Pulpit Commentary - Proverbs

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Pulpit Commentary - Proverbs

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THE book which we are about to consider takes its general title from the words with which it opens in the Hebrew original, The Proverbs of Solomon — Mishle Shelomoh. This name, or, in an abbreviated form, Mishle, has always been current in the Jewish Church. Later, in rabbinical writings, it was cited under the appellation of Sepher Chocmah, 'Book of Wisdom,' which title also included Ecclesiastes. In the Septuagint it is headed Παροιμι ì αι Σαλωμῶντος in some manuscripts, though in others, and those the earliest, the name of Solomon is omitted. St. Jerome, in the Latin Vulgate, gives a longer title: 'Liber Proverbiorum quem Hebraei Misle appellant.'

Among the early Christian writers, in addition to the name given in the Septuagint, it was called Σοφι ì α, 'Wisdom,' or ̓Ç Ðáíá́ñåôðò Óïöé́á , 'All-virtuous Wisdom,' though this last title was also applied to Ecclesiasticus and the Book of Wisdom. Clemens Romanus, in his 'Epistle to the Corinthians' (1:57), heads a quotation from Proverbs 1:23-33 thus: Οὑ ì τως γα Ì ρ λε ì γει ἡ Πανα ì ρετος Σοφι ì α, "Thus saith All-virtuous Wisdom." That this was commonly received as the designation of our book is clear also from Eusebius, who writes ('Hist. Eccl.,' 4:22), "Other passages also, as if from unwritten Jewish tradition, Hegesippus cites; and not only he, but Irenaeus, and the whole band of ancient writers, called the 'Proverbs of Solomon' 'Panaretos Sophia.'" It is true that in the writings which are attributed to Irenaeus still extant, quotations from the Proverbs are cited simply as Scripture without further definition, but we have no reason to discredit Eusebius' testimony concerning a matter with which he must have been well acquainted. Two other titles are found, viz. ̔Ç Óïöç̀ Âé́âëïò , 'The Wise Book,' so called by Dionysius of Alexandria; and Παιδαγωγικη Ì Σοφι ì α, 'Educational Wisdom,' by Gregory of Nazianzum. Melito of Sardis (according to Eusebius, 'Hist. Eccl.,' 4:26) states, in giving a catalogue of canonical Scriptures, that the book was known by the name of Σοφι ì α, 'Wisdom,' as well as that of 'Proverbs of Solomon.' This title, which, better perhaps than that of Proverbs, expresses the chief subject Of the work, seems not to have been invented by the primitive Christian writers, but to have been derived from still earlier times, and to have been handed down by that unwritten Jewish tradition of which Eusebius speaks.

In considering the appropriateness of the usual name of our book, we must see what is meant by the Jewish term mishle, "proverbs," as we translate it. The word mashal has a much wider significance than our word "proverb." It is derived from a root meaning "to be like," and therefore has primarily the meaning of comparison, similitude, and is applied many discourses, sentences, and expressions which we should not class under the head of proverbs. Thus Balaam's prophecy is so called (Numbers 22:7, etc.); so too Job's didactic poem (Job 27:1); the taunting satire in Isaiah 14:4, etc.; the parables in Ezekiel 17:2 and 20:49, etc.; the song in Numbers 21:27, etc. It is often translated "parable" in the Authorized Version, even in the book itself (Proverbs 26:7), and in the historical psalm (78), the second verse of which St. Matthew (Matthew 13:35) tells us Christ fulfilled when he spake by parables. This would lead us to expect to find other meanings in the term and under the husk of the outward form. And, indeed, the Hebrew mashal is not confined to wise or pithy sayings, expressing in pointed terms the experience of men and ages; such an account; would, as we see, be most inadequate to describe the various forms to which the term was applied. That there are in our book numerous apothegms and maxims, enforcing moral truths, explaining facts in men's lives and the course of society, which are proverbs in the strictest sense of the word, is obvious; but a very large proportion of the utterances therein are not covered by that designation. If the notion of comparison at first restricted, the term to sayings containing a simile, it soon overstepped the bounds of such limitation, and comprehended such brief sentences as conveyed a popular truth under figures or metaphors. Of this sort is the pointed query, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" (1 Samuel 10:12); and, "The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge" (Ezekiel 18:2); and, "Physician, heal thyself" (Luke 4:23). In many so-called proverbs the contrasted obiects are placed side by side, leaving the hearer to draw his own deduction. In the longer pieces so named a single idea is worked out at some length in rhythmical form. Further, under this general category are contained also dark sayings, riddles, intricate questions (chidah), which have always had great attraction for Oriental minds. The Queen of Sheba, we are told, came to try Solomon with hard questions (1 Kings 10:1); as the Septuagint renders it, "with enigmas." Probably such puzzles are found in ch. 30., and in many of those passages which, according as they are pointed, are capable of very different interpretations. There is one other word used in this connection (ch. 1:6) melitsah, which is rendered in the Authorized Version "interpretation," and in the Revised Version "a figure;" it probably means a saying containing some obscure allusion, and usually of a sarcastic nature. There are very few examples of this form in our book.

The various kinds of proverbs have been divided by Hanneberg ('Revel. Bibl.,' 5:41, quoted by Lesetre) into five classes:

1. Historical proverbs, wherein an event of the past, or a word used on some momentous occasion, has passed into a popular saying, expressive of some general sentiment or idea. The saving about Saul mentioned just above is of this nature. Of the historical proverb there seems to be no instance in our book.

2. Metaphorical proverbs. These are what we should most appropriately call proverbs. They enunciate some moral truth under a figure drawn from nature or life. Such are these: "In vain is the net spread in the eyes of any bird" (Proverbs 1:17); "Go to the ant, thou sluggard" (Proverbs 6:6); "Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly" (Proverbs 17:12); "The contentions of a wife are a continual dropping" (Proverbs 19:13; 27:15, 16).

3. Enigmas. These are either riddles like that of Samson (Judges 14:14), or obscure questions which needed thought to elucidate them, and the kernel of which conveyed a moral truth. Such are the words of Agur, "Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended?" etc. (Proverbs 30:4); "The horseleech hath two daughters, Give, give" (Proverbs 30:15).

