Fundamentals for Preaching the Book of Proverbs, Part 4 -- By: Bruce K. Waltke
BSac 165:660 (October-December 2008) p. 387
Fundamentals for Preaching
the Book of Proverbs, Part 4*
Bruce K. Waltke is Professor of Old Testament, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, Florida.
* This is the final article in a four-part series, delivered as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectureship at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 6-9, 2007.
The preamble to Proverbs presents the code that opens the lock to the gated paradise of Proverbs. The previous two articles have discussed the first four numbers of the code: (1) understanding the literary genre of the Book of Proverbs, assuring the expositor that God’s authority is stamped on its coined and relevant proverbs; (2) understanding its human authors, especially Solomon, who shared his knowledge of God’s ways in witty words; (3) understanding its concept of wisdom, namely, social skills that produce an abundant life of health, wealth, and peace; and (4) understanding its intended audiences: the royal court, Israel’s youth, and all the people of God.1
The last two numbers of the code are understanding its words (1:6), and understanding the concept of “the fear of ‘I Am’ ” (v. 7).
Number Five: Understanding Its Words
The preamble’s summary statement of purpose includes the words, “for understanding words of insight” (1:2). In Hebrew, unlike English, “word” refers to an entire sentence—in this case a proverb or saying—not an isolated term within it. Moreover, understanding grammar is essential if one is to be literate. Knowledge of phonology (meaningful sounds), morphology (meaningful terms), and syntax (meaningful combinations of terms) is the means for all discernment. Without knowing grammar, the expositor cannot know
BSac 165:660 (October-December 2008) p. 388
the message. Knowledge of Hebrew grammar is essential for interpreting the Book of Proverbs accurately, for its sages play with sound and sense in that language.
However, the aphorisms of Proverbs require more than an understanding of Hebrew grammar. Verse 6 expands the summary statement with these words: “for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise” (v. 6).2
“Words” of the summary are now specified as “proverbs” and “sayings,” which refer to the many statements in the book’s seve...
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