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by Editor - Joseph Exell
§ 1. NAME OF THE BOOK.
THE book which we are about to consider takes its general title from the words with which it opens in the Hebrew original, The Proverbs of Solomon — Mishle Shelomoh. This name, or, in an abbreviated form, Mishle, has always been current in the Jewish Church. Later, in rabbinical writings, it was cited under the appellation of Sepher Chocmah, 'Book of Wisdom,' which title also included Ecclesiastes. In the Septuagint it is headed Παροιμιìαι Σαλωμῶντος in some manuscripts, though in others, and those the earliest, the name of Solomon is omitted. St. Jerome, in the Latin Vulgate, gives a longer title: 'Liber Proverbiorum quem Hebraei Misle appellant.'
Among the early Christian writers, in addition to the name given in the Septuagint, it was called Σοφιìα, 'Wisdom,' or ̓Η Πανάρετπς Σοφία, 'All-virtuous Wisdom,' though this last title was also applied to Ecclesiasticus and the Book of Wisdom. Clemens Romanus, in his 'Epistle to the Corinthians' (1:57), heads a quotation from Proverbs 1:23-33 thus: Οὑìτως γαÌρ λεìγει ἡ Παναìρετος Σοφιìα, "Thus saith All-virtuous Wisdom." That this was commonly received as the designation of our book is clear also from Eusebius, who writes ('Hist. Eccl.,' 4:22), "Other passages also, as if from unwritten Jewish tradition, Hegesippus cites; and not only he, but Irenaeus, and the whole band of ancient writers, called the 'Proverbs of Solomon' 'Panaretos Sophia.'" It is true that in the writings which are attributed to Irenaeus still extant, quotations from the Proverbs are cited simply as Scripture without further definition, but we have no reason to discredit Eusebius' testimony concerning a matter with which he must have been well acquainted. Two other titles are found, viz. ̔Η Σοφὴ Βίβλος, 'The Wise Book,' so called by Dionysius of Alexandria; and ΠαιδαγωγικηÌ Σοφιìα, 'Educational Wisdom,' by Gregory of Nazianzum. Melito of Sardis (according to Eusebius, 'Hist. Eccl.,' 4:26) states, in giving a catalogue of canonical Scriptures, that the book was known by the name of Σοφιìα, 'Wisdom,' as well as that of 'Proverbs of Solomon.' This title, which, better perhaps than that of Proverbs, expresses the chief subject Of the work, seems not to have been invented by the primitive Christian writers, but to have been derived from still earlier times, and to have been handed down by that unwritten Jewish tradition of which Eusebius speaks.
In considering the appropriateness of the usual name of our book, we must see what is meant by the Jewish term mishle, "proverbs," as we translate it. The word mashal has a much wider significance than our word "proverb." It is derived from a root meaning "to be like," and therefore has primarily the meaning of comparison, similitude, and is applied many discourses, sentences, and expressions which we should not class under the head of proverbs. Thus Balaam's prophecy is so called (Numbers 22:7, etc.); so too Job's didactic poem (Job 27:1); the taunting satire in Isaiah 14:4, etc.; the parables in Ezekiel 17:2 and 20:49, etc.; the song in Numbers 21:27, etc. It is often translated "parable" in the Authorized Version, even in the book itself (Proverbs 26:7), and in the historical psalm (78), the second verse of which St. Matthew (Matthew 13:35) tells us Christ fulfilled when he spake by parables. This would lead us to expect to find other meanings in the term and under the husk of the outward form. And, indeed, the Hebrew mashal is not confined to wise or pithy sayings, expressing in pointed terms the experience of men and ages; such an account; would, as we see, be most inadequate to describe the various forms to which the term was applied. That there are in our book numerous apothegms and maxims, enforcing moral truths, explaining facts in men's lives and the course of society, which are proverbs in the strictest sense of the word, is obvious; but a very large proportion of the utterances therein are not covered by that designation. If the notion of comparison at first restricted, the term to sayings containing a simile, it soon overstepped the bounds of such limitation, and comprehended such brief sentences as conveyed a popular truth under figures or metaphors. Of this sort is the pointed query, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 10:12); and, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge" (Ezekiel 18:2); and, "Physician, heal thyself" (Luke 4:23). In many so-called proverbs the contrasted obiects are placed side by side, leaving the hearer to draw his own deduction. In the longer pieces so named a single idea is worked out at some length in rhythmical form. Further, under this general category are contained also dark sayings, riddles, intricate questions (chidah), which have always had great attraction for Oriental minds. The Queen of Sheba, we are told, came to try Solomon with hard questions (1 Kings 10:1); as the Septuagint renders it, "with enigmas." Probably such puzzles are found in ch. 30., and in many of those passages which, according as they are pointed, are capable of very different interpretations. There is one other word used in this connection (ch. 1:6) melitsah, which is rendered in the Authorized Version "interpretation," and in the Revised Version "a figure;" it probably means a saying containing some obscure allusion, and usually of a sarcastic nature. There are very few examples of this form in our book.
The various kinds of proverbs have been divided by Hanneberg ('Revel. Bibl.,' 5:41, quoted by Lesetre) into five classes:
1. Historical proverbs, wherein an event of the past, or a word used on some momentous occasion, has passed into a popular saying, expressive of some general sentiment or idea. The saving about Saul mentioned just above is of this nature. Of the historical proverb there seems to be no instance in our book.
2. Metaphorical proverbs. These are what we should most appropriately call proverbs. They enunciate some moral truth under a figure drawn from nature or life. Such are these: "In vain is the net spread in the eyes of any bird" (Proverbs 1:17); "Go to the ant, thou sluggard" (Proverbs 6:6); "Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly" (Proverbs 17:12); "The contentions of a wife are a continual dropping" (Proverbs 19:13; Proverbs 27:15, Proverbs 27:16).
3. Enigmas. These are either riddles like that of Samson (Judges 14:14), or obscure questions which needed thought to elucidate them, and the kernel of which conveyed a moral truth. Such are the words of Agur, "Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended?" etc. (Proverbs 30:4); "The horseleech hath two daughters, Give, give" (Proverbs 30:15).
4. Parabolic proverbs. Herein are presented things and truths in allegorical shape. Our blessed Lord has used this mode of teaching most extensively, showing himself greater than Solomon. The best example of this class is the treatment of Wisdom, e.g. "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars" (Proverbs 9:1).
5. Didactical proverbs, which give precise instruction on points of morals, religion, or behaviour, and of which the first nine chapters afford very perfect instances, and the rest of the book more concise and less developed examples.
§ 2. CONTENTS.
The book is inscribed, "The Proverbs of Solomon, son of David, King of Israel." How this title is to be regarded, and to what portion or portions of the work it applies, we shall see further on. Then (Proverbs 1:1-6) follows a description of the writing and a recommendation of its importance and utility. Its object is partly moral and partly intellectual; it seeks to instruct in the way of wisdom, to edify those who have already made progress, and to discipline hearers to receive and assimilate the highest teaching. The wisdom (chocmah, and in the plural of "excellence," chocmoth) here first mentioned is no mere philosophical attainment, no merely secular advancement in the knowledge of things; it is this — it includes the knowledge of all that can be known; but it is much more. It is distinctly religious, and has for its object the directing man's life according to his highest interests, so that it is equivalent to "the fear of the Lord," that is, practical religion, and is often interchanged with that expression. It teaches what God requires of man, how God would have man behave in all circumstances of life; it teaches piety, duty, justice. King and peasant, the old and the young, learned and ignorant, are hereby taught what is acceptable in their several stations, ages, stages of intellectual development. Later on, Wisdom is personified as a great teacher, as dwelling with God from all eternity, assisting at the creation of the world, the original of all authority on earth. We gather from various indications in our book that wisdom is regarded in a threefold respect: first, as an essential attribute of Almighty God; secondly, as revealed in creation; thirdly, as communicated to man. It is the mind or thought of God; it is that by which he created the world; it is that which regulates and informs the moral being of man. The language used in such passages as Proverbs 8:23-31 adapts itself to the idea of a representation of the Son of God, an anticipation of the incarnation of Jesus our Lord; and though we cannot suppose that Solomon had any clear notion of the Divine personality of Wisdom (for which, indeed, the stern monotheism of the age was not ripe), yet we may believe that it was not alien from the mind of the Holy Spirit that the Christian Church should see in these Solomonic utterances prophecies and adumbrations of the nature and operations of the Son of God made man, of him whom St. John calls the Word. It is of Wisdom as communicated to man that the Book of Proverbs chiefly treats, indicating the only way of obtaining and securing possession of her, and the incalculable blessings that attend her acquisition and usance.
It must further be observed, in connection with this subject, that the Hebrew, in his pursuit of Wisdom, was not like the heathen philosopher groping blindly after God, seeking to discover the great Unknown, and to form for himself a deity which should satisfy his moral instincts and solve the questions of the creation and government of the universe. The Hebrew started from the point where the heathen came to a pause. The Jew knew God already — knew him by revelation; his aim was to recognize him in all relations — in nature, in life, in morality, in religion; to see this overruling Providence in all things whatsoever; to make this great truth control private, public, social, and political circumstances and conduct. This profound conception of Divine superintendence dominates all the reflections of the thinking man, and makes him own in every occurrence, even in every natural phenomenon, an expression of the mind and will of God. Hence comes the absolute trust in the justice of the supreme Ruler, in the wise ordering of events, in the certain distribution of rewards and punishments, in the regulated dispensing of prosperity and adversity. In such ways Wisdom reveals itself, and the intelligent man recognized its presence; and idealizing and personifying it, learned to speak of it in those high terms which we read of with awe in this section, seeing therein him who is invisible.
After this introduction there follows the first part of the book (Proverbs 1:7-18), consisting of fifteen admonitory discourses, addressed to youth, with the view of exhibiting the excellence of wisdom, encouraging the ardent pursuit thereof, and dissuading from folly, i.e. vice, which is its opposite. This is especially the hortatory or wisdom section of the book. It is usually regarded as a prelude to the collection of proverbs beginning at ch. 10., and is compared to the proem of Eliha in Job 32:6-22, before he addresses himself more particularly to the matter in hand. An analogous preface occurs in Proverbs 22:17-21 of our book, though this is short and intercalary. The section is divided by Delitzsch as above, though the portions are not very accurately defined by internal evidence. We have adopted this arrangement in the Commentary for convenience' sake. Commonly, each fresh warning or instruction is prefaced by the address, "My son" (e.g. Proverbs 1:8, Proverbs 1:10, Proverbs 1:15; Proverbs 2:1, etc.), but this is not universally the case, and no subdivisions can be accurately formed by attention to this peculiarity. The unity of the section consists in the subject and the mode of treatment, rather than in a regular course of instruction proceeding on definite lines, and leading to a climacteric conclusion. The motto of the whole is the noble maxim, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but the foolish despise wisdom and instruction."
