Lecture 4: Preamble (Proverbs 1: 3-7)

Course: Proverbs

Lecture: Preamble Part 2

I. Review of the Preamble, Part 1

As already mentioned, the overall structure of the preamble contains the purpose of the book. We said that Proverbs 1:2 is the summary statement which is both to know the substance of wisdom and also to understand the words that lead us into that substance or the reality of it. We also noted that 3-5 has a moral acumen; wisdom and instruction and also to have mental acumen; understanding words of insight. The moral acumen is developed into the students who are to receive it. These are synonyms that belong to the realm of the intellectuality of prudence and discipline. The understanding of words of insight is developed in the proverbs and their parables. They are not separate as having proverbs and then parables but the parables are within the proverbs. They are proverbs which are parabolic. We have the sayings of the wise which are more riddle like which need interpretation. It is like the dreams and visions of the prophets. We finished with 2a and covered the words, ‘to know’ and the fundamental point of ‘to know’ was personal knowledge. It wasn’t ‘to know about’ because that would be ineffectual knowledge. It doesn’t change life and it is really what is wrong with a lot of teaching. In other words, this is just giving knowledge instead of providing transformative teaching, thus changing life. As is of God, not something that one controls and it takes prayer and devotion. This is also about loving God and loving the students and the ability to bring these together. I want students to know God and love God and love truth and so it is personal knowledge. We talked about wisdom being a skill. It can be bad skills or good skills. We covered a co-referential term which was righteousness that defines what we are talking about. The Hebrew word for wisdom is chokmah and Musar is instruction which we also looked at. It assumes a waywardness which needs to be corrected. It assumes that all Scripture is profitable for rebuke and correction, and the book assumes our depravity. It can verbal, which is translated as ‘instruction.’ It can be corporal in which it is translated as ‘discipline.’

We used verbal to prevent acts of folly; we use corporal to prevent the repetition of acts of folly. We talked about mental acumen, to understand the words which in Hebrew is considered a full statement, not just what we think about words. It is another way of saying proverbs or sayings and the words give substance to the thought. So they are the outward expression and I commented that Jesus is called the Logos of God or the Word of God and thus, he was God. He was understood as being the Son of God. These words are communicated both in ‘listen my son,’ which assumes oral communication. Interestingly a lot of this material was communicated with a chant or song and also with music. In Hebrew, every word has an accent mark which was probably musical tones, so that you could actually sang it. We don’t know what the music was although some have worked on this and recreated some of the music. It is both oral and written with the written form being done in order to preserve it accurately. The oral form was to discriminate it and both have their place which requires understanding and knowledge of how to read it. You need to understand words that give you the insight into this reality so that we can do the impossible; live the eternal life through the grace of God. And this insight includes using your senses.

II. The Moral Acumen in Proverbs 1:3-5.

We will analyze the preamble by way of various word meanings, the use of Chiastic constructions and understanding of collocated terms.

A. Prudence

He looks from the student’s perspective or the addressees. We have fundamental vocabulary of prudence, righteousness, justice and fair. Maskil is the Hebrew word and it is to give attention to a threatening situation, to have insight into its solution. This situation is in communication which has rival discourses. You have the discourse of the peer group of the wicked men and as we will see in 1:8-19 they want to entice you to easy money. What everybody wants is money without work. This doesn’t develop character; in fact it ends up being only death. Examples of this are the stock markets, the unions, gambling and many other things. Participating in the lottery is disadvantaging other people. Taking money is celebrating their loosing. The world view includes that of getting more and more money; even to the extent of disadvantaging others. The other threatening situation is having easy sex without marriage. American youth want sexual freedom without responsibility and without children and without commitment. In the threatening situation that involved David faces Goliath, David knew that he could take down Goliath, having spent a life time practicing the sling out in the fields while attending the sheep. He had already delivered sleep from threatening situations. Even though he had experience, he also had faith because he believed that God was with him. The experience was his training; it was on the job training. Young people don’t have a chance being thrown out into a world of drugs, sex, criminal elements and the evilness. The Proverbs acts like a self-sustained ‘boot camp’ that will also prepared you with what you meet every day, even though it is written all those years ago, it is as up to date as any present day boot camp manual.

