The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15-31

The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15-31

by Bruce K. Waltke

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The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15-31 by Bruce K. Waltke

Over twenty-five years in the making, this much-anticipated commentary promises to be the standard study of Proverbs for years to come. Written by eminent Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke, this two-volume commentary is unquestionably the most comprehensive work on Proverbs available.

Grounded in the new literary criticism that has so strengthened biblical interpretation of late, Waltke's commentary on Proverbs demonstrates the profound, ongoing relevance of this Old Testament book for Christian faith and life. A thorough introduction addresses such issues as text and versions, structure, authorship, and theology. The detailed commentary itself explains and elucidates Proverbs as "theological literature." Waltke's highly readable style — evident even in his original translation of the Hebrew text — makes his scholarly work accessible to teachers, pastors, Bible students, and general readers alike.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802827760
Publisher: Eerdmans, William B. Publishing Company
Publication date: 03/28/2005
Series: New International Commentary on the Old Testament Ser.
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 623
Sales rank: 668,232
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.48(d)

About the Author

Bruce K. Waltke is Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Knox Theological Seminary, Fort Lauderdale, and professor emeritus of biblical studies at Regent College, Vancouver.

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The Book of PROVERBS

Chapters 15-31

William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company

Copyright © 2005 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8028-2776-4

Chapter One


For structure of Collection II, see 1: 14-21.

1. Prologue: The Dance between Humanity, the Lord, and His King (15:30-16:15)

30 The light of the eyes makes the heart glad, and good news revives the whole person. 31 The ear that listens to life-giving correction dwells among the wise. 32 The person who flouts instruction is one who despises his life, but the person who hears correction is one who acquires sense. 33 The instruction that gives wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and humility [comes] before8 honor. 16:1 To human beings belong the plans of the heart; from the Lord [comes] the right answer of the tongue.

2 All the ways of a person [are] pure in his own eyes, but the Lord is the one who evaluates motives. 3 Commit to the Lord your works, and your thoughts will be established. 4 The Lord works everything to its appropriate end, even the wicked person for17 an evil day. 5 An abomination to the Lord is everyone who is haughty; be sure of this, that person will not go unpunished. 6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for, and through the fear of the Lord is a departing from evil. 7 When the Lord takes pleasure in a person's ways, he compels even his enemies to surrender to him. 8 Better a little with righteousness than a large income with injustice. 9 The heart of a human being plans his way, but the Lord establishes his step. 10 An inspired verdict is on the king's lips; in giving a judgment his mouth is not unfaithful. 11 A just balance and hand scale are the Lord's; all the weights in a pouch are his work. 12 An abomination to kings is doing wickedness, because a throne is established through righteousness. 13 Kings take pleasure in righteous lips, and whoever speaks upright things he loves. 14 The wrath of the king is the messenger of death, but a wise person pacifies it. 15 In the light of the king's face is life, and his favor is like a cloud of spring rain.

The first unit of Section B in Collection II introduces the collection by trumpeting its themes. It consists of its own introduction (15:30-33) and a main body pertaining to the Lord's sovereign rule (16:1-9), the first subunit, through his king (16:10-15), the second subunit. The first deals with the Lord's sovereign and righteous rule encompassing human responsibility and accountability (vv. 1-9), and the second to his mediated rule through his righteous king (vv. 10-15). The two subunits are clearly marked off by the repetition of YHWH in vv. 1-9 and of melek in vv. 10-15. Meinhold notes the many ways in which these two subunits are bound together: (1) the catchwords "abomination" (vv. 5, 12), "favor" (vv. 7, 13, 15), "wicked"/"wickedness" (vv. 4, 12), and, remarkably, kpr in the D stem ("to atone"/"pacifies," vv. 6, 14). (2) Both the second from the end of vv. 1-9 (v. 8) and the second from the beginning of vv. 10-15 (v. 11) lack the keywords of their subunits, namely, YHWH and "king." (3) YHWH, however, is found in v. 11, and vv. 8 and 11 both pertain to "justice." (4) God expects "righteousness" and "justice" of everyone (v. 8), and the king upholds them (v. 12).

a. Introduction (15:30-33)

The catchwords sm' (yisma) ("hears") and [s.sup.e]mu'a (report), the last word of the preceding unit and the first word of 15:30b, assist the transition to the new unit. Its introduction consists of a pair of education quatrains. The first is linked by the catchword sm', more specifically the illuminated good news/report ([s.sup.e]mu'a) (v. 30) that revives the heart and the disciple's ear that hears (soma'at) (v. 31). It features the bodily organs: eyes, heart, and ears. The second quatrain pertains to "instruction" (musar): flouted or accepted (v. 32) and elaborated on as "the fear of the Lord" to be humbly received (v. 33). It bears repeating: these proverbs are applicable to many situations (e.g., the "good news" of v. 30 may refer to any good report), but together they also function as an introduction to the following unit. "The good news" of v. 30 in this context refers to the wonderful report that God dances with the pure in heart (16:1-9)! The proverbial pairs are linked by the catchwords "hear correction" (some' a/soma'at tokahat, vv. 31, 32).