4. Parabolic proverbs. Herein are presented things and truths in allegorical shape. Our blessed Lord has used this mode of teaching most extensively, showing himself greater than Solomon. The best example of this class is the treatment of Wisdom, e.g. "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars" (Proverbs 9:1).

5. Didactical proverbs, which give precise instruction on points of morals, religion, or behaviour, and of which the first nine chapters afford very perfect instances, and the rest of the book more concise and less developed examples.


The book is inscribed, "The Proverbs of Solomon, son of David, King of Israel." How this title is to be regarded, and to what portion or portions of the work it applies, we shall see further on. Then (Proverbs 1:1-6) follows a description of the writing and a recommendation of its importance and utility. Its object is partly moral and partly intellectual; it seeks to instruct in the way of wisdom, to edify those who have already made progress, and to discipline hearers to receive and assimilate the highest teaching. The wisdom (chocmah, and in the plural of "excellence," chocmoth) here first mentioned is no mere philosophical attainment, no merely secular advancement in the knowledge of things; it is this — it includes the knowledge of all that can be known; but it is much more. It is distinctly religious, and has for its object the directing man's life according to his highest interests, so that it is equivalent to "the fear of the Lord," that is, practical religion, and is often interchanged with that expression. It teaches what God requires of man, how God would have man behave in all circumstances of life; it teaches piety, duty, justice. King and peasant, the old and the young, learned and ignorant, are hereby taught what is acceptable in their several stations, ages, stages of intellectual development. Later on, Wisdom is personified as a great teacher, as dwelling with God from all eternity, assisting at the creation of the world, the original of all authority on earth. We gather from various indications in our book that wisdom is regarded in a threefold respect: first, as an essential attribute of Almighty God; secondly, as revealed in creation; thirdly, as communicated to man. It is the mind or thought of God; it is that by which he created the world; it is that which regulates and informs the moral being of man. The language used in such passages as Proverbs 8:23-31 adapts itself to the idea of a representation of the Son of God, an anticipation of the incarnation of Jesus our Lord; and though we cannot suppose that Solomon had any clear notion of the Divine personality of Wisdom (for which, indeed, the stern monotheism of the age was not ripe), yet we may believe that it was not alien from the mind of the Holy Spirit that the Christian Church should see in these Solomonic utterances prophecies and adumbrations of the nature and operations of the Son of God made man, of him whom St. John calls the Word. It is of Wisdom as communicated to man that the Book of Proverbs chiefly treats, indicating the only way of obtaining and securing possession of her, and the incalculable blessings that attend her acquisition and usance.

It must further be observed, in connection with this subject, that the Hebrew, in his pursuit of Wisdom, was not like the heathen philosopher groping blindly after God, seeking to discover the great Unknown, and to form for himself a deity which should satisfy his moral instincts and solve the questions of the creation and government of the universe. The Hebrew started from the point where the heathen came to a pause. The Jew knew God already — knew him by revelation; his aim was to recognize him in all relations — in nature, in life, in morality, in religion; to see this overruling Providence in all things whatsoever; to make this great truth control private, public, social, and political circumstances and conduct. This profound conception of Divine superintendence dominates all the reflections of the thinking man, and makes him own in every occurrence, even in every natural phenomenon, an expression of the mind and will of God. Hence comes the absolute trust in the justice of the supreme Ruler, in the wise ordering of events, in the certain distribution of rewards and punishments, in the regulated dispensing of prosperity and adversity. In such ways Wisdom reveals itself, and the intelligent man recognized its presence; and idealizing and personifying it, learned to speak of it in those high terms which we read of with awe in this section, seeing therein him who is invisible.

After this introduction there follows the first part of the book (Proverbs 1:7-9:18), consisting of fifteen admonitory discourses, addressed to youth, with the view of exhibiting the excellence of wisdom, encouraging the ardent pursuit thereof, and dissuading from folly, i.e. vice, which is its opposite. This is especially the hortatory or wisdom section of the book. It is usually regarded as a prelude to the collection of proverbs beginning at ch. 10., and is compared to the proem of Eliha in Job 32:6-22, before he addresses himself more particularly to the matter in hand. An analogous preface occurs in Proverbs 22:17-21 of our book, though this is short and intercalary. The section is divided by Delitzsch as above, though the portions are not very accurately defined by internal evidence. We have adopted this arrangement in the Commentary for convenience' sake. Commonly, each fresh warning or instruction is prefaced by the address, "My son" (e.g. Proverbs 1:8, 10, 15; 2:1, etc.), but this is not universally the case, and no subdivisions can be accurately formed by attention to this peculiarity. The unity of the section consists in the subject and the mode of treatment, rather than in a regular course of instruction proceeding on definite lines, and leading to a climacteric conclusion. The motto of the whole is the noble maxim, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but the foolish despise wisdom and instruction."

Taking this as the basis of his lecture, Solomon proceeds with his discourse. He warns against fellowship with those who entice to robbery and murder (Proverbs 1:8-19). Wisdom addresses those who despise her, showing them their folly in rejecting her offers, and the security of those who hearken to her counsels (Proverbs 1:20-33). The teacher points out the blessings arising from the sincere and earnest pursuit of Wisdom — it delivers from the path of evil, and leads to all moral and religious knowledge (ch. 2.). Now comes an exhortation to obedience and faithfulness, self-sacrificing devotion to God, perfect resignation to his will (Proverbs 3:1-18). Wisdom is introduced as the creative energy of God, who becomes the Protector of all who hold fast to her (Proverbs 3:19-26). One condition for the attainment of wisdom and happiness is the practice of benevolence and rectitude in dealing with others (Proverbs 3:27-35). Having previously spoken in his own name, and having also brought forward Wisdom making her appeal, the teacher now gives some recollections of his own early home and his father's advice, especially on the subject of discipline and obedience (Proverbs 4.). He returns to a matter before glanced at as one of the chief temptations to which youth was exposed, and gives an emphatic warning against adultery and impurity, while he beautifully commends honourable marriage (ch. 5.). Then he warns against suretyship (Proverbs 6:1-5), sloth (vers. 6-11), deceit and malice (vers. 12-19), and adultery (vers. 20-35). Keeping to the theme of his last discourse, the moralist again denounces the detestable sin of adultery, and enforces his admonition by an example which he had himself witnessed (ch. 7). Working round again to Wisdom, as the object of all his discourses, the author introduces her as inviting all to follow her, descanting on her excellence, her heavenly origin, her inestimable blessings. This is the most impotent section concerning Wisdom, which here appears as coeternal with God and cooperating with him in creation. Thus her supreme excellene is an additional reason for hearkening to her instructions (ch. 8). Summing up in brief the warnings which have preceded, Solomon introduces Wisdom and Folly, her rival, inviting severally to their companionship (ch. 9).