B. Righteousness, Justice, Fairness, and Discernment

Righteousness is basically advantaging others. The Hebrew word for righteousness is sedeq. It is like love your neighbor as yourself but before this, it says to rebuke your neighbor or you will be guilty with him. That is also love, if you are willing to face rejection in taking risks by doing something that is right. If you live righteously and serving the other person in marriage for example; there will be no divorce. In such a marriage, the husband puts the interest of his wife first, even willing to die for her. Who will reject that? When you are serving one another, there will be no war; that’s righteousness. And for justice, we have the Hebrew word, mishpat. So in justice, you punish the oppressor and deliver the oppressed. If you see someone who is oppressed; we have an obligation to deliver them. We also have the word, ‘fair’ in Hebrew; Mesharim. The Bible gives us liberty within law, freedom within form and lovemaking within marriage. Form is law or structure, the opposite of anarchy. Interestingly in regards to the simpletons, they love their simplicity; they love being uncommitted and to being open minded; believing in nothing. Discernment is benevolent craftiness and the talent for devising tactics for obtaining one’s goal.

(Note that Solomon was about forty years old when he wrote the Proverbs and he loved God from an early age but later in life he lost that love. Proverbs 19:27 shows us if you stop listening to instruction; you will stray from the words of knowledge. Solomon did stop listening. In lecture 2 we talked about Solomon and the problem about his authorship and about his biography. Almost all academics reject his authorship and I don’t know why. Today in academia there is a built in skepticism about the Bible and its own claims of its authorship. Instead of assuming the Bible is trustworthy, it assumes that it isn’t trustworthy. This is biasness. Historians, secular and Christian alike develop biases toward the Bible and what it stands for. I take the Bible at face value unless you can prove to me why I shouldn’t.)

(Note for the mental acumen of 1:6 you have proverbs and within it, its parables, it asks its audience to make and intuitive critical judgement of their own behaviour in light of the aphorism (a short phrase that expresses a true or wise idea). The Sayings of Wise and riddles demand existential functions of their interpretations.)

III. The Chiastic Construction

A. Chiastic Construction

Chiastic refers to a crosswise arrangement of concepts or words that are stated and then repeated in reverse order; there are various chiastic structures seen in the Hebrew Bible. For example: in the Book of Daniel, we have a double-chiasm and the structure is emphasized by the two languages that the book is written in: Aramaic and Hebrew. The first chiasm is written in Aramaic from chapters 2-7 following and ABC…CBA pattern. The second chiasm is in Hebrew from chapter’s 8-12 also using the ABC … CBA pattern. However Daniel 9:26 is D, a break in the center of the pattern.

There are three principal kinds of construction in the Hebrew literature; one is alternating structure. If you have a thought, you call it ‘A’, if you have another thought; you call it ‘B’ and then ‘C’. So you go A B C and then A B C with a lot of different varieties. There is also the Chiastic construction. You go A B C and then X and then C prime, B prime and then ‘A’ prime. X is the pivot. We need to know these structures to understand what it means. The third kind is concentric; you go A B, then A B C and then C prime, B prime and A prime. There is no X, it just reverses itself.

In using water to help with the imagery to clarify these constructions; first, we have the Chiastic and that to me is like throwing a rock into a pond watching the ripples move outward. The ripples are all matching one another and the Pivot is where the rock hit the pond. Concentric construction would be like the tide, it comes in, it goes out, but there is no Pivot. The third is like the waves of the ocean; the wave comes in and then there is another wave that pushes the water further and further up. This last one to me is alternating construction. So alternating construction is waves, you could think of Chiastic construction as rock in a pond and you concentric construction as the tide.

B. Adonijah, David & Solomon

In this construction a prophet intervenes in the royal succession – you have these rival kings Adonijah and then Nathan intervenes. His life ends with the prophet who determines the royal succession. Shemaiah takes the kingdom and gives half of it to Jeroboam. So again you have King Jeroboam and a prophet intervenes. So Solomon eliminates the threats to his security but God rose up the rival kings against him to de-establish his kingdom because he went after all his wives and her foreign gods; whereas he loved God, now he loves other gods. It is a reversal. Now we have the two prostitutes and the child. He identifies the real mother and shows his wisdom and that is matched with his tarnished glory where he uses his wisdom for his own wealth. And we have the building of the temple as the pivot of Solomon’s life. Look at the construction below.

A Adonijah plots to become king (1:1-11)

      B Adonijah’s plot foiled; Solomon spares Adonijah (1:12-53)

            C David’s charge to Solomon, including an instruction to kill Joab and Shimei (2:1-9)

                        X DAVID’S DEATH (2:10-12)

            A’ Adonijah plots again to become king (2:13-22)

      B’ Adonijah’s plot fails; Solomon puts Adonijah to death (2:23-25)

C’ Solomon puts Joab and Shimei to death and banishes Abiathar (2:26-46)

So Solomon is designated as the one who builds the temple and is the climax of his career, thus making a dwelling place for God on earth. He dedicates the temple, but he is warned by God. He builds the temple but he doesn’t furnish it.

