the Fourth Week of Lent
Proverbs, Book of
Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
the 20th book of the Old Test., according to the arrangement of the English Bible, where it is placed between the Psalms and Ecclesiastes, doubtless from its presumed relation to the other works of Solomon; and in the Hebrew Bible it likewise follows the Psalms as part of the Kethubim, or Hagiographa. In the German MSS. of the Hebrew Old Test. the Proverbs are placed between the Psalms and Job, while in the Spanish MSS., which follow the Masorah, the order is Psalms, Job, Proverbs. This latter is the order observed in the Alexandrian MS. of the Sept. Melito, following another Greek MS., arranges the Hagiographa thus: Psalms. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job, as in the list made out by the Council of Laodicea; and the same order is given by Origen, except that the book of Job is separated from the others by the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, and Ezekiel. But our present arrangement existed in the time of Jerome (see Prtf. in Libr. Regum, iii: "Tertius ordo ἁγιόγραφα possidet. Et primus liber incipit ab Job. Secundus a David....' Tertius est Solomon. tres libros habens: Proverbia, quae illi parabolas, id est Masaloth appellant: Ecclesiastes, id est,'Coeleth: Canticum Canticorum, quem titulo Sir Asirim prmnotant"). In the Peshito Syriac, Job is placed before Joshua, while Proverbs and Ecclesiastes follow the Psalms, and are separated from the Son Song Songs by the book of Ruth. Gregory of Nazianzum, apparently from the exigencies of his verse, arranges the writings of Solomon in this order: Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Proverbs. Pseudo Epiphanius places Proverbs, Ecclesiastes. and Song of Songs between the 1James, 2 d books of Kings and the minor prophets. The following article treats of the book both from an internal and an external point of view. (See BIBLE).
I. Title. — As in the Pentateuch, the book of Proverbs takes its Hebrew title from its opening words — מַשְׁלֵי, שְׁלֹמֹה, or מַשְׁלֵי, mishly, simply. From this are directly derived the titles it bears in the Sept. παροιμίαι, Σαλομῶντος ) and Vulgate (Libel Proverbiorum, quem Hebraei "Misle" cappellant), and the name by which it is universally known in English. Another title, perlalps more appropriate to the book as a whole, is derived from its chief subject, "Wisdom." In the Tosaphoth to Baba Bathra (fol. 14 b), we find Proverbs and Ecclesiastes combined under the name סֵפֶר חָכְמָה, "the book of wisdom," and this title appears to have passed thence into the early Church. Clemens Roman. (Lj. ad Coo-. i, 57) when quoting i, 23-31 says, οὕτως λέγει ἡ πανάρετος σοφία, a name which, according to Eusebius (H. E. 4:22), was adopted by Hegesippus. Irenteus, and "the whole band of the ancients," following the unwritten Jewish tradition, and by Clem. Alex. (Strom. ii, § 22). It is styled by Gregory Naz. (Orat. xi) παιδαγωγικὴ σοφία, and by Dion. Alex. σοφὴ βίβλος . In the catalogue of canonical books compiled by Melito of Sardis preserved by Eusebius (H. E. 4:26), we find Παρ . Σαλομ . ἡ καὶ Σοφία, a name which, as well as Sopientia, is of frequent occurrence in the early fathers (see Cotelerius in Clem. Rom. l.c.; Vales. ad Euseb. l.c.), though by no means restricted to the book of Proverbs, being equally used. as Cotelerius proves, of ‘ Ecclesiasticus" and "The Wisdom of Solomon," a circumstance from which some confusion has arisen.
The word מָשָׁל, mashal. by which the so-called "Proverbs" of Solomon are designated (Proverbs 1:1; Proverbs 1:6; Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 25:1; and 1 Kings 4:32 [5:12]), is more appropriately translated in the Vulgate "parabola." It is akin to the verb מָשִׁל, corresponding with the Arabic mnathala and the Syriac methal, " to be like," and primarily signifies "a comparison," "similitude," "parable" (Ezekiel 17:2; Ezekiel 24:3); whence it easily passed to those pithy, sententious maxims so often in the East appearing in the form of a terse comparison, of which many are to be found in the book before us e.g. Proverbs 26:1-3; Proverbs 26:6-9; Proverbs 26:11; Proverbs 26:14; Proverbs 26:17 — and then to "proverbs" in general, whether containing a similitude or not (1 Samuel 10:12; 1 Samuel 24:13 ; Ecclesiastes 12:9). Its scope was still further enlarged by its application to longer compositions of a poetical and figurative character — e.g. that of Balaam (Numbers 23:7; Numbers 23:18, etc., and Job 27:1; comp. Psalms 49:5; Psalms 78:2), and particularly to taunting songs of triumph over fallen enemies-e.g. against the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:4), the Chlalleans (Habakkuk 2:6 : comp. also Micah 2:4; Deuteronomy 28:37; 1 Kings 9:7). (See PROVERB).
