The aim of this commentary series is to demonstrate how Bible students and expositors can bridge the gap between the biblical text in its original cultural setting and the contemporary scene. This volume on Proverbs meets this goal admirably.
Each chapter in the commentary section usually addresses an entire chapter in Proverbs, commenting on several verses together. Occasionally, however, a unit discusses a portion of a Proverbs chapter (e.g., Prov. 1:1–7; 1:8–19; 1:20–33; 22:1–16; 22:17–29).
Each chapter considers the “Original Meaning” of the verses in that section, then discusses the “Bridging Contexts,” followed by a consideration of “Contemporary Significance.” In the “Original Meaning” section Koptak, professor of communication and biblical interpretation at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago, makes observations about key Hebrew words and rhetorical structure in the verses (including wordplays, repetition, catchwords, chiasms, inverted parallelisms, and others). The “Bridging Context” sections focus on both the timely and the timeless aspects of the verses. For example the “Bridging Contexts” section on Proverbs 6 discusses risk, diligence, greed, falsehood, and positive and negative inventories (pp. 194–98). The “Contemporary Significance” material seeks to help readers see how the truths in the verses apply to contemporary situations both personally and in society at large. For example the “Contemporary Significance” section on Proverbs 7 discusses fulfillment in marriage, dangers of sexual fantasies, and forms of temptation.
In the introductory section Koptak says that proverbs are “speech-acts that teach, cajole, taunt, and reprove, depending on how they are used” (p. 21). The Book of Proverbs, he suggests, is “a course of study designed to foster wisdom, using literary-rhetorical resources (juxtaposition and metaphor)” (p. 23). Some writers have suggested that wisdom instruction in Israel took place in schools or courts; Koptak reasons that it occurred instead in families or clans.
The New International Version translates /ÿma* in Proverbs 8:30 as “craftsman,” a figure used of personified wisdom, and others say it refers to wisdom as a nursing child. Koptak suggests, however, that the word should be translated “counselor,” based on the observation that wisdom teaches rulers (8:14–16).
The author presents four views of “the way he should go” in 22:6. “The moral view stresses the good way; the vocational view stresses the position a young man would take in society or court; the personal aptitude view stresses the learner’s capacities; and in the personal demands view, the proverb ironically observes that a spoiled child will never change” (p. 518, italics his). Then he adds, “The proverb speaks not so much of early childhood training as of the initiation to adulthood and the teaching of its expectations and responsibilities” (ibid.). He seems to base this on the use of the verb for “train” (En^j*), which is used elsewhere of dedications, and the word for “child” (ru^n^, usually used of young adults).
In addressing the similarities and differences between Proverbs 22:22–24:22 and the Egyptian Instruction of Amenemope, Koptak concludes that rather than either work depending on the other, the composer of Proverbs may have known of the Egyptian work, “but direct influence and borrowing is not as certain as many scholars claim” (p. 532).
While viewing the woman in Proverbs 31:10–31 as a wife and mother, Koptak does say that “this poem is a summary of all that has been said about wisdom in Proverbs” (p. 675). More importantly, though, she “models the life of wisdom” (ibid.)
Anyone preaching or teaching Proverbs will benefit from the insights and practical applications in this volume.