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by James Martin Gray
That Solomon was the principle author of Proverbs is indicated in
Proverbs 1:1 ; Proverbs 25:1 , compared with 1 Kings 4:29-32 . The last two chapters were the work of other authors to whom reference is made. See also chapters 25-29.
In Solomon’s day there was a class of leaders in the eastern nations known as “teachers of wisdom,” of which he was the most conspicuous; a supposition which gives countenance to the thought that the address, “My son,” is not that of a father to a child, but a teacher to a pupil.
Most of the proverbs seem based merely on considerations of worldly prudence, which was quite like Solomon; but considering the Holy Spirit as the real author, we must believe that faith is the underlying motive productive of the conduct to which the reader is exhorted. Indeed, this is expressed in Proverbs 1:7 ; Proverbs 5:21 ; Proverbs 15:11 ; Proverbs 23:17-19 ; Proverbs 26:10 .
Luther called Proverbs “a book of good works”; Coleridge, “the best statesman’s manual”; Dean Stanley, “the philosophy of practical life.” Angus says, “It is for practical ethics what the psalms are for devotion”; Bridges says, “while other Scriptures show us the glory of our high calling this instructs us minutely how to walk in it”; Oetinger says, “the proverbs exhibit Jesus with unusual clearness.” In the millennial kingdom doubtless it will constitute, with a portion of the Levitical ordinances and the Sermon on the Mount, the basis of the laws governing its citizens.
THEIR LITERARY STYLE
Proverbs is classed with the poetical books of the Bible, but we must content ourselves with a single illustration of the poetic form taken from The Literary Study of the Bible.
In 4:10 we have a poem on the Two Paths. Its strophe and antistrophe consist of ten-line figures, varying between longer and shorter lines; the conclusion is a quatrain. This form is a reflex of the thought of the poem; the strophe describes the path of the just, the antistrophe the path of the wicked; the conclusion then blends the two ideas in a common image, as follows:
Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; And the years of thy life shall be many.
I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in paths of uprightness.
When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; And if thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.
Take fast hold of instruction; Let her not go:
Keep her; For she is thy life.
Enter not into the path of the wicked, And walk not in the way of evil men.
Avoid it, Pass not by it; Turn from it, And pass on.
For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; And their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall.
For they eat the bread of wickedness.
And drink the wine of violence.
But the path of the righteous is as the light of dawn, That shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
The way of the wicked is as darkness; They know not at what they stumble.
1. What scriptures point to Solomon as the principal author of this book?
2. What scriptures indicate additional authors?
3. What may have been the origin of the book?
4. Is it, on the whole, a book of creed or conduct?
5. Compare it with the psalms.
6. Is it likely to have a future application? If so, when?
7. What is the literary form of the book?
8. Where is the poem on The Two Paths found?
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13