1902 Encyclopedia > Book of Proverbs

Book of Proverbs




PROVERBS, BOOK OF. The title of the book of Proverbs is "The Proverbs of Solomon" (____ _____, niishle shelomoh, or more shortly mishle, for which Origen gives the feminine form misloth, Euseb., H. E., vi. 25). The title in the LXX. is a literal rendering of the Hebrew, _____. In early times the book was frequently referred to both among Jews and Christians under the name of "Wisdom" or "The Wisdom that comprises all Virtues" (77 _____, Clem. Rom., ch. 57). This name, however, was employed somewhat indis-criminately, for not only Proverbs but also Ecclesiastes and the apocryphal books Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom were also designated by it, and sometimes apparently the whole third division of the canon (Lightfoot, Epp. of S. Clement, p. 164 sq.).

The book of Proverbs as it now lies before us consists of a number of distinct parts.
1. We have, chap. i. 1-7 (or i. 1-6 as some think), a general heading and preface, giving the title of the book and the purposes to be served by its contents :— "The Proverbs of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel. To know wisdom and instruction ... to give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion ... to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their dark sayings." This is followed by the fundamental maxim of the Wisdom, " The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." The question to what parts of the book this preface extends is not easy to settle.

2. This general preface is followed by a lengthy passage, i. 8-ix. 18, which consists, not of detached proverbs, though a number of such proverbs are scattered through it, but of connected discourses in praise of wisdom and the benefits which she confers on those who embrace her. The speaker is one of the wise, or a type of them, who ad-dresses his youthful pupil or friend as "my son," though at several points wisdom herself is introduced speaking, displaying her graces, offering herself to men, narrating her history, and magnifying the delights which they who follow her enjoy, as well as painting in dark colours the evils from which she preserves them. Attempts have been made to divide the passage into distinct sections, but without much success. Ewald counts three general divisions, Bertheau seven, Hooykaas eleven, and Delitzsch fifteen. The passage is in the main homogeneous, though containing at more places than one elements which at first sight might appear foreign (e.g., vi. 1 sq.), and on the whole at least is the composition of a single author. Several of its characteristics, such as the style, and par-ticularly the personification of wisdom in chap. viii. and else-where, one of the most remarkable and beautiful things in Hebrew literature, indicate that the passage belongs to an .advanced stage of the Hebrew wisdom.

3. Then follows the largest section in the book, x. 1-xxii. 16, with a new heading, "The Proverbs of Solomon." This division consists of a number of verses—three hundred .and seventy-four, it is said—each of which contains a single proverb or maxim in two lines, the only exception being xix. 7, which has three lines, but this is probably due to one member of a second verse having fallen out. The kind . of poetical parallelism most common in these verses is the antithetic, of the type "A wise son maketh a glad father, but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother" (x. 1). This type of parallelism prevails almost exclusively in x.-xv., after which other types are more commonly introduced. The proverbs in this collection are of a very miscellaneous character, and are thrown together without any classification or regard to subject, though occasionally a few verses are found to follow one another having reference to a common topic.

4. After this comes a small collection consisting of two parts which have been put together, xxii. 17-xxiv. 22 and xxiv. 23-34. The author of the first collection informs his son or disciple that what he addresses to him is " words of the wise " (xxii. 17); and the second small code is inscribed "These also are by the wise" (xxiv. 23). The proverbs in this collection sometimes make one verse, sometimes two or three, and even occasionally run out to a short proverbial discourse.

5. Then follows an important collection, xxv.-xxix., with the inscription, " These also are proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, copied out" (xxv. 1). The expression " copied out" (LXX. i^eypaij/avTo), lit. "transferred" or removed from one place to another, implies that the men of Hezekiah made use of written sources in forming their collection. The notice is of great historical interest. Hezekiah, besides being a wise and reforming king, had probably literary tastes; he has the reputation of having been a poet himself (Isa. xxxviii.); and his " men " were no doubt scholars and scribes about his court, who shared in his tastes and pursuits, and under his direction used their opportunities to rescue from oblivion the precious remains of the most ancient wisdom by transferring them from the small collections in which they lay hidden into a single and authorized code (cf. 2 Kings xviii. 37). It may perhaps be considered some corroboration of the genuine historical character of the inscription that the collection begins with a number of proverbs relating to kings. The maxims in this code, particularly in xxv.-xxvii., approach much nearer to what we should imagine the early popular proverb to have been than many of those in the other large collection; they are simple, usually contain a comparison, and have none of the abstractness which characterizes many of the maxims in x.-xxii. This may be regarded as a guarantee of their great antiquity.

