Proverbs, a book of the Old Testament, entitled in the Hebrew original as well as the Septuagint and the Vulgate "The Proverbs of Solomon." Its real or final authorship, however, is not ascribed to Solomon, for it is expressly stated at the opening of chapter xxv. that the latter part, beginning with that chapter, was written and added to the previous portion by order of King Hezekiah. Moreover, it is considered doubtful whether Solomon ever made any collection of his proverbs in writing. But it has hardly ever been contested that a large share in the composition of the book may be ascribed to the wise king, who is said (1 Kings iv. 32) to have uttered 3,000 proverbs, and who was so celebrated all over the eastern world for his wisdom. The ancient writers of the Greek church frequently gave to this book the name Sophia (wisdom). - The book is divided into several parts, which are distinguished from each other by separate headings. The first seven verses of the first chapter may be regarded as a heading for the entire book. Then begins the first part, closing with the end of the ninth chapter. This part does not contain a collection of proverbs proper, but rather a series of connected admonitions in a sententious form.
They inculcate the love of wisdom, and describe the glorious reward of wisdom and the pernicious consequences of wickedness. The second part, which extends from chap. x. to xxii. 16, contains the main collection of proverbs and the chief portion of the entire book. The proverbs, about 400 in number, contain moral precepts and rules of life for every age and every class of men. Generally one proverb is comprised in one short verse, of two members or clauses, and six, seven, or eight words. The two members form a parallel opposition, or occasional correspondence, to each other, which is generally carried out even to the single expressions; as for example x. 1 (rendering the Hebrew literally):
A-wise son gladdens (his) father.
A-foolish son (is) the-grief of-his-mother.
The grouping together of the proverbs in this part appears to have been accidental, except that occasionally two or three verses follow each other which have a characteristic expression in common. With xxii. 17 a kind of appendix begins. The proverbs of this section generally consist of two verses, and sometimes of three; they are constructed with less regularity, sometimes containing more than two members, and often without any parallelism. Sometimes proverbs of kindred contents are grouped together. A second appendix to the first collection begins at xxiv. 23, and is separated from the preceding by the heading, "These also are from wise men" (in the common English version, "These things also belong to the wise"). - The second main collection begins with chapter xxv., which is headed, "These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Heze-kiah, king of Judah, copied out." The proverbs, as in the first collection, consist generally of one verse each, and each verse of two or more members with parallel relation; yet exceptions to this rule occur more frequently than in the first collection. The proverbs of the second collection are not so plain and intelligible as those of the first, but more artificial and frequently even enigmatical.
This collection extends over five chapters, and is again followed in the last two chapters of the book by three different appendices. - It is impossible to decide whether the compilation and arrangement of the entire book were made at one time by one man, or whether the addition of the several parts took place at different periods. The advocates of the former opinion adduce in their favor, that the arrangement of the whole seems to rest on a well conceived and thoroughly executed plan. In either case it is considered probable that the book received its present form between the time of the death of King Hezekiah and the end of the 7th century B. C. - There are commentaries on this book by Sala-zar (1641), Schultens (1748), Hodgson (1788), Lawson (1821), Umbreit (1826), Ewald (in vol. iv. of his Die poetischen Bücher des Alten Bun-des); Bertheau, Exegetisches Handbuch (1847); Hitzig, Die Sprüche Salomo's (1858); Ward-law (2 vols., 1860-'61); Kamphausen, in Bun-sen's Bibelwerk (1865); Zöckler, in Lange's Bibelwerk (1867; translated for the American edition by Dr. Aiken, 1870); Delitzsch (1873), and others.
German translations are added to the commentaries of Umbreit, Ewald, Hitzig, Kamphausen, Zöckler, and Delitzsch. There is an English translation, with Ecclesiastes and Canticles, by Noyes (Boston, 1846; 3d ed., 1867); and a revised version, with critical and explanatory notes, by Conant (New York: 1872).