Inductive Bible Studies,

[Copyright by W. R. HARPER, 1887.]

PREPARED BY PROFESSORS W. R. HARPER (Yale University), W. G. BALLANTINE (Oberlin Theol. Sem.), WILLIS J. BEECHER (Auburn Theol. Sem.), and G. S. BURROUGHS (Amherst College).


Sixteenth Study.—Proverbs XXV.-XXXI. and the Book as a Whole.

[The material of this "study" is furnished by Professors Harper.]



1. The Books of " Ecclesiastes" and "Canticles" will be omitted from the course of stud y although it was originally intended to insert them. This omission is made, partly because of the doubt which reasonably exists as to the authorship and general purpose of these books, and partly also because it is believed to be wiser to give to " Proverbs " the time and space which would otherwise be used in the study of these books.

2. Psalms 72 and 127are assigned, the former on good grounds, to Solomon. These may be studied by the student after the plan suggested in " studies " 10,11,12.


1. Contents of Chs. 25-29. Read one by one and study as minutely as possible (that is,

(1) read repeatedly;

(2) compare the old and revised versions;

(3) examine the marginal readings of the revised version;

(4) ascertain the meaning of doubtful expressions;

(5) study the parallelism of each verse;

(6) group together the verses needed to complete a single thought;

(7) classify these groups, and decide whether the theme given covers the contents of the passage;

(8) select the more important teachings of the passage); the contents of chs. 25-29 (indicated in the "study" as E):

(a) 25:2-28, let kings and subjects fear God and be righteous.

(b) 26:1-28, admonitions against folly, indolence, malice.

(c) 27:1-8, admonitions against boasting and arrogance.

(d) 27:9-22, various proverbs in reference to friendship, a contentious woman, the influence of mutual intercourse.

(e) 27:23-28, exhortation to prudence in husbandry.

(f) 28:1-28, admonitions against unscrupulous, unlawful dealings.

(g) 29:1-27, admonitions against stubbornness, flattery, wrath, etc.

2. Characteristic Features of E. Note and verify the following characteristic features of E:

(a) Another superscription, 25:1; its meaning, the inferences to be drawn from it.

(b) Proportion of synthetic parallelisms to antithetic, almost three to one.

(c) Measure of lines, quite regular, though in some cases the parallelism is not clearly marked, e. g., 25:8,9; 26:18,19; 29:12.

(d) Repetition of same word or phrase in a following verse (see Fifteenth " "Study ") frequent;2 e. g., " kings," 25:2,3; take away," 25:4,5; " strive," (" cause "), 25:8,9; "gold," 25:11,12; "fool," or "fools," 26:3-12; "sluggard," 26:13-16; "wood," 26:20,21; "boast," "praise," 27:1,2;-is this designed? If so, to what purpose?

(e) There are many sentences which cover two or more verses, e. g., 25:6,7; 25: 9,10; 25:21,22; 26:18,19; 27:15,16; 26:23-28; 27:23-27.

(f) E contains many repetitions from C (10:1-22; 16); cf. 25:24 with 21;9; 26: 13 with 22:13; 26:15 with 19:24; 26:22 with 18;8; 27;13 with 20:16; 27:15 with 19:13; 28:19 with 12:11; 29:22 with 15:18. Was the collector of E a different man from the collector of C? Did both collectors draw from the same source? Did E draw from C?

(g) E contains only one repetition from D, cf. 28:21 with 24:23.

3. Relation of E to the Whole. In view of these features, determine if possible the relation sustained by E to the other portions of the whole.

4. Contents of Chs. 30, 31.

(a) Read these chapters (indicated in this study by F and G respectively) closely (see above).

(b) Master, analyze, and classify, under appropriate heads, their contents.

5. Characteristic Features of F. Note and verify the following points:

(a) A new superscription, 30:1; its interpretation; is Agur a foreigner?

(b) Parallelisms (except three) all synthetic.

(c) Measure of verses irregular; parallelism not strictly observed.

(d) One subject covers either one, two, three, four or six verses.

(e) A very unique method of reckoning is found in vs. 11-14; 15,18,21,29; 24, (cf. Amos 1,2); meaning and purpose of this?

(f) The uniqueness of the chapter as a whole, when compared with other biblical literature.

(g) Moral and religious tone elevated; literary style vivid and impressive.

6. Characteristic Features of G. Note and verify the following points:

(a) Still another superscription 31:1; its interpretation.

(b) Two sections quite distinct:

(1) vs. 1-9;

(2) vs. 10-31.

(c) Parallelism mostly synonymous; measure of verses regular.

(d) vs. 10-31 are in the original alphabetical; that is, v. 10 begins with the first letter of the alphabet; v. 11 with the second; v. 12 with the third, and so on to the end.

7. Various Views as to the Composition of Proverbs. In view of the facts noted in this and the preceding "study" concerning the various parts of the Book of Proverbs, compare the following theories as to the plan of the book:

(a) Ewald:

(1) C is the earliest collection, two hundred years after Solomon, but Solomonic in spirit;

(2) to C was added first, in the time of Hezekiah E, which also is to some extent Solomonic;

(3) to C, E, a century later was prefixed A, B, the introduction;

(4) still later, to A, B, C, E, three supplements were added, D, F, G, each independent, all the work of the exile.

