Grace Theological Journal 11.2 (1990) 171-85.

          Copyright © 1990 by Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission.



               PROVERBIAL STRINGS:



                                  TED HILDEBRANDT


     While most commentators take Proverbs 10-22 as a haphazard

collection of proverbial sentences, this paper seeks to show that the

sentences are cohesively ordered.  The “proverbial string" is proposed

as one such larger compositional unit.  Four strings were discovered in

Proverbs 10 (10:1-5, 6-11, 12-21, 22-30) with the sentences bonded by

catchwords, rhetorical devices, themes, sound echoes, and shared syn-

tactic constructions.  The sentences of Proverbs 10-22 are an artistically

woven tapestry with the position of each thread contributing to the

beauty of the whole.


                                                *       *       *


FOR the vast majority of interpreters Prov 10:1-22:16 is a disorderly

collage of independent proverbs.  J. Thompson complains: "As for

our canonical proverbs in particular, they fail to reach us, it would

seem, for. . . they are jumbled together willy-nilly into collections."1

        Some, having discovered common themes or catchwords, allow

for small proverbial clusters, but quickly go on to minimize the signifi-

cance of such canonical collectional processes.  So C. Rylaarsdam

comments, "Even when two or more successive proverbs deal more or

less with the same subject (for example 10:4-5) the connection seems

incidental rather than organic."2


       1J. Thompson, The Form and Function of Proverbs (The Hague: Mouton, 1974) 15.

R. N. Gordon, "Motivation in Proverbs," Biblical Theology 25.3 (1975) 49. W. O. E.

Oesterly, The Book of Proverbs (London: Westminster Commentaries, 1929) 125, 73,

77). Keil and Delitzsch, Proverbs (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973) 208; R. N. Whybray,

The Intellectual Tradition (NY: Walter de Gruyter, 1974) 67; R. K. Hamson, Introduc-

tion ot the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1969) 1017; J. Paterson, The

Wisdom of Israel (London: Lutterworth and Abingdon, 1961) 63. McKane feels com-

plete freedom to abandon the present canonical order totally restructuring the text (W.

McKane, Proverbs: A New Approach (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970) 413-15. Even

G. von Rad expresses his annoyance at the "lack of order" (Wisdom in Israel [Nashville:

Abingdon, 1972] 113).

       2C. Rylaarsdam, The Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, The Song of Solomon, The Layman's

Bible Commentary, ed. B. N. Kelly (Richmond: John Knox, 1964) 48.

172                       GRACE  THEOLOGICAL  JOURNAL

     On the other side, P. Skehan, followed by S. Brown, suggests that

the whole of Prov 10:1-22:16 is numerically composed of precisely 375

sentences (Solomon's name = 375) with mechanical 25 verse sub-

units.3  The chimerical 25 verse sub-units, however, do not stand up to

close analysis.

     A methodology is needed that will expose and appreciate the

principles utilized in constructing the proverbial collections.4  Literary

shaping on the level of the collection suggests that there may also be

interpretive significance on that level.  The focus here will be in demon-

strating that Proverbs 10 is bound into four cohesive "proverbial

strings."  Some initial speculations will be made as to their significance.



     The cohesiveness of the proverbial sentences can be seen by utiliz-

ing a linguistic methodology that includes phonology, syntax, seman-

tics, and rhetorical levels of analysis.5  G. Bostrom may be consulted


     3P. Skehan, Studies in Israelite Poetry and Wisdom, CBQMS I (Washington, DC:

The Catholic Biblical Association of America, 1971) 71, 25, 35f. S. Brown, "Structured

Parallelism in the Composition and Formation of Canonical Books" (paper presented at

SBL Meetings in Chicago, November 1988).

     4Studies which have moved in this direction are: G. E. Bryce, "Another Wisdom

'Book' in Proverbs," JBL 91 (1972) 145-57, and a dissertation by R. Van Leeuwen,

"Context and Meaning in Proverbs 25-27," SBLDS 96 (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988).

