Thinking in Proverbs

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"A fool's tongue is long enough to cut his own throat." -- Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15 (2004), p.102.

Waltke is summarizing a bunch of statements from Proverbs on wise use of words, and right in the middle of his summaries (usually followed by a bunch of verse references) he has this one proverb of his own (with no verse references). I guess when you write a 1200+ page commentary on the book of Proverbs, you begin to think in proverbial form. I have to say that it's quite an image.

There's a slightly cheesy but still funny passage two pages later that doesn't fit the same description, but I thought I'd include it while I'm quoting Waltke:

As these means of obtaining wealth show, it is a matter of character, not of method. Proverbs is a "how to be book," not a "how to" book. Solomon is a better theologian than Frank Sinatra: Sinatra sang, "Do-be, do-be, do"; Solomon sings, "Be-do; be-do; be."

2 Comments

You have a great blog here. I got here through a link to your upcoming commentary list.
What do you think of Waltke's commentary? Are you studying Proverbs (if so at what level)? I have been doing some research in the area of Proverbs and hermeneutics. I haven't seen this book yet but I am curious about what he does with the structure of the book of Proverbs as a whole. I stumbled upon a quote by him commending Raymond Van Leeuwen's structural/poetic/semantic approach to Proverbs which takes seriously the structure of the various units and subunits in Proverbs. Van L. argues that the redactor of the final form of Proverbs deliberately arranged the individual proverbs making up for the lack of historical context with a meaningful literary context. I'm curious, does Waltke utilize this approach.

Thanks. I'm reading Waltke's commentary right now. I'm nearing the end of the introduction, and I'm going to take a break to read something else for a bit once I finish the introduction. I haven't looked much at the commentary proper yet, since I'm just reading cover to cover and just wanted to make progress bit by bit rather than flipping around. I'm not really studying Proverbs in any other way at present, just reading the commentary.

What stands out most so far in my reading is that Waltke makes a much stronger case than I thought possible that most of Proverbs came from the setting of the court of Solomon and that Solomon himself had a large role in compiling all this wisdom. He sees Agur and Lemuel as appendices, and he thinks the Hezekiah portion collects material that might itself come from Solomon's time with some modifications, but he thinks everything else probably comes from Solomon's court with the king's own oversight.

Waltke does indeed take a similar approach to some of what Van Leeuwen is up to, and he even thinks Van Leeuwen ignores some important means of determining such structures, so you might think he does it more comprehensively. I very much enjoyed reading the structure part of the introduction. I'm not familiar enough with the scholarship to evaluate it carefully, but it seems like a great approach to me.

My understanding is that Waltke had finished a draft of the commentary, but then he came upon this sort of work, was convinced by it, and realized he needed to revise the whole thing in light of this work. He says something about this in the preface. I'm assuming this is what he refers to as "the new literary criticism".

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