B. Literary Style- In addition to the evidence of compilation over a number of years, the fact that the literary style of Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22 is similar to or influenced by the Instruction of Amenemope, which is dated in the New Kingdom period (1580-1100 B.C.), 31] leads some scholars to date this book during the time of King Solomon.
31] Miriam Lichtheim, Ancient Egyptian Literature A Book of Readings, 3vols. (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1908), in Libronix Digital Library System, v 21c [CD-ROM] (Bellingham, WA: Libronix Corp, 2000-2004).
C. Historical Setting- The dating of Proverbs within the reign of King Solomon is very likely because it took place during the "golden age" of Israel, which was a period in Israel's history when there was peace and prosperity that created an environment conducive to development of the arts and literature.
Universal Application - The three books that Solomon wrote, the book of Proverbs , Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon , are designed for all people everywhere, both Jews and Gentiles, so that they have a universal application. There are three primary recipients identified in God's Word: the Jews, the Gentiles and the Church ( 1 Corinthians 10:32). (1) The Jews- The Old Testament placed emphasis upon the Jews as the nation of Israel. (2) The Gentiles- The book of Daniel stands alone in the Old Testament in much the same way that the book of Revelation is unique to the New Testament. Both are apocalyptic in nature, using symbolic figures to prophesy of future events. Daniel takes us through the Times of the Gentiles when God divinely works in this group of people to carry out His divine plan of election and redemption. (3) The Church- The New Testament reveals God's plan of redemption as He works through the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. Under the new covenant, God created a third group of people. He took the Jews and the Gentiles and made one new man in Christ called the Church. This was the mystery that was kept hidden under the old covenant and revealed only in the New Testament. The writings of Solomon stand unique in the Holy Scriptures in that all three people-groups serve as primary recipients. This is because King Solomon was a type and figure of Jesus Christ, who will reign as King of Kings over all the earth, beginning in the Millennial reign.
1 Corinthians 10:32, "Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:"
King Solomon was a king of kings. That Isaiah , his realm of dominion included other Gentile nations. Thus, in no place in these three books is the nation of Israel mentioned, nor a mention of the Jewish laws, rituals, feasts, ceremonies, sacrifices, the Sabbath day, or the tithe. There are also no prophetic passages about the coming of the Messiah. Nor are there any references to angels or Satan. It is clearly a Jewish writing that is designed for universal application for all ages and cultures. This is why both Jews and Christians have found comfort a clear application to their lives in these three books.
In 2 Chronicles 6:32-33 King Solomon prayed for the Gentiles who would come to the Temple in Jerusalem to call upon the name of the God of Israel. Such Gentiles would have heard and seen the great works of God and would come to receive His salvation and deliverance in their own lives. This shows that the Temple was to serve as a testimony to the nations of the earth that there was a God in heaven who could be approached. This prayer revealed that Solomon understood his office and ministry extended beyond the land of Israel and unto the nations. This would help explain why Solomon's writings of Proverbs , Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon are not designated for the Jews alone, but address all mankind.
2 Chronicles 6:32-33, "Moreover concerning the stranger, which is not of thy people Israel, but is come from a far country for thy great name"s sake, and thy mighty hand, and thy stretched out arm; if they come and pray in this house; Then hear thou from the heavens, even from thy dwelling place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to thee for; that all people of the earth may know thy name, and fear thee, as doth thy people Israel, and may know that this house which I have built is called by thy name."
Proverbs 1:4-5, "To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:"
Of course, we know that the proverbs are for all people today who will receive and heed these words of wisdom. But in the setting of the King's Court, it is likely that Solomon originally wrote and compiled his proverbs as material to teach to his young students as a foundation in theological training as he equipped them for leadership in the surrounding regions of his kingdom.
