1. What Is a Proverb?
While the English word "proverbs" conveys the idea of short maxims and pithy observations on life, the Hebrew misle (pl. of mashal) "refers to an apothegm that has currency among those who fear the LORD" (Bruce Waltke, page 56). Others suggest that "proverb" in the biblical sense refers to a brief comparison or representation (ibid.). See Prov. 10:26.
2. Proverbs juxtaposes destructive and healthy patterns of behavior. Proverbs 5:22-23; 14:12; 16:25; 29:3.
Proverbs claims Solomon as its writer and I accept what the text states. On the other hand, critical scholars usually want to question Solomonic authorship, and R.N. Whybray maintains that we cannot be sure whether all parts of the book can be traced back to David's son. Nevertheless, Whybray reckons that 1 Kings 4:32 must have some historical foundation; it seems unreasonble to suppose that it does not. He estimates that Proverbs may have been written or produced between the 10th-6th century BCE. See The Book of Proverbs, 4-5.
Robert B. Laurin believes Proverbs was probably edited around the 5th-4th century BCE as it eventually assumed its current shape.
4. The purpose of proverbs seems to be articulated in Prov. 1:7: "The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge; But the foolish despise wisdom and instruction" (ASV).
The fear of God is reverential awe--it is the fear of displeasing God and is expressed by observing his commandments. Compare Leviticus 19:3; Ecclesiastes 12:13; Malachi 3:5.
6. Specific proverbs and the wisdom they contain:
"Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (Prov. 4:23 NIV).
"As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another" (Prov. 27:17 NIV).
7. An exegesis of one proverb:
Commenting on Prov. 2:6, Fox explains: "Wisdom engenders mature piety because God is the source of wisdom, and in seeking it you are in effect seeking him."
See Michael V. Fox, "The Pedagogy of Proverbs 2," Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 113, No. 2 (Summer, 1994): pp. 233-243.
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