The next part of our book contains the first great collection of Solomonic proverbs, some four hundred in number; or, as others say, three hundred and seventy-five (ch. 10-22:16). They are introduced with the title, "The Proverbs of Solomon," and fully correspond to their description, being a series of apothegms, gnomes, and sentences, containing ideas moral, religious, social, political, introduced apparently without order, or with only some verbal connection or common characteristics, and certainly not arranged on any systematic scheme. Of the form of these maxims we shall speak later; we here only mention some of the subjects with which they are concerned. This part of the work begins by drawing comparisons between the righteous and sinners, in their general conduct, and the consequences that result therefrom (ch. 10.).

"Treasures of wickedness profit nothing:

But righteousness delivereth from death" (Proverbs 10:2).

"He that gathereth in summer is a wise son:But he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame"(Proverbs 10:5).

"The memory of the just is blessed:

But the name of the wicked shall rot" (Proverbs 10:7).

The same distinction is maintained in conduct to neighbours —

"A false balance is abomination to the Lord:

But a just weight is his delight" (Proverbs 11:1).

"He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him:But blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it"(Proverbs 11:26).

Then we have maxims on social and domestic life —

"A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband:

But she that maketh ashamed is as rottenness in his bones"

(Proverbs 12:4).

"The righteous man regardeth the life of his beast:

But the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel" (Proverbs 12:10).

The difference between the godly and sinners is seen in the use they respectively make of temporal goods —

"There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: There is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great wealth" (Proverbs 13:7).

"Wealth gotten by vanity shall be diminished:

But he that gathereth by labour shall have increase" (Proverbs 13:11).

The relations between rich and poor, wise and fools, exhibit the same rule —

"He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth:

But he that hath pity on the poor, happy is he!" (Proverbs 14:21).

"The foolish make a mock at guilt:

But among the upright there is layout" (Proverbs 14:9).

The state of the heart is that to which God looks —

"The Lord is far from the wicked:

But he heareth the prayer of the righteous" (Proverbs 15:29).

Trust in God is the only security in life —

"Commit thy works unto the Lord,

And thy purposes shall be established" (Proverbs 16:3).

"He that giveth heed unto the word shall find good:

And whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he!" (Proverbs 16:20).

Gentleness and long-suffering are recommended —

"A soft answer turneth away wrath:

But a grievous word stirreth up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).

"The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water:

Therefore leave off contention, before there be quarrelling"

(Proverbs 17:14).

Humility is strongly enjoined —

"Pride goeth before destruction,

And a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).

Sloth and intemperance and other vices are severely reprobated —

"Slothfuluess casteth into a deep sleep;

And the idle soul shall suffer hunger" (Proverbs 19:15).

"Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty;

Open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread" (Proverbs 20:13).

"He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man:

He that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich" (Proverbs 21:17).

A good reputation should be sought and retained —

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches,

And loving favour rather than silver and gold" (Proverbs 22:1).

The section ends with an apothegm about rich and poor which is capable of more than one interpretation —

"Whosoever oppresseth the poor, it is for his gain;

Whosoever giveth to the rich, it is for his loss" (Proverbs 22:16).

This is a religious statement concerning the moral government of God, affirming, on the one hand, that oppression and extortion inflicted on the poor man do in the end redound to his good; and, on the other hand, addition to the wealth of a rich man only injures him, leads him to indolence and extravagance, and sooner or later brings him to want.

There is much said in this part about the king's prerogative —

"The king's favour is toward a servant that dealeth wisely: But his wrath shall be against him that causeth shame" (Proverbs 14:35).

"He that loveth pureness of heart,

For the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend" (Proverbs 22:11).

It is possible to take exception to the worldliness and low motives of many of the maxims in this and other parts of the book. The wisdom often seems to be that of this world rather than of heavenly aspiration. And there have not been wanting persons who say such pronouncements cannot be deemed to be inspired, and that the work containing them was not dictated or controlled by the Holy Spirit. We will quote a few of those so-called worldly maxims. Obedience to the Law is enjoined in order to gain long life and prosperity (Proverbs 3:1, 2), riches and honour (Proverbs 8:18); diligence is to be desired with the view of obtaining a sufficiency, and averting poverty (Proverbs 20:13); the great motive for charity and benevolence is the temporal reward and the favour of God which they secure (Proverbs 19:17; 21:13); the same reason holds good for honouring God with our substance (Proverbs 3:9, 10); humility is to be practised because it brings honour and life (Proverbs 22:4); self-control is a useful attainment because it preserves from many dangers (Proverbs 16:32; 25:28); a fine reputation is a worthy object of quest (Proverbs 22:1); sloth, drunkenness, and gluttony are to be avoided because they impoverish a man (Proverbs 21:17; 23:20, 21; 24:33, 34); we should avoid companionship with the evil because they will lead us into trouble (Proverbs 13:20; 22:25, etc.); it is unwise to retaliate lest we bring injury on ourselves in the end (Proverbs 17:13); we are not to exult over an enemy's fall lest we provoke Providence to punish us (Proverbs 24:17, etc.), but rather to assist an adversary in order to secure a reward at the hands of the Lord (Proverbs 25:21, etc.); wisdom is to be sought for the temporal advantages which it brings (Proverbs 24:3, etc.; 21:20).