Taking this as the basis of his lecture, Solomon proceeds with his discourse. He warns against fellowship with those who entice to robbery and murder (Proverbs 1:8-19). Wisdom addresses those who despise her, showing them their folly in rejecting her offers, and the security of those who hearken to her counsels (Proverbs 1:20-33). The teacher points out the blessings arising from the sincere and earnest pursuit of Wisdom — it delivers from the path of evil, and leads to all moral and religious knowledge (ch. 2.). Now comes an exhortation to obedience and faithfulness, self-sacrificing devotion to God, perfect resignation to his will (Proverbs 3:1-18). Wisdom is introduced as the creative energy of God, who becomes the Protector of all who hold fast to her (Proverbs 3:19-26). One condition for the attainment of wisdom and happiness is the practice of benevolence and rectitude in dealing with others (Proverbs 3:27-35). Having previously spoken in his own name, and having also brought forward Wisdom making her appeal, the teacher now gives some recollections of his own early home and his father's advice, especially on the subject of discipline and obedience (Proverbs 4:0.). He returns to a matter before glanced at as one of the chief temptations to which youth was exposed, and gives an emphatic warning against adultery and impurity, while he beautifully commends honourable marriage (ch. 5.). Then he warns against suretyship (Proverbs 6:1-5), sloth (vers. 6-11), deceit and malice (vers. 12-19), and adultery (vers. 20-35). Keeping to the theme of his last discourse, the moralist again denounces the detestable sin of adultery, and enforces his admonition by an example which he had himself witnessed (ch. 7). Working round again to Wisdom, as the object of all his discourses, the author introduces her as inviting all to follow her, descanting on her excellence, her heavenly origin, her inestimable blessings. This is the most impotent section concerning Wisdom, which here appears as coeternal with God and cooperating with him in creation. Thus her supreme excellene is an additional reason for hearkening to her instructions (ch. 8). Summing up in brief the warnings which have preceded, Solomon introduces Wisdom and Folly, her rival, inviting severally to their companionship (ch. 9).
The next part of our book contains the first great collection of Solomonic proverbs, some four hundred in number; or, as others say, three hundred and seventy-five (ch. 10-22:16). They are introduced with the title, "The Proverbs of Solomon," and fully correspond to their description, being a series of apothegms, gnomes, and sentences, containing ideas moral, religious, social, political, introduced apparently without order, or with only some verbal connection or common characteristics, and certainly not arranged on any systematic scheme. Of the form of these maxims we shall speak later; we here only mention some of the subjects with which they are concerned. This part of the work begins by drawing comparisons between the righteous and sinners, in their general conduct, and the consequences that result therefrom (ch. 10.).
"Treasures of wickedness profit nothing:
But righteousness delivereth from death" (Proverbs 10:2).
"He that gathereth in summer is a wise son:But he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame"(Proverbs 10:5).
"The memory of the just is blessed:
But the name of the wicked shall rot" (Proverbs 10:7).
The same distinction is maintained in conduct to neighbours —
"A false balance is abomination to the Lord:
But a just weight is his delight" (Proverbs 11:1).
"He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him:But blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it"(Proverbs 11:26).
Then we have maxims on social and domestic life —
"A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband:
But she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones"
"The righteous man regardeth the life of his beast:
But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs 12:10).
The difference between the godly and sinners is seen in the use they respectively make of temporal goods —
"There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: There is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great wealth" (Proverbs 13:7).
"Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished:
But he that gathereth by labour shall have increase" (Proverbs 13:11).
The relations between rich and poor, wise and fools, exhibit the same rule —
"He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth:
But he that hath pity on the poor, happy is he!" (Proverbs 14:21).
"The foolish make a mock at guilt:
But among the upright there is layout" (Proverbs 14:9).
The state of the heart is that to which God looks —
"The Lord is far from the wicked:
But he heareth the prayer of the righteous" (Proverbs 15:29).
Trust in God is the only security in life —
"Commit thy works unto the Lord,
And thy purposes shall be established" (Proverbs 16:3).
"He that giveth heed unto the word shall find good:
And whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he!" (Proverbs 16:20).
Gentleness and long-suffering are recommended —
"A soft answer turneth away wrath:
But a grievous word stirreth up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).
"The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water:
Therefore leave off contention, before there be quarrelling"
Humility is strongly enjoined —
"Pride goeth before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).
Sloth and intemperance and other vices are severely reprobated —
"Slothfuluess casteth into a deep sleep;
And the idle soul shall suffer hunger" (Proverbs 19:15).
"Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty;
Open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread" (Proverbs 20:13).
"He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man:
He that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich" (Proverbs 21:17).
A good reputation should be sought and retained —
"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches,
And loving favour rather than silver and gold" (Proverbs 22:1).
The section ends with an apothegm about rich and poor which is capable of more than one interpretation —
"Whosoever oppresseth the poor, it is for his gain;
Whosoever giveth to the rich, it is for his loss" (Proverbs 22:16).
This is a religious statement concerning the moral government of God, affirming, on the one hand, that oppression and extortion inflicted on the poor man do in the end redound to his good; and, on the other hand, addition to the wealth of a rich man only injures him, leads him to indolence and extravagance, and sooner or later brings him to want.
There is much said in this part about the king's prerogative —
"The king's favour is toward a servant that dealeth wisely: But his wrath shall be against him that causeth shame" (Proverbs 14:35).
"He that loveth pureness of heart,
For the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend" (Proverbs 22:11).
It is possible to take exception to the worldliness and low motives of many of the maxims in this and other parts of the book. The wisdom often seems to be that of this world rather than of heavenly aspiration. And there have not been wanting persons who say such pronouncements cannot be deemed to be inspired, and that the work containing them was not dictated or controlled by the Holy Spirit. We will quote a few of those so-called worldly maxims. Obedience to the Law is enjoined in order to gain long life and prosperity (Proverbs 3:1, Proverbs 3:2), riches and honour (Proverbs 8:18); diligence is to be desired with the view of obtaining a sufficiency, and averting poverty (Proverbs 20:13); the great motive for charity and benevolence is the temporal reward and the favour of God which they secure (Proverbs 19:17; Proverbs 21:13); the same reason holds good for honouring God with our substance (Proverbs 3:9, Proverbs 3:10); humility is to be practised because it brings honour and life (Proverbs 22:4); self-control is a useful attainment because it preserves from many dangers (Proverbs 16:32; Proverbs 25:28); a fine reputation is a worthy object of quest (Proverbs 22:1); sloth, drunkenness, and gluttony are to be avoided because they impoverish a man (Proverbs 21:17; Proverbs 23:20, Proverbs 23:21; Proverbs 24:33, Proverbs 24:34); we should avoid companionship with the evil because they will lead us into trouble (Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 22:25, etc.); it is unwise to retaliate lest we bring injury on ourselves in the end (Proverbs 17:13); we are not to exult over an enemy's fall lest we provoke Providence to punish us (Proverbs 24:17, etc.), but rather to assist an adversary in order to secure a reward at the hands of the Lord (Proverbs 25:21, etc.); wisdom is to be sought for the temporal advantages which it brings (Proverbs 24:3, etc.; 21:20).
Such are some of the maxims which confront us in this Scripture; and there can be no doubt that they seem at first sight to make virtue a matter of calculation; and though they are capable of being spiritualized and leveed into a higher sphere, yet in their natural sense they do urge the pursuit of right on low grounds, and base their injunctions on selfish considerations. Is this what we should expect to find in a work confessedly appertaining to the sacred canon? Is this teaching such as tends to make a man wise unto salvation, to furnish the man of God unto good works? The whole question turns upon the due employment of secondary motives in the conduct of life. Is this method properly employed in education? Does God use it in his dealings with us? We must observe that 'Proverbs' is a book written chiefly for the edification of the young and inexperienced, the simple who were still in the early age of moral growth, those whose principles were as yet unsettled and needed direction and steadfastness. For such teaching of the highest character would be inappropriate; they could not at once appreciate more elevated doctrine; their power of assimilation was at present too feeble to admit the strong meat of heavenly lore; and they were to be led gradually to a higher stage by a slow and natural process which would make no great demand on their faith, nor conscious interruption in their daily life. It is thus that we educate children. We employ the motives of shame and emulation, reward and punishment, pleasure and pain, as incentives to goodness and activity, or as deterrents from evil; and though the actions and habits fostered by these means cannot be regarded as perfect, and have in them an element of weakness, still they are helps on the way to virtue, and facilitate the course of higher training. By such means, imperfect as they are, the moral principle is not injured, and the pupil is placed in a position where he is open to the best influences, and prepared to receive them. We have learned thus to deal with children from God's dealings with ourselves. What are gratitude to parents, faith in teachers, love of friends, loyalty to a sovereign, but secondary motives which control our lives, and yet are not distinctly religious? We build on these feelings, we expect and cherish them, because they lead to worthy action, and without them we should be selfish, loveless, animals. They keep us in the path of duty; they take us out of ourselves, make us regard others' interests, preserve us from much that is evil. Men act on such motives; they do not generally set before themselves anything higher; and he who would teach them must take them as they are, stand on their platform, sympathize with their weakness, and, by putting himself in their position, gain their confidence, and lead them to trust his guidance when he tells them of heavenly things. On such principles much of our book is framed. The moralist knew and recognized the fact that the persons for whose benefit he wrote were not wont to act from the highest motives, that in their daily life they were influenced by selfish considerations — fear of loss, censure of neighbours, public opinion, expediency, revenge, custom, example; and, instead of declaiming against these principles and in austere virtue censuring their defects, he makes the best of them, selects such as may suit his purpose, and, while using them as supports for his warnings, he intersperses so much higher teaching that every one must see that morality has another side, and that the only real and true motive for virtue is the love of God. Such teaching loses its apparently anomalous character when we consider that it is addressed to a people who were living under a temporal dispensation, who were told to expect blessings and punishments in their present life, and who saw in all that befell them providential interferences, tokens of the moral government of their Lord and King. It is consistent with the educational object of our book, and with the gradual development of doctrine observed in the Old Testament, wherein is seen that the Law was a tutor to bring men to Christ.
The first collection of proverbs is followed by two appendices enunciating "the words of the wise" — the first contained in Proverbs 22:17-22; the second, introduced by the words, "These things also belong to the wise," in Proverbs 24:23-34. The former of these commences with a personal address to the pupil, recommending these sayings to his serious attention, and then proceeds to give various precepts concerning duty to the poor, anger, suretyship, cupidity, intemperance, impurity, and to urge the young to avoid evil men and those who would lead them astray. It ends with the weighty saying of moral and political importance —
"My son, fear thou the Lord and the king:
And meddle not with them that are given to change" (Proverbs 24:21).
The second little appendix consists also of proverbial sayings, but is enlivened by a personal reminiscence of the writer, who in his walk passed by the field of the sluggard, noted its miserable condition, and drew a lesson therefrom (Proverbs 24:30, etc.). This section also contains the almost evangelical precept —
"Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me; I will render to the man according to his work."
We now arrive at the second great collection of Solomonic proverbs, "which the men of Hezekiah copied out" (ch. 25-29). This is a series of some hundred and twenty gnomic sayings collected from previous writings, by certain scribes and historiographers, in the reign and under the superintendence of the good King Hezekiah, and intended as a supplement to the former collection, to which it bears a very marked similarity, and many sentences of which it repeats with no or very slight variations. Hezekiah, devoted to the moral and religious improvement of his people, seems to have commissioned his secretaries to examine again the works of his predecessor, and to cull from them, and from similar compilations, such maxims as would further his great purpose. Hence we do not find in this section, as in former parts, much instruction for the young, but sentences concerning government, ideas on social subjects, on behaviour, on moral restraint, and kindred topics that have to do with private and public life. There are in it some noteworthy utterances concerning the office of king —
"The heaven for height, and the earth for depth,
But the heart of kings is unsearchable.
Take away dross from the silver,
And there cometh forth a vessel for the finer;
Take away the wicked from before the king,
And his throne shall be established in righteousness" (Proverbs 25:3, etc.),
"The king by judgment establisbeth the land:But he that exacteth gifts overthroweth it" (Proverbs 29:4).
There is also a mashal hymn in praise of agriculture, which looks like a pretest against the growing luxury of the age, and a call to the simpler, purer life of earlier days —
"Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks,
And look well to thy herds.
For riches are not forever:
And doth the crown endure unto all generations?
The hay is carried, and the tender grass showeth itself,
And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in.
The lambs are for thy clothing,
And the gnats are the price of the field:
And there will be goats' milk enough for thy food,
For the food of thy household,
And maintenance for thy maidens" (Proverbs 27:23, etc.).
There follow three appendices of various origin and authorship. The first contains "The words of Agur, the son of Jakeh, the oracle," addressed by him to two of his disciples (according to one interpretation of the words, "The man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal"), and containing proverbial and enigmatical sayings (ch. 30). This unknown author begins with a confession of his faith, a humble depreciation of his own acquirements, and an acknowledgment of the fruitlessness of endeavonring to comprehend the nature of God. There is much here and in other parts of the section to remind us of the musings of Job, who felt and expressed the same perplexity. The poet then utters two prayers to God, that he may be delivered from vanity and lies, and may be supplied with daily food —
"Give me neither poverty nor riches;
Feed me with the food that is needful for me" (Proverbs 30:8).
Then succeeds a curious collection of pictures, grouped into three or tour sentences each, each stich having a certain connection in language and idea. Thus we have four wicked generations, denoting the universal prevalence of the sins therein denounced; four things insatiable; four things inscrutable; four intolerable; four exceeding wise; four of stately presence. If these utterances mean no more than what at first sight they seem to imply, they merely express the feelings of one who was a keen observer of man and nature, and took a peculiar method of enforcing his remarks: "There are three things, yea, four," etc. But if under these apparently simple statements of fact there are hidden great spiritual verities, then we have here examples of dark sayings, enigmas, difficulties, in the solution of which the opening of the Book promised assistance. That such is the case many early commentators, followed by some modern writers, have stated without hesitation; and much labour has been expended in spiritualizing the dicta of the text. Certainly in their literal shape these sentences are not of the highest type, nor distinctly religious; and it is but natural that, feeling this, expositors should endeavour to raise these commonplace and secular allusions to a more exalted sphere.
The second appendix (Proverbs 31:1-9) is entitled, "The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him." The chief interest lies in the question — Who is Lemuel? (see § 3). The section is a brief lesson addressed to kings, chiefly on the subjects of impurity and drunkenness.
The third appendix, which forms the conclusion of the book (Proverbs 31:10-31), consists of the celebrated description of the virtuous woman, the type of the ideal wife, mother, and mistress. It is what is called an acrostic mashal, i.e. each verse commences with one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, in the usual alphabetical order. Taking the manners and customs of his age and country as the basis of his pictures, the author delineates a woman of the highest attainments, strong-minded yet feminine, active, practical, prudent, economical. Her husband trusts her wholly; she manages the household, keeps her servants to their work, and herself sets an example of diligence; she always has funds in hand to make purchases at the right moment, and to provide for the needs of her household. She is as wise as she is beautiful, as generous and charitable as she is just; her virtue redounds to the credit of husband and children, and all connected with her.
"Her children rise up, and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praiseth her, saying,
Many daughters have done virtuously,
But thou excellest them all.
Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain:
But a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands;
And let her works praise her in the gates."
After the many passages which speak of the degradation of woman, which introduce her in the most odious light, as the temptress of youth, and the very road to death; in contrast, too, to numerous paragraphs and allusions which represent home life as spoiled by a contentious, jealous, and extravagant wife, — it is soothing to come upon this noble description, and to close the volume with this picture of what a woman is when she is animated by love of God and duty.
We may add a slight sketch of the theology and ethics which meet us in this book. There is little distinctive Judaism. In this respect the similarity to the Book of Job is remarkable. The name of Israel is not once mentioned; there is no allusion to the Passover or the other great festivals; there is not a word about idolatry, not a warning against the worship of false gods; the observation of the sabbath is not referred to, nor the payment of tithes. At the same time, the Law is often mentioned, and the ceremonies enjoined therein are tacitly regarded as being in full use and practice (see Proverbs 28:4, Proverbs 28:9; Proverbs 14:9; Proverbs 7:14, etc.). It is doubtless a providential arrangement that so little prominence is given to the external obligations of the Hebrew religion; by this reticence the book was better adapted to become a worldwide teacher; it spoke to Jew and Gentile alike; it taught a morality with which all good men could sympathize; it penetrated wherever Greek literature was understood and valued. Of its wide influence the Book of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus are special proofs.
The dogmatic statements of "the Proverbs" are in complete accord with the religion of Israel as we know it from other sources. The special name of God in the form Jehovah occurs everywhere throughout the book, and is used more often than Elohim, thus emphasizing the great truth of which the incommunicable name was the symbol. God is incomprehensible (Proverbs 30:4), infinitely wise (Proverbs 3:19, etc.; 8), omniscient, omnipresent (Proverbs 15:3). He created all things out of nothing (Proverbs 8:22, etc.); he governs and preserves them by his providence (Proverbs 16:4); he teaches men by chastening and affliction (Proverbs 3:11, Proverbs 3:12); his care watches over and rewards the good, while he punishes the evil (Proverbs 12:2); the poor and the lowly are special objects of his love (Proverbs 22:4; Proverbs 16:19; Proverbs 23:11); allowing to man the exercise of free will (Proverbs 1:24), God helps him by his grace to make a right choice (Proverbs 16:1, Proverbs 16:3, Proverbs 16:9; Proverbs 20:24), because he loves him (Proverbs 8:17, Proverbs 8:31), and wills his happiness (Proverbs 8:35). Of the doctrine concerning wisdom in this book we have spoken above. Of Messianic hopes no distinct trace is found. Whether the future life is asserted has often been questioned; but it is difficult to believe that this great truth is wholly neglected in this book, as we know that long before Solomon's time it was generally admitted, and we should confidently expect traces of its influence in the treatment of man's destiny.
"In the way of righteousness is life;
And in the pathway thereof there is no death" (Proverbs 12:28).
"The wicked is thrust down in his evil doing:
But the righteous hath hope in his death" (Proverbs 14:32).
These are not dogmatic assertions of future rewards and punishments but they are consistent with such a belief, and may well imply it. In the same light we may consider the many passages which speak of the recompense that awaits actions good or evil. The retribution promised is not fully satisfied by anything that befalls a man in this life as the result of his conduct; both the reward and the punishment are spoken of in germs which seem to look to something beyond the grave — something which death did not end, and which nothing here was adequate to fulfil. If it is said that impurity plunges a man into the depths of hell (Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 7:11), that sinners remain in the congregation of the dead (Proverbs 21:16), and that their expectation perishes when they die (Proverbs 11:7), it is also announced that righteousness delivereth from death (Proverbs 11:4), that there is a sure reward for the godly (Proverbs 11:18), and that the righteous hath hope in his death (Proverbs 14:32).
The moral teaching of our book may be grouped under various heads — the result of experience, the outcome of thought, controlled by the strongest sense of religion and an overruling Providence.
1. Duty to God. The first of all duties, the foundation of all morality and religion, is the fear of God (Proverbs 1:7). This must be followed by perfect trust in him and distrust of self (Proverbs 3:5, etc.). The externals of religious worship are not to be neglected (Proverbs 14:9; Proverbs 20:25), but God looks chiefly to the heart (Proverbs 17:3); it is this which makes men acceptable or abominable in his sight (Proverbs 11:20; Proverbs 15:8). If we sin, we must confess our guilt (Proverbs 28:13), meekly submit to his chastisement (Proverbs 3:11, Proverbs 3:12)
2. Duty to ourselves. The first and chief lesson enforced is the utter necessity of avoiding fleshly lusts and evil companionship (Proverbs 1:10, etc.; 13:20). Among deadly sins to be avoided special mention is made of pride, the enemy of wisdom and hateful to God (Proverbs 16:5, Proverbs 16:18, Proverbs 16:19); avarice and cupidity, which lead to fraud and wrong (Proverbs 28:20), and produce only a transitory profit (Proverbs 23:4, Proverbs 23:5); envy, which is as rottenness in the bones (Proverbs 14:30); luxury and intemperance, which, as prevalent in the more artificial state of society, induced by wealth and contact with other nations, are most strongly reprobated and shown to ensure most fatal consequences (Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 23:1, etc., 20, etc., 29, etc.); anger, which leads to folly, causes and embitters quarrels, makes a man detestable (Proverbs 14:17; Proverbs 15:1; Proverbs 20:3); idleness, which ruins equally a man's character and property (Proverbs 13:4; Proverbs 6:6, etc.). Then much is said about the necessity of guarding the tongue, in the power of which are death and life (Proverbs 12:13, etc.; 18:21), and avoiding self-praise (Proverbs 12:9; Proverbs 27:2).