But the book of Proverbs, according to the introductory verses which describe its character, contains, besides several varieties of the mashal, sententious sayings of other kinds, mentioned in 1:6. The first of these is the חַידָה, chidah, rendered in the A.V. "dark saying," "dark speech," "hard question," "riddle," and once (Habakkuk 2:6) "proverb." It is applied to Samson's riddle (Judges 14), to the hard questions with which the queen of Sheba plied Solomon (1 Kings 10:1; 2 Chronicles 9:1), and is used almost synonymously with marshal in Ezekiel 17:2, and in Psalms 49:4 (5); Psalms 78:2, in which last passages the poetical character of both is indicated. The word appears to denote a knotty, intricate saying, the solution of which demanded experience and skill: that it was obscure is evident from Numbers 12:8. In addition to the chidah was the מְלַיצָה, melitsah (Proverbs 1:6, A.V. "the interpretation," marg. "an eloquent speech"), which occurs in Habakkuk 2:6 in connection both with chidch and marshal. It has been variously explained as a mocking, taunting speech (Ewald); or a speech dark and involved, such as needed a melits, or interpreter (comp. Genesis 42:23; 2 Chronicles 32:31; Job 33:23; Isaiah 43:27); or again, as by Delitzsch (Der Prophet Htbclukmk, p. 59), a brilliant or splendid saying ("Glanz-oder Vohlrede, oratio splendida, elecyas, lumninibus ornata"). This last interpretation is based upon the usage of the word in modern Hebrew, but it certainly does not appear appropriate to the Proverbs; and the first explanation, which Ewald adopts, is as little to the point. It is better to understand it as a dark, enigmatical saying, which, like the mashal, might assume the character of sarcasm and irony, though not essential to it. (See PARABLE).
As might be expected from the nature of the work contemplated, the proverbs before us almost exclusively bear reference to the affairs of this life; but while a future existence is not formally brought to view, yet the consciousness of such an existence runs throughout, and forms the basis on which many of the strongest, most decisive. and oft-repeated declarations are made. For example, Proverbs 11:7 has no meaning except on the supposition that the writer believed in a future life, where, if not here, the hope and expectation of good men should be realized. If death were, in his judgment, annihilation, it would be equally the overthrow of the expectation of the righteous as of the wicked. See also, as affording similar indication, Proverbs 14:32; Proverbs 23:17-18. (See IMMORTALITY).
II. Canonicity. — The canonical authority of the book of Proverbs has never been called in question, except among the Jews themselves. We learn from the Talmud (Shabbath, fol. 30 b) that the school of Shammai, thus early adopting the principle of the free handling of Scripture, was led by some apparent contradictions in the book (e.g. Proverbs 26:4-5) to question its inspiration, and to propose to cast it out of the canon. It is indeed certain, if we credit the Jewish tradition, that it did not at once take its place on a level with the other canonical Scriptures, but, like the Antilegomena of the New Test., remained for a time in suspense. According to Wolf (Bibl. Hebr. 2, 119) and Zunz (Gott. Vor'traag. p. 14), it was not till the period of the Persian rule that "the men of the great synagogue" admitted it to an equal rank with the other Hagiographa. In the remarkable passage of the Talmud, however, which contains the most ancient opinion of the Jews on the formation of the Old-Test. canon (Baba Bathra, p. 14, apud Westcott, Bible in the Church, p. 36), its recognition is fixed earlier: the Proverbs (" Meshalim") being included with Isaiah, Canticles (" Shir Hashirim"), and Ecclesiastes (" Koheleth") in the memorial word Jamshak, specifying the books "written" — i.e. reduced to writing-by Hezekiah and his learned men. With the trifling exception mentioned above, its right to a place in the canon has never been questioned since its admission into it, and there is no book of Holy Scripture whose authority is more unshaken. The amount of inspiration in the book has been a matter of speculation since the days of Theodore of Mopsuestia, who believed that the wisdom contained in it was that of Solomon only, not of the Spirit of God; even as some of the rabbins found in Ecclesiastes no divine wisdom, but merely that of Solomon. Leaving such vain and impracticable distinctions, the canonical authority of the book is attested to us by the frequent use of it in the New Test. The following is a list of the principal passages:
Proverbs 1:16 Romans 3:10; Romans 3:15.
