Book of Proverbs in the Bible Encyclopedia - ISBE

I. The Book's Account of Itself. 1. Title and Headings: At the beginning, intended apparently to cover the whole work, stands the title: "The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel." It seemed good to the compilers, however, to repeat, or perhaps retain an older heading, "The proverbs of Solomon" at Prov 10, as if in some special sense the collection there beginning deserved it; and at Prov 25 still another heading occurs: "These also are proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out." All these ascribe the proverbs to Solomon; but the heading (30:1), "The words of Agur the son of Jakeh; the oracle," and the heading (31:1), "The words of king Lemuel; the oracle which his mother taught him," indicate that authorship other than that of Solomon is represented; while the mention of "the words of the wise" (1:6; 22:17), as also the definite heading, "These also are sayings of the wise" (24:23), ascribe parts of the book to the sages in general. The book is confessedly a series of compilations made at different times; confessedly, also, to a considerable extent at least, the work of a number, perhaps a whole guild, of writers. 2. Authorship or Literary Species?: It is hazardous to argue either for or against a specific authorship; nor is it my intention to do so. The question naturally arises, however, in what sense this book, with its composite structure so outspoken, can lay claim to being the work of Solomon. Does the title refer to actual personal authorship, or does it name a species and type of literature of which Solomon was the originator and inspirer--as if it meant to say "the Solomonic proverbs"? We may work toward the answer of this question by noting some literary facts...

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