Such are some of the maxims which confront us in this Scripture; and there can be no doubt that they seem at first sight to make virtue a matter of calculation; and though they are capable of being spiritualized and leveed into a higher sphere, yet in their natural sense they do urge the pursuit of right on low grounds, and base their injunctions on selfish considerations. Is this what we should expect to find in a work confessedly appertaining to the sacred canon? Is this teaching such as tends to make a man wise unto salvation, to furnish the man of God unto good works? The whole question turns upon the due employment of secondary motives in the conduct of life. Is this method properly employed in education? Does God use it in his dealings with us? We must observe that 'Proverbs' is a book written chiefly for the edification of the young and inexperienced, the simple who were still in the early age of moral growth, those whose principles were as yet unsettled and needed direction and steadfastness. For such teaching of the highest character would be inappropriate; they could not at once appreciate more elevated doctrine; their power of assimilation was at present too feeble to admit the strong meat of heavenly lore; and they were to be led gradually to a higher stage by a slow and natural process which would make no great demand on their faith, nor conscious interruption in their daily life. It is thus that we educate children. We employ the motives of shame and emulation, reward and punishment, pleasure and pain, as incentives to goodness and activity, or as deterrents from evil; and though the actions and habits fostered by these means cannot be regarded as perfect, and have in them an element of weakness, still they are helps on the way to virtue, and facilitate the course of higher training. By such means, imperfect as they are, the moral principle is not injured, and the pupil is placed in a position where he is open to the best influences, and prepared to receive them. We have learned thus to deal with children from God's dealings with ourselves. What are gratitude to parents, faith in teachers, love of friends, loyalty to a sovereign, but secondary motives which control our lives, and yet are not distinctly religious? We build on these feelings, we expect and cherish them, because they lead to worthy action, and without them we should be selfish, loveless, animals. They keep us in the path of duty; they take us out of ourselves, make us regard others' interests, preserve us from much that is evil. Men act on such motives; they do not generally set before themselves anything higher; and he who would teach them must take them as they are, stand on their platform, sympathize with their weakness, and, by putting himself in their position, gain their confidence, and lead them to trust his guidance when he tells them of heavenly things. On such principles much of our book is framed. The moralist knew and recognized the fact that the persons for whose benefit he wrote were not wont to act from the highest motives, that in their daily life they were influenced by selfish considerations — fear of loss, censure of neighbours, public opinion, expediency, revenge, custom, example; and, instead of declaiming against these principles and in austere virtue censuring their defects, he makes the best of them, selects such as may suit his purpose, and, while using them as supports for his warnings, he intersperses so much higher teaching that every one must see that morality has another side, and that the only real and true motive for virtue is the love of God. Such teaching loses its apparently anomalous character when we consider that it is addressed to a people who were living under a temporal dispensation, who were told to expect blessings and punishments in their present life, and who saw in all that befell them providential interferences, tokens of the moral government of their Lord and King. It is consistent with the educational object of our book, and with the gradual development of doctrine observed in the Old Testament, wherein is seen that the Law was a tutor to bring men to Christ.

The first collection of proverbs is followed by two appendices enunciating "the words of the wise" — the first contained in Proverbs 22:17-24:22; the second, introduced by the words, "These things also belong to the wise," in Proverbs 24:23-34. The former of these commences with a personal address to the pupil, recommending these sayings to his serious attention, and then proceeds to give various precepts concerning duty to the poor, anger, suretyship, cupidity, intemperance, impurity, and to urge the young to avoid evil men and those who would lead them astray. It ends with the weighty saying of moral and political importance —

"My son, fear thou the Lord and the king:

And meddle not with them that are given to change" (Proverbs 24:21).

The second little appendix consists also of proverbial sayings, but is enlivened by a personal reminiscence of the writer, who in his walk passed by the field of the sluggard, noted its miserable condition, and drew a lesson therefrom (Proverbs 24:30, etc.). This section also contains the almost evangelical precept —

"Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me; I will render to the man according to his work."

We now arrive at the second great collection of Solomonic proverbs, "which the men of Hezekiah copied out" (ch. 25-29). This is a series of some hundred and twenty gnomic sayings collected from previous writings, by certain scribes and historiographers, in the reign and under the superintendence of the good King Hezekiah, and intended as a supplement to the former collection, to which it bears a very marked similarity, and many sentences of which it repeats with no or very slight variations. Hezekiah, devoted to the moral and religious improvement of his people, seems to have commissioned his secretaries to examine again the works of his predecessor, and to cull from them, and from similar compilations, such maxims as would further his great purpose. Hence we do not find in this section, as in former parts, much instruction for the young, but sentences concerning government, ideas on social subjects, on behaviour, on moral restraint, and kindred topics that have to do with private and public life. There are in it some noteworthy utterances concerning the office of king —

"The heaven for height, and the earth for depth,

But the heart of kings is unsearchable.

Take away dross from the silver,

And there cometh forth a vessel for the finer;

Take away the wicked from before the king,

And his throne shall be established in righteousness" (Proverbs 25:3, etc.),

"The king by judgment establisbeth the land:But he that exacteth gifts overthroweth it" (Proverbs 29:4).

There is also a mashal hymn in praise of agriculture, which looks like a pretest against the growing luxury of the age, and a call to the simpler, purer life of earlier days —

"Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks,

And look well to thy herds.

For riches are not forever:

And doth the crown endure unto all generations?

The hay is carried, and the tender grass showeth itself,

And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in.

The lambs are for thy clothing,

And the gnats are the price of the field:

And there will be goats' milk enough for thy food,

For the food of thy household,

And maintenance for thy maidens" (Proverbs 27:23, etc.).

There follow three appendices of various origin and authorship. The first contains "The words of Agur, the son of Jakeh, the oracle," addressed by him to two of his disciples (according to one interpretation of the words, "The man spake unto Ithiel, even unto Ithiel and Ucal"), and containing proverbial and enigmatical sayings (ch. 30). This unknown author begins with a confession of his faith, a humble depreciation of his own acquirements, and an acknowledgment of the fruitlessness of endeavonring to comprehend the nature of God. There is much here and in other parts of the section to remind us of the musings of Job, who felt and expressed the same perplexity. The poet then utters two prayers to God, that he may be delivered from vanity and lies, and may be supplied with daily food —

"Give me neither poverty nor riches;

Feed me with the food that is needful for me" (Proverbs 30:8).

Then succeeds a curious collection of pictures, grouped into three or tour sentences each, each stich having a certain connection in language and idea. Thus we have four wicked generations, denoting the universal prevalence of the sins therein denounced; four things insatiable; four things inscrutable; four intolerable; four exceeding wise; four of stately presence. If these utterances mean no more than what at first sight they seem to imply, they merely express the feelings of one who was a keen observer of man and nature, and took a peculiar method of enforcing his remarks: "There are three things, yea, four," etc. But if under these apparently simple statements of fact there are hidden great spiritual verities, then we have here examples of dark sayings, enigmas, difficulties, in the solution of which the opening of the Book promised assistance. That such is the case many early commentators, followed by some modern writers, have stated without hesitation; and much labour has been expended in spiritualizing the dicta of the text. Certainly in their literal shape these sentences are not of the highest type, nor distinctly religious; and it is but natural that, feeling this, expositors should endeavour to raise these commonplace and secular allusions to a more exalted sphere.