Proverbs 3:7 Romans 12:16.
Proverbs 3:11-12 Hebrews 12:5-6; Revelation 3:19.
Proverbs 3:34 James 4:6.
Proverbs 10:12 1 Peter 4:8. *
Proverbs 11:31 1 Peter 4:18.
Proverbs 17:13 Romans 12:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:15; 1 Peter 3:9.
Proverbs 17:27 James 1:19.
Proverbs 20:9 1 John 1:8.
Proverbs 20:20 Matthew 15:4; Mark 7:10.
Proverbs 22:8 (Sept.) 2 Corinthians 9:7. *
Proverbs 25:21-22 Romans 12:20. *
Proverbs 26:11 2 Peter 2:22.
Proverbs 27:1 James 4:13-14; James 4:16.
Of these only those marked with an asterisk are actual quotations; in the others there is a more or less direct allusion. (See WISDOM PERSONIFIED).
III. Divisions. — The thirty-one chapters of the book of Proverbs may be roughly divided into four sections:
1. The hortatory introduction (1-9);
2. The first collection of "the Proverbs of Solomon," properly so called, with its appendices (10-24);
3. The second collection, compiled by Hezekiah's scribes (25-29);
4. An appendix by different writers.
1. The first of these sections has no continuous connection, and is hardly capable of any very accurate subdivision. The separate chapters form in some instances a connected whole (e.g. 2, 5, 7, 8, 9); sometimes the connection does not extend bevond a few verses (e.g. Proverbs 3:1-10; Proverbs 3:13-26; Proverbs 4:14-19; Proverbs 6:1-11). There is little coherence between the separate chapters, and little unity beyond that of the general subject or the mode of treating it; so that if one chapter were to be removed, the organization of the whole would not be affected, and it would hardly be missed. Ewald, however, who, somewhat in defiance of the internal evidence, looks on this portion as "an original whole, thoroughly connected, and cast, as it were, at one gush," after the general introduction (Proverbs 1:1-7) discovers three subdivisions, marked as well by the contents as by the position of the imperative verb at the beginning of the sections (e.g. Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 4:1; Proverbs 6:20); while in the smaller divisions "mi son" stands before the verb (e.g. Proverbs 1:10; Proverbs 1:15; Proverbs 2:1; Proverbs 3:1; Proverbs 3:11; Proverbs 3:20; Proverbs 4:21, etc.). Ewald's subdivisions are —
(1) a general admonition to the pursuit of wisdom, not fully completed, but running off into particulars (Proverbs 1:8-3);
(2) an exhaustive enumeration of the particular points of his admonition (Proverbs 4:1 to Proverbs 6:29), until
(3) the discourse, gradually rising in power and grandeur, at last attains an almost lyrical flight (Proverbs 6:20-29). According to Delitzsch (in Herzog's Encyklop.) this section is divisible into fifteen separate strains —
(1) Proverbs 1:7-19;
(2) Proverbs 1:20-33;
(3) Proverbs 2,
(4) Proverbs 3:1-18;
(5) Proverbs 3:19-26;
(6) Proverbs 3:27-35,
(7) Proverbs 4:1 to Proverbs 5:6;
(8) Proverbs 5:7-23;
(9) Proverbs 6:1-5,
(10) Proverbs 6:6-11,
(11) Proverbs 6:12-19;
(12) Proverbs 6:20-35;
(13) Proverbs 7;
(14) Proverbs 8;
(15) Proverbs 9.
2. The second section (10-24) evidently contains three subdivisions —
(a) the collection of unconnected proverbs or gnomes (Proverbs 10:1-22; Proverbs 10:16);
(b) " the words of the wise" (comp. Proverbs 1:6; Ecclesiastes 9:7; Ecclesiastes 12:11), consisting of a more connected series of maxims, with a hortatory preface recalling the style of the first section (Proverbs 22:17; Proverbs 24:22);
(c) a shorter appendix of proverbial sayings, with the title "these also belong to the wise," ending with a description of a sluggard (Proverbs 24:23-34).
3. The third section is a continuous series of gnomic sayings without any subdivision (Proverbs 25-29).
4. The fourth section, like the second, separates into three parts —
(a) "the words of Agur," a collection of proverbial and enigmatical sayings (30),
(b) "the words of king Lemuel" (Proverbs 31:1-9); and
(c) a short alphabetical poem in praise of a virtuous woman (Proverbs 31:10-31).
IV. History of the Text. — The variations from the existing Masoretic text of the book of Proverbs presented by the versions of the Sept., the Peshito- Syriac, the ‘‘ argum, and to some extent by the Vulgate, bear witness to the former existence of copies differing in many and not unimportant points from that which has become the authoritative text. The text, as preserved in these ancient versions, differs from that of our Hebrew Bibles both in excess and defect. They contain clauses, verses, and sometimes paragraphs not to be found in our extant copies, for the existence of which it is difficult to account, unless they formed part of the book which was before the translators; while other portions are wanting, for the absence of which no sufficient account can be given, except that they were not read in the ancient Hebrew MSS. they employed. The very large number of minor discrepancies, both in language and arrangement, which we meet with, all tend to confirm this view, and it well deserves consideration what influence these variations, which every student knows are not confined to this book, should have on the ordinarily received hypothesis of the integrity and purity of the present Hebrew text. This, however, is not the place for the prosecution of this investigation. We shall content ourselves with pointing out the principal points of variation.
1. To commence with the Sept., the earliest of the existing versions. The translation of this book, like that of Job, proves a more competent acquaintance with the Greek language and literature than is usual with the Alexandrine translators. The rendering is more free than literal, giving what the writer conceived to be the general spirit of the passage without strict adherence to the actual words. Bertheau remarks that the version of this book appears to have been undertaken rather with a literary than a religious object, as it was not read in the synagogues or required for their internal regulation. It is to this freedom of rendering that not a few of the apparent discrepancies are due, while there are others which are attributable to carelessness, misconception of the writer's meaning, or even possibly to arbitrary alterations on the part of the translators. In some cases, also, we find two incompatible translations fused into one — e.g. Proverbs 6:25; Proverbs 16:26; Proverbs 23:31. Of the majority, however, of the variations no explanation can be offered but that they represent a different original, and therefore deserve consideration for the history of the text.
In the first division (1-9) these variations are less considerable than in the second. Two verses appended to ch. 4 remove the abruptness of the close and complete the sense. To the simile of the ant (6:8), that of the bee is added. The insertion after 8:21 seems out of place, and disturbs the continuity. In ch. 9 there are two considerable additions to the description of the wise and foolish women, which seem to complete the sense in a very desirable manner. The variations are much more considerable in the section 10-24. A large number of verses are wanting (Proverbs 11:4; Proverbs 13:6; Proverbs 16:1-4; Proverbs 18:23-24; Proverbs 19:1-2; Proverbs 20:14-19; Proverbs 21:5; Proverbs 22:6; Proverbs 23:23 — which comes in very awkwardly in the Hebrew text; Proverbs 24:8); the arrangement of others is dislocated — e.g. ch. 15 closes with Proverbs 24:29, Proverbs 24:30; Proverbs 24:32-33 standing at the beginning of ch. 16, while a verse very similar to Proverbs 24:31 is found after Proverbs 16:17; Proverbs 19:3 stands as the last verse of ch. 18; in ch. 20 Proverbs 19:20-22 come between Proverbs 19:9-10. The most extraordinary dislocation, hardly to be ascribed to anything but an error of the scribe, appears in ch. 24. After Proverbs 19:22 is introduced Proverbs 29:27, to which succeed four distichs descriptive of the wrath of a king and urging attention to the writer's words, not found in the Hebrew. We then find 30-31, 9 (i.e. the prophecy of Agur and of Lemuel), with the remainder of ch. 24 foisted in between Proverbs 29:14-15 of ch. 30. The remainder of ch. 31, the acrostic on a virtuous woman, stands in its right place at the end of the book. The additions in this section are also numerous and important. We find proverbs intercalated between the following verses: Proverbs 10:4-5; Proverbs 11:16-17 (by which a very imperfect antithesis in the Hebrew is rectified); Proverbs 12:11-14; Proverbs 13:9-10; Proverbs 13:13-14 (found in the Vulgate, Proverbs 14:15-16); Proverbs 14:22-23; Proverbs 15:5-6; Proverbs 18, 19, 27, 28; Proverbs 28, 29; Proverbs 17:6-7; Proverbs 16, 17; Proverbs 18:22-23; Proverbs 19:7-8; Proverbs 22:8-9 (found with slight variations 2 Corinthians 9:7); 2 Corinthians 9:9-10; 2 Corinthians 9:14-15. In the dislocated ch. 16 five or perhaps six new proverbs appear. Intercalated proverbs are also found in the section 25-29 — e.g. Proverbs 25:10-11; Proverbs 20, 21; Proverbs 26:11-12 (found also in Ecclesiastes 4:21), Proverbs 27:20-21; Proverbs 21:22; Proverbs 29:25-26. Besides these, a careful scrutiny will discover a large number of smaller interpolations throughout, many of which are only explanatory clauses.