‘And it came to pass in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the fourth year of Solomon's reign over Israel, in the month Zif, which is the second month, that he began to build the house of the LORD. And the house which king Solomon built for the LORD, the length thereof was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof twenty cubits, and the height thereof thirty cubits. And the porch before the temple of the house, twenty cubits was the length thereof, according to the breadth of the house; and ten cubits was the breadth thereof before the house. And for the house, he made windows of narrow lights.’

In 1 Kings 7:1, X is when he builds his own house complex which took thirteen years. ‘But Solomon was building his own house thirteen years, and he finished all his house.’ This is where it all turns. He put his own house before the temple. He built his own palace and one for the Egyptian Queen and also the hall of judgment. Those three buildings interrupted the building of the temple. That was the turning point for Solomon when he put his own house before God’s house. We always need to put God’s house before our own house otherwise it will be a turning point for us. This is the pivot of Solomon’s Love for God; after this he strays from God.

The wise is a person who is teachable. Proverbs 1:5 ‘Let the wise also hear and gain instruction, and let the discerning acquire guidance!’ There are people who are not teachable; the moment you correct them, they will become very defensive. They will say that you are no better. It is true that I’m no better. God give me the grace to hear rebuke and to hear correction. (The lecturer was 84 years old at the time of this course recording!) I think it is an act of love to correct someone.

C. Preamble 1:2a-7

Look at the repetitions in the this text which uses the verb ‘to know’ (da’at) wisdom and instruction and to understand words of insight; to receive instruction in prudence: righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth; to understand proverbs and parables, the sayings of the wise and their riddles. The fear of I AM is the beginning of knowledge, wisdom and instruction which fools despise. Look at the construction below.

A. Comprehensive, intellectual values:                                                              1:2a

     To know wisdom and instruction לָדַעַת חָכְמָה וּמוּסָר  [da’at hokmah umusar]

     B. Literary Expression of Wisdom                                                                 1:2b

           to understand words of insight, 

           C. Instrumental virtue: prudence                                                             1:3a

                       X. Moral, communal virtues: righteous, justice, equity                1:3b

           C.’ Instrumental virtue: prudence, discretion, guidance                          1:4-5

     B.’ Literary expressions of wisdom                                                                  1:6

           to understand proverbs and parables 

A.’ Comprehensive, intellectual virtues:                                                               1:7

           knowledge; wisdom and instruction דָּעַת חָכְמָה וּמוּסָר

                 [da’at hokmah umusar]

Notice how A. matches A.’ The Hebrew reads that you have to know wisdom and instruction. Now notice the key in A.’ Comprehensive, intellectual virtues. It says knowledge, wisdom instruction. The Hebrew is exactly the same sequence. Wisdom and instruction is the object of to know. In verse 7, ‘Fearing the LORD is the beginning of moral knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.’ Wisdom and instruction is the object of despise. The syntax is different here; one is the object of ‘to know’ and the other is the object of ‘despise.’ To know is known as an infinitive whereas in English ‘despise’ is a verb. The word order is typical wisdom parabolic wording. So we see that A matches A’. In B, the literary expression of wisdom is to understand words of insight match B’ in verse 6 is to understand proverbs and parables. Now it talks about instrumental virtues that belong to wisdom, namely prudence as shown in C and C’ with prudence, discretion, and guidance. Notice the X, it is communal virtues: righteous, justice and equity. The privet is the reality of what wisdom really is. It is the moral, it is telling you to do what is right, of establishing justice and being fair. This is what the book is about. This is the value of knowing structures and I find that spiritually challenging to me. The fool in verse 7 is an adult and they despise and rejected. Now the mocker is filled with pride. He delights in his mockery; he is the political pundit in the Newspaper that is always knocking the Word of God down. They are brilliant but they are mockers. Don’t rebuke a mocker, he will only kick back. They cannot see Christianity; they just bring shame as seen in Proverbs 9. Note again that the non-committed are called the ‘simple’ in Proverbs.