For Proverbs II, O. Ploger, "Zur Auslegung der Sentenzensammlungen des Proverbia-

buches," Probleme biblischer Theologie, ed. H. W. Wolff (Munich: C. Kaiser, 1971)

402-16. R. N. Whybray, "Yahweh-sayings and their Contexts in Proverbs 10, 1-22,16,"

La Sagesse de l'Ancien Testament, ed. M. Gilbert (Gembloux: Leuven University, 1979)

153-65. H. J. Hermisson, Studien zur israelitischen Spruchweisheit, WMANT 28

 (Neukirchen-Vluyn: Neukirchener, 1968) 171-83. In Sumerian proverbial collections B.

Alster, Studies in Sumerian Proverbs (Copenhagen: Akademish Fo.rlag, 1974) 14; J. M.

Lindenberger, The Aramaic Proverbs of Ahiqar (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University,

1983) 21. In modern international collections M. Kuusi gives seven methods by which

international proverbial collections are ordered ("Towards an International Type-System

of Proverbs," Proverbium 19 [1972] 698-71). James Crenshaw's classic study "Prole-

gomena" in Studies in Ancient Israelite Wisdom (NY: KTAV, 1976) 14. Crenshaw has a

list of seven structuring principles which he has observed: "a common letter (Pr. 11:9-

12b; 20:7-9; 24-26); the same introductory word (Pr. 15:13-14, 16-17); the same idea (Pr.

16); the use of an acrostic (Pr. 31:10-31); paradoxical unity (Pr. 26:4-5); and numbers

(Pr. 30:24-28). Thematic units characterize later proverbs (Pr. 1-9) and Sirach. . . ." Cf.

also R. E. Murphy's excellent synthesis: Wisdom Literature: Job, Proverbs, Ruth,

Canticles, Ecclesiastes, and Esther (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981) 68. T. A. Hilde-

brandt, "Proverbial Pairs: Compositional Units in Proverbs 10-29," JBL 107.2 (June 11

1988) 207-24.

    5Cf. Steven Perry ("Structural patterns m Proverbs 10:1-22:16: A study m biblical

Hebrew stylistics," Ph.D. diss., University of Texas at Austin, 1987). Jack Berezov is

very aware of cohesion and his excellent isolation of the various forms of the sayings has

proven very helpful ("Single-line proverbs: A study of the sayings collected in Proverbs

10-22:16 and 25-29," Ph.D. diss., Hebrew Union College, 1987).

                             Hildebrandt:  Proverbial Strings                              173


concerning letter/sound repetitions6 and Murphy for catchwords and

thematic links.7  The following chart seeks to expose the relationships

found in Prov 10:1-5.


STRING #1: Prov 10:1-5

     Prov 10:1 lexically links itself with 10:5 via double repetition of a

"'son' + Character quality" (10:1, wise/foolish; 10:5, prudent/disgrace-

ful) enveloping the string.  While 10:1 is held apart from the theme of

wealth which is maintained in 10:2-5.  Prov 10:1 seems to provide a

hinge which links back to themes developed in Proverbs 1-9 ("wise

foolish son") while providing a title for the sentence proverbs which

will dominate Prov 10:1-22:16.

     Prov 10:2-3 forms a proverbial pair centered around the common

theme of the relationship of the wicked/righteous to wealth/poverty.

The rare initial xlo + Hiphil imperfect verb, syntactically binds the two

verses together.  Lexemically, 10:2 and 3 form a chiasm triggered by the

catch-roots "righteousness"/"righteous" and "wicked":

          10:2 Wickedness wealth-no value I (A)

                             Righteousness delivers from death (B)

          10:3             Righteous--no hunger (Yahweh supplies) (B)

                   Wicked's desire is frustrated (A)

These catch-roots are varied morphologically in gender ("righteous-

ness," fem./"righteous," masc.) and number ("wicked," sing./pl.).

