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This commentary, by contrast, reads Proverbs not as a collection of disjointed aphorisms, but as a book of symmetrically arranged wisdom-teaching where topics, forms of expression and rhetoric are constantly hearkening back to what has preceded or heralding what is to follow.
In previous commentaries on Proverbs, little is said about any literary and thematic unity in the book. This commentary, by contrast, reads Proverbs not as a collection of disjointed aphorisms, but as a book of symmetrically arranged wisdom-teaching where topics, forms of expression and rhetoric are constantly hearkening back to what has preceded or heralding what is to follow.
In the preface (1.1-7), the editors of Proverbs introduce a book of wisdom-teaching which the audience, the youth of Israel, are supposed to understand by discerning the figurative language in which the teaching is expressed. The present-day reader of Proverbs is invited in this commentary to read from the same perspective, becoming, like the original audience, engaged in the unfolding figurative language. At the outset Proverbs is set well within the household (1.8 —9.18), where a mother and father urge their naive and uncommitted son to retain their teaching and to successfully establish his own household.
Wisdom is personified as a teacher and a welcoming host whose metaphorical banquet is laid out in the poetry of the topical groups identified in the ‘Proverbs of Solomon’ (10.1 —22.16). The parental wisdom teaching in the ‘Words of the Wise’ (22.17 —24.34) addresses a youth now on the threshold of public life, marking out a path of courageous wisdom amid attractive but self-destructive alternatives. In the ‘Other Proverbs of Solomon’ (chaps. 25 —29) a wealth of imagery and stark antitheses highlight earlier themes and inculcate personal responsibility in a lawless society. The Book of Proverbs concludes with the striking portraits of three eminent wise ones (chaps. 30 —31), who are presumably imbued with the spirit of the Book.
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Proverbs 1.1–9.18: Title and Preface, Parental Instructions, and Discourses of Personified Wisdom Title and Preface (1.1-7) First Parental Instruction (1.8-19) First Discourse of Personified Wisdom (1.20-33) Second Parental Instruction (2.1-22) Third Parental Instruction (3.1-12) Interlude: The Benefits of Wisdom (3.13-20) Fourth Parental Instruction (3.21-35) Fifth Parental Instruction (4.1-9) Sixth Parental Instruction (4.10-19) Seventh Parental Instruction (4.20-27) Eighth Parental Instruction (5.1-23) Ninth Parental Instruction (6.1-5) Tenth Parental Instruction (6.6-11) A Portrait of a Scoundrel (6.12-15) Yahweh’s Abominations (6.16-19) Eleventh Parental Instruction (6.20-35) Twelfth Parental Instruction (7.1-27) Second Discourse of Personified Wisdom (8.1-36) Two Hostesses and Two Meal Invitations (9.1-18) Proverbs 10.1–22.16: The Proverbs of Solomon Formation in Wisdom Life in the Household The Benefits of Righteousness Yahweh and the King The Power of Language Poverty and Prosperity Joy and Sadness Proverbs 22.17–24.34: The Words of the Wise Advice to a Young Israelite (22.17–23.11) A Father’s Wisdom-Teaching (23.12–24.22) Additional Words of the Wise (24.23-34) Proverbs 25.1–29.27: Other Proverbs of Solomon that the Officials of King Hezekiah Copied An Ordered and Beautiful World (25.1-28) Malice, Incompetence and Stupidity (26.1-28) Household Wisdom (27.1-27) Personal Responsibility in a Lawless Society (28.1–29.27) Proverbs 30.1–31.31: Three Concluding Portraits The Words of Agur (30.1-33) Lemuel’s Mother’s Instruction (31.1-9) The Woman of Excellence: A Model of Wisdom (31.10-31) Appendix: Solomon as the Author of Proverbs
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