Book of Proverbs

Book of Proverbs

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The Book of Proverbs commonly referred to simply as Proverbs, is a book of the Hebrew Bible
Hebrew Bible
The Hebrew Bible is a term used by biblical scholars outside of Judaism to refer to the Tanakh , a canonical collection of Jewish texts, and the common textual antecedent of the several canonical editions of the Christian Old Testament...

.
The original Hebrew title of the book of Proverbs is "Míshlê Shlomoh" ("Proverbs of Solomon
Solomon
Solomon , according to the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, a King of Israel and according to the Talmud one of the 48 prophets, is identified as the son of David, also called Jedidiah in 2 Samuel 12:25, and is described as the third king of the United Monarchy, and the final king before...

"). When translated into Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, the title took on different forms. In the Greek Septuagint (LXX) the title became "paroimai paroimiae" ("Proverbs"). In the Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 Vulgate
Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

 the title was "proverbia", from which the English title of Proverbs is derived.

Authorship



The authorship of Proverbs has long been a matter of dispute. Solomon’s name appears in Proverbs 1:1, "The proverbs of Solomon the son of David
David
David was the second king of the united Kingdom of Israel according to the Hebrew Bible and, according to the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, an ancestor of Jesus Christ through both Saint Joseph and Mary...

, King of Israel." There are also references within Proverbs to Agur
Agur
Agur ben Jakeh was the compiler of a collection of proverbs found in , which is sometimes known as the Book of Agur or Sayings of Agur. The initial text of the chapter runs as follows , and bears great similarity to . This translation is not universally accepted as correct; see below.The text Agur...

 (30:1) and Lemuel (31:1) as authors distinct from Solomon. These names are missing in the Greek translation of the Septuagint. Medieval scholars used in the Vulgate
Vulgate
The Vulgate is a late 4th-century Latin translation of the Bible. It was largely the work of St. Jerome, who was commissioned by Pope Damasus I in 382 to make a revision of the old Latin translations...

 the Hebrew rendering of these two verses, and in their eyes the words "Agur" and "Lemuel" were but symbolic names of Solomon.
Solomon is often mentioned as someone who has extensive wisdom
Wisdom
Wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgements and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one's emotional reactions so that universal principles, reason and...

 in the Bible as well as in extra-biblical literature. In 1 Kings 4:32, 3000 proverbs and over 1000 songs are said to have come from Solomon and it is also said that people came from all over the ancient world to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Not only are the names "Agur" and "Lemuel" linked to other sections of the book, there are elements of disunity within the book that suggest more than one author.
Some of the authorship is attributed to "Men of Hezekiah
Hezekiah
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the 14th king of Judah. Edwin Thiele has concluded that his reign was between c. 715 and 686 BC. He is also one of the most prominent kings of Judah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible....

" (25:1), though it is stated that they simply transcribed the proverbs rather than writing them of their own accord.

In terms of the text itself there are at least eight specific instances where authorship is mentioned:
Hezekiah
Hezekiah
Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the 14th king of Judah. Edwin Thiele has concluded that his reign was between c. 715 and 686 BC. He is also one of the most prominent kings of Judah mentioned in the Hebrew Bible....

’s men)
30:1 Agur son of Jakeh
31:1 Lemuel (or his mother)


Studies of word usage have indicated that the highest percentage of commonalities are between the three Solomon sections. The next most common are the Wise Men sections, showing that they could have influenced Solomon’s writing, and the least commonalities were with the Agur, Lemuel, and the unknown author. A majority of critical scholars, including James L. Crenshaw, Roland E. Murphy and L. G. Perdue, hold to the belief that much of Proverbs was brought together from a time well after Solomon. However, many Conservative Evangelicals continue to attribute most of the book to Solomon, including J. I. Packer
J. I. Packer
James Innell Packer is a British-born Canadian Christian theologian in the low church Anglican and Reformed traditions. He currently serves as the Board of Governors' Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia...