To specify the words and clauses which vary from the Hebrew would carry us far beyond our limits. For these and the comparison of the two versions generally, the student may be referred to Jager, Observ. in Prov. Salom. vers. Alex., and Schleusner, Opusc. Critic. In many of these cases the Sept. has probably preserved the true reading (e.g. 10:10, b); but, on the whole, Ewald and Bertheau agree that the Masoretic text is the better and purer.
2. The Peshito-Syriac version, like the Sept., while it agrees with the Hebrew text generally, presents remarkable deviations in words and clauses, and contains whole verses of which there is no trace in the Hebrew. Some of the variations only prove a different interpretation of the text, but others are plainly referable to a difference in the text itself (e.g. Proverbs 7:22 sq.; Proverbs 15:4-15; Proverbs 19:20; Proverbs 21:16; Proverbs 22:21, etc.), and thus confirm the view that at the time the version was executed — i.e. anterior to the 4th century — the present Hebrew text was not universally recognised.
3. The Vulgate translation of Proverbs, hastily executed by Jerome in three days (together with Ecclesiastes and Canticles), offers largely the same phenomena as the Sept. version. Many of the additions of the Sept. are to be found in it — e.g. Proverbs 10:4; Proverbs 12:11; Proverbs 12:13; Proverbs 15:5; Proverbs 15:27 (comp. Proverbs 16:6); 16:5, etc.; and in one or two instances it has indepenennt additions — e.g. Proverbs 14:21; Proverbs 18:8. There can be little doubt that in these points it preserves an authentic record of the state of the text at a period anterior to any existing Hebrew MS.
4. We may conclude this hasty review with the Targum. That on the Proverbs is considered by Zunz (p. 64), on lingutistic grounds, to be nearly contemporaneous with those on the Psalms and Job, and is assigned by Bertheau to the latter half of the 7th century, though it is not quoted before the 12th. The version is close, and on the whole follows the original text very faithfully, though with some remarkable deviations (the following are quoted by Bertheau — Proverbs 7:22; Proverbs 10:3; Proverbs 14:14; Proverbs 25:1; Proverbs 25:20, etc.). Its similarity to the Peshito is too remarkable to be accidental (Proverbs 1:2-3; Proverbs 1:5-6; Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 1:10; Proverbs 1:12-13; Proverbs 2:9-10; Proverbs 2:13-15; Proverbs 3:2-9, etc.), and is probably to be accounted for by the supposition of a subsequent recension of the text, which is very corrupt, based upon that version. See Wolf, Biblioth. Hebrews 2, 1176; Dathe, De Rat. Consens. rems. Chald. et Syr. Proverbs Salom.; Zunz, Gottesdienst. Vortrag.
V. Form and Style. —
1. The difference of style and structure between the first and second divisions is apparent on the most cursory perusal. Instead of the detached gnomes of the latter, we find a succession of hortatory addresses, varying in length and differing in subject, though for the most part on the same plan and with the same general object, in which the writer does not so much define wisdom as enlarge upon the blessings to be derived from its possession, and the lasting misery which is the consequence of the violation of its precepts, and in the most powerful and moving language urge the young to the earnest pursuit of it as the best of all good things. Whether originally written as a proem or introduction or not, it is certainly well fitted to occupy its present place, and prepare the mind of the reader for the careful consideration of the moral and practical precepts which follow. The style is of a much higher and more dignified character than in the succeeding portions; the language is more rhetorical; it abounds in bold personifications and vivid imagery. The concluding chapters (8, 9) are cast in the grandest mould of poetry, and are surpassed in true sublimity by few portions of Holy Scripture. At the same time, when this portion is viewed as a whole, a want of artistic skill is discoverable. The style is sometimes diffuse and the repetitions wearisome. The writer returns continually on his steps, treating of the same topic again and again, without any apparent plan or regular development of the subject.