A careful study of the Scriptures reveals how the Lord revealed to King David that his son Solomon would be heir to the throne. As such, the king took his son aside and instilled within him a love for God and His Word. We see that God had previously spoken to King David about a son being born to him and that his name would be called "Solomon" ( 1 Chronicles 22:8-9). The birth and naming of Solomon took place in 2 Samuel 12:24-25. God also revealed to King David that Solomon was to succeed him on the throne ( 1 Chronicles 28:5-6). We also see evidence in Proverbs 4:3-4 that King David favored his son Solomon above his other sons. As he groomed Solomon for the kingship, his other sons appear to be raised without discipline and training. We read about the immorality in Amnon in raping his sister, about the murder and rebellion in Absalom, and insurrection and pride in Adonijah. Thus, we see how Solomon received correction in the smallest of areas, while his brothers remained without discipline in their sins. This was because King David gave Solomon special attention during his youth. As King David taught Solomon Wisdom of Solomon , he not only instilled within his son divine truths, but also the passion to seek God for divine Wisdom of Solomon , as Solomon must have seen his father seek the Lord passionately. Not only did Solomon inherit good behavior from these teachings, but he also inherited a yearning for wisdom. He would have sought the deepest meaning of the most noble of all the commandments, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, mind and strength." ( Deuteronomy 6:4-6) As king, Solomon's international exposure would have given him the opportunity to hear the wisdom of Egypt and of the East ( 1 Kings 4:30, Acts 7:22) and gather the collection of proverbs which we call "the words of the wise". Thus, Solomon"s upbringing would occasion the writing of the book of Proverbs. His role as king gave him the opportunity to explore the pursuits of pleasure, wealth and power, thus inspiring the book of Ecclesiastes. His relationships with his harem of wives would have occasioned him to explore the aspects of true love between a man and a woman, thus inspiring the Song of Solomon.
1 Chronicles 22:8-9, "But the word of the LORD came to me, saying, Thou hast shed blood abundantly, and hast made great wars: thou shalt not build an house unto my name, because thou hast shed much blood upon the earth in my sight. Behold, a son shall be born to thee, who shall be a man of rest; and I will give him rest from all his enemies round about: for his name shall be Song of Solomon , and I will give peace and quietness unto Israel in his days."
2 Samuel 12:24-25, "And David comforted Bathsheba his wife, and went in unto her, and lay with her: and she bare a Song of Solomon , and he called his name Solomon: and the LORD loved him. And he sent by the hand of Nathan the prophet; and he called his name Jedidiah, because of the LORD."
1 Chronicles 28:5-6, "And of all my sons, (for the LORD hath given me many sons,) he hath chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. And he said unto me, Solomon thy Song of Solomon , he shall build my house and my courts: for I have chosen him to be my Song of Solomon , and I will be his father."
Proverbs 4:3, "For I was my father"s Song of Solomon , tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live."
1 Kings 4:30, "And Solomon"s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt."
Acts 7:22, "And Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and was mighty in words and in deeds."
LITERARY STYLE (GENRE)
"Perhaps the most important issue in interpretation is the issue of genre.
If we misunderstand the genre of a text, the rest of our analysis will be askew."
(Thomas Schreiner) 32]
32] Thomas R. Schreiner, Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, second edition (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, c 1990, 2011), 11.
Within the historical setting of the early kingdom of Israel, the authors of the book of Proverbs chose to write using the literary style of the ancient wisdom literature. Thus, the book of Proverbs is assigned to the literary genre called "wisdom literature." Also included in this list are the books of Job and Ecclesiastes , with certain psalms (notably Psalm 19; Psalm 37; Psalm 104; Psalm 107; Psalm 147; Psalm 148) as well as some non-canonical Apocrypha literature, such as Ecclesiasticus (Wisdom of Solomon).
The book of Proverbs has a number of issues regarding its literary style that distinguish it from the other books of the Holy Scriptures: (A) it is quoted only five times in the New Testament, (B) it is written in Hebrew parallelism, (C) it has universal application for all men everywhere, and (D) its development of a biblical concept of God's divine nature.
A. The Use of Proverbs in the New Testament - There are five passages in the book of Proverbs that are used in the New Testament.
