Grace Theological Journal 11.2 (1990) 171-85.
Copyright © 1990 by Grace Theological Seminary; cited with permission.
COHESION IN PROVERBS 10
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
plete freedom to abandon the present canonical order totally restructuring the text (W.
McKane, Proverbs: A New Approach (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970) 413-15. Even
von Rad expresses his annoyance at the "lack of
order" (Wisdom in Israel [
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
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.
COHESIONAL FEATURES IN PROVERBS 10
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
Studies in Israelite Poetry and Wisdom,
CBQMS I (
The Catholic Biblical Association of
Parallelism in the Composition and Formation of Canonical Books" (paper presented at
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 (
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  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
5Cf. Steven Perry ("Structural patterns m Proverbs 10:1-22:16: A study m biblical
Hebrew stylistics," Ph.D. diss.,
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.,
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.
Paronomasi I Den Aldre Hebreiska Maschallitteraturen
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.
174 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
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:
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).
Winking eyes cause grief,
and a chattering fool comes to ruin.
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
176 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
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 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 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 (-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)
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.
K. Aitken, and D. Kidner
followed the JB,
NASB, NIV and KJV.
l2Wm. Snell, "Twice Told Proverbs" (Eisenbrauns, forthcoming).
Hildebrandt: Proverbial Strings 177
Prov is transitional. The catchwords hs.,kay;/ hs.,kaT; provide a
clear link between Prov 10:12 and . Bostrom observes the com-
monality in sound between MyfiwAr; ypi and MyfiwAP; -- the latter being a
collapsed form of the former.13 Prov links downward into the
next section (10:18f.). Thus Prov , though it hinges to the tail of
the previous string (10:6-11), functions mainly as an opener to -
21 even as 10:1 was for 10:1-5.
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.
178 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Translation emphasizing features of cohesion:
Hatred stirs up dissension,
Love covers all wrongs.
Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning,
but a rod is for the back of him who lacks judgment
Wise men store up knowledge,
but the mouth of a fool invites ruin
The wealth of the rich is their fortified city,
but poverty is the ruin of the poor.
The wages of the righteous bring them to life
but the income of the wicked brings them punishment.
He who heeds discipline shows the way to life
but whoever ignores correction leads others astray.
He who covers his hatred has lying lips,
and whoever spreads slander is a fool.
When words are many, wrong is not absent,
but he who holds his lips is wise.
Wealth & Speech Concluding Pair
The tongue of the righteous is choice silver,
but the heart of the wicked is of little value.
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 and 18
suggests a bond with the -19 pair. This is strengthened by the
repetition of "wrong" in Prov 10:12 and . This enveloping effect is
furthered by "lacks judgment" in Prov and . Similarly, Prov
and , 19, 21 all contain a common reference to "lips."
Notice that the NIV translates vytApAW; "his tongue" in , 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 ,
19 and hs.,kay; / hs.,kaT; ["overwhelms"/ "covers" NIV] in 10:11, 12). Thus ,
the cohesive collectional features are further obfuscated by translation.
Prov and 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" ) to concrete persons manifesting those qualities
("righteous"[10:3]/"wise men"). 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 -14 pair is linked to the -16 pair by the
catchword "ruin" and a possible play on "hiding" or "treasuring."
Perhaps a concatenous chaining relationship may best explain the
Prov 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 -14 and wealth in -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 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, 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.
180 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
A significant catchword occurs in , as Murphy well notes.18
Clearly one of the syntactic structures which welds together is the
prepositional phrase featuring l + Noun of life/destruction. When
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 appears to facilitate a transition back to the
theme of speech in 10:18-21. As Prov is linked to via a
catchword, so Prov 10:16 is linked to by an explicit repetition of
"to life." Prov marks the mid-point of this string (-21).
Prov reopens the proverbs on speech (cf. -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 -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 ()
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 was also twice repeated in , once in initial position.
A final proverb pair (-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.
Theory and Method (
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 indicates that a new string begins in , as outlined in the
182 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
Translation emphasizing features of cohesion:
The blessing of the LORD she brings wealth,
and he adds no trouble to it.
Like laughter to a fool is one doing wickedness
so is wisdom to a man of understanding .
The dreads of the wicked she overtakes him;
what the righteous desire will be granted.
Like a storm that blows by, so the wicked are gone,
but the righteous stand firm forever.
Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
so is a sluggard to those who send him.
The fear of the LORD adds length to life,
but the years of the wicked are cut short.
The prospect of the righteous is joy,
but the hopes of the wicked come to nothing.
Transient/Security Theme bound Pair
The way of the LORD is a refuge for the innocent
but it is the ruin of those who do evil.
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 (-30). The difference in theme and the
lack of lexical or phonetic links with the preceding verses call for a
break between and 22. Prov (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 makes a nice
opener linking back to previous strings (10:1-5; -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 also makes a good structural divider
because of its unique use of the divine name and non-antithetical
Prov , linked via the initial K is an example of a "separated
triad" phenomena ( 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 is furthered by
the L + Noun which immediately follows the opening prepositional
phrase. Prov and both close with final; prepositional
phrases. Once again the NIV violates these cohesive elements in trans-
Prov is thematically diverse from . Prov links to
through the rare first stich medial 3fs pronoun (xyhi) + verb
sequence. Prov and appear to be a split pair (cf. /17:1;
/18:5; and /19:1) with the separating verse itself being
linked downward in a "separated triad" scheme ( and 25-26). The
repetition of the "wicked" and "righteous" in and 25 connects
these two proverbs so is not stranded.
With v 25 a clear proverb pair begins (-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 .
Skehan and Brown err here as they call for a major division
between and 26 using a mechanical 25-verse division basis.21
Another indicator that a division should not come between 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" (, 30) also ties into
what follows. Further, thematic connections may also be seen in com-
paring to 22 (Yahweh's benefits) and to 24 (desires/dreads).
Note the detached pair (, 24) is brought together in -28. The
sluggard motif () 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 and 27 (Myinawi; NwAfA; tOnw;).22 This pair
obviously echoes the initial verse of this string ()--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 , which is a further discon-
firmation of Skehan's sectional division at . While and 28
share phonetic, lexical and syntactic features, they are thematically
21Brown, "Structured Parallelism," 9. P. Skehan, "A Single Editor," 25.
22Bostrom, Paronomasi, 125.
184 GRACE THEOLOGICAL JOURNAL
The lack of thematic linking is made up for in the next proverbial
pair (-30), where both verses elaborate on the security/transience
of those having "integrity" [NIV:righteous]/"evil." This theme is con-
solidated from and . The use of the divine name ties to
the preceding pair (-28, cf. ). "Ruin" reminds one of the
How does the section which began in end? The section closes
with a proverb pair (-30) that draws together the theme of
transience/security which has oscillated throughout this string (,
Because of the lack of connection to the preceding string (-
30), and the catchword ties downward with 11:1 (OnOcr;), -32 is
best constructed as beginning a new string.
CONCLUSION ON COHESION: PROVERBIAL STRINGS
It has been demonstrated that Prov 10:1-30 is composed of four
proverbial strings (10:1-5; 10:6-11; -21; and -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
(-11) drawing together and closing the string. The third string
(-21) opens with a lone proverb hinge (), followed by a pair
about proper speech (-14) concatenated with a pair on wealth
(-16). These two pairs are followed by a single proverb ()
which marks the middle of the string. The next pair (-19) returns
to the theme of speech and the section concludes with a pair drawing
together the imbricating wealth and speech motifs (-21). The
fourth string (-30) begins with a split pair (, 24) followed by
a separated triad (, 25-26). The final two pairs (-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
Please report any errors to Ted Hildebrandt at: email@example.com