The second appendix (Proverbs 31:1-9) is entitled, "The words of King Lemuel, the oracle which his mother taught him." The chief interest lies in the question — Who is Lemuel? (see § 3). The section is a brief lesson addressed to kings, chiefly on the subjects of impurity and drunkenness.

The third appendix, which forms the conclusion of the book (Proverbs 31:10-31), consists of the celebrated description of the virtuous woman, the type of the ideal wife, mother, and mistress. It is what is called an acrostic mashal, i.e. each verse commences with one of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, in the usual alphabetical order. Taking the manners and customs of his age and country as the basis of his pictures, the author delineates a woman of the highest attainments, strong-minded yet feminine, active, practical, prudent, economical. Her husband trusts her wholly; she manages the household, keeps her servants to their work, and herself sets an example of diligence; she always has funds in hand to make purchases at the right moment, and to provide for the needs of her household. She is as wise as she is beautiful, as generous and charitable as she is just; her virtue redounds to the credit of husband and children, and all connected with her.

"Her children rise up, and call her blessed;

Her husband also, and he praiseth her, saying,

Many daughters have done virtuously,

But thou excellest them all.

Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain:

But a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.

Give her of the fruit of her hands;

And let her works praise her in the gates."

After the many passages which speak of the degradation of woman, which introduce her in the most odious light, as the temptress of youth, and the very road to death; in contrast, too, to numerous paragraphs and allusions which represent home life as spoiled by a contentious, jealous, and extravagant wife, — it is soothing to come upon this noble description, and to close the volume with this picture of what a woman is when she is animated by love of God and duty.

We may add a slight sketch of the theology and ethics which meet us in this book. There is little distinctive Judaism. In this respect the similarity to the Book of Job is remarkable. The name of Israel is not once mentioned; there is no allusion to the Passover or the other great festivals; there is not a word about idolatry, not a warning against the worship of false gods; the observation of the sabbath is not referred to, nor the payment of tithes. At the same time, the Law is often mentioned, and the ceremonies enjoined therein are tacitly regarded as being in full use and practice (see Proverbs 28:4, 9; 14:9; 7:14, etc.). It is doubtless a providential arrangement that so little prominence is given to the external obligations of the Hebrew religion; by this reticence the book was better adapted to become a worldwide teacher; it spoke to Jew and Gentile alike; it taught a morality with which all good men could sympathize; it penetrated wherever Greek literature was understood and valued. Of its wide influence the Book of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus are special proofs.

The dogmatic statements of "the Proverbs" are in complete accord with the religion of Israel as we know it from other sources. The special name of God in the form Jehovah occurs everywhere throughout the book, and is used more often than Elohim, thus emphasizing the great truth of which the incommunicable name was the symbol. God is incomprehensible (Proverbs 30:4), infinitely wise (Proverbs 3:19, etc.; 8), omniscient, omnipresent (Proverbs 15:3). He created all things out of nothing (Proverbs 8:22, etc.); he governs and preserves them by his providence (Proverbs 16:4); he teaches men by chastening and affliction (Proverbs 3:11, 12); his care watches over and rewards the good, while he punishes the evil (Proverbs 12:2); the poor and the lowly are special objects of his love (Proverbs 22:4; 16:19; 23:11); allowing to man the exercise of free will (Proverbs 1:24), God helps him by his grace to make a right choice (Proverbs 16:1, 3, 9; 20:24), because he loves him (Proverbs 8:17, 31), and wills his happiness (Proverbs 8:35). Of the doctrine concerning wisdom in this book we have spoken above. Of Messianic hopes no distinct trace is found. Whether the future life is asserted has often been questioned; but it is difficult to believe that this great truth is wholly neglected in this book, as we know that long before Solomon's time it was generally admitted, and we should confidently expect traces of its influence in the treatment of man's destiny.

"In the way of righteousness is life;

And in the pathway thereof there is no death" (Proverbs 12:28).

"The wicked is thrust down in his evil doing:

But the righteous hath hope in his death" (Proverbs 14:32).

These are not dogmatic assertions of future rewards and punishments but they are consistent with such a belief, and may well imply it. In the same light we may consider the many passages which speak of the recompense that awaits actions good or evil. The retribution promised is not fully satisfied by anything that befalls a man in this life as the result of his conduct; both the reward and the punishment are spoken of in germs which seem to look to something beyond the grave — something which death did not end, and which nothing here was adequate to fulfil. If it is said that impurity plunges a man into the depths of hell (Proverbs 2:18; 7:11), that sinners remain in the congregation of the dead (Proverbs 21:16), and that their expectation perishes when they die (Proverbs 11:7), it is also announced that righteousness delivereth from death (Proverbs 11:4), that there is a sure reward for the godly (Proverbs 11:18), and that the righteous hath hope in his death (Proverbs 14:32).

The moral teaching of our book may be grouped under various heads — the result of experience, the outcome of thought, controlled by the strongest sense of religion and an overruling Providence.

1. Duty to God. The first of all duties, the foundation of all morality and religion, is the fear of God (Proverbs 1:7). This must be followed by perfect trust in him and distrust of self (Proverbs 3:5, etc.). The externals of religious worship are not to be neglected (Proverbs 14:9; 20:25), but God looks chiefly to the heart (Proverbs 17:3); it is this which makes men acceptable or abominable in his sight (Proverbs 11:20; 15:8). If we sin, we must confess our guilt (Proverbs 28:13), meekly submit to his chastisement (Proverbs 3:11, 12)

2. Duty to ourselves. The first and chief lesson enforced is the utter necessity of avoiding fleshly lusts and evil companionship (Proverbs 1:10, etc.; 13:20). Among deadly sins to be avoided special mention is made of pride, the enemy of wisdom and hateful to God (Proverbs 16:5, 18, 19); avarice and cupidity, which lead to fraud and wrong (Proverbs 28:20), and produce only a transitory profit (Proverbs 23:4, 5); envy, which is as rottenness in the bones (Proverbs 14:30); luxury and intemperance, which, as prevalent in the more artificial state of society, induced by wealth and contact with other nations, are most strongly reprobated and shown to ensure most fatal consequences (Proverbs 2:18; 23:1, etc., 20, etc., 29, etc.); anger, which leads to folly, causes and embitters quarrels, makes a man detestable (Proverbs 14:17; 15:1; 20:3); idleness, which ruins equally a man's character and property (Proverbs 13:4; 6:6, etc.). Then much is said about the necessity of guarding the tongue, in the power of which are death and life (Proverbs 12:13, etc.; 18:21), and avoiding self-praise (Proverbs 12:9; 27:2).