As regards the form, we find but little regularity of structure. The paragraphs consist sometimes of no more than two or three verses (Proverbs 1:8-9; Proverbs 3:11-12; Proverbs 6:1-19); sometimes the same thought is carried through a long succession of verses, or event an entire chapter (Proverbs 2:1-22; Proverbs 5:1-20; Proverbs 6:20-35; Proverbs 7, 8, 9). A very favorite arrangement is a paragraph of ten verses (Proverbs 1:10-19; Proverbs 3:1-10; Proverbs 11-20; Proverbs 4:10-19; Proverbs 8:12-21; Proverbs 22-31), a form which, if we may trust the Sept. version, existed also in the copies employed by them in Proverbs 4:20-27; Proverbs 5:6-11; and, according to the Peshito-Syriac, in Proverbs 4:1-9. The parallelism of members is sometimes maintained, but frequently neglected. The parallels are usually synonymous (e.g. Proverbs 1:8-9; Proverbs 1:11-12, etc.). The antithetical parallels found in Proverbs 3:32-35 belong to a series of gnomes which disturb the harmony of the passage, and appear scarcely in their appropriate place. It may be remarked that the name "Elohim" occurs only six times in the whole book, and thrice in this section (Proverbs 2:5-17; Proverbs 3:4). The other places are, Proverbs 25:2; Proverbs 30:5-9. Other unusual words are חָכְמוֹת, "wisdoms," for wisdom in the abstract (Proverbs 1:20; Proverbs 9:1; found also in Proverbs 24:7); זָרָה "the strange woman," which occurs repeatedly (e.g. Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 5:3; Proverbs 5:20, etc., found nowhere else save in Proverbs 22:14; Proverbs 23:23); and נָכְרַיָּה, "the stranger" (Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 7:5, etc.; found also in Proverbs 20:16; Proverbs 23:27; Proverbs 27:13); i.e. the foreign prostitute, then as now lurking at the dark corners of the streets, taken as the representative of the harlot sense seducing the youlng and inexperienced from true wisdom. Ewald also notices the unusual construction of שְׁפָתִיַם, a dual fem. with a verb in the masc. plur. (Proverbs 5:2); while in the next verse it has properly a fern. plur., and the unusual plur. אַישַׁים (Proverbs 8:4).
2. In the second division, "the Proverbs of Solomon," which form the kernel of the book, (Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:17), we find a striking similarity of structure throughout. Every verse (reckoned by Delitzsch at 375) in its normal form consists of two members, each containing three, four, or more rarely five short words. (The one exception to this rule [19:7] is probably due to the loss of a member, which is supplied by the Sept.) Every verse is independent, with no necessary connection with those that precede or follow, and, generally speaking, no attempt at arrangement. Ewald's theory of a continuous thread of connection running through this collection in its original form, and binding together the scattered sayings, has absolutely no evidence in its favor, and can only be sustained by supposing an almost total dismemberment of this portion of the book. It is true there are cases in which the same subject recurs in two or three successive verses (e.g. Proverbs 10:2-5; Proverbs 18-21; Proverbs 11:4-8; Proverbs 24-26), but these are the exceptions, and only occur, as Ewald elsewhere allows, when, from the studied brevity of the proverbial form, a thought cannot be expressed in all its fulness in a single verse. The cases in which the same characteristic word or words recur in successive proverbs are more frequent (e.g. Proverbs 10:6-7; Proverbs 8:10; Proverbs 11:5-6; Proverbs 10, 11, etc.). But in every instance each verse gives a single definite idea. nor do we ever meet with two verses so connected that the latter contains the reason of the counsel, or the application of the illustration given in the former.
Nearly the whole of the proverbs in the earlier part of this division are antithetical; but after the middle of ch. 15 this characteristic gradually disappears, and is almost entirely lost in the concluding chapters. A large number are synonymous (e.g. Proverbs 11:7; Proverbs 11:25; Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 12:14; Proverbs 12:28; Proverbs 14:13; Proverbs 14:17; Proverbs 14:19, etc.), some aphoristic (e.g. Proverbs 11:31; Proverbs 13:14), especially with the comparative and מַן (e.g. Proverbs 12:9; Proverbs 15:16-17; Proverbs 16:8-9, etc.), or אִ כּיַ, "much more" (e.g. Proverbs 11:31; Proverbs 15:11; Proverbs 17:7). Others are synthetic (Proverbs 10:18; Proverbs 11:29; Proverbs 14:17, etc.); only two are parabolic (Proverbs 10:26; Proverbs 11:22). The style is lower and more prosaic than in the former section. Ewald regards it as an example of the most ancient and simplest poetical style, full of primeval terseness, and bearing the visible stamp of antiquity in its language and imagery without any trace of later coloring. He remarks very justly that the proverbs in this collection are not to be looked upon as a collection of popular sayings, embodying mere prudential wisdom. but that they belong to the higher life, and are as broad in their grasp of truth as in their range of thought. The germ of many of them may have been found in popular sayings; but the skill and delicacy with which they have been fashioned into their present shape, though of the simplest kind, display the hand of a master.
Ewald remarks the following peculiar phrases as occurring in this section. "Fountain of life," Proverbs 10:11; Proverbs 13:14; Proverbs 14:27; Proverbs 16:22 (comp. Psalms 36:9 ): "tree of life," Proverbs 3:18; Proverbs 11:30; Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4 : "snares of death," Proverbs 13:14; Proverbs 14:27 (comp. Psalms 18:5 ): and the following favorite words — מִרְפֵּא, "healin in" in various similes and applications, Proverbs 12:18; Proverbs 13:17; Proverbs 16:24 (but this also occurs in the former section, Proverbs 4:22; Proverbs 6:15) מְחַתָּה, "destruction," Proverbs 10:14-15; Proverbs 10:29; Proverbs 13:3; Proverbs 14:28; Proverbs 18:7; Proverbs 21:15; and only in four other places in the whole Bible: יָפַיחִ, part from פּוּחִ, "to blow," Proverbs 12:17; Proverbs 14:5; Proverbs 14:25; Proverbs 19:5-9 (comp. Proverbs 6:19; Psalms 12:6; Psalms 27:11): the unfrequent roots סֶלֵ, "perverseness," Proverbs 11:3; Proverbs 15:4, and the verb סַלֵּ, "to pervert," "destroy," Proverbs 13:6; Proverbs 19:3; Proverbs 21:12; Proverbs 22:12 : the phrase לאֹ יַנָּקֶה, "shall not go unpunished," Proverbs 11:21; Proverbs 16:5; Proverbs 17:5 (comp. Proverbs 28:20; Proverbs 6:29): רַדֵּ, "he that pursueth," Proverbs 11:19; Proverbs 12:11; Proverbs 13:21; Proverbs 15:9; Proverbs 19:7 (comp. Proverbs 28:19), and nowhere else. Ewald instances also as archaic phrases not met with elsewhere, עִד אִרְגַּיעָה, "but for a moment," Proverbs 12:19 : יָד לְיָד, "hand join in hand," Proverbs 11:21; Proverbs 16:5 : הַתְגִּלִּע, "‘ meddled with," Proverbs 17:14; Proverbs 18:1; Proverbs 20:3 : נַרְגָּן, "whisperer," "talebearer," Proverbs 16:28; Proverbs 18:8 (comp. Proverbs 26:20-22). The word יֵשׁ, "there is," though frequent elsewhere, scarcely occurs in Proverbs, save in this section, Proverbs 11:24; Proverbs 12:18; Proverbs 13:7; Proverbs 13:23; Proverbs 14:12, etc.
3. With Proverbs 22:17, "the words of the wise" (comp. Proverbs 1:6), we are carried back to the style and language of the proem (ch. 1-9), of which we are also reminded by the continued address in the second person singular, and the use of "my son." There is, however, a difference in the phraseology and language; and, as Maurer remarks, the diction is not unfrequently rugged and awkward, and somewhat labored. Parallelism is neglected. The moral precepts are longer than those of ch. 10-22, but not so diffuse as those of the first section. We find examples of the distich, Proverbs 22:28; Proverbs 23:9; Proverbs 24:7-10 : the tristich, Proverbs 22:29; Proverbs 24:29 : but the tetrastich is the most frequent, the favorite form being that in which the second member gives the ground of the first, Proverbs 22:22-23; Proverbs 24, 25; Proverbs 26, 27, etc. We also find proverbs of five members, Proverbs 23:4-5; Proverbs 24:3-4 : several of six, Proverbs 23:1-3; Proverbs 23:12-14; Proverbs 23:19-21; Proverbs 24:11-12 : and one of seven, Proverbs 28:6-8. We have a longer strain, Proverbs 23:29-35, against drunkenness.
