proverbs 16:25 to Proverbs 16:2 with Proverbs 21:2 to Proverbs 10:2 with Proverbs 11:4 to Proverbs 13:14 with Proverbs 16:27 to Proverbs 19:12 with Proverbs 20:2, etc.). We have, besides, this fact, which is still more significant, that here again a diversity appears, marked by decided peculiarities of form as well as substance, between the two large subdivisions, Proverbs 1-9, and Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16. In the second of these sections we find mainly verses symmetrically constructed,—so-called “antithetic couplets,”—and each verse presents an idea quite complete and intelligible. It is the simplest and, as it were, the ideal type of the Maschal that here predominates; and since the simplest is wont to be as a general rule the most primitive, this fact suggests the conjecture that we are dealing here simply with genuine, original proverbs of Solomon. In other words, Chapters 10–22:16 comprise the proper germ of the gnomic poetry of the Old Testament, which is in the strictest sense to be referred to Solomon and his age. In the two supplements to this central main division, Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22 and Proverbs 24:23-34 we observe in respect to form quite another character in the individual proverbs, although in their ethical tenor and substance they correspond with the preceding. They lose something of the telling, pointed brevity, the inward richness of meaning, the condensed power, that characterize the earlier proverbs; and instead of “the rapid alternation of clause and counter-clause” before every where perceptible, there is apparent here less uniformity of structure, and an effort to expand the brief axiom to the longer discourse, admonitory, didactic, or illustrative of some moral truth. Still more entirely is the simple and beautiful form of the Maschal, compact, pithy and symmetrical, disregarded and cast aside in Proverbs 1-9. These present nothing but longer admonitory discourses, moral pictures full of warning, and ethico-religious contemplations of broader compass, in all of which the simple, short proverb is only exceptional, and “proverbial poetry evidently took the form of admonition and preaching, but for this very reason became much more flexible, flowing and comprehensible.” The technical language of the Hhokmah appears here in various ways expanded and refined,—especially in the application of such full allegorical delineations as are contained in Proverbs 9:0 (in the description of Wisdom’s house with its seven pillars, and her feast,—and also in that of the conduct of the אִשֵׁת כְּסִילוּת the personification of Folly). The nearly equal length, moreover, of the three sections into which this entire admonitory address to youth is divided, (see the earlier part of the §), the quite regular and frequent recurrence of the בְּנִי, “my Son,” which shows this to be its chief application, (Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 2:1; Proverbs 3:1; Proverbs 3:11; Proverbs 3:21; Proverbs 4:10; Proverbs 4:20; Proverbs 5:1, etc.), the adherence to certain leading thoughts through all the change and variety in expression and delineation,—all this points us to a single author, who different as he was from the author of the collection following (Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16), designed to furnish an appropriate introduction to this collection of older proverbs, and to commend it to the Israel of his own time, especially to its younger generation.
That the mutual relations of the various parts of the Book of Proverbs are to be judged substantially in this way, most of the recent commentators are agreed. [This general view both of the structure and authorship of our book is taken by most of our English and American scholars, with some divergencies of course, in the details. Thus, Stuart, Noyes, Muenscher, W. Aldis Wright, etc. Stuart sums up his view of the authorship thus (Comm. p. 63): “Solomon selected many, composed others, and put together those which he judged to be true, most striking, and most worthy to be preserved.…. It matters not how much of the book of Proverbs Solomon actually composed; we only need his sanction to what it now contains.” Portions of the book moreover do not even purport to be Solomon’s.—A.]. We may make an exception, perhaps, of H. A. Hahn, Haevernick, and Keil, who, in spite of all internal and external differences between the several sections, which they are forced to acknowledge,—in spite of the various introductory superscriptions,—still feel constrained to maintain Solomon’s immediate authorship of the whole, with the sole exception of the two supplements in Proverbs 30:31. (see especially Haevernick and Keil’s Introduction, III., 392 sq.). [This is Wordsworth’s position. It is moreover characteristic of him to look on the proverbs as having “also a typical character and inner spiritual significance, concerning heavenly doctrines of supernatural truth.” He finds support for this view in the fact that the collection is in its introduction said expressly to comprise enigmas and dark sayings.—A.]. Inasmuch as this conclusion is made necessary neither by reasons, internal or external, [in the book itself], nor by any general theological interest in maintaining the inspired character of Scriptures, we must, unquestionably, adopt one of those views which represent the present collection as growing up gradually in the time between Solomon and Hezekiah, or even within a period ending somewhat later, and which discriminate between an original nucleus that is from Solomon, and the accretions of various ages, which are due to later-collectors and editors.
The more important of these theories are (1) that of Ewald (Poet. Bücher des Alten Test., IV. 2 sq.). According to this, Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16 forms the earliest collection, originating perhaps two hundred years after Solomon, yet inspired throughout by Solomon’s spirit; to this were appended, first, in Hezekiah’s time Proverbs 25-29, which also contain much that is the genuine work of Solomon,—then, in the following century, the Introduction, Proverbs 1-9,—then the supplements to the central main division, Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34,—and lastly the supplements Proverbs 30:31; and all these last are to be regarded as the independent composition of unknown sages of the later period before the exile, without any elements whatever that are Solomon’s.