, John Piper
John Piper (theologian)
John Stephen Piper is a Christian preacher and author, currently serving as Pastor for Preaching and Vision of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota...

, John F. MacArthur
John F. MacArthur
John Fullerton MacArthur, Jr. is a United States evangelical writer and minister noted for his internationally known and broadcast radio program titled Grace to You...

, and Albert Mohler.

Structure


  • The Proverbs of Solomon (Proverbs 1-24)
    • Title and Prologue (Proverbs 1:1-7)
    • Main Text Divided Into Discourses (Proverbs 1:7-9:18)
    • Proverbial Sayings (Proverbs 10:1-22:16)
    • Thirty "Sayings of the Wise" (Proverbs 22:27-24:22)
    • Additional "Sayings of the Wise" (Proverbs 24:23-34)
  • Proverbs of Solomon copied by the men of Hezekiah (Proverbs 24-29)
  • Sayings of Agur (Proverbs 30)
  • Sayings of King Lemuel (Proverbs 31)
    • Duties of a King (Proverbs 31:1-9)
    • Praise of the Virtuous Woman (Proverbs 31:10-31)

Influences


There has been a consensus among scholars that there is a crossover of some Egyptian and Assyrian nature in the proverbs from The Instructions of Amenemopet
Instructions of Amenemopet
Instruction of Amenemope is a literary work composed in Ancient Egypt, most likely during the Ramesside Period ; it contains thirty chapters of advice for successful living, ostensibly written by the scribe Amenemope son of Kanakht as a legacy for his son...

  and Ahiqar
Ahiqar
Ahiqar or Ahikar was an Assyrian sage known in the ancient Near East for his outstanding wisdom.The Story of Ahikar, also known as the Words of Ahikar, has been found in an Aramaic papyrus of 500 B.C. among the ruins of Elephantine...

.

Proverbs as wisdom literature


The book of Proverbs is referred to as wisdom literature
Wisdom literature
Wisdom literature is the genre of literature common in the Ancient Near East. This genre is characterized by sayings of wisdom intended to teach about divinity and about virtue...

 along with several others: the book of Job
Book of Job
The Book of Job , commonly referred to simply as Job, is one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. It relates the story of Job, his trials at the hands of Satan, his discussions with friends on the origins and nature of his suffering, his challenge to God, and finally a response from God. The book is a...

, Ecclesiastes
Ecclesiastes
The Book of Ecclesiastes, called , is a book of the Hebrew Bible. The English name derives from the Greek translation of the Hebrew title.The main speaker in the book, identified by the name or title Qoheleth , introduces himself as "son of David, king in Jerusalem." The work consists of personal...

, the Song of Solomon
Song of Solomon
The Song of Songs of Solomon, commonly referred to as Song of Songs or Song of Solomon, is a book of the Hebrew Bible—one of the megillot —found in the last section of the Tanakh, known as the Ketuvim...

, and certain Psalms
Psalms
The Book of Psalms , commonly referred to simply as Psalms, is a book of the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible...

, known as wisdom psalms. Among the deuterocanonical books, the Wisdom of Sirach and the Wisdom of Solomon are wisdom literature
Wisdom literature
Wisdom literature is the genre of literature common in the Ancient Near East. This genre is characterized by sayings of wisdom intended to teach about divinity and about virtue...

.

Throughout Proverbs, wisdom (or the wise person) is compared and contrasted with foolishness (or the fool). 'Fool' in Proverbs indicates one who is lacking in morality and uninterested in correction, not one who is merely silly or playful. Wisdom is held up as something worth effort to attain and the reader is told that it starts with the person of YHWH: "The fear of YHWH is the beginning of wisdom."