30 The first pair pertains to good news that the heart receives. The rare metaphor the light (meor) of the eyes ('enayim) connotes the manifestation of the inward vitality and joy of the one bringing good news, as the parallel clause suggests, and is associated with righteousness (13:9). His eyes speak louder than his words (see 15:13). A close synonym, 'or-'enay, also functions as a metonymy for "life" (Ps. 38:10[11]), and the related expression ha'ir-'ene ("he gives light to the eyes of"; Ezra 9:8; Ps. 13:3[4]; 19:8; Prov. 29:13) refers to God giving life and joy to human eyes. Proverbs and the rest of Scripture repeatedly associate light with righteousness (13:9; Matt. 6:22-23) and link it with life and good fortune (Job 3:16; 33:28; Prov. 4:18; 6:23; 13:9; 16:15). The New Testament connects light with Christ and his disciples (cf. Matt. 4:16; 5:14-16; John 1:4-5; 12:35-36). Proverbs associates light and life exclusively with the wise, suggesting that illuminated eyes belong to the wise (15:13a). Makes ... glad (ye'sammah [15:20] the heart (see 1: 90) refers to the disciple's heart, as the parallel clause also suggests. Note the movement from the joy within that beautifies the face (15:13) to the face's illuminated eyes that fill the observer with life and joy. In sum, the sage's life and joy are contagious. Good (toba, see 1: 99; 15:23) news ([s.sup.e]mu'a) denotes a verbal report of a recent event that advances life. Outside of Prov. 15:30; 25:25 and Ps. 112:7 [s.sup.e]mu'a is used in the historical and prophetic books mostly of "bad news" about battle reports, but notable exceptions are the message the Queen of Sheba heard about Solomon (1 K. 10:7) and the remnant's report of the Suffering Servant (Isa. 53:1). In this context it functions as a metaphor for the teaching that follows in 16:1-15. Revives (tedassen) paraphrases the verb meaning "to make fat"; its passive counterpart "to be made fat," connotes abundance, full satisfaction, and health (11:25). The whole person ('asem; see 3:8) paraphrases the noun meaning "bone," a synecdoche for the entire person, both physical and psychical.

31 This verse shifts the focus from the illuminated reporter and the revived heart to the disciple's other receptive organ, the ear (see 2:2), a synecdoche for the whole person. If the sage has the student's ear that listens (soma'at; see 1:5, 8) to life-giving (hayyim; see 1: 104) correction (or rebuke, tokahat; see 1:23), he has the key to his heart (see 2:2; 15:32b). This uniquely single-sentence proverb in Collection II motivates the disciple to have such an ear, for it dwells (talin) among (beqereb; see 14:33) the honored company of the wise (see 1: 76, 94). The by-forms lin and II lun occur 68 times in the Qal and have the core idea "to remain at night." In poetry they function as a synecdoche for "to remain," "dwell" (Job 17:2; 19:4; 41:22[14]; Prov. 15:31; Isa. 1:21; Jer. 4:14; Zeph. 2:14). Whoever hears the correction of the wise belongs to their community and can start immediately to live with them. This opposite of the solitary mocker (see 15:12) stays close to his source of life, ready to hear correction from evening to evening and morning by morning (cf. Isa. 50:4). The ear characterizes true Israel's relationship with God more than the eye (cf. Rom. 10:5-17). In God's encounters with Israel he is always heard; rarely seen. The hearing ear and the seeing eye are God's handiwork (20:12).

32 The proverb escalates the motivation to accept correction and not to rebel by alluding to suicide versus survival (see 8:36; 15:6, 10). The person who flouts instruction [see 13:18] is one who despises [see 3:11] his life (napso; see 1: 90). But the person who hears correction (wesomea'; see 15:5, 31a) is one who acquires (qoneh; see 4:5; 8:22) sense (leb; lit. "a heart"; see 1: 90). As hasar leb ("one who lacks heart = sense") denotes one who lacks the essential mental and moral capacity to survive (see 1: 115), so qana leb ("to acquire a heart") signifies to gain the mental and moral capacity to live, as its chiastic parallel in 15:31a, "life," makes clear. In 19:8 "acquiring a heart" is equated with "loving oneself," the desired antithesis to "hate one's life," as provided by the LXX (see n. 5).