1.Proverbs 3:11-12, "My Song of Solomon , despise not the chastening of the LORD neither be weary of his correction: For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth."
Hebrews 12:5-6, "And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My Song of Solomon , despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth."
2. Proverbs 3:34, "Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly." (LXX)
James 4:6, "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble."
1 Peter 5:5, "Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble."
3.Proverbs 11:31, "Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner." (LXX)
1 Peter 4:18, "And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"
4.Proverbs 25:21-22, "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee."
Romans 12:20, "Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head."
5.Proverbs 26:11, "As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly."
2 Peter 2:22, "But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."
B. Hebrew Parallelisms - One of the most obvious characteristics of the uniqueness of the book of Proverbs is how it is made up of short, pithy, repetitive sayings containing divine wisdom. This construction of Hebrew parallelism, as it is called, balances two similar thoughts in a poetic manner so as to teach a hidden truth. Thus, statements are joined together in thought, using parallel, contrasting, or seceding ideas. The length of these proverbs can be grouped by size. When two sentences in a single verse balance a similar thought, it is called a distitch.
Proverbs 10:2, "Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death."
This is the most abundant type in the book of Proverbs , with Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16 using them almost without exception. Then there is the tristitch, which consists of three statements within a single verse balancing a thought.
Proverbs 28:10, "Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession."
We find in the words of the wise ( Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34) a large number of proverbs in the form of a tetrastitch. It takes two verses to form a tetrastitch.
Proverbs 22:24-25, "Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul."
There are a few proverbs using five lines that we can call a pentastitch.
Proverbs 23:4-5, "Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom. Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven."
Still fewer are what can be called a hexastitch, which uses six lines.
Proverbs 24:11-12, "If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man according to his works?"
Finally, we have at least one example of a proverb using seven lines, which we call a heptastitch.
Proverbs 23:6-8, "Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words."
Some may call Proverbs 23:22-25 an octastitch using eight lines.
Proverbs 23:22-25, "Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old. Buy the truth, and sell it not; also Wisdom of Solomon , and instruction, and understanding. The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him. Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice."
Then there are the lengthy proverbial "odes," such as the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10-31, which forms an acrostic, and those lengthy sections found in the first nine chapters of the book.
Within these forms, or structures, that make up the book of Proverbs , we call also find several types of parallelisms. Antithetical proverbs use the second sentence to contrast the thought of the first. We see that Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 15:33 is made up almost entirely of this type of proverbs.
Proverbs 10:3, "The LORD will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked."
A second type is the synonymous Proverbs , in which the second sentence repeats the first sentence in order to reinforce the thought.
Proverbs 11:25, "The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself."
A third common type of proverb can be called the progressive proverb, in which the second thought develops a conclusion from the first thought.
Proverbs 11:31, "Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner."
A fourth type is the parabolic Proverbs , which Jesus developed so well when He taught in parables. These proverbs are characterized by the first sentence stating a fact of nature, with the second thought drawing an ethical conclusion from it.
Proverbs 10:26, "As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to them that send him."
A fifth type of proverb can be described as numerical proverbs. We find these used in the book of Amos , in the thirtieth chapter of Proverbs and one use in Proverbs 6:16-19. This type of proverb uses numbers to build up to a climax in order to reinforce a divine truth.
Proverbs 6:16-19, "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."
Scholars have found other types of Proverbs , but these examples give us a good idea of how the Hebrew thoughts parallel one another to create a hidden truth. 33]
33] Refer to "Introduction," in The Pulpit Commentary for an excellent discussion from which much of this material was gathered. See W. J. Deane, S. T. Taylor-Taswell, Walter F. Adeney, T. Whitelaw, R. A. Redford, and B. C. Caffin, "Introduction to Proverbs ," in Proverbs ,, Ecclesiastes , Song of Solomon. in The Pulpit Commentary, vol 9, eds. H. D. M. Spence and Joseph Exell (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co, 1950), in Ages Digital Library, v 10 [CD-ROM] (Rio, WI: Ages Software, Inc, 2001).