In addition, throughout Proverbs, wisdoms are mostly come from father to son or mother to son structure. This wisdom literature is concerned with the realities of human experience, from the mundane to the sublime, and with the relationship between that experience and the divine. Not only that, we can also find many wisdoms of woman over and over, especially we find reference to Wisdom as a female figure who speaks to the young man and invites him into her house. When we talk about this Woman Wisdom, it speaks frequently in the first person and identifies herself not just as the divine companion, but also as the source of order in society and success in life. Over and over in the book of Proverbs, it addressed a warning to the young man to avoid sexual relationships with a foreign or strange woman. In here women as "foreign or "strange" (that is, a stranger, a non-Israelite) reflects the frequent biblical insistence on marriage within the community.

Setting


It is difficult to pin down the provenance of Proverbs. Several suggestions have been made.
  • Family

In the society of ancient Israel, the family played an important role in the upbringing and education of children. Some internal evidence hints to the use of Proverbs in a family setting; the phrase "my son" appears some 20 times throughout the book. The role of the mother is also listed some 10 times.
  • Court

The name of Solomon stands in the title of the book, thus suggesting a royal setting. Throughout the Old Testament, wisdom is connected with the court.
  • School

It is possible practical and reflective wisdom was transmitted in a house of learning or instruction.

Biblical examples of Setting


There is evidence in the book of Proverbs that can show the type of setting described above. According to Coogan in his Introduction to the Old testament, the authors were most likely writing to a patriarchal society with some evidence of a monarchy. "While generally conventional in its values, the book of Proverbs testifies to some of the ideals of the ancient Israelite law and of the teachings of the prophets of social justice."

Here are some biblical examples of setting:

Family

The role of the mother- Proverbs 1.8; 10.1

Court

Critiques of monarchs- Proverbs 30. 24-28, 29-31

Messianic interpretations in Christianity


There are found in Proverbs, and other wisdom literature
Wisdom literature
Wisdom literature is the genre of literature common in the Ancient Near East. This genre is characterized by sayings of wisdom intended to teach about divinity and about virtue...

, references to Wisdom as a personification. These have long been taken by Christian exegetes as references to Christ, who is called the wisdom of God by Paul the Apostle (1 Cor 1:24). The first time Wisdom is personified is at Prov 1.20. In all these passages Wisdom is spoken of as a woman because the Hebrew (chokhmah
Chokhmah
Chokhmah, also sometimes transliterated chochma or hokhmah is the Hebrew word for "wisdom". It is cognate with the Arabic word Hikmah, which also means 'wisdom'. The word "chokhmah" and others derived from it may connote one of several things.-People:A "wise man" is a chakham...

) and Greek word (sophia) for “wisdom” is itself feminine.

The King James Bible reads, in reference to wisdom in Prov. 8:22, that "The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old." The Revised Standard Version
Revised Standard Version
The Revised Standard Version is an English translation of the Bible published in the mid-20th century. It traces its history to William Tyndale's New Testament translation of 1525. The RSV is an authorized revision of the American Standard Version of 1901...

 reads “The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.” Proverbs 8 has long been taken by Christians to refer to Christ, so whether or not the Hebrew קנה(qanah) should be taken as "created" or as "possessed" was used in the debate over the eternity of Christ. Both these meanings are used in the Old Testament but many contemporary scholars render it as "created". Proponents of "possessed" such as Kidner argue that it is absurd to think that God would need to create Wisdom, implying there was a time when he lacked Wisdom. Also, “Prov 8 starts from the indisputable commonplace that God existed before the start of time and ascribes the same precedence to wisdom.” The remainder of Prov 8 they argue, shows Wisdom taking a role in creation, and contrasts Wisdom with created things. However, understanding קנה as possessed leaves open the possibility that Wisdom should be understood here as a personification of an attribute of God rather an entity in its own right. The Hebrew אמון('amown) in Prov. 8:30 is still a subject of debate among Bible scholars. 'Amown has been undestood as either: "artisan or master craftsman" which suggests that Wisdom is an active participant in creation, or as "nursling" which excludes any notion of Wisdom's active participation in creation.