6. Two small pieces then follow, evidently related to one another, xxx. and xxxi. 1-9,—the former with the inscription, " The words of Agur, the son of Jakeh," and the other with the heading, " The words of King Lemuel." The inscriptions to these two pieces are very obscure. In the former the A. V. can hardly be correct. More probably by a different division of words we should read —" The words of Agur the son of Jakeh of Massa. The man said, I have wearied myself, O God, I have wearied myself, 0 God, and am consumed; for I am more brutish than any man," &c. The words are those of one who has striven to comprehend God and found the task above him (Ps. Ixxiii. 22). Possibly the above rendering re-quires a slight correction in the text, already made in the Veneto-Greek version, which renders "Jakeh the Massaite" (Gen. xxiv. 14 ?). Similarly the heading in xxxi. should probably read—" The words of Lemuel king of Massa, wherewith his mother instructed him." It is uncertain whether the names Agur and Lemuel be real or fictitious.

7. Finally the book is closed by an alphabetical poem, xxxi. 10-31, in praise of the virtuous (that is, the active, capable) woman.

The contents of these several sections are very various and not easy to classify. The proverbialists occupy themselves with life in all its aspects. Sometimes they simply catch, the expression of men^good or bad, or photograph their actions and thoughts; more generally they pass a verdict upon them, and exhort or instruct men in regard to them. The proverbs differ from the shrewd or humorous sayings which are so called in profane literature; some of them have a certain flavour of humour, but they are mainly maxims touching practical life on its religious and moral side. o Such maxims cannot be regarded as wholly or even_ in a very large degree the production of an individual mind. A number of them may well be by Solomon, and a greater number may belong to his age; but, though the stream of wisdom began to flow in his day, its beginnings were then comparatively small ; as the centuries advanced it gathered volume. In the book which now exists we find gathered together the most precious fruits of the wisdom in Israel during many hundred years, and undoubtedly the later centuries were richer, or at all events fuller, in their contributions than the earlier. The tradition, however, which connects Solomon with the direction of mind known as the wisdom cannot reasonably be set aside. The renown for wisdom which this king enjoyed among his own people, and even, though in a distorted and fantastic form, among the other peoples of the East, must have rested on some real founda-tion. No doubt reputations grow, and veneration mag-nifies its hero sometimes in proportion to the indistinct-ness of its real knowledge of him ; and objects seen in the broad light of day are very insignificant compared with the bulk which they assume when seen between us and the light still lingering on the horizon of a day that has gone down. But, making allowance for the exaggerations of later times, we should leave history and tradition altogether unexplained if we disallowed the claim of Solomon to have exercised a creative influence upon the wisdom in Israel. At the same time it is probable that this influence did not lie in the application of new methods, much less in the creation of a new direction of thought. The supposition that Solomon was the inventor of the proverbial distich or mashed, particularly of the antithetical distich, or that he was the first to use this in his sententious sayings on men and life, and thus the father of didactic poetry among the Hebrews, is a mere conjecture. The distich was employed long before his day, and sententious maxims regarding life and men long preceded him. Moreover the conjecture is based on the very false assumption that the essence of the wisdom lay in the form of expression rather than in the matter, and that the curt, sharp, antithetical distich was its proper characteristic and belonged to it from the beginning. This assumption, made by Ewald, has been so usually accepted by writers after him that the polished pointed antithesis has been elevated into a criterion of the higher antiquity of those proverbs which possess it. Probably the opposite conclusion would be nearer the truth. The form of these antithetical proverbs betrays art, long use of the literary methods of the wise, and an approach to technicality—things not to be expected in an early age. The early mashed was probably simple, containing a figure or comparison, as the name implies ; some truth of the life of mankind thrown into an image from nature, without anything artificial or technical. Proverbs like " iron sharp-eneth iron,"or such fine similes as these—"a trampled fountain and a fouled spring is the righteous man who hath given way before the wicked," " a city that is broken down and hath no wall is the man whose spirit is without control" (xxv. 26, 28)—are the kind of proverbs which we should look for in this earliest time. Solomon has a place of renown in the wisdom, not because he imposed any mannerism upon it, but because he threw a vigorous mind into it. He probably formed no class : the word " wise " did not, from being an adjective, become a noun in his days. The nature of his wisdom is best illustrated by the story of the two women with the living and the dead child (1 Kings iii. 16-28). He possessed a keen insight into the operations of human nature; he knew the world and men and life. Most likely also he possessed the power of giving pointed expression to his shrewd and ready judgments; and, as it is said that he spoke of beasts and fishes and trees, he probably had an eye for the analogies between human life and the external world. From his character we should judge that his three thousand proverbs were not all religious ; neither were his thousand and one songs all hymns, or some of them would have been preserved to us besides the two more than doubtful poems in the Psalter (Ps. lxxii., exxvii.). The theme of the wisdom was life, and its aims were practical; and, if the rise of the wisdom be connected with the age of Solomon, that is due to the fact that life in the civil sense began in this age, and its principles could be discovered. Then the tribes were con-solidated into one community, the state rose into existence, the channels of commerce were opened, men entered into various and complicated relations with one another, and the principles which rule such relations revealed themselves to the eye that was open to observe them.





It is not quite easy to form definite conceptions of those called the wise in Israel. They were certainly no heredi-tary caste like the priests; neither had they any distinct call to a vocation like the prophets, although in later times at least they were so well recognized that they could be ranked with these two classes as influential in forming men's opinions and guiding their actions (Jer. xviii. 18). They were probably men who might be named elders, not always because of their age, but because of their superior sagacity; men who, having at heart the welfare of the state and particularly the moral soundness of the citizens, sought to gain the ear of the young and inculcate upon them the principles of right conduct. While the priests were the clergy and lawyers in Israel, and the prophets the statesmen, the wise were the moralists and educa-tionists, whose operations touched the individual in all his relations and duties. Their methods were probably simple to begin with, and natural, without anything strictly characteristic; they were moral " reprovers," or ordinary " counsellors," and possibly at first their ethical maxims were general, touching life as a whole. By and by they surveyed life with a keener scrutiny and subjected it to a sharper analysis, bringing their moral principles to bear on its shades and sides and aspects, and applying these principles with greater inwardness so as to strike not merely at external conduct but at the disposition of the mind. And, finally, under the influence of the universalistic ideas of God and providence suggested to the minds of men in Israel by contact with the great empires of the world and observation of their destinies, when the Jewish state became involved in political movements as wide as the known world, the wise were enabled to gather together the manifold fragments into which they had analysed the moral life of man and the operation of the providence of God, and to perceive that they were all but elements in one great divine system embracing all things, both the world of nature and the destinies of men. To this great scheme, which was but God fulfilling himself in many ways, they gave the name of wisdom in the abstract; it was the counterpart of the divine mind, God's fellow and architect in framing the world. This was the divine wisdom; human wisdom consisted both in intellectual comprehension of it and in moral harmony with it, and the first could be reached only through the second : the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Illustrations of the wisdom in its earliest form may be seen in the collection xxv.-xxix., and in many proverbs in x.-xxii. (many examples of the period of most subtle analysis in the last-named collection), while the period of synthesis and what comes near to be a science of wisdom is represented in the passage i.-ix. Naturally along with this advance in thought there appeared a corresponding advance in the forms of expression in which the wisdom clothed itself:. the wise acquired a method; a particular spirit began to animate their circles; their phraseology showed the impress of a particular mint, and ultimately assumed a form almost technical.