We have (2) the view of Bertheau (Commentary, Introd., pp. 23. sq.). According to this it is as impossible to demonstrate with certainty an origin earlier than the days of Hezekiah for the second collection (Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16) as for the first (Proverbs 1-9), the third (Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34), or the fourth (Proverbs 25-29); we must therefore in general maintain the merely negative conclusion, that the book of Proverbs in its present form originated after the time of Solomon, and that it flowed from sources oral and written that are perhaps very numerous. We have (3) the view of Hitzig (“Das Königreich Massa” in Zeller’s Theol. Jahrb. 1844, pp. 269 sq., and Commentary, Introd. pp. 17. sq.). This represents the present order of the parts as substantially that of their composition. It accordingly conceives of the first collection (Proverbs 1-9) as originating pretty soon after Solomon, in the 9th century B. C.; it then appends to this, shortly before the times of Hezekiah, or in the first half of the 8th century, the second (Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16) together with the latter part of the fourth (Proverbs 28:17 to Proverbs 29:27); to this it attaches “in the last quarter of the 8th century” the anthology in Proverbs 25-27., and about a hundred years later (at the beginning of the period following the exile) the intruded section, Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34, and the fragment, Proverbs 28:1-16; finally, at a still later day it adds the supplements in Proverbs 30:31.
We have (4) the view of Delitzsch (in Herzog’s Encycl., as above quoted, especially pp. 707 sq.), with which that developed by Bleek (Introd., pp. 634 sq.) agrees in the main point,—i.e., apart from some subordinate details in which it approaches more nearly the theory of Ewald. According to this the first and largest section of the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 1:1 to Proverbs 26:22) comes from an age earlier than Hezekiah, the second and smaller commencing with Proverbs 24:23, from Hezekiah’s times. The compiler of the first half lived possibly under Jehoshaphat, within a century of Solomon. As material for the middle and main division of this work,—the germ, the main trunk, consisting of the genuine proverbial wisdom of Solomon as contained in Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16,—he availed himself above all of the rich treasures of the 3,000 proverbs of Solomon, which were undoubtedly all fully preserved to his day, and from which he may be assumed to have taken at least all that were of religious and ethical value. Still he appears to have gathered up much that is not from Solomon, and therefore to have united in one collection the noblest and richest fruits of the proverbial poetry of the wise king, with the most valuable of the “side shoots which the Maschal poetry put forth, whether from the mouth of the people or the poets of that day.” To this collection he prefixed the long Introduction in Proverbs 1-9; a monument of his high poetic inspiration, not in the strict form of the Maschal, but that of long poetic admonitions,—in which he dedicated the whole work to the instruction of youth. At the same time he added an appendix, Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22, consisting of proverbs from various wise men, and commencing with an apostrophe to youth (Proverbs 22:17-21) the tone of which reminds one of the longer Introduction.
While according to this view the first and larger section purports to be essentially a book for youth, the second and shorter division, whose nucleus is formed by the proverbs of Solomon compiled by the men of Hezekiah, is evidently a book for the people, a treasury of proverbial wisdom for kings and subjects,—as is indicated by the first, introductory proverb: “It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, and the honor of kings to search out a matter.” After the analogy of the first collection, to these proverbs gathered by Hezekiah (or this treasury of “Solomon’s wisdom in Hezekiah’s days,” in Stier’s apt phrase), a sort of introduction was prefixed, Proverbs 24:23-34, and a supplement was added, consisting of the proverbial discourses of Agur and Lemuel, and the poem in praise of a virtuous matron, in Proverbs 30:31. Thus, like the older collection of the proverbs of Solomon, this made by Hezekiah has “proverbs of wise men on the right and on the left;” “the king of proverbial poetry stands here also in the midst of a worthy retinue.” As to the time of the origin of the second collection, we are indeed not to assume the reign of Hezekiah itself, but the next subsequent period. The personality of the collector of this second main division stands far more in the background than that of the author of the first, larger collection, who in its introductory chapters has given rich proofs of his own poetical endowments and his wisdom. From which of the two the general superscription of the whole, Proverbs 1:1-6, has come, must remain a question; yet it is from internal evidence more probable that it was the last collector who prefixed this to the book.
We have presented with especial fullness this hypothesis of Delitzsch in regard to the origin of the Book of Proverbs, because it is in itself the most attractive of all, and offers the most satisfactory explanation of the various phenomena that arrest the attention of the observant reader, as he considers the superscriptions and the internal peculiarities of the several parts. It is less forced and artificial than the theory of Hitzig, which shows itself arbitrary and hypercritical, especially in breaking up the section, Proverbs 25-29; and it does not rest content with the mere negative results of criticism, like the analysis of Bertheau, which is also chargeable with excess, of critical sharpness. In comparison with Ewald’s hypothesis it has the advantage, that it rests upon a more correct conception of the order of the development of gnomic poetry among the ancient Hebrews. For it rejects as a one-sided and arbitrary dictum, Ewald’s axiom, that the antithetic verse of two members which predominates in Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16, is the oldest form of the Maschal, and that all proverbs and gnomic discourses otherwise constructed, by their departure from the typical form betray their origin as decidedly later than the days of Solomon. It accordingly allows that sections in which there is a preponderance of gnomic discourses and gnomic songs,—such as Proverbs 1-9 and Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 26:22, may come, if not from Solomon himself, at least from the age immediately after Solomon. It likewise recognizes in the collection that dates from Hezekiah’s day proverbial poetry which is mainly the genuine work of Solomon, or at least stands very near his day, and whose artistic character by no means (as Ewald thinks) contains traces of a decay in purity and beauty of form that is already quite far advanced.