3. Duty to our neighbours. We should sympathize with the afflicted, and try to cheer them (Proverbs 12:25; 16:24); help the poor in their need because they are brethren, children of the All-Father (Proverbs 3:27, etc.; 14:31). A neighbour should be judged honestly and truthfully (Proverbs 17:15; 24:23, etc.); with him we are to live in peace (Proverbs 3:29, etc.; 17:13, etc.), never slandering him (Proverbs 10:10, etc.; 11:12, etc.), hiding his faults if possible (Proverbs 10:12), encouraging sincere friendship (Proverbs 18:24), and being strictly honest in all transactions with him (Proverbs 11:1; 20:14; 22:28).

5. Domestic duties. Pious parents are a blessing to children (Proverbs 20:7), and should teach them holy lessons from their earliest years (Proverbs 1:8; 4:1, etc.), training them in the right way (Proverbs 22:6), correcting them when they do wrong (Proverbs 23:13, etc.). Children for their part should attend to the instruction of elders, and gladden their parents' hearts by prompt obedience and strict life (Proverbs 10:1; 23:15, etc.). Let the mother of the family realize her high position, and be the, crown of her husband (Proverbs 12:4), and build up her house (Proverbs 14:1). If she needs a model, let her endeavour to emulate the strong-minded virtuous woman (Proverbs 31:10, etc.). Be it far from her to imitate the contentious wife, whose peevish ill temper is like the continuous dropping of a leaky roof, and renders family life insupportable (Proverbs 19:13; 25:24). Servants should be carefully selected (Proverbs 17:2) and wisely treated, that they may not rise beyond their station and prove arrogant and assuming (Proverbs 19:10; 29:21).

5. Maxims relating to civil life and political economy. The king's throne is established by righteousness, mercy, and truth (Proverbs 16:12; 20:28); his sentence is regarded as indefeasible (Proverbs 16:10); he pursues the godless with righteous punishment (Proverbs 20:8, 26), protects the weak (Proverbs 31:7, etc.), favours the pious and obedient (Proverbs 16:15; 19:12). He is no oppressor, nor covetous (Proverbs 28:16); and he gathers round him faithful counsellors (Proverbs 14:35), whose advice he takes in all important matters (Proverbs 24:6). By such means he increases the stability of his throne; he enables his subjects to advance in prosperity and virtue, and finds his honour in the multitude of his people (Proverbs 11:14; 14:28). It is the duty of men to render obedience to the powers that be; punishment speedily overtakes the rebellious (Proverbs 16:14, etc.; 19:12; 20:2). God has ordained that there shall be rich and poor in the land (Proverbs 22:2); the rich ought to help the poor (Proverbs 3:27, etc.; 14:21), and not treat them roughly (Proverbs 18:23). All commercial transactions should be conducted with the strictest honesty; the withholding of corn is specially denounced (Proverbs 11:26). It is a foolish act to stand security for another's debt; you are sure to smart for it, and then you can blame only yourself (Proverbs 6:1, etc.; 22:26, etc.).

Among miscellaneous sayings we may note the following: —

"Who can say, I have made my heart clean,

I am pure from my sin?" (Proverbs 20:9).

"It is as sport to a fool to do wickedness;

And so is wisdom to a man of understanding" (Proverbs 10:23).

"A wise man is strong;

Yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength" (Proverbs 24:5),

"The wicked flee when no man pursueth:

But the righteous are bold as a lion" (Proverbs 28:1).

"Hope deferred maketh the heart sick:

But when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12).

"The path of the righteous is as the shining light,

That shineth more and more unto the perfect day" (Proverbs 4:18).

"The wicked earneth deceitful wages: But he that soweth righteousness hath a sure reward" (Proverbs 11:18).

"The hoary head is a crown of glory;

It shall be found in the way of righteousness" (Proverbs 16:31).


Uncritical antiquity, followed in modern times by undiscriminating conservatism, had no hesitation in ascribing the whole Book of Proverbs to one author, Solomon, King of Israel. It is true that three portions of the work are prefaced with his name (Proverbs 1:1; 10:1; 25:1); but two other sections are attributed respectively to Agur (Proverbs 30:1) and Lemuel (Proverbs 31:1); so that apparently the volume itself professes to be composed by three authors; and besides this, there are two appendices containing "the words of the wise" (Proverbs 22:17, etc.; 24:23, etc.), which must be distinguished from those of Solomon. It was natural indeed for the Jews to affix their great king's name to the whole collection. He is said to have spoken three thousand proverbs (mashal, 1 Kings 4:32), a statement which implies that they had been collected into a volume, and the present work was reasonably supposed to form part of this surprisingly large storehouse of wisdom. But a more careful examination of the book necessitates the opinion of divided authorship; contents and language point to differences of date and composition; the repetition of the same proverb in identical or almost identical language, the recurrence of the same thought varied only in actual wording, the adoption of one member of an old maxim with the attachment of a different hemistich, — these blemishes could hardly have been allowed to remain in the work of a single author. There are also variations in the language, which in a marked manner differentiate the several parts, so that we are forced to allow a composite character to the work; and the difficult task is imposed of endeavouring to find some certainty on the question of its origin.