Perhaps some of the things which failed to attract the attention of the wise are more suggestive than those things with which they occupied themselves. Though sacrifice, for example, be once or twice alluded to, no importance is attached to the ritual system; the priest is not once mentioned, and the external exercises of worship appear to have little significance. But, what is more remarkable, the wise man differs as much from the prophet as he does from the lawgiver. All those ideas around which prophecy revolves, such as the idea of the kingdom of God, of a chosen people, of a Messiah or future king of the house of David, and the like, are entirely absent. The distinction between " Israel " and the " nations " has no place. The darling phraseology of the prophets—-"Israel," "Jacob," "Zion," " my people," " the latter day "—and the whole terminology of particu-larism characteristic of prophecy and many even of the Psalms nowhere occurs. The conflict between the worship of Jehovah and that of false gods, with which the pages of prophetic writers are filled, does not receive even a pass-ing reference. Conclusions have been drawn from these peculiarities which, though not unnatural, are scarcely warranted. It has been inferred that the wise were men whose way of thinking placed them outside of their dis-pensation and in antagonism to the circle of beliefs cherished in Israel and represented by the prophets and other public teachers—in short, that they took up a humanistic or naturalistic position. A position to which the name naturalistic could be given is inconceivable in Israel. There were no doubt men called wise who pursued false directions (Jer. xviii. 18), as there were false prophets; but there is nothing in the Proverbs to indicate any antagonism between their authors and either priest or prophet. On the contrary the passage iii. 9—a solitary one no doubt—" Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase," shows their friendliness to the ritual. If they say on the other hand that the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord (xv. 8), and that by mercy and truth iniquity is atoned for (xvi. 6), this is nothing but what the prophets proclaim in a body, and means merely that obedience is better than sacrifice and the moral higher than the ritual. And even Sirach, a fervent supporter of priesthood and sacrifice (Ecclus. vii. 29 sq.), enunciates the same doctrine: " He that keepeth the law multiplieth offerings; he that taketh heed to the commandments sacrificeth a peace-offering. To depart from wickedness is a thing pleasing to the Lord, and to depart from unrighteousness is a pro-pitiation " (Ecclus. xxxv. 1 sq.). And that the wise men feel themselves within the circle of the revealed religion is evident from their use of the name Jehovah, their frequent references to the "law," that is, torah or revelation, the "commandment," the "word," and the like; and such a sentence as this, " Where there is no vision (prophetic revelation, 1 Sam. iii. 1) the people cast off restraint" (xxix. 18), shows no unfriendliness to the prophets. The wise men had no quarrel with the institutions of Israel, nor with the public teachers and their operations; they occupied themselves more, however, with the life of the individual than the community, and sought to distil from the particularistic thought in Israel principles which, both in morals and religion, should be universal and applicable wherever men lived.

Still this very universalism is a remarkable thing, and a different attempt has been made to explain it. It has been suggested that the wisdom, though some beginnings of it may have appeared during the prophetic period and while the autonomy of Israel as a state continued, must be in the main elements of its literature a thing posterior to the downfall of the state and the cessation of prophecy. Only in this way it is thought is it possible to explain the complete absence of all those ideas regarding Israel as a people, its relation to the heathen, and its future destiny, which fill the pages of the earlier literature. That inspira-tion and exaltation of mind which marked the prophetic age has disappeared and reflexion has taken its place. Enthusiasm for the state has died out because the state has perished, and is now represented by care for the individual. Prophecy has fulfilled its mission; it has lodged its principles in men's minds; it has seen itself fulfilled in the overthrow of the kingdom, but the hour of its triumph has been the hour of its death. Now follows the time of reflexion upon the prophetic truths, when the mind has accepted principles and risen through prophetic teaching to universal conceptions of God and the world, and an effort is made to apply them to the individual life. In short the age of the wisdom is the period of the return from exile, when Israel was no more a nation but a com-munity of people, when it had no king of its own but obeyed a foreign ruler, and when prophecy speedily became dumb, partly because its mission had been fulfilled and partly because the chief condition of its exercise, the exist-ence of the state, was awanting. In this condition of things the wise arose and exercised their functions; they do not allude to prophetic conceptions because, so far as these concerned the people in its nationality, they had in the meantime lost their meaning, and so far as they belonged to the general region of religious and ethical truth they had been accepted at least by the better minds among the people, and it is the aim of the wise to per-suade every individual in the community to receive them and live by them. The wise indeed are the successors of the prophets; they inculcate the same truths as they did, but the subject whose ear they seek to gain is the individual and no more the state.

Such a theory, should it come to be accepted, would carry its compensations with it. It would fill with the liveliest activity a period in the life of Israel where a silence almost of death seems at present to reign. The centuries after Malachi are a great blank; if we could suppose them filled with the life and thought reflected in the charming literature of the wisdom, they would yield in interest to no period of the nation's history. And beyond doubt the wisdom continued to flourish in this age, for Ecclesiastes and later down the extra-canonical wisdom of Sirach are the fruits of it. If we consider Ecclesiastes, however, we find that it is the proper successor to the book of Job; it reflects the natural exhaustion of speculation on the great mysteries of God and providence which could not but follow the stormy conflict exhibited in Job. But in the two great collections of Solomonic proverbs such doubts regarding providence do not at all appear, and even in the other collections (except chap, xxx.) they are touched on lightly. The Proverbs appear to signalize the stage of Hebrew thought anterior to the book of Job. It may be said that Sirach does not debate such questions. This is true, but the reason is that he consciously declines to entertain them, " Seek not things that are too hard for thee"; " None shall say, what is this 1 wherefore is that 1" (Ecclus. iii. 21, xxxix. 16), while to the proverbialists they do not occur. Again, it is doubtful if any period in the history of Israel was marked by an absence of those national aspirations and hopes so prominent in the pro-phets ; and if the wise do not allude to them it is not because the hopes were dead but because another direction of thought absorbed them. They are equally indifferent to the claims of the law. But, at whatever time the Leviti-cal legislation arose or was codified, it is certain that at no period was it observed as it was after the restoration. And yet there is no allusion to it in the Proverbs; the " law " referred to is not the ritual but the ethical law as in the prophets; it is the law of one's mother, of the wise, of divine revelation in general, but never specifically that of the priest. In Sirach on the contrary the wisdom her-self is identified with " the law which Moses commanded us for a heritage unto the assemblies of Jacob " (Ecclus. xxiv. 23). The truth is that the wisdom is a direction of thought differing from the - main line of thought in Israel at any time, and yet a direction which we should expect and which we desiderate at all times. It is a force which was disrupting the particularism of the Jehovah religion from within just as the events of history shattered it from without, and bringing to view its inherent universalism. The prophets direct their attention mainly to the state, and they appear at irregular intervals. It is when the lion roars that they give the alarm (Amos iii. 8). Their voice is heard only when the tempest is rising, when some crisis in the people's history is approaching. We can hardly doubt that the intervals were filled up by the operations of men who pursued a calmer method, such as the wise, who were the " reprovers" and monitors fre-quently alluded to by the prophets themselves (Hos. iv. i; Amos v. 10; Jer. xviii. 18). There is some danger of pushing the principle of development to an extreme so as under the influence of too ideal a conception of progress to divide the history and thought of Israel into sections by drawing straight lines across it, as Ezekiel in his vision divided the holy land into rectangular belts. No people moves forward on one line or in a mass. Alongside of the main current of thought and progress there are always minor currents running. And finally, while there are many proverbs that from their nature can hardly be placed in the period of the restoration, there are really none that from their internal character require to be dated so low. The proverb already quoted, " Where no vision is the people cast off restraint" (xxix. 18), must be contempor-aneous with the prophetic period. The other, " My son, fear the Lord and the king " (xxiv. 21), would scarcely be spoken later than the monarchy (cf. 1 Kings xxi. 10). Many of the references to kings are no doubt general, though they are more natural under the native kingdom than at any other period {e.g., xvi. 12, xx. 8); but such a saying as this, " A divine sentence is on the lips of the king, his mouth shall not transgress in judgment" (chap, xvi. 10), seems to take us back to the more ancient days in Israel when the king actually judged causes in person. And undoubtedly the national tradition at the time of the composition of Job, as we see it reflected in the speeches of that book, was that the moral wisdom was so ancient as to be of immemorial antiquity.





The questions regarding the age of the individual collections contained in the present book and the age of the book as a whole are complicated.

1. It is an unfortunate thing that the headings cannot be absolutely relied on. Such headings are often founded on tradi-tion, or are merely suggestions of later editors or collectors. The heading of the collection xxv.-xxix., "These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah copied out," does not of course date from the men of Hezekiah, for the word "also" shows that it is due to the editor who brought the collection into our present book, in which other proverbs of Solomon, viz., x.-xxii., already stood. There is no reason, however, to doubt the historical accuracy of the inscription. This collection is at least as old as the end of the 8th century. At this period the proverbs contained in it were considered and called Solomonic. This of course does not guarantee that every proverb in the collection is by Solomon, though it guarantees the antiquity of the maxims, for the individual proverbs in a collection will always be older than the collection itself, and some of them may be of great antiquity. The term " copied out" implies that the men of Hezekiah confined themselves to written sources. "We have little knowledge how the wise conducted their operations. Probably their instructions were in the main given orally. But small collections of their sayings were occasionally made by them-selves or by others. Several such collections were in existence in Hezekiah's days, and his scribes gathered them into one hook. The usual extent of such small codes may be inferred from some of those embodied in our present book, e.g., xxii. 17-xxiv. 22, xxiv. 23-34, and xxx. There is no probability that the term "copied out" implies that the men of Hezekiah proceeded critically and made a selection from a large mass of proverbs of such as they considered Solomonic, neither can their collection have been a gleaning made from a number of small codes after the large code x.-xxii. had already been extracted from them. They can hardly have been acquainted with x.-xxii., otherwise their code would not have contained so many duplicates of maxims in that collection. It is certainly not improbable that Hezekiah's collection forms the oldest element in our book. Many of the proverbs contained in it have the stamp of antiquity. It comprises almost all the proverbs that we still use. Such sayings as iron sharpeneth iron," "as face answereth to face in water," " the dog is returned to his vomit," " bray a fool in a mortar," phrases like " heap coals of fire upon his head," "singing songs to a weary heart," "good news from afar country," " the curse causeless," " a whip for the horse, and a bridle for the ass, and a rod for the fool's back," are examples. Almost all the proverbs in xxv.-xxvii. contain a comparison, and some are of great beauty, as for example, "an earthen vessel glazed with silver dross, so are fervent lips and a bad heart." The youngest elements in this collection are found in xxviii.-xxix., which ap-proach nearer the abstract and analytic manner of many of the proverbs in x.-xxii.

2. The passage i. 8-ix. is in all likelihood by one author, though some of the individual maxims contained in it may have been drawn from foreign sources (comp. vi. 9 sq. with xxiv. 30 sq.), and does not appear to be of very high antiquity. The general preface extends at least to xxii. 16 ; but, while its author says, " The pro-verbs of Solomon, son of David" (i. 1), a new inscription, "The proverbs of Solomon," heads x. This implies that i.-ix. were not considered Solomonic; the proverbs properly so-called commenced with the tenth chapter. Several things point towards a particular age as that to which the passage belongs. (1) The passage is pro-bably prior to the book of Job, for the personification of wisdom seems referred to in that book (xv. and xxviii., though xxviii. may be later than the main portions of the book). The age of Job is no doubt uncertain, but it can hardly be considered anterior to the exile, nor yet much later. (2) The descriptions given of wisdom taking her stand by the broadways and at the gates and addressing the throng-ing crowds of men (i., viii.), as well as the picture of the strange woman prowling in the streets at nightfall (vii.), suggest that the writer had the idea of a large and populous city present to his mind. This could be no other than Jerusalem, and certainly Jerusalem before its destruction. The miserable city of the restoration could not until many generations after the return have afforded materials for the ideal before the author's eye, for nearly a century after the first exiles returned great part of it was still in rains (N"eh. vii. 4). Though the author warns the youth of his day against disorderly and violent men, his references to life suggest a condition of general comfort and plenty. (3) On the other hand the personification of the wisdom marks the highest point to which Hebrew thought on the world rose, and cannot belong to an early age. It is scarcely conceivable except at a time when the operations of the wise had been long pursued. Wisdom, pausing in the work of expounding providence and the laws of human happiness, which she had long instinctively pursued with self-forgetful fascination in her task, becomes self-conscious, and turning her eyes upon herself displays her own graces and beauty before the sight of men. A philosophy of wisdom has now been reached. These facts together point to a time not very long anterior to the destruction of Jerusalem, possibly about a century after the men of Hezekiah made their collection. With this agrees the language of the piece, which, though generally good, has several marks of a somewhat late age, e.g., the frequent formation of abstracts in -ulh.