      A second pair, Pro v 10:4-5, continues the theme of wealth/

poverty focusing on its relationship to diligence/laziness.  Again, there

is a pair bonding chiasm which is semantically triggered.

          10:4 Lax hands-poor (A)

                             Diligent hands-wealth (B)

          10:5             Working son-prudent (B)

                   Sleeping son-shameful (A)

The Qal active participle hW,fo in 10:4a may through assonance ring in

rgexo which begins 10:5a.  Thematically the cohesion is clear although

catch-words are absent.  This lack of lexical linkage within the pair

encourages the reader to discover the enveloping of the doubled noun

phrase ["son" + Character] structure between 10:5a/b and 10:la/b,

thus defining the limits of this string.


      6G. Bostrom, Paronomasi I Den Aldre Hebreiska Maschallitteraturen (Lund:

Gleerup, 1928) l18ff. R. Margalit's guidelines will help check the process of determining

whether sound links are significant ("Introduction to Ugaritic Prosody," UF 7 (1975)

210-13). E.g., the positioning of letters should be more valued if in the initial or final


      7R. E. Murphy, Wisdom Literature, 68.




Translation emphasizing features of cohesion:8

          1. A wise son brings joy to his father,

              but a foolish son grief to his mother.


          Wealth & Righteousness Pair

          2. No value are treasures acquired by wickedness,

              but righteousness delivers from death.

          3. No hunger will the Lord allow for the righteous,

              but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.


          Wealth & Diligence Pair

          4. Lazy hands make a man poor,

              but diligent hands bring wealth.

          5. He who gathers crops in Summer is a prudent son,

              but he who sleeps in the harvest is a disgraceful son.


     In summary, Prov 10:1-5 is composed of two pairs centering on

the theme of the relationship of the various character qualities (wicked/

righteous [10:2-3]; lazy/diligent [10:4-5]) to wealth/poverty.  A sense

of closure is triggered by the enveloping doubly repeated "son" +

Character noun phrase (l0:la/b, 5a/b).


            8The translations are adapted from the NIV modifying it to highlight cohesive

features present in the Hebrew text.


                   HILDEBRANDT: PROVERBIAL STRINGS                  175

Translation emphasizing features of cohesion:


                                                STRING #2





Translation emphasizing features of cohesion:


          10:6 Blessings are for the head of the righteous,

                   but violence covers the mouth of the wicked.

          10:7 The memory of the righteous is for blessing,

                   but the name of the wicked will rot.

          10:8 The wise in heart accept (Qal) commands,

                   but a chattering fool comes to ruin (Niph).

          10:9 The man of integrity walks (Qal) securely,

                   but he who takes crooked paths will be found out (Niph).


          Concluding Pair

          10:10 Winking eyes cause grief,

                     and a chattering fool comes to ruin.

          10:11 Well of life is the mouth of the righteous,

                     but violence covers the mouth of the wicked.


                             STRING #2: Prov 10:6-11

     The whole-stich repetition of 10:6b in 10:11b provides a clear

structural envelop opening and closing this string. The first pair (10:6-

7) features the blessedness of the righteous. The shared lexical units [l,

"blessing," and "righteous"] in the first stichs and the repetition of

"wicked" in both second stichs tightly draw the two sayings together.

Notice also the morphologically fixed character of "righteous" (masc.,

sing.) and "wicked" (masc., pl.), although the number of "blessing" is



varied.  Both 10:6a and 7a have a shared surface grammar (Subject +

Prep. Phrase).9  Thus 10:6-7 is a clear proverbial pair.

      Prov 10:8 breaks with the preceding pair being tied to 10:9.  While

there are no catchwords or strong semantic parallels, there may be

some phonetic linkage as Bostrom has observed.10  Perhaps the clearest

nexus between 10:8 and 9 is syntactic.  In 10:8a and 9a, the verbs are

both Qal Imperfect 3ms followed by rare final Niphal imperfect verbs

(10:8b, 9b).  Prov 10:8b may be linked via whole stich repetition to

10:l0b which is featured by the weakening of the semantic connection

between 10:8 and 10:9.

