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Bible Commentaries

Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Proverbs 22

Verses 1-16

Proverbs Of Solomon Part 2 (Proverbs 15:22 to Proverbs 22:16 ).

At this point there is a sudden switch from proverbs which contrast one thing with another, which have been predominant since Proverbs 10:1, to proverbs where the second clause adds something to the first. Whilst we still find some contrasting proverbs, especially at the beginning, they are not so common. This may suggest a deliberate intention by Solomon to separate his proverbs into two parts.

Furthermore such a change at this point would also be in line with seeing verse Proverbs 10:1 and Proverbs 15:20 as some kind of inclusio. The first opened the collection with ‘a wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother’ (Proverbs 10:1), whilst Proverbs 15:20 may be seen as closing it with the very similar ‘a wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish man despises his mother’. Proverbs 15:21 may then be seen as conjoined with Proverbs 15:20 and as a kind of postscript summing up the fool and the wise who have been in mind throughout the proverbs up to this point.

Proverbs 15:22, in fact, provides a particularly suitable introduction to a new section with its emphasis on the need for a ‘multitude of counsellors’, who can partly be found in the authors of the proverbs which follow (Solomon and the wise men).

Verses 1-29

A Collection Of Solomon’s Proverbs (Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 29:27 ).

Solomon’s presentation of The Book of Proverbs has followed the pattern of much Wisdom literature. This commenced with the initial heading detailing the details of the author and his purpose in writing (Proverbs 1:1-7), continued with a Prologue which laid the foundation for what was to follow (Proverbs 1:8 to Proverbs 9:18), and was then followed by the body of the work introduced by one or more subheadings. In Solomon’s case this main body comprises Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 29:27. It is usually divided up into four parts:

1) Proverbs of Solomon (Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16), introduced by a subheading ‘The Proverbs Of Solomon’. This may possibly be divided into two sections, Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 15:21, and Proverbs 15:22 to Proverbs 22:16.

2) Words of the Wise (Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22), introduced by an exhortation to hear the words of the wise. This is in a form comparable with exhortations in the Prologue, but there is no subheading in the text as we have it. It may rather therefore be seen as a third section of The Proverbs of Solomon, but with unusual characteristics.

3) Further Sayings of the Wise (Proverbs 24:23-34), introduced by the subheading, ‘these also are of the wise’.

4) Proverbs of Solomon copied out by the ‘Men of Hezekiah, King of Judah’ (Proverbs 25:1 to Proverbs 29:27), introduced by a specific heading.

The inclusion of the words of the wise within two sets of proverbs of Solomon, the first time without a subheading, suggests that we are to see the words of the wise and the sayings of the wise as also from Solomon, but based in each case more specifically on collections of Wisdom sayings known to him, which he himself, or his Scribes, had taken and altered up in order to conform them to his requirements thus making them finally his work. That does not necessarily mean that his proverbs in section 1 (Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16) were not based on other material. He would have obtained his material from many sources. But once again we are to see them as presented after alteration by his hand.

We should note, for example, the continual references to YHWH that occur throughout the text. Whatever material Solomon may have appropriated, he refashioned it in order to make it the wisdom of the God of Israel, of YHWH their covenant God. This approach of taking what was written by others and refashioning it, while at the same time introducing further ideas of his own, may be seen as following the pattern of modern scholars, each of whom takes the works of others, and then reinterprets them in his own words, whilst adding to them on the basis of his own thinking. The final product is then seen as their own thinking, aided by others. The only difference is that Solomon would have been far more willing to copy down word for word what others had said and written without giving acknowledgement.

Having said that we must not assume that Solomon simply copied them down unthinkingly. As the Prologue has made clear, he did not see himself as presenting some general form of Wisdom teaching. He saw what he wrote down as given by YHWH, and as being in the words of YHWH (Proverbs 2:6). And he saw it as based on YHWH’s eternal wisdom, His wisdom which had also been involved in the creation of heaven and earth (Proverbs 3:19-20; Proverbs 8:22-31). Thus he wants us to recognise that what now follows is not a series of general wisdom statements, but is a miscellany revealing the wisdom of YHWH, the wisdom that leads men into the paths of life.

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Proverbs 22". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/proverbs-22.html. 2013.