Only in this particular are we unable altogether to agree with Delitzsch, that he would find in Proverbs 10-22. together with a selection from the 3,000 proverbs of Solomon, much that is his only in a secondary sense. We believe rather that it is just this main division which contains nothing but fruits of Solomon’s gnomic wisdom in the narrowest and strictest sense, and that repetitions of individual proverbs within the section, which are partly identical and partly approximative, in which especially Delitzsch thinks he finds support for the view that we are now Combating, are to be otherwise explained. They are, like the repetitions of discourses of Christ in the Gospels, to be partly charged to diversity in the sources or channels of the later oral or written tradition, and in part recognized as real tautologies or repetitions which the wise king now and then allowed himself. We should, on the other hand, be disposed rather to conjecture, that in the supplements, Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34, which are expressly described as “words of wise men,” and perhaps also in Hezekiah’s collection, Proverbs 25-29, there is no inconsiderable number of utterances of wise men of Solomon’s time, such as Heman, Ethan, Chalkol, etc.; and this simply for the reason, that the superscriptions דִּבְרֵי חֲכָמִים (Proverbs 22:17) [words of wise men], and גַּם אֵלֶה לַחֲכָמִים (Proverbs 26:23) [these also are from wise men], together with the peculiarity of diction which points to a high antiquity, make such a conjecture reasonable. The short section beginning with the superscription last cited, Proverbs 24:23-34, we should be most inclined in concurrence with the majority of expositors, to regard as a second appendix to the first main collection, because the assumption of Delitzsch that it is a sort of Introit to the second main division, of the same age as the section, Proverbs 25-29, strikes us in no other way than as too bold and destitute of all adequate foundation.
It remains only to speak briefly of the superscriptions to the two supplements in chapters 30, 31. The “Agur, son of Jakeh” (?) to whom the contents of chapter 30. are accredited, is a wise man otherwise altogether unknown, whose era we are as unable to determine with certainty as his residence, whose very name is almost as difficult and uncertain in its interpretation as are the words next succeeding in chapter Proverbs 30:1. הַמַּשָּׂא יְאֻם הַגֶּבֶר לְאִיתִיאֵל לְאִיתִיאֵל וְאֻכָּל. Perhaps instead of the common translation of these words: “the prophetic address of the man to Ithiel, to Ithiel and Ucal” [“even the prophecy; the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal,” E. V.], the interpretation of Hitzig, adopted also by Bertheau, Hahn and Delitzsch, should be followed. According to this, the words בֶּן יָקֶה [“son of Jakeh”] by a change of punctuation are to be connected closely with the word הַמַּשָּׂא; thus for the beginning of the whole superscription we reach this meaning: “Words of Agur, the son of her whose dominion is Massa” (בֶּן יִקְחָהּ מַשָּׂא ), i.e., son of the queen of Massa. This queen of Massa we should then have to regard as the same person who in the superscription to the next supplement (Proverbs 31:0) is designated as the “mother of King Lemuel.” For in this passage also מַשָּׂא must be regarded as the name of a, country, and the מֶלֶךְ מַשָּׂא [King of Massa] as perhaps an Israelitish Arab, or, as Delitzsch suggests, an Ishmaelitish prince, whose kingdom, to judge from the mention of it in Genesis 25:14; 1 Chronicles 1:30, must have lain in Northern Arabia, and whose brother would have been the Agur in question. [Fuerst (ubi supra, pp. 76–7) regards מַשָּׁא as a common noun, singular in form, but collective in import, having the meaning common in the prophets, “a prophetic or inspired utterance.” The symbolical meaning found here by Jewish tradition may be reserved for the exegetical notes on this chapter.—A.] Further arguments in support of this interpretation (first presented by Hitzig in the Articles in Zeller’s Theol. Jahrb., 1844, cited above, and adopted although with various modifications, by the other interpreters whom we have named), and in reply to all conflicting interpretations, will be brought forward in the special exegesis of the passages involved. We shall there have occasion to discuss the further question, whether the whole substance of Proverbs 30:0 is to be referred to Agur, and all in Proverbs 31:0 to Lemuel, or whether at least the Alphabetic poem, in praise of a virtuous matron must not be regarded (as is done by nearly all the recent commentators) as the work of another author.
§ 13. the relation of the masoretic text of the collection to the alexandrian
In the LXX there occur many, and in some instances very remarkable deviations from the common Hebrew text of the Proverbs. These consist in glosses to many obscure passages (i.e., either in readings that are actually correct and primitive, as, e.g., Proverbs 11:24; Proverbs 12:6; Proverbs 15:28; Proverbs 18:1; Proverbs 19:28; Proverbs 21:6; Proverbs 21:28, etc., or in wild emendations, as in Proverbs 12:12; Proverbs 18:19; Proverbs 19:25; Proverbs 24:10, etc.), in completing imperfect sentences (as; e.g., Proverbs 11:16; Proverbs 16:17; Proverbs 19:7), in independent additions or interpolations (e.g., after Proverbs 1:18; Proverbs 3:15; Proverbs 4:27; Proverbs 5:8; Proverbs 5:11; Proverbs 8:21; Proverbs 9:6; Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 9:12; Proverbs 12:13; Proverbs 13:13; Proverbs 13:15, etc.), in double versions of one and the same proverb (e.g., Proverbs 12:12; Proverbs 14:22; Proverbs 15:6; Proverbs 16:26; Proverbs 17:20; Proverbs 18:8; Proverbs 22:8-9; Proverbs 29:7; Proverbs 29:25; Proverbs 31:27, in the omission of whole verses (e.g., Proverbs 1:16; Proverbs 16:1; Proverbs 16:3; Proverbs 21:5; Proverbs 23:23, etc.), and finally in the transposition of entire passages of greater length. Accordingly, of the proverbs of Agur, the first half (Proverbs 30:1-14) is inserted after Proverbs 26:22, and the second, Proverbs 30:15-33, together with the words of King Lemuel, after Proverbs 24:34; the two supplements, therefore with the exception of the praise of the excellent matron (Proverbs 31:10 sq.) appear associated with the “words of wise men” which stand between the elder and the later collection of proverbs.