     The lack of antithesis in 10:10 has caused many to strengthen the

parallelism by accepting the LXX reading "He who reproves to the

face reconciles." It is suggested that the Hebrew text of 10:8b has

slipped down into 10:10b improperly.11  String features such as the

shared use of a Body part + Character quality in 10:10a/b and 10:11 a/

b; the rare final Niphals in 10:8b, 9b, l0b; and the whole stich repeti-

tion in 10:10b and 11b suggest that the MT reading of 10:10b is suited

to the three pair string (10:6-11).  Snell has recently noted that the LXX

has a tendency to drop repeated proverbial units.12  Prov 10:10a and

10:11a are clearly sound-linked in their opening words (rOqm;;  Creqo).  The

sound link is assonantally reinforced by the pathah/hireq of the second

words Nyifa/ Myy.iHa.  Thematically both proverbs tell of the results of the

use/misuse of body parts.

     The whole stich repetitions draw the two preceding pairs together

into the closing pair (10:10-11), thereby forming a tight six-verse


     9Prov 10:6 and 7 have an interesting surface/deep structure transformation:

10:6a: Subject:N:Benefit [tOkrAB;] + PP [Prep (l) + NP:Experiencer (qyDica wxro)]

10:7a: Subject:NP:Agent [qydica rk,ze] + PP [Prep (l) + N:Benefit (hkArAb;)]

Note in both 6a and 7a there is a Benefit but in 6a the Benefit:N is the subject

["blessings"] and the Experiencer:NP ["head of the righteous"] is imbedded in the Prep

Phrase. In 7a the Agent:NP is the subject ["memory of the righteous "] and the Benefit:N

["blessing"] is imbedded in the Prep Phrase. Thus, the deep structure role "Benefit" is

shared but its location is reversed in the surface grammar (Subject + Prep Phrase).

Kenneth Pike, Grammatical Analysis (Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1982)

33-63; 397-409.

      10Bostrom notices the suspicious b-F sequence in FBel.Ayi (10:8b) and HFaB, (10:9a). A

similar sound repetition is also found in MtoBa (10:9a) (Bostrom, 122).

      11If the LXX reading is taken the whole stich repetition pattern would disappear.

The LXX reading is accepted by McKane, Proverbs, 418; R. Scott, Proverbs-Ecclesiastes

(Anchor Bible: Doubleday, 1965) 81; C. Toy, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on

the Book of Proverbs in ICC (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1904) 204; cf. R. B. Y. Scott, R.

Alden, K. Aitken, and D. Kidner followed the JB, NEB, RSV and TEV in contrast to the


     l2Wm. Snell, "Twice Told Proverbs" (Eisenbrauns, forthcoming).


                   Hildebrandt:  Proverbial Strings                    177




Prov 10:12 is transitional. The catchwords hs.,kay;/ hs.,kaT; provide a

clear link between Prov 10:12 and 10:11.  Bostrom observes the com-

monality in sound between  MyfiwAr; ypi and MyfiwAP; -- the latter being a

collapsed form of the former.13  Prov 10:12 links downward into the

next section (10:18f.).  Thus Prov 10:12, though it hinges to the tail of

the previous string (10:6-11), functions mainly as an opener to 10:12-

21 even as 10:1 was for 10:1-5.


     STRING #3

Proverbs 10:12-21




     13Bostrom, Paronomasi, 122. Van Leeuwen in correspondence has also suggested

that 10: II, 12 be considered a pair with a thematic chiasm: A: + B:- B:- A: +. This may

indicate that the two strings are chained together.



Translation emphasizing features of cohesion:


          10:12 Hatred stirs up dissension,

                   Love covers all wrongs.


          Speech Pair

          10:13 Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,

                   but a rod is for the back of him who lacks judgment

          10:14 Wise men store up knowledge,

                   but the mouth of a fool invites ruin


          Wealth Pair

          10: 15 The wealth of the rich is their fortified city,

                   but poverty is the ruin of the poor.