In one place alone does the book itself afford direct help towards deter. mining the date of any portion. The section copied by Hezekiah's friends from previous records must have been put together in that monarch's reign, between two and three hundred years after the time of Solomon, who was regarded as the author of those sayings. The persons engaged in the compilation may have been those mentioned in 2 Kings 18:18 — Shebna the secretary, and Joah, son of Asaph, the chronicler, and very possibly the Prophet Isaiah himself, as a Jewish tradition relates. Whether after so long an interval they simply reproduced his utterances, unadulterated and unaugmented, might prima facie be doubted; a careful examination of the section shows that this doubt is well founded. If there are many sentences therein which in form and substance have a flavour of high antiquity, and may well have flowed from Solomon's lips and have been current in his age, there are also many which exhibit the artificiality of a later period, and presuppose a condition of things far removed from the palmy era of the Hebrew monarchy. Most critics have come to the conclusion that the earliest portion is that which is called the first great collection, contained in Proverbs 11-22:16. The style throughout is simple and chaste, the maxims are mostly comprised in antithetical distichs, each verse being complete in itself. This, according to Ewald, is the oldest form of the technical proverb. It is noticed that there are many phrases and expressions which are peculiar to this section, e.g. "fountain of life," "tree of life," "snares of death," "hand in hand," "whisperer, tale-bearer," "shall not go unpunished," "but for a moment," etc. But arguments derived from peculiarities of structure and language are generally uncertain, and strike readers in different ways. A surer criterion is found in the contents of a composition, in the references which it contains, in the circumstances which it mentions, or the environments which it implies. Now, if we compare this first collection with that of Hezekiah's "men," we shall note some very marked differences, which have been observed by many critics. There is evidently a change in the political situation. In the former section the monarchy is at its best. It is deemed "an abomination to kings to commit wickedness" (Proverbs 16:12); their "throne is established by righteousness," they "delight in righteous lips, and love him that speaketh right;" there is "life in the king's countenance, and his favour is like the latter rain" (Proverbs 16:13, etc.); mercy and truth are his safeguard, and uphold his throne (Proverbs 20:28). A changed picture is presented in the Hezekiah collection. Here we have a people oppressed by a prince wanting in understanding (Proverbs 28:19), mourning under the rule of a wicked king (Proverbs 29:2), who is likened to a roaring lion and a ranging bear (Proverbs 28:15). There is reference to bribery and extortion in high places (Proverbs 29:4), change of dynasties (Proverbs 28:2), unworthy favourites (Proverbs 25:5; 29:12) — all of which circumstances point to a political situation other than that in the former part; a period, in fact, when experience had brought knowledge of evil, and rulers had been found to be antagonistic to the interests of their subjects, liable to the worst vices, open to corrupting influences. It is impossible to suppose that many of the maxims, even in the former collection, were spoken by Solomon. What experience would make him say that the king's honour lay in the multitude of his people, and his destruction in their paucity (Proverbs 14:28)? Or, again, that a pious wife is the best of blessings (Proverbs 12:4; 18:22), while a contentious one is a torment (Proverbs 19:13, 14; 21:9, 19)? Such statements as these last presuppose a monogamous man, not one notorious for polygamy. Then, would Solomon have discoursed thus about himself, asserting that a Divine sentence is his word, and that his judgments are irrefragable (Proverbs 16:10), that his wrath is as messengers of death, that his favour is light and life (Proverbs 16:14, 15), that his anger is like the roaring of a lion, and he puts to the torture those who offend him, while his only claim to support at God's hands is the mercy and truth which his life exhibits (Proverbs 20:2, 26, 28)? However cast in Solomonic mould, these sentences cannot have had Solomon for their author; so we must conclude that, together with his genuine sayings, a multitude of gnomes were extant, of various ages and origins, which were attributed popularly to the great king, as the founder of that kind of gnomic poetry, the great master of proverbial philosophy. That both sections contain very many sayings which had him for their author, it is reasonable to suppose, and there is nothing to discredit this notion. From what is said of his remarkable wisdom, and regarding the form which philosophy assumes in the East, we might expect such productions from his mind. If he had for his object the instruction of his people, the training of them in sound views of life and in the practice of virtue and religion, he would embody his views in terse and pithy sentences, charming the imagination and easy to be remembered; he would thus apply Divine truths to the conduct and regulation of daily life. This precedent was doubtless followed by other sages, and thus in addition to and in connection with the proverbial lore which is accumulated in every nation by the experience of ages, there grew up a gradually increasing store of maxims and apothegms, of a higher order than the vulgar sort, which was enshrined in carefully balanced sentences, and handed down as a precious heirloom to succeeding generations.

These considerations, which seem well grounded, account for the composite character of the Book of Proverbs. Many minds and many ages have been concerned in the collection; it has suffered from interpolation, transposition, addition; various editors have arranged and rearranged the materials before them; passages reflect the golden age of Israel's monarchy; passages belong to such times as those of Jeroboam II and his successors. It has become impossible to assign assured dates to the several parts, and the attempt has led critics to ludicrous conclusions, some from the same data attributing to Solomon compositions which others affix to postoexilian times. Out of the medley of varying opinions we gather the following conclusions. When the men of Hezekiah made their collection, which is headed with the words, "These are also proverbs of Solomon," there existed already a body of maxims known as Solomon's, to which they were minded to make an addition from sources open to them. This previously existing collection we may reasonably suppose to be that which at present stands immediately before theirs, viz. Proverbs 10:1-22:16, and which would thus be the older portion. It is expressly called "the proverbs of Solomon;" and there can be no reasonable doubt that the traditional account which assigned it to the son of David was in the main correct. Knowing the facts of Solomon's later career, no collector would have had the hardihood to attribute many of the utterances therein to him, had they not been universally recognized as his. They are doubtless the effusion of earlier days, the collected outpouring of the happy time when his heart was whole and his faith unimpaired; but who arranged it, or when it received its present shape, can only be conjectured. It is not to be supposed that Solomon sat down and deliberately composed a book of proverbs such as we now possess. It is said that he spake three thousand proverbs. He must have had scribes and secretaries who collected the wisdom that flowed from his lips during the various circumstances of his life and in the various stages of his career (1 Kings 4:3). This formed the nucleus round which accretions gathered in the course of time, the acumen of Hebrew critics failing to distinguish the genuine from the spurious. From the great mass of proverbial literature thus formed Hezekiah's friends made a new selection. What became of the rest of the older collection, which is not comprised in our present volume, cannot be known. It was evidently preserved among the archives of the kingdom which contained accounts, not only of the monarch's acts, but also of his wisdom (1 Kings 11:41). As we have said above, the repetitions of the same proverb in different places indicate a change of authors or editors, deriving their materials from the same source, oral or documentary, but writing independently.