These deviations are so considerable that they compel the assumption that there were quite early two different recensions of the Book of Proverbs, one belonging to Palestine, the other to Egypt, the former of which lies at the basis of the Masoretic text, the latter, of the Alexandrian version. The Egyptian text appears in general to abound more in corruptions and arbitrary alterations of the original; sometimes, however, it preserves the original most correctly, and seems to have drawn from primitive sources containing the genuine proverbial wisdom of Solomon. Especially is it true that not a few of the additions which it exhibits on a comparison with the Hebrew text, breathe a spirit, bold and lofty, as well as thoughtful and poetic (see, e.g., Proverbs 4:27; Proverbs 9:12; Proverbs 12:13; Proverbs 19:7, etc.); these appear, therefore, as fruits grown on the stock of the noble poetry of wisdom among the ancient Hebrews,—in part even as pearls from the rich treasures of Solomon’s 3,000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32).
Note 1.—The critical gain for the emendation of the text and for the interpretation of the Book of Proverbs that is yielded by the parallels of the LXX may be found most carefully tested and noted—though not without many instances of hypercritical exaggeration and arbitrary dealing—in Fr. Böttcher’s “Neue exegetisch kritische Aehrenlese zum A. T.,” III., pp. 1–39; in P. De Lagarde’s “Anmerkungen zur griechischen Uebersetzung der Proverbien” (Leipz., 1863); in M. Heidenheim’s Article, “Zur Textkritik der Proverbien” [Deutsche Vierteljahrsschr. für englisch-theol. Forschung, u. s. w., VIII., Gotha, 1865, pp. 395 sq.); as well as in the Commentaries of Bertheau (see especially Introd., pp. 45. sq.) and Hitzig (Introd., pp. 19. sq.; 23. sq.). The last mentioned writer has also thoroughly discussed the variations of the Syriac version (Peschito), the Vulgate and the Targum (pp. 27. sq.); of these, ‘however, in general, only the first named are of any considerable critical value, and that usually only in the cases where they agree with those of the LXX.
Compare furthermore the earlier works of J. G. Jaeger, Observations in Provv. Salom. versionem Alexandrinam, Lips., 1786; Schleussner, Opuscula critica ad versiones Grœcas V. T. pertinentia, Lips., 1812, pp. 260 sq.; and also Dathe, De ratione consensus versionis Chaldaicœ et Syriacœ proverbiorum Salomonis (in Dathii Opuscc. ed. Rosenmueller, pp. 106 sq.).
Note 2.—Umbreit in his Commentary has taken special notice of several other ancient Greek versions beside the LXX, especially the Versio Veneta, which is for the most part strictly literal. Another text which is likewise quite literal, which Procopius used in his Ἑρμήνεια εἰς τάς παροιμίας, and which Angelo Mai has edited in Tom. IX. of his Class. Auctor., may be found noticed in Heidenheim (as above).
§ 14. the poetical form of proverbs
The simplest form of the Maschal, or the technical form of poetry among the Hebrews, is a verse consisting of two short symmetrically constructed clauses,—the so-called distich (Zweizeiler,) as Delitzsch calls it, following Ewald’s peculiarly thorough investigations on the subject before us. The mutual relation of the two members or lines of this kind of verse shapes itself very variously, in accordance with the general laws for the structure of Hebrew poetry. There are synonymous distichs, in which the second line repeats the meaning of the first in a form but slightly changed, for the sake of giving as clear and exhaustive a presentation as possible of the thought involved (e.g., Proverbs 11:7; Proverbs 11:25; Proverbs 12:28; Proverbs 16:19; Proverbs 15:3; Proverbs 15:10; Proverbs 15:12, etc.). There are antithetic distichs, in which the second illustrates by its opposite the truth presented in the first (e.g., Proverbs 10:1 sq.; Proverbs 11:1 sq.; Proverbs 12:1 sq.; Proverbs 15:1 sq.). There are synthetic distichs, the two halves of which express truths of different yet kindred import (e.g., Proverbs 10:18; Proverbs 10:24, etc.). There are integral [eingedankige] distichs, in which the proposition commenced in the first half is brought to completion only by the second, the thought which is to be presented extending through the two lines (as in Proverbs 11:31; Proverbs 14:7; Proverbs 14:10; Proverbs 16:4; Proverbs 16:10; Proverbs 22:28). There are finally parabolic distichs, i.e., maxims which in some form or other ’exhibit comparisons between a moral idea and an object in nature or common life: and this is effected sometimes by כְּ [as] in the first clause and כְּן [so] in the second, that is, in the form natural to comparisons—sometimes, and more usually, in such a way that the proposed object and its counterpart are set loosely side by side, with a suggestive, emblematic brevity, with or without the copulative וְ (Proverbs 11:22; Proverbs 17:3; Proverbs 25:25; Proverbs 26:23; Proverbs 27:21, etc.). In the central main division of the collection, Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16, all the proverbs are these short distichs, and, as has been already said, the larger part of them (especially in the first six chapters of the section) antithetic distichs, distinguished by the “but” (Hebr. ו ) at the beginning of the second line (compare § 12, p. 27; and below, §15). In the supplements to the oldest collection (Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34) as well as in the gleanings of Hezekiah’s men, there are found however not a few instances of the extension of the simple typical distich to a verse of several lines, or of the multiplication of the couplet to four-, sixor eight-lined verses.14
In the case of these longer proverbs, which comprise several verses, we find repeated, if not every one, yet the greater part of the diverse relations of the first to the second half of the proverb, which we had observed in the distichs. There are, it is true, no antithetic stanzas of four lines,—but there are synonymous verses (e.g., Proverbs 23:15 sq.; Proverbs 24:3 sq.; Proverbs 24:28 sq.),—synthetic (Proverbs 30:5 sq.),—stanzas with a single idea (Proverbs 22:22 sq., 26 sq. 30.17 sq.),—and parabolic verses (Proverbs 26:18 sq.; Proverbs 25:4 sq.). Specimens of the six-lined stanzas (which are constructed mainly with a single thought, or in the synthetic form) are to be found, e.g., in Proverbs 23:1-3; Proverbs 23:12-14; Proverbs 23:19-21; Proverbs 23:26-28; Proverbs 24:11-12; Proverbs 30:29-31.Proverbs 23:22-25; Proverbs 23:22-25 compose a stanza of eight lines, synthetic in its structure. Side by side with this normal multiplication of the couplet to form stanzas of four, six or eight lines, there are abnormal or one-sided growths, resulting in triplets, with the first division of two lines and the second of one (e.g., Proverbs 22:29; Proverbs 24:3; Proverbs 27:22; Proverbs 28:10, etc.),—or in stanzas of five lines (Proverbs 23:4 sq.; Proverbs 25:6 sq.; Proverbs 30:32 sq.), or in stanzas of seven lines, of which at least one example appears in Proverbs 23:6-8.
If the proverb extends itself beyond the compass of seven or eight lines, it becomes the Maschal (or gnomic) poem, without a fixed internal order for the strophes. Such a poem (or song) is, for example, the introductory paragraph [of one main division], Proverbs 22:17-21; and again, the meditation on the drunkard, Proverbs 23:29-35; that on the lazy husbandman, Proverbs 24:30-34; the admonition to diligence in husbandry, Proverbs 27:23-27; the prayer for the happy medium between poverty and riches, Proverbs 30:7-9; the prince’s mirror, Proverbs 31:2-9, and the alphabetically constructed song in praise of the matron, Proverbs 31:10-31.
The introductory main division, Proverbs 1:7 to Proverbs 9:18, consists wholly of these proverbial poems, and of 15 of them (see in §16 the more exact enumeration of these 15 subdivisions, which may again be classed in three larger groups). Inasmuch as the rhetorical presentation throws the poetical in these cases usually quite into the background, these Maschal poems may almost be called with greater propriety Maschal discourses. Yet within these there is no lack of poetical episodes, lofty and artistic in their structure, among which we would name especially the allegory of the banquet of Wisdom and Folly (Proverbs 9:1 sq.), and also the numerical proverb in eight lines concerning “the six things which the Lord hates and the seven that are an abomination to Him” (in Proverbs 6:16-19). Of these numerical proverbs, or מִדּות, as they are called in the poetry of the later Judaism, chap.30, as is well known, contains several (vers. 7 sq., 15 sq., 18 sq., 21 sq., 24 sq.). In the Son of Sirach’s collection of proverbs likewise we find several examples of the same kind (e.g., Sir 23:16; Sir 25:7; Sir 26:5; Sir 26:28). Further observations on the origin and import of this peculiar poetic form may be found in notes on Proverbs 6:16. Now and then the Book of Proverbs contains forms analogous to the Priamel [præambulum, a peculiar type of epigram, found in German poetry of the 14th and 15th centuries—A.]; see, e.g., Proverbs 20:10; Proverbs 25:3; Proverbs 26:12; Proverbs 30:11-14; yet this form is hardly found except in the most imperfect state.
The last of the technical forms of the poetry of the Book of Proverbs is that of the Maschalseries, i.e., a sequence of several proverbs relating to the same objects, e.g., the series of proverbs concerning the fool, Proverbs 16:1-12,—the sluggard, Proverbs 26:13-16,—the brawler, Proverbs 26:20-22,—the spiteful, Proverbs 26:23-27. This form belongs, however, as Delitzsch correctly observes, “rather to the technical form of the collection than to the technical form of the poetry of proverbs.” That the former [the arrangement] is far more imperfect and bears witness to far greater indifference than the latter,—in other words, that the logical construction, the systematic arrangement of individual proverbs according to subjects, especially within the central main division, is far from satisfactory, and baffles almost completely all endeavors to discover a definite scheme,—this must be admitted as an indisputable fact, just in proportion as we give fit expression on the other hand to our admiration at the wealth of forms, expressive, beautiful and vigorous, which the collection exhibits in its details.
Note.—With reference to the connection of the several proverbs one with another, and also with respect to the progress of thought apparent in the collection as a whole, we can by no means concur in the opinion of J. A. Bengel,—at least in regard to the main divisions, Proverbs 10:1 sq.; Proverbs 22:17 sq.; Proverbs 25:1 sq. The collection of proverbial discourses, Proverbs 1:7 to Proverbs 9:18, being intentionally arranged according to a plan, is of course excluded from such a judgment. Bengel says: “I have often been in such an attitude of soul, that those chapters in the Book of Proverbs in which I had before looked for no connection whatever, presented themselves to me as if the proverbs belonged in the most beautiful order one with another” (Osk. Waechter, Joh. Albrecht Bengel, p. 166). We must pass the same judgment upon many other expositors of the elder days, who wearied themselves much to find a deeper connection between the several proverbs (see, e.g., S. Bohlius, Ethica Sacra, I., 297 sq., “de dispositione et cohœerentia textus;” and Stöcker in the Introduction to his “Sermons on the Proverbs of Solomon”). In regard to this matter as old a commentator as Mart. Geier judged quite correctly:15 “Ordo-frustra quœritur ubi nullus fuit observatus. Quam-quam enim sub initium forte libri certa serie Rex noster sua proposuerit,—attamen ubi ad ipsas proprie dictas parabolas aut gnomas devenitur, promiscue, prout quidque se offerebat, consignata videmus pleraque, ita ut modo de avaritia, modo de mendaciis, modo de simplicitate, modo de timore Dei vel alia materia sermonem institui videamus,” etc. As in the case of the great majority of the songs of the Psalter, in which the arrangement is merely and altogether external, determined often by single expressions, or by circumstances wholly accidental, there is found among the germinal elements of the Book of Proverbs little or no systematic order. The whole is simply a combination of numerous small elements in a collection, which was to produce its effect more by the total impression than by the mutual relation of its various groups or divisions. To use. Herder’s language (Spirit of Hebrew Poetry, II., 13), it is “a beautiful piece of tapestry of lofty didactic poetry, which spreads out with great brilliancy its richly embroidered flowers,” which, however, is constructed according to no other rules of art than those perfectly simple and elementary ones to which the pearl jewelry and bright tapestries of Oriental proverbial wisdom in general owe their origin. Comp. furthermore the general preliminary remarks prefixed to the exegetical comments on Proverbs 10:0.
§ 15. the dogmatic and ethical substance of the proverbs, exhibited in a careful survey of the contents of the book
Inasmuch as our book, considered as an integral part of the entire system of the Scriptures of the Old Testament, stands before us as the central and main source of Solomon’s doctrine of wisdom (in the wider sense),—and so bears as it were written on its brow its Divine designation to be the chief storehouse of ethical wisdom and knowledge within the sphere of Old Testament revelation (see above, § 1, and § 10, latter part) we must anticipate finding in it great treasures of ethical teachings, prescriptions, rules and maxims for the practical life of men in their moral relations. In fact, the ethical contents of the collection far outweigh the doctrinal. And deeply significant as may be its contributions to the development of individual subjects in dogmatic theology, such as are found in various passages (e.g., Proverbs 3:19 and Proverbs 8:22 sq. in their bearing upon the doctrine of the creation;—Proverbs 8:22 to Proverbs 9:12 as related to the doctrine of the eternal Word of God, and the doctrine of the Hypostasis or of the Trinity in general;—Proverbs 15:11; Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 19:21; Proverbs 20:27, etc., as connected with Biblical Anthropology; or Proverbs 11:7; Proverbs 14:32; Proverbs 15:24 in connection with the Old Testament doctrine of Immortality and the hope of a Resurrection, etc.); still, as a general rule, practical and ethical subjects are treated not only more thoroughly but with a far more direct interest. The book deserves much more the name of a school of morals, or of a Codex of Ethical Precepts for old and young, for princes and people, than that of Archives of Dogmatic Theology, or a prolific Repository of dogmatic propositions and proof-texts.
The dogmatic propositions do not, however, by any means stand in the midst of the greater wealth of ethical teachings and precepts, isolated and interspersed without system. They form rather every where the organic basis. They give expression to the absolute and primary premises for all the moral instruction, knowledge and conduct of men. They appear therefore inseparably combined with those propositions that are properly of an ethical or admonitory nature. It is preeminently the central idea of the Divine Wisdom as the mediator in all the activity of God in the world and in humanity, that shines out bright as the sun upon this background of religious truth which is every where perceptible in the book, and that more or less directly illuminates every moral utterance. As this eternal Divine wisdom is the original source in all God’s revelation of Himself in natural and human life,—as it is especially the mediating and executive agency in the Divine revelation of the way of life in the law of the Old Covenant, and must therefore be the highest source of knowledge and the standard for all the religious and moral life of man,—so likewise does it appear as the highest good, and as the prescribed goal toward which men are to press. And the subjective wisdom of man is nothing but the finite likeness of the wisdom of God, which is not only objective, but absolute and infinite; nothing but the full unfolding and normal development of the noblest theoretical and practical powers of the moral nature of man. It can be attained only by the devotion of man to its Divine original; it is therefore essentially dependent upon the fear of God and willing subjection to the salutary discipline (מוּסָר, Proverbs 1:2; Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 4:1, etc.) of the Divine word. He who does not seek it in this way does not attain it, but remains a fool, an opposer of God and of Divine truth, who in the same ratio as he fails to raise his own moral nature by normal development to a living likeness to God, fails also to share in any true prosperity in the present life, to say nothing of the blessed rewards of the future. He who because of the fear of God strives after true wisdom, on the contrary unfolds his whole inner and outer life to such a symmetry of all his powers and activities as not only secures him the praise of a wise man in the esteem of God and men, but also establishes his true and complete happiness for time and eternity.
A presentation of these fundamental ideas in the ethics of Solomon, well connected, systematically arranged and exhibited, cannot possibly be expected consistently with the note appended to the preceding section in reference to the composition of the Book of Proverbs. If we therefore now endeavor to give a table of contents as complete as possible, following the arrangement of the Masoretic text and the ordinary division of chapters, we shall be quite as unable to avoid a frequent transition to heterogeneous subjects, as on the other hand a return in many instances to something already presented; we must in many cases dispense with even aiming at a strict logical order of ideas. We follow in the main the “Summary of the Contents of the Proverbs of Solomon,” given by Starke at the end of his preface, pp. 1593 sq. Only with respect to the first nine chapters do we adopt the somewhat different summary and division which Delitzsch has given (pp. 697 sq.) of the “fifteen proverbial discourses” of the first main division.
*In Umbreit (p. 66.) and in Keil (p. 395) Chr. Fr. Schnurrer is incorrectly named as the author of this little treatise. It was rather a dissertation defended by the scholars above named under Schnurrer’s rectorate.
An elegant memorial volume, published by his widow, pp. 237, contains a biographical sketch by Dr. Samuel L. Caldwell, the Commemorative Discourse delivered, at the request of the Faculty of Brown University, by the Rev. J. L. Diman, Professor of History in the University, and selections from tho writings of Dr. Dunn, which give evidence of his accurate scholarship, elegant taste, lovely character and elevated piety.
 The allegorical interpretation, it must be admitted, has the authority of many of the greatest divines, both Jewish and Christian, Catholic and Evangelical, and is also sanctioned by the headings of our English Bible. It will probably always retain the ascendancy in the pulpit, and in books for popular devotion. Many of the most eloquent sermons (as St. Bernard’s Sermones in cant. cant., and Krummacher’s Salomo und Sulamith), and of the sweetest hymns (by Gerhardt, Dessler, Drese, Zinzendorf, Wesley, and Gustav Hahn’s, Das Hohe Lied in Liedern, Halle, 1853) are based upon this view. If we distinguish carefully between exposition and application, we may allow a considerable latitude for homiletic and ascetic purposes. One of the very best legitimate practical applications of the passage Proverbs 2:15, I have seen, is in a little book of Mrs. H. Beecher Stowe, where the “ little foxes that spoil the vines ” (Proverbs 2:15), are applied, in a series of entertaining homilies, to little faults that disturb domestic happiness. But in an exegetical point of view most of the allegorical interpretations turn out to be arbitrary impositions rather than expositions. Just as I write, a new attempt in this line comes to my eyes in the British and Foreign Evangelical Quarterly Review for Oct. 1869, pp. 773–796. The writer of this article discovers in the Song a progressive drama beginning at the gates of Eden and running through the light and shade of the history of Judaism and Christianity till the glory of the millennium. He distinguishes in it the following parts:
1. The Church before the advent, waiting and longing for the coming of Christ. 2d. The theocracy under Solomon, which, in the temple and its worship, afford the fullest and clearest typical revelation of Christ which that dispensation admitted of. 3d. The gradual decadence that followed, in both type and prophecy, which went on till at last it deepened into the darkness of the captivity. 4th. The sudden opening of the gospel day in the advent of the Saviour, and the preaching of the apostles—the voice of the turtle, and the flowers that now begin to cover the earth. 5th. A second night, during which Christ is again absent; this lasts longer than the first, and during it a deeper sleep oppresses the church. On awakening, she is seen seeking her beloved, wounded and bleeding, from the sword of persecution. 6th. The bursting out of the day of the Reformation—the morning of the millennium—and then the church is beheld “terrible as an army with banners,” clothed with truth, and shining with a light which makes her the admiration of the nations,—“fair as the moon, clear as the sun.”
A few specimens of interpretation on this scheme, will suffice. The kisses of the Bridegroom are the promises of Christ’s coming; the “Virgins” who love the spouse (Proverbs 1:3), like the Virgins in the Apocalypse, represent those who had not defiled themselves with the idolatrous rites of pagan or papal worship; the “wilderness” from which the bridegroom comes on the day of his espousals (Proverbs 3:6), is Jewish formalism, Gentile scepticism, and pagan idolatry; and the clouds of smoke, which attended the royal progress, are the symbols of mysterious providences.
[This threefold division of Ethics, originating with Schleiermacher, and closely adhered to by Rothe, is generally adopted in Germany. “Güterlehre” is the doctrine of the Good as an object of desire or a thing to be attained. “Tugendlehre” is the doctrine of the sentiments and inclination towards virtue. “Pflichtenlehre” is the doctrine of the right as the foundation of law. The first and the last are objective; the second is subjective.—R. P. D.]
In his 107 Ep. to Læta in reference to the education of her daughter Paula, Jerome says; “Discat primo Psalterium, his se canticis sanctam vocel, et in Proverbiis Salomonis erudiatur ad vitam.” Compare the title παιδαγωγικὴ σοφία which Gregory of Nazianzus was wont to give to the Book of Proverbs.
[“That stately and melancholy figure (Solomon’s)—in some respects the grandest and the saddest in the sacred volume—is, in detail, little more than a mighty shadow. But, on the other hand, of his age, of his court, of his works, we know more than of any other.” (Stanley, Jewish Church, II., 184). And the accomplished author goes on to indicate the multiplying points of contact with the outer and the later world, and with secular history; and adds (p. 186): “To have had many such characters in the Biblical History would have brought it down too nearly to the ordinary level. But to have one such is necessary, to show that the interest which we inevitably feel in such events and such men has a place in the designs of Providence, and in the lessons of Revelation.” See also pp. 252 sq.—Prof. B. B. Edwards (Writings, etc., II., 402), speaking of the fitness of the age to develop this species of poetry, says: “It was the period of peace, extended commerce, art, reflection, when the poet could gather up the experiences of the past, and embody them in pithy sayings, sharp apothegms, instructive allegories, or spread them out in a kind of philosophical disquisition.”—A.]
[“He showed his wisdom by asking for wisdom. He became wise because he had set his heart upon it. This was to him the special aspect through which the Divine Spirit was to be approached, and grasped, and made to bear on the wants of men; not the highest, not the choice of David, not the choice of Isaiah; but still the choice of Solomon. ‘He awoke, and behold, it was a dream.’ But the fulfilment of it belonged to actual life.” Dean Stanley, History of the Jewish Church, II., 190.—A.]
 Luther’s translation, “getrostes Herz” [a comforted, then a courageous or confident heart], must be rejected as contrary to the sense of the original. Comp. Keil in loc., who correctly explains “largeness of heart” as “comprehensive understanding,” “intellectual capacity to grasp the widest realms of knowledge.”
[While there must be conceded to be weight in the objections urged by Isaac Taylor (Proverbs 3:0 of his “Spirit of Hebrew Poetry”) to the recognition of a proper drama in the Scriptures, we cannot agree with him that it is only with “a very forced meaning” that such books as Job and Solomon’s Song can be called dramatic. There is, on the other hand, need to guard against the fondness of some for assimilating the Scriptures in their descriptive terms to secular literature; is there not in the other direction such an error as hyper-fastidiousness?—A.]
Compare the excelleat essay of G. Baur, “Das Bech Hiob und Dante’s göttliche Komödic, uine Parallele,” in the Studien und Kritiken, 1856, III.
So Heinrich Heine designates it in his “Vermischte Schriften,” 1854, 1. In like manner Delitsch, commentar zum Buch Hiob (in Keil and Delitzsch’s Bibl. Comm. zum A. T.), p. 5.
[A genealogy based on the assumed correctness of the first prologue to the Book of Ecclesiasticus has been constructed as follows: 1. Sirach 2. Jesus, son (father) of Sirach (author of the book). 3. Sirach 4. Jesus, son of Sirach (translator of the book). See B. F. Wesicott’s articles, “Jesus, the son of Sirach,” and “Ecclesiasticus,” in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible.—A.]
To speak of the Proverbs of Solomon, or any other one man, is, in the strict use of terms, a self-contradiction. A promrbium, a Sprüchwort, a proverb, is strictly an old and popular saying. Archbishop Trench (see Lecture I.in his valuable little work “On the lessons in Proverbs”) speaks of “popularity—acceptance and adoption on the part of the people,” as “the most essential of all” the qualities of a proverb. A little later he adds,“Herein, in great part, the force of a proverb lies, namely, that it has already received the stamp of popular allowance.” He calls attention to the Spanish name of the proverb, “refran, which is a referendo, from the oftenness of its repetition.” The probable etymology of παροιμίὰ, as “a trite, wayside saving,” points the same way.—Dean Stanley (Jewish Church II., 267), illustrating the same view, says of the Proverbs of Solomon: “They are individual, not national. It is because they represent not many men’s wisdom, but one man’s supereminent wit, that they produced so deep an impression. They were gifts to the people, not the produce of the people,” etc. The adage, adagium, is of doubtful etymology; probably from “ad agendum apta.” The παραβολή, from παρα-βάλλω, to cast or put beside, is in form a comparison, in purpose an illustration. An instructive and entertaining discussion of this subject, enriched with the amplest illustration, may be found in the London Quarterly Review, July, 1868.—A.].
[For the various explanations of the verse see Comm. on Proverbs 31:1].
[In English Biblical literature, Bishop Lowth’s discussion and classification has been the basis generally assumed. We know no clearer and more concise exhibition of this system and the various modifications that have been proposed than that given by W. Aldis Wright in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible (Article Poetry, Hebrew). Lowth who is closely followed by Stuart, Edwards and others, regards a triple classification as sufficient: synonymous, antithetic and synthetic parallelisms. An infelicity in the term synonymous, in view of the extent and variety of its applications, was recognized by Lowth himself, but more strongly urged by Bishop Jebb, who proposed the term cognate. This appears to be a real improvement in terms. Muenscher (Introd., Philippians 4:05sq.) proposes two additional classes, the gradational and the introverted, the first of which is well covered by the term cognate, while the second, which had been proposed by Jebb, seems open to Wright’s exception, that it is “an unnecessary refinement.” This objection does not seem to lie against the new terms proposed in Zöckler’s nomenclature.—A.]
It is in vain to seek for order where none has been observed. For while perhaps near the beginning of the book our king arranged his material with a definite plan,—yet when we come to the parables or gnomes properly so called we find the greater part recorded at random, as one after another suggested itself, so that we see the discourse turning now upon avarice, then upon falsehoods, again upon simplicity, and once more upon the fear of God, or some other subject,” etc.—TR.