          10: 16 The wages of the righteous bring them to life

                   but the income of the wicked brings them punishment.



          10: 17 He who heeds discipline shows the way to life

                   but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.


          Speech Pair

          10:18 He who covers his hatred has lying lips,

                   and whoever spreads slander is a fool.

          10: 19 When words are many, wrong is not absent,

                   but he who holds his lips is wise.


          Wealth & Speech Concluding Pair

          10:20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,

                   but the heart of the wicked is of little value.

          10:21 The lips of the righteous nourish many.

                   but fools die for lack of judgment.


STRING #3: Prov 10:12-21


     The repetition of "hatred" and also the root hsK in 10:12 and 18

suggests a bond with the 10:18-19 pair.  This is strengthened by the

repetition of "wrong" in Prov 10:12 and 10:19.  This enveloping effect is

furthered by "lacks judgment" in Prov 10:13 and 10:21.  Similarly, Prov

10:13 and 10:18, 19, 21 all contain a common reference to "lips."

Notice that the NIV translates vytApAW; "his tongue" in 10:19, thus biasing

the translation in the direction of divergence, rather than translating it

                             Hildebrandt:  Proverbial Strings                    179


consistently "lips" (cf. also MyfiwAP; / fwaPA ["wrong" / "sin" NIV] in 10:12,

19 and hs.,kay; / hs.,kaT; ["overwhelms"/ "covers" NIV] in 10:11, 12). Thus ,

the cohesive collectional features are further obfuscated by translation.

      Prov 10:13 and 10:14 are a proverbial pair.  They are linked by the

repetition of the MkH root.  In the 10:13-14 pair, as in 10:2-3, there is a

similar semantic shift of an abstract quality ("righteousness" [10:2]/

"wisdom" [10:13]) to concrete persons manifesting those qualities

("righteous"[10:3]/"wise men"[10:14]).  The repetition of this MkH root

ties the subject of 10:13a to the subject of 10:14a.  Both first stichs

disclose the activity of the wise followed by forecasts of the destructive

results of the fool's actions.  The speech topic ("lips"/"mouth" + Char-

acter Quality ["discerning"/"fool"] envelops the pair head to tail

(10:13a, 14b).14  The 10:13-14 pair is linked to the 10:15-16 pair by the

catchword "ruin" and a possible play on "hiding" or "treasuring."

Perhaps a concatenous chaining relationship may best explain the

sequencing here.15

     Prov 10:15 begins another clear proverb pair which is united by

the theme of wealth.  Bostrom correctly observes the sound echo in the

repetition of  rq in 10:14b (hbAroq;) and 10:15a (tyar;qi).16  The disparate

themes of speech in 10:13-14 and wealth in 10:15-16 separate them

into two distinct pairs.

     Prov 10:15-16 is a good example of a non-catchword proverbial

pair.  Lexically, not a single word is repeated in this pair.  This diver-

gence is heightened by the presence of high frequency words "righ-

teous"/"wicked" and many economic terms which could easily have

led to repetition.17

      Syntactically, all four stichs of 10:15 and 16 are verbless clauses.

In v 15 the "Possessors" are characterized by their economic status

("rich"/"poor"), while in v 16 the "Possessors" are characterized by

their moral character ("righteous" / "wicked ").

      Thematically, 10: 15 and 16 are clearly economic in nature.  In both

sayings a positive evaluation of wealth is followed by a negative.  V 15

comments on the inherent benefits of wealth and on the plight of the

poor.  Lest one value economic matters too highly, v 16 is juxtaposed

to bring wealth back into the realm of morality.


      14Syntactically both proverbs begin with a three constituent transitive clause fol-

lowed by a verbless clause (2 constituents, 4 units).  O'Connor, Hebrew Verse Structure

(Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1980) 122, 138.