(b) Hitzig:

(1) A, B arose soon after Solomon in the 9th century;

(2) C, and part of E (28:1729:27) were appended 800-750 B. C.

(3) First part of E (chs. 25-27) was appended 725-700 B. C;

(4) About 600, D and 28:1-16 of E were added;

(5) still later, F and G were appended.

(c) Delitzsch:

(1) B, C, D came into form within a century after Solomon; E, F, G, during Hezekiah's time;

(2) C forms the basis of the book, and was compiled largely from Solomon's 3,000 proverbs, though material was also gathered from other sources;

(3) this collector himself composed A, B, and prefixed it as an introduction to C, and at the same time added D (except 24: 23-34), which consists of proverbs taken from various wise men;

(4) the men of Hezekiah (the generation following Hezekiah) gathered others of Solomon's proverbs, viz., E;

(5) to this is prefixed the collection 24:23-34 of D as an introduction, and two appendices, F and G, are added;

(6) whether 1:1-7 is the work of the first or second collector is uncertain.

(d) In general: Whether or not one of these hypotheses is accepted, is the evidence sufficient to show that "we must adopt a view which represents the present collection as growing up gradually in the time between Solomon or Hezekiah, or even within a period ending somewhat later, and which discriminates between an original nucleus that is from Solomon and the accretions of various ages which are due to later collectors and editors."3

8. Some General Questions concerning the Book. In view of the foregoing investigations, formulate, if possible, an answer to the following questions:

(a) What may be supposed to have been the general purpose of the final collector of the Book of Proverbs?

(b) How can we explain the conspicuous absence of such historical allusions as are contained in Jud. 7:13; 8:2,21; I Sam. 10:11; 19:24?

(c) What is the relation of 1:1-7 to the remainder of the collection, taken as a whole?

(d) To what extent are the "proverbs" of a nation a mirror which reflects the "history of its social, moral, religious culture or condition " ?

(e) Is the proverbial lore of the Hebrew nation superior to that of other nations, e. g., India, Arabia, Greece, Rome? If so, in what respects? And to what is this fact to be attributed?

(f) In what sense may the Book of Proverbs be said to be inspired? Were the proverbs themselves of divine origin? or does the inspiration, as some maintain, involved merely a wise choice from those in existence, and their accurate presentation?

9. Hebrew "Wisdom" and the Hebrew Sages.

(a) Definition of Hebrew "wisdom"; its relation to the Law and to Prophecy.

(b) Read 1 Kgs. 4:30,31; Jer. 49:7; Obad. 8, and note the existence of "wisdom " outside of Israel.

(c) Read 8:15,16 and note the contents, precepts on law and government; Isa. 28:23-29; Prov. 27:23-27, husbandry; topics outside of practical ethics.

(d) Compare the Seven Wise Men of Greece.

(e) Justify the appellation "humanist " as applied to the Hebrew sages; also, the term " realist " in contrast with the prophets, who were " idealists."

(f) From chs. 15:3,11; 20:9,12,24; and from a comparison of Isa. 1:11-17 Amos 5:21-23 with chs. 15:8; 21:3,27; 16:6; 29:18, decide as to the attitude of the sages towards the prophets and their teaching.

(g) From Isa. 28:23-29; 29:24; 33:11, also, Amos 5:10; Isa. 29:21, decide as to the attitude of the prophets towards the sages.

(h) Position and work of the "sages " as compared with those of the priests and prophets; cf. Jer. 18:18.

(i) Compare 15:16; 21:31; 22:14; 13:1 with 1 Kgs. 10:23; 4:26; 11:1,4,14-40; 12:14,15, and explain the apparent inconsistency.

10. Use of Proverbs in the New Testament. Compare the following quotations:

1:16 with Rom. 3:10,15.   17:27 with Ja. 1:19.
3:7 with Rom. 12:16.   20:9 with 1 John 1:8.
3:11,12 with Heb. 12:5,6. (Cf. also Rev. 3:19).   20; 20 with Matt. 15:4; Mark 7:10.
3:34 with Ja. 4:6.   22:8 (LXX.) with 2 Cor. 9:7.
10:12 with 1 Pet. 4 :8.   25:21,22 with Rom. 12:20.
11:31 with 1 Pet. 4:18.   26:11 with 2 Pet. 2:22.
17:13 with Rom. 12:17; 1 Thess. 5:15; 1 Pet. 3:9.   27:1 with Ja. 4:13,14.


11. Practical Value of the Book. Show the practical character of the Book of Proverbs, and the various ways in which it may be treated.



1) For literature, see preceding "study,"

2) Many of these repetitions, though evident in the original, cannot be seen in the translation; e. g., the words "to strive," 25:8, is the same as "cause," in 25:9

3) For a presentation of the view which denies any considerable portion of the book to Solomon, chiefly because it portrays a condition of society, and indicates a kind of life inconsistent with the times of Solomon, see Cheyne, Job and Solomon.