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by Thomas Coke
Within the period from the building to the destruction of the temple, literature received a considerable advance, probably, by means of schools of the prophets. Solomon was a great author, as he was endowed with an uncommon share of wisdom: For he spake three thousand proverbs, and his songs were a thousand and five; and he spake of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts and of fowls, and of creeping things, and of fishes. But of all his works only three are taken into the sacred Canon, namely, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and his Song. The Book of Proverbs consists of the most useful rules for the right direction of life, in religion and morals; and is the most authentic and excellent of the kind that can be produced in antiquity. It may be divided into five parts.
I. In the first part the tutor gives his pupil admonitions, directions, cautions, and excitements to the study of wisdom, chap. 1. to 10.
II. The second part contains the Proverbs of Solomon, properly so called; delivered in distinct, independent, general sentences, Pro 10:1 to Proverbs 22:17.
III. In the third part the tutor again address himself to his pupil, and gives him fresh admonitions to the diligent study of wisdom; which is followed by a set of instructions, delivered in the imperative mood to the pupil, who is supposed all the while to be standing before him, chap. Pro 22:17 to Proverbs 25:4.
IV. The fourth part is distinguished by being a collection of Solomon's Proverbs, selected, we may suppose, out of a much greater number, by the men of Hezekiah; perhaps by the prophets Isaiah, Hosea, and Micah, who all flourished in the days of Hezekiah, and, not improbably, assisted him in his pious endeavours to restore true religion, 2 Chronicles 31:20-21. This part, like the second, consists chiefly of distinct unconnected sentences, and reaches from Proverbs 25-30.
V. The fifth part contains a set of wise observations and instructions which Agur, the son of Jakeh, delivered to his pupils Ithiel and Ucal, chap. 30: And the 31st chapter contains the precepts which his mother delivered to Lemuel her son; being passionately desirous to guard him against vice, to establish him in the principles of justice, and to have him married to a wife of the best qualities. These two chapters are a kind of appendix to the book of Proverbs. See Taylor's Scripture Divinity. Respecting the meaning of the word משׁלי mishlei, or proverbs, see Numbers 21:27. Job 27:1. It is generally thought, that the Proverbs of Solomon, as we now have them, are the compilation of the wise sayings of that king, made at different times, and by different persons, and collected together by Esdras, or by those who revised the sacred books after the Babylonish captivity. This may account for the frequent repetitions found in this work; for those proverbs which occur in some of the versions, though not in the Hebrew; and, in some measure, for the variation of the Hebrew, in many places, from the most ancient versions. But for more on this subject we refer to Calmet's preface.
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28