      15Shalom Paul, "Amos 1:3-2:3: A Concatenous Literary Pattern," JBL 90 (1971)

402-3. Suggested by R. Van Leeuwen in correspondence (Nov. 7, 1988).

     16Bostrom, Paronomasi, 123-24.

     17Hildebrandt, "Proverbial Pairs," 214-15.



      A significant catchword occurs in 10:17, as Murphy well notes.18

Clearly one of the syntactic structures which welds 10:16 together is the

prepositional phrase featuring l + Noun of life/destruction.  When

10:17 picks up this exact prepositional phrase, surely it is not mere

coincidence.  Is this pair, then, really a triad?  Thematically 10:15-16

and 17 are distinct.  V 17 moves away from economics and employs

traditional instruction vocabulary regarding the benefits of heeding

discipline and the liabilities of forsaking correction.  The lone instruc-

tional proverb in 10:17 appears to facilitate a transition back to the

theme of speech in 10:18-21.  As Prov 10:15 is linked to 10:14 via a

catchword, so Prov 10:16 is linked to 10:17 by an explicit repetition of

"to life."  Prov 10:17 marks the mid-point of this string (10:12-21).

      Prov 10:18 reopens the proverbs on speech (cf. 10:13-14).  This

proverb exhibits what Akhmanova has called a phones theme: "a recur-

rent combination of sound which is similar to the morpheme in the

sense that a certain content or meaning is more or less clearly asso-

ciated with it."19  Phonetically, sibilants predominate, being repeated

six times through various letters (s, W, w, f) thrice in initial positions.

So sibilant sound is used to reinforce the message-allowing the au-

dience to hear the hissing of the slanderer spreading his secrets.

     In the 10:18-19 pair a semantic chiasm is observed:


10:18a Hidden hatred (A)

10:18b         Spread Slander (B)

10:19a          Many words (B)

10:19b Few words (A)


This is a complementary pair:  one who holds his tongue is wise (10:19)

except if it is for the purpose of deceptively covering hatred (cf. Prov

26:4-5).  There may be a twofold sound link within the pair: (1) bd in

word initial positions; and (2) trailing ly, in final position.  sK which

heads 10:20 was also twice repeated in 10:18, once in initial position.

A final proverb pair (10:20-21) closes this string. The theme of the

inherent value of righteous speech is made concrete by the observation

that righteous lips feed many.  The repetition and position of "righ-

teous" + "Mouth part" and "heart" link the two proverbs into a pair.

Bostrom notes the sound echo in rHAb;ni (10:20a) and rsaHE (10:21b).20 As


     18R. Murphy, Wisdom Literature, 64fr.

     1901ga Akhmanova, Linguostylistics: Theory and Method (The Hague: Mouton,

1976) 23, 123, 125. E.g., "sl"-words: slither, slip, slimy, slide, slosh, sluggish, etc.).

     20Bostrom, Paronomasi, 125.

                             Hildebrandt:  Proverbial Strings                    181


the final pair 10:10-11 concluded the second string by drawing strands

of the previous pairs together (10:6-11) so, too, Prov 10:20-21 weaves

together the two imbricating themes of this third string (speech [10:13-

14; 10:18-19] and wealth [10:15-16] into a single concluding pair

(10:20-21).  The thematic shift between 10:21 and the Yahweh proverb

in 10:22 indicates that a new string begins in 10:22, as outlined in the

chart below.





Translation emphasizing features of cohesion:


10:22 The blessing of the LORD she brings wealth,

and he adds no trouble to it.

10:23 Like laughter to a fool is one doing wickedness

          so is wisdom to a man of understanding .

    10:24 The dreads of the wicked she overtakes him;

        what the righteous desire will be granted.

     10:25 Like a storm that blows by, so the wicked are gone,

     but the righteous stand firm forever.

    10:26 Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,

              so is a sluggard to those who send him.

10:27 The fear of the LORD adds length to life,

but the years of the wicked are cut short.