The English language doesn’t have the vocabulary for morals. IQ is not shown spiritually in the English language. Spiritual language is a different kind of intelligence. Studying these proverbs help us from being less involved in the physical appearance of the world and the show of it which is all superficial. There are two words for fool and then there is a fourth word for the mocker. The word, ‘mocker’ is only used in wisdom literature, which makes me think that Psalm 1, whoever authored it, belonged to the wisdom school. ‘Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful, but delights in the law of the LORD; he mediates on it day and night.’ Notice the intensification here, we went from wicked, then to the sinners and then to the mocker. There is tabasis and catabasis, a slowing down. These are figures of speech. So you have: he walks, he stands, and he sits. You have on one hand a slowing down and then on the other hand, intensification. In Proverbs 7, we have the harlot going into the city and its streets. The Hebrew word for the movement is ‘sa’ad’, which means something like marching or walking.

I developed the word ‘righteousness’ and as seen at Proverbs 13:6, it is a co-reference term for wisdom, having the same reference but belonging to different semantic domain. Without ethical co-reference, wisdom could be a vice. Righteousness is crucial and it guards the person of integrity. It promotes a relationship with God; he detests the way of the wicked but loves those who pursue righteousness.

IV. The Fear of the Lord

A. Revelation: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. This is a collocation (a particular combination of words) and is syntagmatic (two words that belong together) being a series of linguistic elements forming a distinctive syntactic unit. So, what is the fear of the Lord? If you want to study the word ‘butterfly’, he cannot study ‘butter’ and then ‘fly’ and get the meaning from it. So you can’t study fear and lord separately but it must be ‘the fear of the Lord.’ You must study it as a unit. On the one hand, it refers to revelation, objective revelation. Look at Psalm 19:7-9:

  • The law of LORD is perfect, reviving the soul.
  • The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.
  • The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart.
  • The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes.
  • The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever.
  • The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous.” (Psalm 19:7)

So we have perfectness, trustworthiness, correctness, radiance, endurance and righteousness in the Psalm. So the Fear of the Lord is a synonym for the ordinances of the Lord. It entails revelation. This includes the Law, the statutes, the precepts, commands, fear and ordinances. This is another way of referring to an objective revelation of God. The Fear of the Lord can refer to the Torah, the Book of Moses; this is the fear of the Lord. In Proverbs 2, ‘My son, if you will receive my words, and store up my commands within you, then you will understand the fear of the Lord. In English, the word ‘fear’ is a purely emotional term and thus you don’t get the full meaning. But note that the collocation that we have referred to is beyond an emotional term. It is something that is cognitive. So the Fear of the Lord means the revelation of the Book of Proverbs which is the beginning of wisdom. It is really talking about the book as being the Fear of the Lord.

B. Reception

There is the humility in accepting revelation. Note that wisdom’s instruction is to fear the Lord and humility comes before honor. Humility and Fear of the Lord is almost a ‘parallel’ here. Interestingly in proverbs 22:4, it says that the wages of humility (in apposition) – the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life. So humility is being broken before the revelation is called the Fear of the Lord sort of humility. This fear also entails a non-rational aspect, an emotional response of fear, love and trust. The unified psychological poles of fear and love come prominently to the fore in a surprisingly uniform way. Deuteronomy treats ‘love of the LORD’ and ‘fear of the LORD’ as synonyms. In Isaiah 29:13 Israel’s distorted ‘fear of me’ is rejected precisely because it is made up only of rules taught by men. According to Proverbs 2:1-5 ‘the fear of the LORD’ is found through heartfelt prayer and through diligent seeking for the sage’s words and in 15:33 ‘humility’ and ‘fear of the LORD’ are parallel terms. The emotion response says that you understand this revelation as being a matter of life and death. It is not just good advice. The fear that is being taught here is based upon trust because you take God seriously. You can know that his promises are secure and his threats are real. So how do you put together love and fear and God? The answer is through trust. In regards to life and death; awe for the One who holds life and death in their hands. When the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant. (Exodus 14:31)

Referring to the classic, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis, children enter through the wardrobe a fantasy world where the events and characters in Narnia represent biblical narrative. Christ is represented by Aslan, the great lion. When the beaver, the guide, briefs the children about Narnia he mentions the lion. The children ask, ‘Is he safe?’ The beaver answer: ‘Of course not, but he’s good. ‘ As people in general are motivated to obey their consciences out of fear of God, so saints’ respond to the moral imperative of Scripture apart from either legal or ecclesiastical sanctions. For them, the fear of the LORD is just as real as their love for him (see 14:27; 21). Both psyches are rooted in their faith: they believe his promises and love him; they believe his threats and fear him. In sum, C. Bridges says: ‘[The fear of the Lord is] that affectionate reverence, by which the child of God bends himself humbly and carefully to his Father’s law.’

And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his way, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today own good?’ (Deut 12:12-13)