The two appendices to this section containing the "words of the wise" Proverbs 22:17-24) exhibit repetitions which again would indicate a variety of authors, or a lack of care in selection. Some passages found in other parts of the book occur also in these two sections. Thus Proverbs 24:20 (as we shall notice directly) appears at Proverbs 13:9; Proverbs 24:23, "To have respect of persons is not good," at Proverbs 28:21; and Proverbs 24:33, 34 at Proverbs 6:10, 11. The first of the appendices is evidently later than the first collection; the structure of the verses is less terse, the parallelism is not so strongly marked, sometimes entirely wanting, and the sense is often not completed under three or even five verses. A comparison of the way in which the repetitions above indicated are introduced would lead to the impression that the former was the earlier, and that the appendix writer derived certain sentences from that. Thus in Proverbs 22:14 we have the statement, "The mouth of strange women is a deep pit;" but in Proverbs 23:27 this is introduced as a reason for the advice in the previous verse, and amplified thus: "For a whore is a deep ditch, and a strange woman is a narrow pit." So the verse, Proverbs 11:14, is enlarged into two in Proverbs 24:5, 6; and the unvarnished gnome (Proverbs 13:9), "The light of the righteous rejoiceth, but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out," becomes, under the manipulation of the transcriber, a warning in quite a different direction: "Fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be thou envious at the wicked; for there will be no reward to the evil man; the lamp of the wicked shall be put out" (Proverbs 24:19, 20). Who can doubt that the simpler form of these sayings is the original? Hitzig claims an exilian date for this section on the strength of an Aramaic colouring which other critics deny, and a supposed borrowing of passages or phrases from Jeremiah which seems to be wholly imaginary. How could a poet, banished from his own country, make a point of not removing the ancient landmark (Proverbs 22:28; 23:10), or enjoin his hearers to serve their king and avoid innovators (Proverbs 24:21)? There is, indeed, nothing to guide us to any certainty in the question, but the style and language reflect those of the first portion of our book, and it may possibly have been written about the same period. As in Proverbs 3:31, so often in this section (e.g. Proverbs 22:22; 24:15, etc.), there are hints of oppressive rulers and iniquitous governors, which would lead us to think of Manasseh and his like. It is reasonable to conclude that this appendix was added after Hezekiah's time by an editor who had before him the first great collection. The same holds good concerning the second little appendix (Proverbs 24:23-34), which seems to be of contemporaneous origin. Nowack, by comparing the two similar passages in Proverbs 6:10, 11 and 24:33, 34, concludes that the former is original, and that the appendix writer has somewhat altered the sentence in transferring it to his own repertory.

We have in some degree indicated what may be reasonably determined about the date and authorship of the central portions of our book. It remains to investigate the beginning and the closing sections. The introduction (Proverbs 1:1-6), describing the character and intent of the work, applies virtually not only to the collection immediately succeeding (Proverbs 1:7-9), but to other parts of the book, whether the writer had these parts before him or not. Who is the author of this first section, the proem, as it has been called, is a matter of much dispute. There is some difficulty in attributing it to Solomon himself. The opening words do not necessarily imply that Solomon wrote all that follows. "The Proverbs of Solomon" may be introduced as a formal heading of what may be a gathering of fragments from many quarters, composed in Solomon's spirit and instinct with his wisdom, but not actually received from his lips or writings. There are passages which seem to be derived from Isaiah's prophecy; e.g. Proverbs 2:15, "Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths," is parallel to Isaiah 59:8; Proverbs 1:24, 26, 27, to Isaiah 65:12 and 66:4. But the language is not identical, and the prophet may have been indebted to the moralist. More to the purpose is the fact that the second part (Proverbs 10:1-22:16) is superscribed "The Proverbs of Solomon," which would be unnecessary and misleading if the first part was also his composition. To this it may be answered that this title is more especially appropriate to the section as containing proverbs rather than hortatory addresses; and if introduced by a different editor the discrepancy is easily accounted for. Others insist that the religious ideas and the form in which they are expressed are quite foreign to Solomon's time and standpoint. If the technical form of the mashal, consisting of distichs displaying well-balanced and antithetical clauses, be the form which alone appertains to Solomon's age, then it must be allowed that the introductory section contains very few proper mashals, but rather is composed of odes of varying length, in which, as it were incidentally, a few mashals are inserted. The terse single proverb is remarkably absent, and descriptive poems, lengthy exhortations, and developments of a given truth, are the common characteristics of the piece. Here again, however, there is no certainty that Solomon regarded himself as bound to keep to one law in the composition of proverbs, or that he did not employ other and more elaborate methods of expressing his sentiments. The presumption is certainly against the two parts having the same author, bat the idea is not irrational. Delitzsch has produced another argument, tie dwells upon the different idea of Wisdom afforded by the two sections. In the former, Wisdom appears as an independent personality, dwelling with God before all creation, and operating in the production of the visible world, and busying itself with the affairs of men; in the latter, Wisdom is a moral quality, which is grounded in the fear of God, teaches men to recognize the truth, and to regulate their lives according to the rules of religion. Doubtless the view of Wisdom in the proem is an advance on and a development of the conception in the other section. Speculation had progressed, schools of wise men had been formed, preceptors addressed their pupils as "son," and Wisdom was regarded as the chief motor of moral and religious action. The chokma is no longer an idea, a code, or a subjective thought; it has an objective existence, carried back to eternity, fellow worker with God. consideration is decisive against the identity of authorship in the two parts, and disposes one to allow more weight to the undecisive arguments mentioned above. The paraenetical form adopted in the introduction, so different from the proverb proper, points to the influence of the prophetic element, hardly arrived at public utterances and documentary testimony in Solomon's time, but afterwards the great power in the state and the common support of the religious life. Many passages breathe the spirit of Deuteronomy, which in the minds of some critics would at once be a proof of very late origin, but of course have no such look for those who hold the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. Others are remarkably similar to parts of the Book of Job, and are evidently more or less borrowed from that source; but as the date of that writing is still undecided, nothing can be deduced from this fact. Taking all that has been said into consideration, and carefully weighing the opinions which have been put forth on the question, we regard this section as the composition of one author, and that not Solomon, except in so far as it breathes his spi