3. Duty to our neighbours. We should sympathize with the afflicted, and try to cheer them (Proverbs 12:25; Proverbs 16:24); help the poor in their need because they are brethren, children of the All-Father (Proverbs 3:27, etc.; 14:31). A neighbour should be judged honestly and truthfully (Proverbs 17:15; Proverbs 24:23, etc.); with him we are to live in peace (Proverbs 3:29, etc.; 17:13, etc.), never slandering him (Proverbs 10:10, etc.; 11:12, etc.), hiding his faults if possible (Proverbs 10:12), encouraging sincere friendship (Proverbs 18:24), and being strictly honest in all transactions with him (Proverbs 11:1; Proverbs 20:14; Proverbs 22:28).
5. Domestic duties. Pious parents are a blessing to children (Proverbs 20:7), and should teach them holy lessons from their earliest years (Proverbs 1:8; Proverbs 4:1, etc.), training them in the right way (Proverbs 22:6), correcting them when they do wrong (Proverbs 23:13, etc.). Children for their part should attend to the instruction of elders, and gladden their parents' hearts by prompt obedience and strict life (Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 23:15, etc.). Let the mother of the family realize her high position, and be the, crown of her husband (Proverbs 12:4), and build up her house (Proverbs 14:1). If she needs a model, let her endeavour to emulate the strong-minded virtuous woman (Proverbs 31:10, etc.). Be it far from her to imitate the contentious wife, whose peevish ill temper is like the continuous dropping of a leaky roof, and renders family life insupportable (Proverbs 19:13; Proverbs 25:24). Servants should be carefully selected (Proverbs 17:2) and wisely treated, that they may not rise beyond their station and prove arrogant and assuming (Proverbs 19:10; Proverbs 29:21).
5. Maxims relating to civil life and political economy. The king's throne is established by righteousness, mercy, and truth (Proverbs 16:12; Proverbs 20:28); his sentence is regarded as indefeasible (Proverbs 16:10); he pursues the godless with righteous punishment (Proverbs 20:8, Proverbs 20:26), protects the weak (Proverbs 31:7, etc.), favours the pious and obedient (Proverbs 16:15; Proverbs 19:12). He is no oppressor, nor covetous (Proverbs 28:16); and he gathers round him faithful counsellors (Proverbs 14:35), whose advice he takes in all important matters (Proverbs 24:6). By such means he increases the stability of his throne; he enables his subjects to advance in prosperity and virtue, and finds his honour in the multitude of his people (Proverbs 11:14; Proverbs 14:28). It is the duty of men to render obedience to the powers that be; punishment speedily overtakes the rebellious (Proverbs 16:14, etc.; 19:12; 20:2). God has ordained that there shall be rich and poor in the land (Proverbs 22:2); the rich ought to help the poor (Proverbs 3:27, etc.; 14:21), and not treat them roughly (Proverbs 18:23). All commercial transactions should be conducted with the strictest honesty; the withholding of corn is specially denounced (Proverbs 11:26). It is a foolish act to stand security for another's debt; you are sure to smart for it, and then you can blame only yourself (Proverbs 6:1, etc.; 22:26, etc.).
Among miscellaneous sayings we may note the following: —
"Who can say, I have made my heart clean,
I am pure from my sin?" (Proverbs 20:9).
"It is as sport to a fool to do wickedness;
And so is wisdom to a man of understanding" (Proverbs 10:23).
"A wise man is strong;
Yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength" (Proverbs 24:5),
"The wicked flee when no man pursueth:
But the righteous are bold as a lion" (Proverbs 28:1).
"Hope deferred maketh the heart sick:
But when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12).
"The path of the righteous is as the shining light,
That shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).
"The wicked earneth deceitful wages: But he that soweth righteousness hath a sure reward" (Proverbs 11:18).
"The hoary head is a crown of glory;
It shall be found in the way of righteousness" (Proverbs 16:31).
§ 3. AUTHORSHIP AND DATE.
Uncritical antiquity, followed in modern times by undiscriminating conservatism, had no hesitation in ascribing the whole Book of Proverbs to one author, Solomon, King of Israel. It is true that three portions of the work are prefaced with his name (Proverbs 1:1; Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 25:1); but two other sections are attributed respectively to Agur (Proverbs 30:1) and Lemuel (Proverbs 31:1); so that apparently the volume itself professes to be composed by three authors; and besides this, there are two appendices containing "the words of the wise" (Proverbs 22:17, etc.; 24:23, etc.), which must be distinguished from those of Solomon. It was natural indeed for the Jews to affix their great king's name to the whole collection. He is said to have spoken three thousand proverbs (mashal, 1 Kings 4:32), a statement which implies that they had been collected into a volume, and the present work was reasonably supposed to form part of this surprisingly large storehouse of wisdom. But a more careful examination of the book necessitates the opinion of divided authorship; contents and language point to differences of date and composition; the repetition of the same proverb in identical or almost identical language, the recurrence of the same thought varied only in actual wording, the adoption of one member of an old maxim with the attachment of a different hemistich, — these blemishes could hardly have been allowed to remain in the work of a single author. There are also variations in the language, which in a marked manner differentiate the several parts, so that we are forced to allow a composite character to the work; and the difficult task is imposed of endeavouring to find some certainty on the question of its origin.
In one place alone does the book itself afford direct help towards deter. mining the date of any portion. The section copied by Hezekiah's friends from previous records must have been put together in that monarch's reign, between two and three hundred years after the time of Solomon, who was regarded as the author of those sayings. The persons engaged in the compilation may have been those mentioned in 2 Kings 18:18 — Shebna the secretary, and Joah, son of Asaph, the chronicler, and very possibly the Prophet Isaiah himself, as a Jewish tradition relates. Whether after so long an interval they simply reproduced his utterances, unadulterated and unaugmented, might prima facie be doubted; a careful examination of the section shows that this doubt is well founded. If there are many sentences therein which in form and substance have a flavour of high antiquity, and may well have flowed from Solomon's lips and have been current in his age, there are also many which exhibit the artificiality of a later period, and presuppose a condition of things far removed from the palmy era of the Hebrew monarchy. Most critics have come to the conclusion that the earliest portion is that which is called the first great collection, contained in Proverbs 11-22:16. The style throughout is simple and chaste, the maxims are mostly comprised in antithetical distichs, each verse being complete in itself. This, according to Ewald, is the oldest form of the technical proverb. It is noticed that there are many phrases and expressions which are peculiar to this section, e.g. "fountain of life," "tree of life," "snares of death," "hand in hand," "whisperer, tale-bearer," "shall not go unpunished," "but for a moment," etc. But arguments derived from peculiarities of structure and language are generally uncertain, and strike readers in different ways. A surer criterion is found in the contents of a composition, in the references which it contains, in the circumstances which it mentions, or the environments which it implies. Now, if we compare this first collection with that of Hezekiah's "men," we shall note some very marked differences, which have been observed by many critics. There is evidently a change in the political situation. In the former section the monarchy is at its best. It is deemed "an abomination to kings to commit wickedness" (Proverbs 16:12); their "throne is established by righteousness," they "delight in righteous lips, and love him that speaketh right;" there is "life in the king's countenance, and his favour is like the latter rain" (Proverbs 16:13, etc.); mercy and truth are his safeguard, and uphold his throne (Proverbs 20:28). A changed picture is presented in the Hezekiah collection. Here we have a people oppressed by a prince wanting in understanding (Proverbs 28:19), mourning under the rule of a wicked king (Proverbs 29:2), who is likened to a roaring lion and a ranging bear (Proverbs 28:15). There is reference to bribery and extortion in high places (Proverbs 29:4), change of dynasties (Proverbs 28:2), unworthy favourites (Proverbs 25:5; Proverbs 29:12) — all of which circumstances point to a political situation other than that in the former part; a period, in fact, when experience had brought knowledge of evil, and rulers had been found to be antagonistic to the interests of their subjects, liable to the worst vices, open to corrupting influences. It is impossible to suppose that many of the maxims, even in the former collection, were spoken by Solomon. What experience would make him say that the king's honour lay in the multitude of his people, and his destruction in their paucity (Proverbs 14:28)? Or, again, that a pious wife is the best of blessings (Proverbs 12:4; Proverbs 18:22), while a contentious one is a torment (Proverbs 19:13, Proverbs 19:14; Proverbs 21:9, Proverbs 21:19)? Such statements as these last presuppose a monogamous man, not one notorious for polygamy. Then, would Solomon have discoursed thus about himself, asserting that a Divine sentence is his word, and that his judgments are irrefragable (Proverbs 16:10), that his wrath is as messengers of death, that his favour is light and life (Proverbs 16:14, Proverbs 16:15), that his anger is like the roaring of a lion, and he puts to the torture those who offend him, while his only claim to support at God's hands is the mercy and truth which his life exhibits (Proverbs 20:2, Proverbs 20:26, Proverbs 20:28)? However cast in Solomonic mould, these sentences cannot have had Solomon for their author; so we must conclude that, together with his genuine sayings, a multitude of gnomes were extant, of various ages and origins, which were attributed popularly to the great king, as the founder of that kind of gnomic poetry, the great master of proverbial philosophy. That both sections contain very many sayings which had him for their author, it is reasonable to suppose, and there is nothing to discredit this notion. From what is said of his remarkable wisdom, and regarding the form which philosophy assumes in the East, we might expect such productions from his mind. If he had for his object the instruction of his people, the training of them in sound views of life and in the practice of virtue and religion, he would embody his views in terse and pithy sentences, charming the imagination and easy to be remembered; he would thus apply Divine truths to the conduct and regulation of daily life. This precedent was doubtless followed by other sages, and thus in addition to and in connection with the proverbial lore which is accumulated in every nation by the experience of ages, there grew up a gradually increasing store of maxims and apothegms, of a higher order than the vulgar sort, which was enshrined in carefully balanced sentences, and handed down as a precious heirloom to succeeding generations.
These considerations, which seem well grounded, account for the composite character of the Book of Proverbs. Many minds and many ages have been concerned in the collection; it has suffered from interpolation, transposition, addition; various editors have arranged and rearranged the materials before them; passages reflect the golden age of Israel's monarchy; passages belong to such times as those of Jeroboam II and his successors. It has become impossible to assign assured dates to the several parts, and the attempt has led critics to ludicrous conclusions, some from the same data attributing to Solomon compositions which others affix to postoexilian times. Out of the medley of varying opinions we gather the following conclusions. When the men of Hezekiah made their collection, which is headed with the words, "These are also proverbs of Solomon," there existed already a body of maxims known as Solomon's, to which they were minded to make an addition from sources open to them. This previously existing collection we may reasonably suppose to be that which at present stands immediately before theirs, viz. Proverbs 10:1-16, and which would thus be the older portion. It is expressly called "the proverbs of Solomon;" and there can be no reasonable doubt that the traditional account which assigned it to the son of David was in the main correct. Knowing the facts of Solomon's later career, no collector would have had the hardihood to attribute many of the utterances therein to him, had they not been universally recognized as his. They are doubtless the effusion of earlier days, the collected outpouring of the happy time when his heart was whole and his faith unimpaired; but who arranged it, or when it received its present shape, can only be conjectured. It is not to be supposed that Solomon sat down and deliberately composed a book of proverbs such as we now possess. It is said that he spake three thousand proverbs. He must have had scribes and secretaries who collected the wisdom that flowed from his lips during the various circumstances of his life and in the various stages of his career (1 Kings 4:3). This formed the nucleus round which accretions gathered in the course of time, the acumen of Hebrew critics failing to distinguish the genuine from the spurious. From the great mass of proverbial literature thus formed Hezekiah's friends made a new selection. What became of the rest of the older collection, which is not comprised in our present volume, cannot be known. It was evidently preserved among the archives of the kingdom which contained accounts, not only of the monarch's acts, but also of his wisdom (1 Kings 11:41). As we have said above, the repetitions of the same proverb in different places indicate a change of authors or editors, deriving their materials from the same source, oral or documentary, but writing independently.
The two appendices to this section containing the "words of the wise" Proverbs 22:17-24) exhibit repetitions which again would indicate a variety of authors, or a lack of care in selection. Some passages found in other parts of the book occur also in these two sections. Thus Proverbs 24:20 (as we shall notice directly) appears at Proverbs 13:9; Proverbs 24:23, "To have respect of persons is not good," at Proverbs 28:21; and Proverbs 24:33, Proverbs 24:34 at Proverbs 6:10, Proverbs 6:11. The first of the appendices is evidently later than the first collection; the structure of the verses is less terse, the parallelism is not so strongly marked, sometimes entirely wanting, and the sense is often not completed under three or even five verses. A comparison of the way in which the repetitions above indicated are introduced would lead to the impression that the former was the earlier, and that the appendix writer derived certain sentences from that. Thus in Proverbs 22:14 we have the statement, "The mouth of strange women is a deep pit;" but in Proverbs 23:27 this is introduced as a reason for the advice in the previous verse, and amplified thus: "For a whore is a deep ditch, and a strange woman is a narrow pit." So the verse, Proverbs 11:14, is enlarged into two in Proverbs 24:5, Proverbs 24:6; and the unvarnished gnome (Proverbs 13:9), "The light of the righteous rejoiceth, but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out," becomes, under the manipulation of the transcriber, a warning in quite a different direction: "Fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be thou envious at the wicked; for there will be no reward to the evil man; the lamp of the wicked shall be put out" (Proverbs 24:19, Proverbs 24:20). Who can doubt that the simpler form of these sayings is the original? Hitzig claims an exilian date for this section on the strength of an Aramaic colouring which other critics deny, and a supposed borrowing of passages or phrases from Jeremiah which seems to be wholly imaginary. How could a poet, banished from his own country, make a point of not removing the ancient landmark (Proverbs 22:28; Proverbs 23:10), or enjoin his hearers to serve their king and avoid innovators (Proverbs 24:21)? There is, indeed, nothing to guide us to any certainty in the question, but the style and language reflect those of the first portion of our book, and it may possibly have been written about the same period. As in Proverbs 3:31, so often in this section (e.g. Proverbs 22:22; Proverbs 24:15, etc.), there are hints of oppressive rulers and iniquitous governors, which would lead us to think of Manasseh and his like. It is reasonable to conclude that this appendix was added after Hezekiah's time by an editor who had before him the first great collection. The same holds good concerning the second little appendix (Proverbs 24:23-34), which seems to be of contemporaneous origin. Nowack, by comparing the two similar passages in Proverbs 6:10, Proverbs 6:11 and 24:33, 34, concludes that the former is original, and that the appendix writer has somewhat altered the sentence in transferring it to his own repertory.
We have in some degree indicated what may be reasonably determined about the date and authorship of the central portions of our book. It remains to investigate the beginning and the closing sections. The introduction (Proverbs 1:1-6), describing the character and intent of the work, applies virtually not only to the collection immediately succeeding (Proverbs 1:7-9), but to other parts of the book, whether the writer had these parts before him or not. Who is the author of this first section, the proem, as it has been called, is a matter of much dispute. There is some difficulty in attributing it to Solomon himself. The opening words do not necessarily imply that Solomon wrote all that follows. "The Proverbs of Solomon" may be introduced as a formal heading of what may be a gathering of fragments from many quarters, composed in Solomon's spirit and instinct with his wisdom, but not actually received from his lips or writings. There are passages which seem to be derived from Isaiah's prophecy; e.g. Proverbs 2:15, "Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths," is parallel to Isaiah 59:8; Proverbs 1:24, Proverbs 1:26, Proverbs 1:27, to Isaiah 65:12 and 66:4. But the language is not identical, and the prophet may have been indebted to the moralist. More to the purpose is the fact that the second part (Proverbs 10:1-16) is superscribed "The Proverbs of Solomon," which would be unnecessary and misleading if the first part was also his composition. To this it may be answered that this title is more especially appropriate to the section as containing proverbs rather than hortatory addresses; and if introduced by a different editor the discrepancy is easily accounted for. Others insist that the religious ideas and the form in which they are expressed are quite foreign to Solomon's time and standpoint. If the technical form of the mashal, consisting of distichs displaying well-balanced and antithetical clauses, be the form which alone appertains to Solomon's age, then it must be allowed that the introductory section contains very few proper mashals, but rather is composed of odes of varying length, in which, as it were incidentally, a few mashals are inserted. The terse single proverb is remarkably absent, and descriptive poems, lengthy exhortations, and developments of a given truth, are the common characteristics of the piece. Here again, however, there is no certainty that Solomon regarded himself as bound to keep to one law in the composition of proverbs, or that he did not employ other and more elaborate methods of expressing his sentiments. The presumption is certainly against the two parts having the same author, bat the idea is not irrational. Delitzsch has produced another argument, tie dwells upon the different idea of Wisdom afforded by the two sections. In the former, Wisdom appears as an independent personality, dwelling with God before all creation, and operating in the production of the visible world, and busying itself with the affairs of men; in the latter, Wisdom is a moral quality, which is grounded in the fear of God, teaches men to recognize the truth, and to regulate their lives according to the rules of religion. Doubtless the view of Wisdom in the proem is an advance on and a development of the conception in the other section. Speculation had progressed, schools of wise men had been formed, preceptors addressed their pupils as "son," and Wisdom was regarded as the chief motor of moral and religious action. The chokma is no longer an idea, a code, or a subjective thought; it has an objective existence, carried back to eternity, fellow worker with God. consideration is decisive against the identity of authorship in the two parts, and disposes one to allow more weight to the undecisive arguments mentioned above. The paraenetical form adopted in the introduction, so different from the proverb proper, points to the influence of the prophetic element, hardly arrived at public utterances and documentary testimony in Solomon's time, but afterwards the great power in the state and the common support of the religious life. Many passages breathe the spirit of Deuteronomy, which in the minds of some critics would at once be a proof of very late origin, but of course have no such look for those who hold the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Others are remarkably similar to parts of the Book of Job, and are evidently more or less borrowed from that source; but as the date of that writing is still undecided, nothing can be deduced from this fact. Taking all that has been said into consideration, and carefully weighing the opinions which have been put forth on the question, we regard this section as the composition of one author, and that not Solomon, except in so far as it breathes his spirit and possibly embodies many of his sayings. It is no argument against this last suggestion, that Solomon would not be found discoursing against unchastity of which his own later life was a flagrant example. There is no reason why this wisest of men should not have uttered such warnings in the earlier and purer part of his career. It was probably arranged in its present shape by the editor of the first great collection of Solomonic proverbs, and placed by him as an introduction to this work. The eloquence of the piece is of the very highest order, and exhibits the inspiration of a true prophet, but the writer must remain unknown. It is only natural to consider that such magnificent passages as those contained in Proverbs 7:0 and 9 were composed by a man of no mean attainments, and one can think of no one able to write them but Solomon himself, especially inspired by God with wisdom beyond all men; but this impression does not vanquish opposing criticism, and we can only concede that the section is worthy of Solomon, and probably contains some of his lore, garnered and lovingly reproduced by a kindred spirit.
The last two chapters (30 and 31) present some difficult questions, which have always exercised the ingenuity of critics, and which cannot even now be determined with any certainty. Ch. 30 opens (according to the Authorized Version) thus: "The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy: the man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal." Nothing whatever is known about any of the persons here supposed to be mentioned. The name Ithiel, indeed, occurs once in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 11:7); but the Benjamite thus called can have nothing to do with the person in our verse. It is conjectured that Agur was some well known sage, Hebrew or foreign, whose sayings were thought by some late editor to be worthy of a place beside the proverbs of Solomon. Jewish interpreters have explained the names symbolically of Solomon himself. Agur may mean "Gatherer," "Convener," from agar, "to collect," and is applied to the wise king, either as "master of assemblies" (Ecclesiastes 12:11), or collector of wisdom and maxims, elsewhere called koheleth (Ecclesiastes 1:1), though this interpretation of the latter word is very questionable. Jakeh is rendered "Obedient" or "Pious," so "the Gatherer, son of the Obedient," would designate Solomon, son of David. St. Jerome countenances the allegorical interpretation by rendering, "Verba Congregantis filii Vomentis." But one sees no reason why the king, whose name has been freely used in the previous sections, should now be introduced under an allegorical appellation. Certainly, much that is contained in the chapter may be regarded as symbolical, but that is scarcely sufficient reason for making the teacher also symbolical. Why, again, should this section be separated from the rest of Solomon's words, and not incorporated with the great body of his collection? What object could there be in introducing another batch of the king's proverbs after the "words of the wise"? If this piece had been in existence in early times, Hezekiah would surely not have omitted placing it in its proper position in his own repertory. The contents, however, leave no doubt on the subject. Solomon never could have uttered what follows: —
"Surely I am more brutish than any man,
And have not the understanding of a man;
And I have not learned wisdom" (Proverbs 30:2, Proverbs 30:3).
Nor could he be blindly groping in darkness after the Creator (Proverbs 30:4); nor pray that he might have neither poverty nor riches (Proverbs 30:8). The notion, therefore, that Solomon himself is here intended must be surrendered as wholly unfounded. Some have attempted to find Agur's nationality in the word translated "the prophecy" (hamassa). Massa, "burden," is the word generally used to denote a prophet's message, either from its being borne by him to the appointed place, or expressive of its grievous nature and awful importance. The term does not seem altogether appropriate to the utterances that follow, and Hitzig has started a theory which makes the word denote the country from which Agur came. The old Venetian Version had given: Λοìγοι ̓Αγουìρου υἱεìως ̓Ιακεìως τοῦ Μασαìου, "the words of Agur son of Jakeh the Masaite." Now, there was a son of Ishmael named Massa (Genesis 25:14; 1 Chronicles 1:30), who may have given his name to a tribe and a district, as did his brothers Duma and Tema (Isaiah 21:11, Isaiah 21:14). It is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 4:38, etc., that certain Simeonites in the days of Hezekiah made a raid into the country of Edom, and established themselves in Mount Seir, driving out the Amalekites whom they found settled there. Starting from this locality and moving northwards towards Damascus, according to Hitzlg, they set up the kingdom of Massa, and hence issued this piece of poetry not long after the first establishment. This, in his view, would account for the peculiarities of dialect found in the composition. Others have found a Massa in the town Mismije, on the north of the Hauran; others place it on the north of the Persian Gulf. In fact, nothing is known with certainty about the country; its very existence is problematical. The most likely supposition is that Agar was an Edomite, a worshipper of Jehovah, and well acquainted with Israelitish literature, being one of the sages for whom Edom was celebrated (1 Kings 4:30), a man whose sayings were deemed of sufficient value and inspiration to insert in the sacred canon, though he, like Job, was not one of the chosen people. The more probable rendering of the second hemistich of ver. 1 of this chapter, which is given in the margin of the Revised Version, is noted in the Exposition.
As Agur is considered a symbolical name of Solomon, so is Lemuel in the next chapter, which opens thus: "The words of King Lemuel, the burden which his mother taught him." Lemuel (or Lemoel, as ver. 4) means "Unto God," equivalent to "Dedicated to God;" and it is supposed to be applied to Solomon, who from infancy was dedicated to God, and called by him Jedidiah, "Beloved of the Lord" (2 Samuel 12:25). But there is no good reason for supposing Solomon to be designated Lemuel. If Agur meant Solomon, why is the name now suddenly changed? And how can we suppose the following address to have been spoken by Bathsheba, the adulteress and virtual murderess? This is a difficulty not resolved by regarding "the mother" as a personification of the Hebrew Church, which is an arbitrary assumption invented to meet an objection, rather than necessitated by an observation of evidence. Those who saw in Massa the country of Agur's residence, would here likewise translate, "the words of Lemuel, King of Massa," and weave a pleasing fiction whereby Agur and Lemuel become the sons of a Queen of Massa, who is supposed to have been, like the Queen of Sheba, a diligent seeker of wisdom. This may be true, but it is a mere conjecture, which cannot be verified. If it is accepted, Lemuel would be an Ishmaelite, whose home was in North Arabia, and who belonged to the company of the wise men for whom Arabia was proverbial. At the same time, it is unlikely that the production of an alien, particularly of a jealously regarded Ishmaelite, should be admitted to the sacred canon. 0f course, there is the difficulty concerning the origin of the Book of Job, But as that controversy is not settled, we cannot regard this as an objection. Laying aside the theory of Lemuel being a non-Israelite, we must regard the word as the appellation of an ideal king, whether the poet looked back to Solomon or Hezekiah, whom he represents as taught by a careful mother in the way of piety and justice. Concerning the date of these appendices there is little to guide us in our determination, except that the language points to composition at a later period than the former portions of the book. We have many dialectical variations, Aramaic and Arabic expressions, which do not occur in the earlier sections, and which were not, as far as we know, current in Southern Israel before Hezekiah's reign, nor probably for some long time after. The free, terse proverb is now wholly wanting, a strained, mechanical composition taking its place; we have enigmas instead of maxims, laboured odelets instead of neat distichs — productions in quite different style from those hitherto handled, and showing a decline of creative power and a tendency to make artificiality and mechanical skill take the place of thought and novelty. The passages which are similar to, and may have been derived from, Job cannot be used in proof of the late date of these sections, as the era of that work is undetermined; but the painful consciousness of man's ignorance in the presence of the great Creator, which meets us, as in Job, so in this appendix (Proverbs 30:2, etc.), implies a speculative activity very foreign to the earlier Hebrew mind, and indicative of contact with other elements, and acquaintance with philosophical questions far removed from the times of the primordial monarchy. Some, accordingly, have attributed the pieces to post-exilian days; but there is not a shadow of proof for this, not an expression or an allusion which confirms such a notion; and Delitzsch is probably correct when he dates their production at the end of the seventh or the beginning of the sixth century B.C.
The closing poem, the praise of the virtuous woman, is probably still later, and certainly by a different hand. The alphabetical ode is not found till the very latest period of Hebrew poetry, though it is impossible to affix any definite date for its production.
§ 4. GENERAL CHARACTER.
The whole Book of the Proverbs is rhythmical in construction, and it is rightly so printed in the Revised Version as to exhibit this characteristic. The great feature of Hebrew poetry, as every one knows, is parallelism, the balancing of thought against thought, corresponding in form and often in sound, so that one line is an echo of the other. The second member is either equivalent to the first, or contrasted with it or similar to it in construction; the whole may consist of only two lines forming a distich, which is the normal type of proverb, or of three or four or more; but all contain one thought expanded on parallel lines. The various shapes which are thus assumed by the sentences in our book are thus noted.
The simplest and earliest form is the distich, a sentence consisting of two lines balanced one with the other, like —
'A wise son maketh a glad father:
But a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother" (Proverbs 10:1).
The second part of our book (Proverbs 10:1-16) consists mainly of such sentences. Sometimes the sense extends over three lines, forming a tristich, when the thought in the first line is repeated in the second before the conclusion is reached. Thus —
"Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar
With a pestle among bruised corn,
Yet will not his foolishness depart from him" (Proverbs 27:22).
Or the idea in the second line is developed by a contrast in the third —
Whoso causeth the upright to go astray in an evil way,
He shall fall himself into his own pit:
But the perfect shall inherit good" (Proverbs 28:10).
Or the additional line produces a proof in confirmation —
"Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not;
And go not to thy brother's house in the day of thy calamity:
Better is a neighbour that is near than a brother that is far off"
Of tetrastichs we find some instances, where the last two lines make the application of the others —
"Take away the dross from the silver,
And there cometh forth a vessel for the finer;
Take away the wicked from before the king,
And his throne shall be established in righteousness" (Proverbs 25:4, Proverbs 25:5).
In the maxims consisting of five lines, pentastichs, the last two or three generally supply or develop the reason of the preceding —
"Weary not thyself to be rich:
Cease from thine own wisdom.
Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not?
For riches certainly make themselves wings,
Like an eagle that flieth toward heaven" (Proverbs 23:4, Proverbs 23:5).
Of a proverb in six lines, hexastich, we have a few instances —
Deliver them that are carried away unto death,
And those that are ready to be slain see that thou hold back.
If thou sayest, Behold, we knew not this;
Doth not he that weigheth the hearts consider it?
And he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it?
And shall not he render to every man according to his work?"
(Proverbs 24:11, Proverbs 24:12).
Of the heptastich there is only one example, viz. Proverbs 23:6-8.
The connected verses in Proverbs 23:22-25 may be regarded as an octastich, but when thus extended the proverb becomes a mashal ode, like Psalm 25, 34, 37. Of this character are the introductory part, which consists of fifteen didactic poems, the hortatory address (Proverbs 22:17-21), the warning against drunkenness (Proverbs 23:29-35), and many other passages, especially the praise of the virtuous woman (Proverbs 31:10, etc.), written in the form of an alphabetical acrostic.
The form of the proverb being such as we have described, it remains to distinguish the different kinds of parallelisms employed which have led to their being arranged into various classes.
1. The simplest species is the synonymous, where the second hemistich merely repeats the first, with some little alteration of words, in order to enforce the truth presented in the former; e.g. —
"The liberal soul shall be made fat;
And he that watereth shall be watered also himself" (Proverbs 11:25).
"He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty;
And he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city"
2. The antithetic presents in the second member a contrast to the first, bringing forward a fact or an idea which offers the other side of the picture —
The labour of the righteous tendeth to life:
The increase of the wicked to sin" (Proverbs 10:16).
"The thoughts of the righteous are judgment:
But the counsels of the wicked are deceit" (Proverbs 12:5).
These are, perhaps, of more frequent occurrence than any. Sometimes the form is interrogative —
"The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity:
But a broken spirit who can bear?" (Proverbs 18:14).
3. Synthesis in logic is an argument advancing regularly from principles conceded to a conclusion founded thereon. The term has been loosely applied to our subject, and synthetical proverbs are such as contain two different truths embodied in the distich, and not necessarily dependent one upon another, but connected by some feature common to both.
"The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him;
And the desire of the righteous shall be granted" (Proverbs 10:24),
The idea of the future is here the connecting link. In the following distich the misery which results in both cases is the point: —
"He that is slack in his work
Is brother to him that is a destroyer" (Proverbs 18:9).
4. This last example introduces us to what Delitzsch terms the integral proverb, where the second line completes the thought which is only begun in the first —
"The law of the wise is a fountain of life,
To depart from the snares of death" (Proverbs 13:14).
"The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
Keeping watch upon the evil and the good" (Proverbs 15:3).
This is called also progressive, a gradation being presented from the less to the greater, or the greater to the less, as —
"Beheld, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth:
How much more the wicked and the sinner!" (Proverbs 11:31).
"Sheol and Abaddon are before the Lord:
How much more thou the hearts of the children of men!"
5. The fifth sort of proverb is named the parabolic, which is, perhaps, the most striking and significant of all, and capable of manifold expression. Herein a fact in nature or in common life is stated, and an ethical lesson grounded upon it. The comparison is sometimes introduced by particles —
"As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes,
So is the sluggard to them that send him" (Proverbs 10:26),
Sometimes it is suggested by mere juxtaposition —
"A jewel of gold in a swine's snout,
A fair woman which is without discretion" (Proverbs 11:22).
Or it is introduced by "and," the so-called vav adoequationis —
"Cold water to a thirsty soul,
And good news from a far country" (Proverbs 25:25).
"For lack of wood the fire goeth out,
And where there is no whisperer, contention ceaseth" (Proverbs 26:20).
To the forms here specified must be added the numerical proverb (middah, "measure"), where a certain number is stated in the first line, which is usually increased by one in the second, and thus a kind of climax is formed which gives force and piquancy to the sentence. Familiar examples occur in Amos 1:0, where we find a series of propositions commencing with the words, "For three,... yea, for four," etc. There is only one of these in our book from Proverbs 1:0 to 29, and that is the octastich, Proverbs 6:16-19, beginning —
"There be six things which the Lord hateth,
Yea, seven which are an abomination unto him."
But there are many in ch. 30, viz. vers. 15, 18, 21, 29. These are all in the form mentioned above, the first-named number being augmented by one. Two more are of simpler form, being not climacteric, viz. vers. 7-9, 24-28. The latter, e.g., says —
"There are four things which are little upon the earth, But they are exceeding wise;"
and then proceeds to specify the ants, conies, locusts, and lizards.
The last two chapters possess a character of their own, quite distinct from the rest of the work; ch. 30 being for the most part destitute of parallelism, Lemuel's words forming a continuous instruction in which the second member of each verse repeats the idea and almost the very words of the first, and the eulogium of the virtuous woman taking the shape of an acrostic ode.
Of the principles which guided the editors in their arrangement of the material before them, it is impossible to give any satisfactory account. Sometimes the proverbs are loosely connected by certain catchwords which occur in a series. Thus in Proverbs 12:5-7 the link is found in the recurrence of the words "righteous" (tsaddik) and "wicked" (rasha); in Proverbs 10:8, Proverbs 10:13, Proverbs 10:20, Proverbs 10:21, we have in the Hebrew continually the word leb, "heart;" so in Proverbs 12:8, Proverbs 12:11, Proverbs 12:20, Proverbs 12:23, Proverbs 12:25, and elsewhere. Sometimes the subject supplies the connection, as in Proverbs 18:10, Proverbs 18:11, where the fortress of faith and that of presumption are contrasted; Proverbs 22:30, 31, where the overruling of God's providence is the theme. But generally the grouping is arbitrary, and the attempt, like that of Zockler, to give a synoptical account of the contents is far from satisfactory. Such, then, is the mashal collection in this book regarded in its mechanical aspect. Viewed as poetry, it offers the greatest contrasts, ranging from the bald and commonplace to the heights of the sublime. If we meet with vulgar truisms in one place, in another we are sitting at the feet of a bard who discourses of heavenly things with pure and fervid eloquence. If in one place we find only maxims of secular tendency, to be taken as the outcome of worldly experience in matters of daily life, in another we are dealing with parables of things Divine, which need and are intended to receive spiritual handling, and cannot be thoroughly understood under any other treatment. The portrait of Wisdom is an adumbration of the eternal Son of God, who invites all to share his bounty and enrich themselves from his boundless store. The "strange woman" is not merely a representation of vice; she is a type of the great opponent of Christ, the antichrist, the false doctrine, the harlotry of the intellect, which opposes the truth as it is in Jesus. And the virtuous woman is not merely an example of the perfect woman, wife, and mother; but also a figure of the Church of God, with all its ennobling influence, its vivifying ordinances, its supernatural graces.
The book reflects the circumstances of the times in which its various parts were composed. There are pictures of savage rapine and plunder, insecurity of life and property, and the evils that attend days of anarchy and confusion. There are pictures of peace and prosperity, quiet home life, agriculture, grazing, farming, with its pleasures and profit. There are signs of luxury, bringing in its train excess, profligacy, fraud, covetousness. There is the ideal king, upright, discerning, pious, the enemy of all that is base, dishonourable, or vicious, the rewarder of the just and God fearing. There is the ruler, tyrannical, oppressive, iniquitous, hated by his subjects, and caring nothing for their best interests. Here we have the judge whose verdict is as God's own judgment, pure and equitable; there the judge venal, corrupt, selling the truth, perverting the right, and making the tribunal a mart for the gain of filthy lucre. On these and suchlike circumstances the Proverbs offer warnings and instructions; antidotes against evil influences; encouragements to perseverance in the right way. Much may have originally been written by Solomon for the benefit of his son Rehoboam, who in that age was exposed to peculiar temptations; but thereby the Holy Spirit has produced a manual fitted for the use of all who in active life are open to the seductions of their time and country and society. We have spoken above of the use of secondary motives in the teaching of our book; but we must not omit to observe that, under the earthly and secular element, there is present a vein of heavenly wealth. The consciousness of a Divine presence, of a moral Governor, of an exterior Lawgiver, dominates every lesson. The heart is to be guarded whose secrets are known only to God; the tongue is to be diligently watched, though human law punishes not its transgressions. All actions are to be referred to God's will and Word, and are only right when conformed to these.
The absence of all mention of polytheism, which some have used as a reason for assigning a post-exilian date to the book, may be otherwise accounted for. If the Proverbs reflect the earlier days of Solomon's reign, before his great decline and apostasy, the days when the temple had newly been built and consecrated, and men's minds were filled with the grand ceremonies of its opening services and the marvels which attended its dedication, there would be then no tendency to idolatry, the evil propensity for unlawful worship would at any rate for a time have been checked, and the moralist would have had no reason for warning against this particular offence.
§ 5. HISTORY OF THE TEXT.
The Book of Proverbs has always been enumerated by the Jews among the twenty-two books into which they divided their canon. Thus it was found to be by Melito of Sardis, when he personally investigated the matter during his journey in the East, as mentioned by Eusebius ('Hist. Eccl.,' 4:26). To the same effect is the testimony of Origen, adduced also by Eusebius (ibid., 6:25). In the Christian Church the catalogues of Holy Scripture drawn up by councils and private persons never fail to include Proverbs in the canon. The frequent quotation of the work by the writers of the New Testament placed it at once beyond the pale of doubt, and lent indisputable confirmation to its claims. The inspiration of the works attributed to Solomon was indeed denied by Theodore of Mopsuestia at the end of the fourth century, but his opinions found no support among the orthodox, and were condemned by the Fifth OEcumenical Council. Since that time no doubt has ever been thrown by Christians upon the claim of our book to its place in the sacred volume. But the settlement of the original text is quite a different matter from establishing the canonicity of the work as a whole. To compare with the existing Masoretic text we have the Targum, the Syriac, Greek, and Latin versions, all of which present variations from the original which we possess.
The Targum, which usually takes the form of a Chaldee Paraphrase, is in the present case a tolerably close version without much comment or additional matter. It is plainly dependent upon the Syriac in a great degree, though it varies from it occasionally, the translator having other sources to appeal to. In many passages the Peshito and the Targum agree in receding from the Masoretic reading, in these often coinciding with the Septuagint, which version it is most unlikely that the Targumist himself consulted, the strictest of Hebrews holding that translation in abhorrence. Noldeke concludes that a Jew took the Syriac as the foundation of a Targum, but also consulted the Masoretic text, correcting from it certain prominent errors, but for the most part leaving the rest unaltered.
The Syriac itself offers many remarkable deviations from our text, not only affording interpretations which denote different wording and pointing, but often introducing whole verses or clauses which have no representative in the Hebrew. It is evident that when this version was made, the Hebrew text was still unsettled, and what we now receive was not universally recognized. Very probably under these variations are concealed genuine readings which would otherwise be lost. Many of these are noticed in the Exposition. The Syriac translator has made free use of the Septuagint, and laid great weight on its renderings, often endorsing its mistakes and paraphrastic explanations.
The Latin Vulgate, the work of St. Jerome, is also greatly indebted to the LXX., though he has not always slavishly followed it against the authority of the present Hebrew; when he does do so, it is in cases where the text seemed unintelligible without the help of the Greek, or where the pointing was not determined by any traditional decision. What use he made of the old Itala cannot be determined, though it seems to be assured that many of the additions found in his version occur also in the more ancient.
Of the Septuagint Version, as the most important of all, there is more to be said. When it was made it is impossible to say, though it must have been in existence before Ecclesiasticus was written, as it seems clear that Ben-Sira had it before him when he translated his senior's work. The translator was well acquainted with Greek literature, and aimed rather at producing a respectable literary work than offering a simple representation of the original. He renders freely, paraphrasing where he thought it necessary, and even, as it seems, altering words or phrases to make his meaning clearer, or his sentence more flowing. The version shows traces of more than one hand being concerned in arranging the present text, as we find sometimes double renderings of the same passage, and sometimes two incompatible translations blended confusingly into one. Thus, Proverbs 1:27, after, "When affliction and siege come upon you," is added, "or when destruction shall come upon you;" Proverbs 2:2, "Thine ear shall listen to wisdom, thou shalt also apply thine heart to understanding, and thou shalt apply it to the instruction of thy son;" Proverbs 6:25, "Let not the desire of beauty overcome thee, neither be thou captured with thine eyes, neither be thou caught with her eyelids;" Proverbs 3:15, "She is more valuable than precious stones, no evil thing shall oppose her; she is well known to all who approach her, and no precious thing is worthy of her." There is also evidence of carelessness and want of precision here as in other portions of the Greek Version. But there can be no doubt that many of the variations are owed to a different original. That the LXX. had not our Masoretic text before them is proved by more than one consideration. In the first place, the order of chapter and verse, so to speak, was not the same as in our present book. Up to Proverbs 24:22, the two for the most part coincide, though there is some variation in ch. 15 and 16; and again in ch. 17 and 20, single verses are dislocated and inserted elsewhere. But at Proverbs 24:23, a notable change occurs. Here is introduced Proverbs 29:27; then follow four distichs not found in the Hebrew; then Proverbs 30:1-14, succeeded by Proverbs 24:23-34; then comes the rest of ch. 30., viz. from ver. 15 up to Proverbs 31:9. Thus the words of Agur are divided into two sections; and the superscriptions there and at the beginning of ch. 30 being removed, the proverbs of Agur and Lemuel are joined without reserve to those of Solomon. The praise of the virtuous woman closes the book, as in the Hebrew. What led the translator to make these changes is a difficult question. Hitzig considers that the writer confounded the columns of the manuscript before him, two being on each page, and the proverbs of Agur and Lemuel being ranked before ch. 25, and understood traditionally as Solomon's. That this was the translator's idea we see from the inscription which he has inserted at Proverbs 24:23, "These things I say to you who are wise," where the speaker muse necessarily be Solomon. Instead of "The words of Agur" (Proverbs 30:1), he writes, "Fear my words, my son, and receiving them repent;" and in Proverbs 31:1, again, he finds no proper name in Lemuel, but renders, "My words have been spoken by God the King." Another circumstance which shows that the Greek translator had before him a different text from ours is that he presents us with many passages which are not found in the Hebrew, and omits many which now have a place therein.
The list of such variations would be very large. Among the additions we may notice the following: At the end of ch. 4, which seems to close somewhat abruptly, we have two verses, "For the ways which are on the right hand God knoweth, but those on the left are crooked; and he it is who will make thy tracks straight, and will guide thy goings in peace." In ch. 9 there are two great additions: after ver. 12, "He that stays himself upon lies, he shepherdeth winds, and he will pursue birds as they fly; for he has forsaken the ways of his own vineyard, and has caused the axles of his own field to go astray, and he passeth through a waterless desert, and a land established in drought, and gathers with his hands fruitlessness;" and at ver. 18, "But hasten thou away, delay not in the place, neither fix thine eye upon her, for then shalt thou go through strange water; but from strange water abstain thou, and of a strange fountain drink not, that thou mayest live long, and years of life may be added to thee." Whether these and such like sentences are genuine or not cannot be determined. They look very commonly like explanations or amplifications of the original which have crept from the margin into the text. Thus Proverbs 11:16, "A gracious woman raiseth glory for her husband, but a seat of dishonour is a woman hating righteousness; the slothful come to lack wealth, but the brave are supported by wealth." Here the Syriac gives, "The slothful shall be poor even with their riches; but the spirited shall sustain wisdom." The words in italics seem to be mere glosses. So Proverbs 18:22, "He who finds a good wife finds favours; and receives gladness from God. He who putteth away a good wife putteth away good things, and he that keepeth an adulteress is foolish and ungodly." Of the longer intercalations the most celebrated is that concerning the bee (Proverbs 6:8), which follows the lesson on the ant: "Or go to the bee, and learn how diligent she is, and how noble a work she performeth; whose labours kings and private persons use for health, and she is desired by all and of good repute; and although she is weak in strength, yet because she regardeth wisdom she is highly honoured." There is another long interpolation respecting the king and his power which succeeds Proverbs 24:22: "A son that keepeth the word shall be far from destruction. Receiving he receiveth it. Let no falsehood be spoken by the mouth of a king, and let no falsehood proceed from his tongue. The king's tongue is a sword, and not one of flesh; whosoever shall be delivered over to it shall be utterly crushed. For if his anger be provoked, he consumes men together with their sinews, and devoureth men's bones, and burneth them as a flame, so that they cannot be eaten by the young of eagles." The last clause seems to refer to the opinion that birds of prey will not touch carcases struck by lightning. After Proverbs 19:7, which is given thus: "Every one who hates a poor brother shall also be far from friendship," we have, "Good understanding will draw near to them that know it; and a prudent man will find it. He that doth much evil perfects mischief, and he that useth provoking words shall not be saved." An additional illustration is sometimes added. Thus, in Proverbs 25:20, omitting the reference to leaving off a garment in cold weather, the LXX. give, "As vinegar is inexpedient for a sore, so suffering falling on the body afflicts the heart. As moth in a garment and worm in wood, so a man's grief injures the heart." In Proverbs 27:20 we have, "An abomination to the Lord is he who fixeth his eye, and the uninstructed are incontinent in tongue." And in the next verse, "The heart of the lawless seeketh evils, but an upright heart seeketh knowledge." The addition in Proverbs 26:11 occurs in Ecclus. 4:21, "There is a shame that bringeth sin, and there is a shame that is glory and grace." The Greek origin of the translation appears plainly in some of the interpolations. Thus in Proverbs 17:4, "To the faithful belongeth the whole world of riches, but to the unfaithful not even an obole."
The minor interpolations are too numerous to specify. They are for the most part noticed as they occur in the Exposition, in which also the many deviations from the received Hebrew text in words and clauses are mentioned. The additions are not of much value morally or religiously, and cannot bear comparison with the genuine proverbs. Whether they are corruptions of the Hebrew text, or corrections and additions made by the translators themselves, cannot be decided. It must be noted, in conclusion, that the Greek Version omits many passages which are now found in our Hebrew Bibles; e.g. Proverbs 1:16; Proverbs 8:32, Proverbs 8:33; Proverbs 11:3, Proverbs 11:4; Proverbs 15:31; Proverbs 16:1, Proverbs 16:3; Proverbs 18:23, Proverbs 18:24; Proverbs 19:1, Proverbs 19:2; Proverbs 20:14-19; Proverbs 21:5; Proverbs 22:6; Proverbs 23:23.
Of the versions of Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion, fragments have been transmitted in Origen's great work, which sometimes afford light in the rendering of difficult words. There is also another translation known as Veneta, very literal, and made about the ninth century of our era. It belongs to St. Mark's Library at Venice, and has been published, first in 1784, and again of late years.
§ 6. ARRANGEMENT IN SECTIONS.
The various superscriptions in the book for the most part divide it into its several parts. There is one at the very beginning, "The Proverbs of Solomon;" the same words are repeated at Proverbs 10:1; at Proverbs 22:17 a new section is commenced with the words, "Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise;" another at Proverbs 24:23 with the remark, "These things also belong to the wise." Then at Proverbs 25:1 we have, "These are also the Proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah copied out;" at ch. 30:1, "the words of Agur;" at Proverbs 31:1, "the words of Lemuel," followed by the acrostic ode of the virtuous woman.
Thus the book may couveniently be divided into nine parts.
PART I. Title and superscription. Proverbs 1:1-6.
PART II. Fifteen hortatory discourses, exhibiting the excellence of wisdom and encouraging the pursuit thereof. — Proverbs 1:7-18.
1. First hortatory discourse. — Proverbs 1:7-19.
2. Second — Proverbs 1:20-33.
3. Third — Proverbs 2:0.
4. Fourth — Proverbs 3:1-18.
5. Fifth — Proverbs 3:19-26.
6. Sixth — Proverbs 3:27-35.
7. Seventh — Proverbs 4:0.
8. Eighth — Proverbs 5:0.
9. Ninth — Proverbs 6:1-5.
10. Tenth — Proverbs 6:6-11.
11. Eleventh — Proverbs 6:12-19.
12. Twelfth — Proverbs 6:20-35.
13. Thirteenth — Proverbs 7:0.
14. Fourteenth — Proverbs 8:0.
15. Fifteenth — Proverbs 9:0.
PART III. First great collection of (375) Solomenic proverbs, mostly unconnected. Proverbs 10:1-16, — divided into four sections, viz. Proverbs 10:1-28; Proverbs 13:1-19; Proverbs 15:20-25; Proverbs 19:26-16.
PART IV. First appendix to first collection, containing "words of the wise." Proverbs 22:17-22.
PART V. Second appendix to first collection, containing further "words of the wise." Proverbs 24:23-34.
PART VI. Second great collection of Solomonic proverbs gathered by "men of Hezekiah." Proverbs 25-29.
PART VII. First appendix to second collection: "words of Agur." Proverbs 30:0.
PART VIII. Second appendix to second collection: "words of Lemuel." Proverbs 31:1-9.
PART IX. Third appendix to second collection: acrostic ode in praise of the virtuous woman. Proverbs 31:10-31.
§ 7. LITERATURE.
The Fathers have for the most part not formally commented on this book. Origen and Basil have commentaries hereon: 'Ex Commentariis in Proverbia,' Orig., 'Op.,' 3.; 'In Principium Prov.,' Basil., 2. Besides these there is Bede, 'Exposit. Allegor.' Among the numerous expositions of later date the most useful are the following: Salazar, 1619; Cornelius a Lapide, 1635, etc.; Melancthon, 'Op.,' 2.; Bossuet, 'Notae,' 1673; Hammond, 'Paraphrase,' 4.; Michaelis, 'Adnotationes,' 1720; Aben Ezra, 1620, and edit. by Horowitz, 1884; Schulteus, 1748; Umbreit, 1826; Rosenmuller, 1829; Lowenstein, 1838; Maurer, 1838; Bertheau, 1847; re-edited by Nowack, 1883; Stuart, 1852; Ewald, 'Spruche Sal.,' 1837, 1867; Hitzig, 1858; Zockler, in Lange's 'Bibelwerk,' 1867; Vaihinger, 1857; Delitzsch, in Clarke's 'For. Libr.;' Reuss, Paris, 1878; Plumptre, in the 'Speaker's Commentary;' Bishop Wordsworth; Nutt, in Bishop Ellicott's Commentary; Strack, in 'Kurzgef. Kommentar,' 1889. The 'Topical Arrangement' of Dr. Stock will be found useful; also the Introductions of Eichhorn, De Wette, Bertholdt, Keil, and Bleek.
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25