3. It is more difficult to form an opinion regarding the large code, x.-xxii. It has generally been considered the oldest collection in our book; and without doubt many of the proverbs contained in it may be old, as old as those in Hezekiah's collection, though others may be of more recent origin. From the nature of such general maxims there is little about them to suggest one age in preference to another. The grounds, however, on which these proverbs have been considered the oldest in the book hardly support such a belief. These grounds are partly the form of the proverbs and partly the nature of their contents compared with the other collections. In form the collection consists exclusively of distichs, and in large parts of antithetical distichs. But, though the distich may be the oldest form of proverb, the inference can hardly be drawn that all distichs are ancient; the distich continued the prevailing type at all times, being still largely used by Sirach, and all that we are entitled to say is that some distichs are older than any proverbs that have another form. But many of the antitheti-cal distichs for which a high antiquity is claimed are probably comparatively modern. Their literary style is too finished and elaborate to possess a high antiquity. There is an abstractness in them, and an artificial balance of member against member and word against word which suggests high literary culture and long use of the arts of the proverbialist. Further the extremely pro-miscuous nature of the collection, the repetitions in it, and the frequent occurrence of proverbs which are but modifications of others are proofs that it contains elements belonging to very different periods. The conjecture that Solomon himself put forth any collection of his proverbs has little to support it. At all events neither this whole collection nor any part of it in its present shape can have come from the hand of one who was the author of any great number of the proverbs contained in it. Nor can its present confusion be sufficiently explained by supposing with Ewald that an original ancient and orderly collection has suffered mutilation and fallen into disorder through repeated transcription and strong interpolation. That collections of pro-verbs were particularly liable to interpolation appears from the Septuagint, but the incoherence of our present codo is such that it must have characterized it from the beginning. When we find one proverb repeated verbally (xiv. 12 = xvi. 25), a number of others having the first member identical but differing in the second, and again a number more differing in the first member but identical in the second, we are led to infer that many of the proverbs before coming into the collection had a long history of oral transmission and currency, during which they underwent great changes, that like defaced coins they were thrown into the mint and came forth with a new image and superscription to circulate again among men, and that the code as a whole has been drawn largely from oral sources. While many of the maxims in such a code may be very ancient, the collection as a whole may be pretty late. Judged by contents, there is nothing in it that might not belong to the prophetic age or which would compel us to bring it in its present form below the exile. Some references in this collection, e.g., those to kings, when compared with similar allusions in Hezekiah's code, are thought to reflect an earlier and a happier time. The king is spoken of in a complimentary way, while in Hezekiah's collection the evils of corrupt government are bewailed and the misera contribuens plebs comes to the front. But the argument that proverbs in praise of a wise monarch must have originated under wise monarchs and conversely is not particularly strong ; if the men of Hezekiah had felt the force of it they would scarcely have set a number of equivocal references to kings at the head of a collec-tion formed under the auspices of that exemplary monarch. The history of the monarchy of Israel, both north and south, was suffi-ciently chequered to give the people experience of every kind of rule. Solomon himself was not a model prince, and neither in his nor his successor's days were the people unfamiliar with oppressive exactions. The references to rulers in all the collections are general reflexions from which historical conclusions can hardly be drawn; in xix. 10 the rise of a slave to rule over princes is spoken of, a thing unknown in Israel; and similar general allusions to rulers occur both in Ecclesiastes and in Sirach (Ecelus. vii. 4 sq.).y

4. There is nothing in the contents of the small collections xxii. 17-xxiv. 34 to suggest a date lower than the exile (cf. xxiv. 21). On the other hand the despair of attaining to the knowledge of God expressed in ch. xxx. reminds us of Job xxviii. and Ecclesiastes, and the passage may belong to the post-exile period. The warning against adding to the words of God (xxx. 6) might also suggest the existence of canonical writings. The section is marked by peculi-arities of language and manner. If the names Agur and Lemuel be real the passage might belong to a time when Israel and the tribes towards the south began to coalesce. The alphabetical poem with which the book is closed is probably not early, though there is little in it to suggest any precise age. Ezek. xxvii. 17 compared with xxxi. 16, 24 perhaps shows that in the time of this prophet Judah did not yet engage in the kind of manufactures mentioned in the poem.

The general heading i. 1-7 must be preface to at least i.-xxii. 16; it may extend to xxiv., or to xxix., or to the end of the book. Its relation to i. 8-ix. is of importance in reference to the date of the collection x.-xxii. On the one hand it is probable that the

1 The statement of Ewald that the article is rarer in this collection than in that of Hezekiah is not supported by the facts ; on the other hand the anticipative Aramaean suffix, not found in xxv. sq., is com-mon to the two other large codes, i.-ix. and x.-~xxii.

preface comprises ver. 7, " The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Some such general aphorism was necessary to clinch the statement regarding the uses of the proverbial literature. On the other hand the passage i. 8-ix. could scarcely have begun abruptly, " My son, &c." The general aphorism both closes the preface and introduces what follows. If this be the case the author of the preface is also author of i. 8-ix., and undoubtedly the preface agrees in style with these chapters. He is certainly also the editor of x.-xxii. It is possible that he was also the collector of the proverbs in this code. In any case this important collection would be anterior to the exile, though it is not likely that the collection was made long before the destruction of Jerusalem. The agree-ment, however, between the style of the preface and that of the first nine chapters is supposed by others to be due to imitation on the part of the author of the preface. This is possible, though less natural. On such a supposition, however, the preface would be younger in date than i. 8-ix., and the conclusion as to the age of x.-xxii. would fall to the ground. This collection in that case might be later than i.-ix. and contain proverbs of the post-exile period. The preface refers to "the words of the wise,"and it is probable that it extends to xxiv. Whether the author of the pre-face and editor of i.-xxiv. added also xxv.-xxix. is uncertain; the word "also" (xxv. 1)implies that this independent code was added when x.-xxii. had already received a place in the general collection.

The Septuagint version exhibits great variety of reading, and has many additions and also remarkable omissions. The additions are usually of little worth, though with exceptions, as the word " not" in v. 16. Critically the omissions are of more interest than the insertions. This version transfers xxx. 1-14 to a place after xxiv. 22 ; then follows the remainder of chap. xxiv. After this comes xxx. 15-xxxi. 9, then the code xxv.-xxix., and finally xxxi. 10-31. The objects of this transposition are not apparent; but the effect of the changes here and elsewhere has been to obliterate all traces of other than Solomonic authorship from the book, and possibly this was intended.

Literature.—Important commentaries are those of Schultens, M. Stuart, Ewald, Hitzig, Delitzsch, Bertheau (Exeg. Handb., 1st ed.; 2d ed. hy Nowack). Valuable on the text is Lagarde, Aamerkungen zur Griech. Uebersetzung der Proverbien; also Deyserinck. Krit. Scholien (reprint from Theol. Tijds., 1S83.) Works on the Wisdom are—Bruch, Weisheitslehre der Hebrder; Hooykaas, Geschiedenis der Beoefening van de Wijsheid onder de Hebreen; Oehler, Grundziige der Alttest. Weisheit. The literature is fully given in Lange's Comm., and the introductions; see especially the valuable section in Kuenen's Hist. Krit. Onderzoek. There is a special treatise on xxx.-xxxi. 9 by Miihlau. (A. B. D.)



The above article was written by: Rev. Prof. A. B. Davidson, D.D., LL.D.



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