Fundamentals For Preaching The Book Of Proverbs, Part 3 -- By: Bruce K. Waltke

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 165:659 (Jul 2008)
Article: Fundamentals For Preaching The Book Of Proverbs, Part 3
Author: Bruce K. Waltke


Fundamentals For Preaching The Book Of Proverbs,
Part 3*

Bruce K. Waltke

Bruce K. Waltke is Professor of Old Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida.

* This is the third article in a four-part series, delivered as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectureship at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 6-9, 2007.

In the second lecture in this series we learned that the preamble to Proverbs gives the expositor essential information for the book’s interpretation and exposition. Its six fundamentals are like the code of a combination lock, which, when dialed, opens the lock and allows the expositor of Proverbs to lead his audience into this paradise of delights, including eating the honeyed leaves of the tree of life and drinking from a bubbling spring of waters of eternal life.

As noted in the previous article,1 the first number to be dialed is knowledge of the book’s literary genre. In the genre of wisdom literature, Proverbs is an inspired revelation from the Creator, and as a collection of maxims the book coins this revelation in short, pithy, memorable statements. These memorable sayings demand that their readers or hearers exercise their imagination in an effort to forge some sort of equivalence or connection between the proverbs and the readers’ or hearers’ situation.

The second number that opens the lock and gives access to the book’s paradise is knowledge of the human author. To understand him, the hearer must share his spirit: his love for Israel’s covenants and his wit to see and to speak.

The present article discusses two more code numbers needed to unlock the book.

Number Three: Understanding The Concept Of Wisdom

The third code number to unlock the book is understanding the concept of wisdom. The book’s purpose is “to gain wisdom”; the Hebrew root translated “wise” (an adjective), “wisdom” (a noun), or “to be wise” (a verb) is the book’s key word. It occurs 102 times in Proverbs—almost a third of its uses in the entire Old Testament. The lectures by the parents and the sermons by Woman Wisdom in the prologue admonish the son or simpleton to be wise. So to know what is being talked about in this book an expositor must master the concept of wisdom.

Mastery of this profound term can be gained by noting three things: the uses of the root for “wisdom” in the Old Testament, the word’s sevenfold equivalent terms in 1:2–6, and its coreferential terms “righteousness” and “knowledge...

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