33 The concluding verse of the introduction grounds the instruction in the fear of the Lord and adds the motivation to achieve social honor. The way to wisdom is the fear of the Lord, and the way to honor is humility. All the vocabulary of verset A is found in the book's motto (1:7), and verset B is repeated verbatim in 18:12b. The instruction [see 1:2; 15:32] that gives wisdom (hokma; see 1:2) is the fear of the Lord (see 1:7). Wisdom is a matter of the heart. The disposition of humility ('anawa; see 3:34), which is equated with the "fear of the Lord" in 22:4, brings the disciple into the company of the sage (v. 31) and beyond that into the company of Israel's covenant-keeping God. The original meaning of 'nw is "to be bowed down," "to be oppressed," and then, when affliction has done its proper work, "to be humble." The scoffer and the fool, who despise God's revelation, are the humble person's opposite. 'anawa is a religious term for the quality of renouncing one's own personal sufficiency for life and committing oneself to the Lord, who alone is trustworthy to give instruction leading to life (3:5-7). In this way the disciple integrates himself into the moral order and the realm of life ordained by God and does not lift himself against it. Waving a white flag of surrender to the Lord in this book always [comes] before [see 8:25] honor (see 3:16; 18:12; 22:4). Paradoxically, the one who grants himself no glory before the glorious God in the end is crowned with the glory and wealth that give him social esteem (see 3:16; 8:18; 11:16). This radical humility toward the Lord paves the way for the next subunit contrasting the Lord's freedom with human limits (16:1-9). The key phrase "fear of the Lord" in 15:33 and 16:6 reinforces the connection between the introduction and this body.

b. The Lord's Rule (16:1-9)

The first subunit consists mostly of synthetic parallels and is bound together by the catchword Lord (YHWH) in every verse except v. 8. The chiastically arranged leb ("heart")-'adam ("human being")//'adam-leb and the repetition of synonyms for "plan" in 16:1a and 9a and of "establish" in 16:3b and 9b form its inclusio and sounds its theme: the Lord's sovereign rule encompasses human accountability. This outer frame is reinforced by an inner frame of darke-'is ("ways of a person," vv. 2 and 7). Verses 1-3 pertain to the Lord's sovereign rule through human participation, and vv. 5-7 to his sovereign justice in response to human morality. Verse 4 is a janus. Its A verset, asserting that the Lord brings everything to its appropriate destiny, looks back to vv. 1-3, and its B verset, asserting that he matches the wicked with calamity, looks ahead to vv. 5-7.

(1) The Lord's Sovereignty and the Human's Responsibility (16:1-4a)

Divine sovereignty over human initiative pertains both to human speech, the tongue's answer (ma'aneh, v. 1b), and to human work (ma'aseh, v. 3b). The alliteration of ma'aneh and of ma'aseh strengthens this subframe. Sandwiched between this ring, forming an ABA structural pattern, v. 2 asserts the Lord's estimation of human motives behind their words and deeds (v. 2), whereby the Lord determines which to ratify or veto. Presumably only those who are motivated by religious and ethical purity participate in the eternal design. Human beings form, the Lord performs; they devise, he verifies; they formulate, he validates; they propose, he disposes. They design what they will say and do, but the Lord decrees what will endure and form part of his eternal purposes.

1 This verse pertains to human initiative in thought and divine initiative in human speech. Its complementary versets underscore both the necessity and the limitations of human planning; human speech is subject to the divine rule. To human beings belong (see 1: 89) gives the earthling the first word, but "from the Lord" gives God the last word. The human being's good and effective answer depends both on careful planning, weighing the arguments and arranging them (verset A), and on God's direction to be effective (verset B; cf. Neh. 2:4-5). The meaning of the plans (ma'arke; lit. "arrangements") can be deduced from its root 'rk, signifying either to set things carefully in order, as in setting a battle array (Gen. 14:8), or laying up wood for sacrifice (Gen. 22:9), or "to compare" (by setting things over against each other) (Ps. 40:6[7]) and "to produce a case for justice" (Job 13:18), or "to bring forth words" (Job 32:14). Since the heart (see 1: 90) is the agent producing the careful and orderly "arrangement," appropriate glosses here are "thought-through plans" or "arguments," not "brainstorming" or "half-baked ideas." The conjunction wa means both "and" and "but" because the parallel both complements and contrasts the Lord's activity with that of humans. The context signals its meaning. From the Lord (see 1: 69-71) casts the ultimate responsibility for good and effective speech on God's grace (cf. 12:18; 15:1, 2; 25:11-12), not on human wit (cf. 1 Cor. 3:6-7). Ringgren rightly restricts ma'aneh (see 15:23) to a good and effective utterance, the right answer. God does not author an evil and/or ineffective answer. Of the tongue (see 15:2, 4) underscores the outward expression, both in its substance and style, of the inward thought of verset A.


Excerpted from The Book of PROVERBS by BRUCE K. WALTKE Copyright © 2005 by Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.. Excerpted by permission.
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