It has been noted by some Christian exegetes that Col 1:15-16 is dependent on this chapter of Proverbs. The parallels in the roles of Christ and Wisdom, they argue lend credence to understanding qanah as possessed rather than created. They argue that "Wisdom was, before the Lord made even a particle of matter (verse 26) or gave order to creation (verse 29); Wisdom participated in the creation story. This strongly parallels the role of Christ in Colossians, where he is the “first-born of all creation” and in him were all things created. To add to the identification of Wisdom with Christ, we find that Wisdom was identified with the Greek concept of logos
Logos
' is an important term in philosophy, psychology, rhetoric and religion. Originally a word meaning "a ground", "a plea", "an opinion", "an expectation", "word," "speech," "account," "reason," it became a technical term in philosophy, beginning with Heraclitus ' is an important term in...

, which was in turn identified with Christ."

Prov 8:22 was a crucial verse in the Arian controversies
Arian controversy
The Arian controversy describes several controversies between the Christian Church fathers Arius and Athanasius related to Christology which divided the Christian church from before the Council of Nicaea in 325 to after the Council of Constantinople in 381...

 of the fourth century. This verse was used both to support and refute the Arians' claims. Assuming first that Christ could be equated with the "Wisdom of God"(1 Cor. 1:24), the Arians argued that the son, like Wisdom was created, and to be a creature, whether the first or the most prominent of creatures, is to be subordinate to the creator. Those who formulated the Nicean declaration that the Son was "begotten, not made" were inclined to translate קנה in Prov. 8:22 as "begot me" in order to argue that God and Christ were cosubstantial.

See also


  • As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly
    As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly
    "As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly" is an aphorism which appears in the Book of Proverbs in the Bible — Proverbs 26:11. Its meaning is that fools are stubbornly inflexible and this is illustrated with the repulsive simile of the dog that eats its vomit again, even though...

  • Proverbs 31
    Proverbs 31
    Chapter 31 of the Book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible, is presented as advice which Lemuel's mother gave to him, about how a virtuous king should reign, and also detailing the attributes of a virtuous wife or ideal woman...


Works cited

  • Benson, Clarence H., Old Testament Survey: Poetry and Prophecy, 1972
  • Blank, S. H. "Book of Proverbs," in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible [1962]
  • Chapman, Milo L., Purkiser, W.T., Wolf, Earl C. & Harper, A. F. Beacon Bible Commentary: Job through Song of Solomon, 1967
  • Crenshaw, James L. "Book of Proverbs," The Anchor Bible Dictionary, 1992
  • Holman Bible Handbook, David S. Dockery (General Editor), Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville, 1992
  • Jewish Encyclopedia, with dates of compilation and manuscript traditions
  • Lasor, William Sanford, Hubbard, David Allan, & Bush, Frederic Wm., Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament, 1996
  • Murphy, Roland E., Wisdom Literature: Job, Proverbs, Ruth, Canticles, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. Grand Rapids, 1981
  • Perdue, Leo G. Proverbs: interpretation A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, 2000
  • Steinmann, Andrew E. "Proverbs 1-9 as a Solomonic Composition," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 43, no. 4

Further reading

  • Bridges, Charles, A Commentary On Proverbs, Banner of Truth, Edinburgh (UK), 1968 (First Published 1846), ISBN 0851510884
  • The MacArthur Bible Commentary:Unleashing God's Truth, One Verse At A Time, by John MacArthur, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville TN USA, 2005, ISBN 0-7852-5066-2
  • Matthew Poole's Commentary on the Holy Bible, by Matthew Poole, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh UK, First Edition Published in 1685, this edition published in 1963, ISBN 0-85151-211-9

External links


Online translations of Book of Proverbs:
  • Jewish
    Judaism
    Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...

     translations:
    • Mishlei - Proverbs (Judaica Press) translation [with Rashi
      Rashi
      Shlomo Yitzhaki , or in Latin Salomon Isaacides, and today generally known by the acronym Rashi , was a medieval French rabbi famed as the author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud, as well as a comprehensive commentary on the Tanakh...

      's commentary] at Chabad.org

  • Christian
    Christian
    A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

     translations: