GO TO PART VIII
I. Identify Hebrew Proverbs
a. Proverbs as Hebrew wisdom literature
i. What is wisdom in the Hebrew Bible?
1. “Wisdom is the ability to make godly choices in life.”
2. In the Hebrew Bible wisdom refers to predominantly practical activities. Action and thinking are inseparable.”
3. “Wisdom indicates skill or ability: to perform manual labor like spinning (Exodus 35:25), to discern good and evil (Job 28:28), to solve riddles (Proverbs 1:6), or, generally, to know how to live well.”
4. Wisdom concern with:
a. Divine reward of good and punishment for evil
b Living responsibly or recklessly
c. Knowing the truth of God’s creation
d. Good citizenship.
ii. Hebrew Wisdom literature will thus focus on the above subject.
iii. Proverbs is categorize under Wisdom literature.
i. Wisdom sayings that are “short, self-contained, poured out apparently at random.”
ii.It is “a brief, particular expression of a truth.”
c. There are two major types
1. Usually second person in nature.
2. Didactic in nature, for the listener to do something.
3. Largely found in Proverbs 1-9, 22:17-24:22, 31:1-9.
1. Usually third person in nature.
2. General observation about life.
3. Largely found in Proverbs 10-22:16.
II. Principles in interpreting Proverbs
a. All the principles in Session Six apply here as well.
b. Identify whether it is an instruction or a saying.
i. Instructions should be treated as instructions.
ii. Proverbs that are in the sub-genre of Sayings must especially take note of principle “d” and “e” here.
c. Proverbs as slice of reality
i. Biblical Proverbs cannot be false, because the Word of God is never false.
ii. Biblical Proverbs are thus true, but they present a slice of reality.
iii. Given that life is complex with various acts and consequences, a “proverb is always true in the slice of reality it describes. It does not pretend to describe all of reality, just one segment of it.”
iv. Thus, a Proverb should not be view alone, but compared with the canonical whole for more fullness.
v. Objection:This “slice of reality” is unbiblical and a theory invented to get away from the problem of Proverbs being not true.
1. First off, this “slice of reality” approach does not conflict with any Biblical truth.
a. Rather, this approach makes the entirety of Biblical Proverbs (and its relationship to other Scripture) coherent.
b. It is important that one might not like the idea of “slice of reality” because it make sense of proverbs, but that is a far from attributing the “slice of reality” approach as not making any sense.
2. Examples of Biblical evidence for “slice of reality”
a. Proverbs 15:22 and Proverbs 19:21
i. In planning for success, it is wise to have many counselors (Proverbs 15:22).
ii. Yet, it is God’s counsel and will which will be fulfilled over the plans of man (Proverbs 19:21).
iii. Synthesis: One seek wisdom from those who can be deem counselors, while acknowledging that God’s plan will prevail over man’s plan. Thus, seeking the Lord’s wisdom and guidance is essential.
b. Proverbs 13:23 and 13:25
i. Does the wicked always get their punishment in this side of eternity, such as the wicked being in need of food such as suggested in Proverbs 13:25?
ii. Yet, injustice can also be done against the poor on this side of eternity (Proverbs 13:23).
iii. Synthesis: While injustice can be done by the wicked, God disapprove of the wicked and can even bring punishment such as with hunger even before the commencement of the final judgment.
c. Proverbs 26:4-5
i. Note its near proximity, where it is highly implausible that the writer write contradictory statement back to back.
ii. The “Slice of Reality” paradigm make sense of the text.
3. Yet, “slice of reality” is used in secular context, but there is no objection to it.
a. “We need no telling that a maxim like ‘Many hands make light work’ is not the last word on the subject, since ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’.”
i. The first proverb captures a slice of reality that in some circumstances, many help makes things easier.
ii. Yet, the second proverb captures a slice of reality that in some circumstances, many help makes things more difficult.
iii. Both slice of reality are equally true.
b. Thus, “slice of reality” is not just an approach only toward Biblical Proverbs, but in other areas as well and not a ploy to run away from a problem.
vi. Since a Proverb is a slice of reality, interpreting and applying a Proverb also require wisdom.
1. Requiring the wisdom to properly interpret and apply a Proverb should lead a believer to be on his knees, praying for wisdom which is given by God (James 1:5).
2. Requiring the wisdom to properly interpret and apply a Proverb should lead a believer to practice interpreting Proverbs.
With all pun intended, “Practice makes perfect!”
d. Proverbs provides no middle ground between proper and improper conduct
i. “The choice of a ‘one or the other’ mode of conduct is the premise for nearly all the ethical content of the book.”
ii. This is also known as the Doctrine of the Two Ways.
iii. This framework is helpful when one encounter proverbs that provide indicative observations, with no written instructions.
e. Pay attention for the any values given.
i. Proverbs provide the lens for value judgment.
ii. There are equational proverbs
1. This is when a subject’s value is stated as the same with another object.
2. For example, see Proverbs 10:15, 10:20, 10:23.
iii. There are Better-Than proverbs
1. This is a comparison of two objects, where one’s value is greater than another.
2. For example, see Proverbs 12:9.
iv. There are abomination sayings
1. This tells the reader God’s view of right and wrong.
2. For example, see Proverbs 15:8.
f. Be aware of personification
1. Wisdom and folly as women
2. Fire speaking (Proverbs 30:16)
g. Pay attention to sarcasm
1. This has a way of capturing the truth in a ironic and memorable way.
2. See Proverbs 18:11
h. Concentrate on what the text teach about who God is.
i. It is always important to be theo-centric in our interpretation.
ii. The fear of the Lord is foundational in grasping Proverbs (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10).
iii. The fear of the Lord is what keeps the “shrewdness of Proverbs from slipping into mere self interest.”
iv. Lennart Bostrom, has identified Proverbs’ creation theology, God’s retribution and order, and theology proper (God’s transcendence, sovereignty and personal).
 Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart., How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 206.
 Donald K. Berry, An Introduction to Wisdom And Poetry Of the Old Testament, (Nashville: Broadman And Holman Publishers), 5.
 Derek Kidner, An Introduction to Wisdom Literature: The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press), 25.
 Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart., How to Read the Bible for All its Worth, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 217.
 Ted A. Hildebrandt, “Proverb” Cracking Old Testament Codes, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Company), 239.
 For a fuller treatment of the theological basis for this claim, see “Doctrine of Inerrancy” Part I through III, under systematic theology articles at http://www.teamtruth.com.
 Ted A. Hildebrandt, “Proverb” Cracking Old Testament Codes, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Company), 248.
 Derek Kidner, An Introduction to Wisdom Literature: The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press), 26.
 Donald K. Berry, An Introduction to Wisdom And Poetry Of the Old Testament, (Nashville: Broadman And Holman Publishers), 122.
 T. A. Perry, Wisdom Literature and the Structure of Proverbs, (University Park, Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania State University Press), 40-44.
 Ted A. Hildebrandt, “Proverb” Cracking Old Testament Codes, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House Company), 243.
 Donald K. Berry, An Introduction to Wisdom And Poetry Of the Old Testament, (Nashville: Broadman And Holman Publishers), 129-131.
 Derek Kidner, An Introduction to Wisdom Literature: The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press), 17.
 Lennart Bostrom, The God of the Sages: The Portrayal of God in the Book of Proverbs, (Stockholm, Sweden: Almqvist & Wiksell International).
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