10:28 The prospect of the righteous is joy,

but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.


Transient/Security Theme bound Pair

10:29 The way of the LORD is a refuge for the innocent

but it is the ruin of those who do evil.

10:30 The righteous will never be uprooted,

but the wicked will not remain in the land.


STRING #4: Prov 10:22-30

      This fourth nine-verse string features an oscillating theme of

transience and security (10:22-30).  The difference in theme and the

lack of lexical or phonetic links with the preceding verses call for a

break between 10:21 and 22.  Prov 10:22 (cf. 10:6) begins with "bless-

ing."  The topically significant word "brings wealth" is also found in

10:4 and the wealth theme in 10:2-5 and 10:15-16.  The initial xlo +

Hiphil verb (10:22b) is reminiscent of 10:2-3.  Thus 10:22 makes a nice

opener linking back to previous strings (10:1-5; 10:12-21).

     The rare presence and medial first stich location of the feminine

pronoun xyhi strongly points 10:22a down to 10:24a.  Notice too the

isomorphic syntactic structure of 10:22a and 24a (Subject:NP ["blessing

of YHWH"/"dread of the wicked"] + Pronoun [3fs] + Verb ["brings

wealth"/"overtakes"]).  Prov 10:22 also makes a good structural divider

because of its unique use of the divine name and non-antithetical


      Prov 10:23, linked via the initial K is an example of a "separated

triad" phenomena (10:23 and 25-26; cf. 15:1-2 and 4; 8-9 and 11;

                              Hildebrandt:  Proverbial Strings                    183


20:16-17 and 20, 29-30 and 27).  The bond with 10:26 is furthered by

the  L + Noun which immediately follows the opening prepositional

phrase.  Prov 10:23 and 10:26 both close with final; prepositional

phrases.  Once again the NIV violates these cohesive elements in trans-

lating 10:23.

      Prov 10:24 is thematically diverse from 10:23.  Prov 10:24 links to

10:22 through the rare first stich medial 3fs pronoun (xyhi) + verb

sequence.  Prov 10:22 and 10:24 appear to be a split pair (cf. 16:32/17:1;

17:26/18:5; and 18:23/19:1) with the separating verse 10:23 itself being

linked downward in a "separated triad" scheme (10:23 and 25-26).  The

repetition of the "wicked" and "righteous" in 10:24 and 25 connects

these two proverbs so 10:24 is not stranded.

      With v 25 a clear proverb pair begins (10:25-26), linked not only

by the initial K and simile rhetorical device, but also by the first stich-

medial wow-which is rare in these proverbs.  The initial K link should

also be tied back to the detached 10:23.

      Skehan and Brown err here as they call for a major division

between 10:25 and 26 using a mechanical 25-verse division basis.21

Another indicator that a division should not come between 10:25 and

the following proverbs is the close thematic link with Prov 10:29-30

concerning the transience of the wicked and the permanence of those

having integrity.  The shared "forever" (10:25, 30) also ties 10:25 into

what follows.  Further, thematic connections may also be seen in com-

paring 10:27 to 22 (Yahweh's benefits) and 10:28 to 24 (desires/dreads).

Note the detached pair (10:22, 24) is brought together in 10:27-28.  The

sluggard motif (10:26) is not found elsewhere in this string (cf. 10:4-5).

      Prov 10:27-28 is a loose pair.  Bostrom highlights the  nw sequence

as a sound link between 10:26 and 27 (Myinawi; NwAfA;  tOnw;).22  This pair

obviously echoes the initial verse of this string (10:22)--both in the

presence of the divine name and in the use of shared verb "adds."

      Prov 10:27-28 are connected in three ways: (1) the repetition of

the catchword "wicked" in the initial Subject:Noun Phrases of the

second stichs; (2) the qt phonetic sequence in the second stich; and (3)

syntactically 10:27b and 28b are isomorphic (Subject: NP + Verb:

intransitive).  Thematically, the desires/ dreads of contrasting groups

("wicked"/"righteous") ties back to 10:24, which is a further discon-

firmation of Skehan's sectional division at 10:25.  While 10:27 and 28

share phonetic, lexical and syntactic features, they are thematically


     21Brown, "Structured Parallelism," 9. P. Skehan, "A Single Editor," 25.