It is not uncommon to find loosely grouped proverbs sharing a common theme, such as the tongue, or divine providence, or material prosperity, or long life.
This type of structure found in the book of Proverbs is conducive as an aid in memory. Henry Halley said, "The Oriental method of teaching was constant repetition of wise and practical thoughts in a form that would stick in the mind." Oriental education consisted of learning by heart the maxims of the wise. The teacher dictated the lesson while the students wrote it down on their slates using a stylus. When this lesson was memorized, the slate was wiped cleaned and made ready for another lesson. Unlike today, written material was expensive scarce in those times. Thus, students were made to memorize large amounts of material.
Although the Scripture testify to three thousand proverbs that were written by Song of Solomon , the book of Proverbs records only three hundred seventy-five (375) of these sayings between chapters Proverbs 10:1 and Proverbs 22:16. There are approximately eight hundred (800) proverbs that make up the entire book.
C. The Universal Application of Proverbs - The book of Proverbs is designed for all people everywhere, both Jews and Gentiles. Like the books of Job , Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon , in no place is the nation of Israel mentioned, nor a mention of the Jewish laws, rituals, feasts, ceremonies, sacrifices, the Sabbath day, or the tithe. There are also no prophetic passages about the coming of the Messiah. Nor are there any references to angels or Satan. It is clearly a Jewish writing that is designed for universal application for all ages and cultures.
D. The Concept of God in Proverbs - The book of Proverbs develops a biblical concept of God's divine nature. Note the names of God used within the book of Proverbs.
1. The Lord "YHWH" ( יהוה):
Proverbs 3:7, "Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil."
2. His Maker:
Proverbs 14:31, "He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor."
3. The great God that formed all things:
Proverbs 26:10, "The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors."
4. My God ( אֱלֹהִים):
Proverbs 30:9, "Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain."
The name of God that was personal to the nation of Israel was Jehovah, or YHWH. This was the name of the God of Israel and of no other heathen nation. The children of Israel knew Him as the only true God and the Creator of all things. It is this personal name Jehovah that is used throughout the book of Proverbs much more frequently than the more general name of Elohim. In addition, the character and nature of Jehovah God is very developed within the book of Proverbs , revealing that He was not distant to His people. We find an excellent list of verses compiled in the introduction to this book in the Pulpit Commentary show much about the character and nature of God.
3. He is a shield and protector to His people Proverbs 30:5
4. He is infinitely wise Proverbs 3:19, Proverbs 8:12-31
5. He is omniscient and omnipresent Proverbs 15:3
6. He created all things Proverbs 8:22-31
7. He governs all things by divine providence Proverbs 16:4
8. He chastens whom He loves Proverbs 3:11-12
9. He rewards the good and punishes evil Proverbs 12:2
10. He has compassion on the poor Proverbs 22:4, Proverbs 16:19, Proverbs 23:11
11. He created man with a free will Proverbs 1:24
12. He loves and delights in those who seek Him Proverbs 8:17; Proverbs 8:31
In addition, there are many verses that develop the concept of eternal life and judgment, where the dead are placed into either heaven or hell (Sheol). There is no doubt that one could expand upon this list. But the one given above reveals that author(s) of the book of Proverbs wrote under the inspiration and direction of Jehovah, the God of Israel.
"Scholarly excellence requires a proper theological framework."
(Andreas Ksenberger) 34]
34] Andreas J. Ksenberger, Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2011), 161.
Based upon the historical setting and literary style of the book of Proverbs , an examination of the purpose, thematic scheme, and literary structure to this book of the Holy Scriptures will reveal its theological framework. This introductory section will sum up its theological framework in the form of an outline, which is then used to identify smaller units or pericopes within the book of Proverbs for preaching and teaching passages of Scripture while following the overriding message of the book. Following this outline allows the minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to take his followers on a spiritual journey that brings them to the same destination that the author intended his readers to reach.