4. The short appendix, Proverbs 24:23-34, comprising more "words of the wise," can hardly be distinguished in style or form from the preceding. It closes with a "proverb-lay" of five verses on the evils of sloth.
5. The second collection of "the Proverbs of Solomon" (ch. 25-29), transcribed (הֶעְתַּיקוּ, Sept. ἐξεγράψαντο , Aq. μετῆραν; Gr. Ven. μετήνεγκαν; comp. Pusey, Daniel, p. 322 note) by the scribes of Hezekiah, closely resembles the former one. They are, according to Pusey, "identical in language." It has, however, some very decided points of difference. The "parabolic" proverb is much more frequent than the "antithetical," the two members of the comparison being sometimes set side by side without any connecting link (e.g. Proverbs 25:12-13), which is in other cases given merely by ו, "and," or כֵּן, "so" (Proverbs 26:1-2; Proverbs 26:18-19; Proverbs 27:8, etc.). The parallelism is sometimes strict, sometimes lax and free. There is a want of the sententious brevity of the former collection, and the construction is looser and weaker. The proverbs are not always completed in a single verse (Proverbs 25:6-7; Proverbs 25:9-10; Proverbs 25:21-22; Proverbs 26:18-19); and more frequently than in the former section we have series of proverbs with an internal connection of subject (Proverbs 26:23-25; Proverbs 27:15-16; Proverbs 27:23-27), and others in which the same key-word recurs (Proverbs 25:8-10; Proverbs 26:3-12; Proverbs 13-16). This is not foumnd so often after Proverbs 27:5; but a close examination of the text suggests the idea that this may be due to a disturbance of the original order (comp. Proverbs 27:7; Proverbs 27:9; Proverbs 28:4; Proverbs 28:7; Proverbs 28:9; Proverbs 29:8; Proverbs 29:10, etc.). Ewald discovers a want of the figurative expressions of the earlier collection, and a difference of language and phraseology, while Rosenmü ller remarks that the meaning of the proverbs is more obscure and enigmatical. The greater part of them are moral precepts. "The earlier collection may be called ‘ a book for youth;' this ‘ a book for the people'" (Delitzsch); "the wisdom of Solomon in the days of Hezekiah" (Stier).
6. The three supplemental writings with which the book closes (ch. 30, 31) are separated from the other portions and from one another no less by style and form than by authorship. Ewald somewhat arbitrarily divides ch. 30 after Proverbs 29:14 (a division, however, sanctioned by the Sept.), and thinks it not improbable that ch. 30 and Proverbs 31:1-9 are from the same pen. He also regards the opening verses of ch. 30 as a dialogue, Proverbs 31:2-4 being the words of an ignorant disciple of Agur, to which the teacher replies. The difference between the enigmatical savings of Agur (which find a counterpart in the collections of Oriental proverbs) and the simple admonitions of Lemuel's mother is very great if we assign them to one author. In ch. 30 we have, in Ewall's words, instead of moral aphorisms, a succession of elegant little pictures illustrative of moral truths, evidencing a decay of creative power, the skill of the author being applied to a novel and( striking presentation of an old truth. The ancient terse proverbial form is entirely lost sight of, and the style rises to a height and dignity warranting the use of the term מִשָּׂא (comp. Isaiah 13:1; Habakkuk 1:1, etc.) applied to both. In "the words of king Lemuel" we find much greater regularity. The parallelism is synonymous, and is maintained throughout. The alphabetical ode in praise of a virtuous woman — "a golden A B C for women" (Doderlein) — has all its verses of about the same compass. The parallelism is very similar to that of the Psalms, especially those in which the same alphabetical arrangement is found.
VI. Authorship and Date. — On these points the most various opinions have been entertained, from that of the rabbins and the earlier school of commentators, with whom some modern writers (e.g. Keil) agree, who attribute the whole book to Solomon (even Proverbs 30:31 are assigned to him by Rashi and his school), to those of Hitzig and other representatives of the advanced critical school, who, however widely at variance with one another, agree in reducing to a minimum the wise king of Israel's share in the book which from the remotest antiquity has borne his name. In the face of such wide
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Proverbs, Book of'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​p/proverbs-book-of.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.