      22Bostrom, Paronomasi, 125.



      The lack of thematic linking is made up for in the next proverbial

pair (10:29-30), where both verses elaborate on the security/transience

of those having "integrity" [NIV:righteous]/"evil."  This theme is con-

solidated from 10:25 and 10:27.  The use of the divine name ties 10:29 to

the preceding pair (10:27-28, cf. 10:22).  "Ruin" reminds one of the

10:14-15 pair.

     How does the section which began in 10:22 end?  The section closes

with a proverb pair (10:29-30) that draws together the theme of

transience/security which has oscillated throughout this string (10:25,

27, 29-30).

     Because of the lack of connection to the preceding string (10:22-

30), and the catchword ties downward with 11:1 (OnOcr;), 10:31-32 is

best constructed as beginning a new string.




     It has been demonstrated that Prov 10:1-30 is composed of four

proverbial strings (10:1-5; 10:6-11; 10:12-21; and 10:22-30).  The first

string (10:1-5) is divided into an opening, hinge proverb (10:1), two

pairs on the topic of wealth (10:2-3, 4-5).  The second string is com-

posed of three pairs (10:6-7, 8-9, 10-11) that are structured by envelop-

ing, whole-stich repetitions (10:6b/11b; 10:8b/10b) with the final pair

(10:10-11) drawing together and closing the string.  The third string

(10:12-21) opens with a lone proverb hinge (10:12), followed by a pair

about proper speech (10:13-14) concatenated with a pair on wealth

(10:15-16).  These two pairs are followed by a single proverb (10:17)

which marks the middle of the string. The next pair (10:18-19) returns

to the theme of speech and the section concludes with a pair drawing

together the imbricating wealth and speech motifs (10:20-21).  The

fourth string (10:22-30) begins with a split pair (10:22, 24) followed by

a separated triad (10:23, 25-26).  The final two pairs (10:27-28; 29-30)

highlight the themes of transience and security.

     This paper has sought to explore the potentials of collectional

analysis of the proverbial sentences which has led to the discovery of

four proverbial strings in Proverbs 10.  In order to appreciate the

significance of each individual gem, the entire necklace must be viewed.

As a necklace is more than a string of stones, so, too, the proverbial

sentences need to be examined on the level of the collection as well as

the sentential level.  The discovery of cohesive "proverbial strings" in

Proverbs 10 heightens our appreciation for the artistry of the canonical


      Perhaps the collector(s), by the quick shifts of topic, is presenting

                             Hildebrandt:  Proverbial Strings                    185


the student with a picture of empirical reality.23  This study suggests

that rather than being distant to modern culture, this collection of

proverbs is actually quite at home with the diversities of modern

society, characterized by seeming fragmented commercials and instan-

taneous video switches of projected reality.  Proverbs calls those seek-

ting order, meaning and wholeness to its sayings leading those listening

through the isolation, fragmentation and confusion of empirical reality

to the crafted integration and wholeness of the fear of Yahweh.24


      23J. Williams, For Those Who Ponder Proverbs (Sheffield: Almond, 1981) 70, 82.

He writes, "aphoristic thought does not proceed systematically, but empirically. It

directs itself to the fragments of experience as they occur, so that the mind is compelled

to make its own connections among phenomena."

     24Wolgan Mieder and Barbara Mieder, "Tradition and Innovation: Proverbs in

Advertising," in The Wisdom of Many: Essays on the Proverbs (NY: Garland, 1981)

309-22.  This is an excellent article on the modern use of proverbs.




This material is cited with gracious permission from:

            Grace Theological Seminary

            200 Seminary Dr.

            Winona Lake,  IN   46590   


Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: