A Thesis

                                          Presented to

                           the Old Testament Department

                             Talbot Theological Seminary








                                    In Partial Fulfillment

                        of the Requirements for the Degree

                                     Master of Divinity








                                     Daniel Julien Phillips

                                             May 1983

                                          Table of Contents

Chapter                                                                                                       Page

1. Introduction                                                                                               1

            Problem of the Alienation of Wisdom

                 Literature                                                                                     2

            Conservative Solution to the Alienation

                  of Wisdom Literature                                                                 4


PART I  Approaching Theological Exegesis                                               5

2.         Theological Exegesis                                                                        6

            Practice of Theological Exegesis                                                    7

            Difficulties in Theological Exegesis                                              10       

                        Diverse Dating Systems                                                       10

                        Isolation of Wisdom Literature                                           11

            Toward a Solution                                                                             14

                        Rejection of Diverse "Levels"                                              14

                        Recognition of Links with the Covenant                

                                    Faith and Community                                                18

                                    Authorship                                                                 18

                                    The use of the name "Yahweh"                                 21

                                    Prominence of the same doctrine                           22

            Summary                                                                                            23


3.         Laying the Groundwork                                                                    25

            Date-and Authorship of Proverbs                                                    25

            Identity of Antecedent Scriptures                                                    28

                        Pentateuch                                                                             28

                        Joshua                                                                                     28





Chapter                                                                                                        Page

                                    Judges                                                                         29

                                    Job                                                                              29

                                    Davidic Psalms                                                          30

            4.         Painting the Backdrop                                                           31

                        Pentateuchal Data                                                                  31

                        Data From Joshua                                                                  37

                        Data From Judges                                                                  38

                        Data From Job                                                                       39

                        Data From the Davidic Psalms                                             40

                        Summary                                                                                42


PART II Applying Theological Exegesis to the

                  Sovereignty of Yahweh in Proverbs                                          44       

            5.         The Sovereignty of Yahweh and                                                      

                                    Man's Success                                                           45

                        Proverbs iii.5-6                                                                     45

                                    Exegesis                                                                     45

                                    Theological Analysis                                                46

                                    Observations                                                             48

                        Proverbs xvi.3                                                                        49

                                    Exegesis                                                                     49

                                    Theological Analysis                                                50       

                                    Observations                                                             51

                        Proverbs xvi.7                                                                        51

                                    Exegesis                                                                     51

                                    Theological Analysis                                                53

                                    Observations                                                             53

                        Summary                                                                                54


Chapter                                                                                                        Page

            6.         The Sovereignty of Yahweh and Man's                               

                        Plans                                                                                       55

                        Proverbs xvi.l                                                                         55

                                    Exegesis                                                                     55

                                    Theological Analysis                                                58

                                    Observations                                                             58

                        Proverbs xvi.9                                                                        58

                                    Exegesis                                                                     59

                                    Theological Analysis                                                59

                                    Observations                                                             59

                        Proverbs xvi.33                                                                     60

                                    Exegesis                                                                     60

                                    Theological Analysis                                                61

                                    Observations                                                             62

                        Proverbs xix.21                                                                     62

                                    Exegesis                                                                     62       

                                    Theological Analysis                                                63       
                                    Observations                                                              63       

                        Proverbs xx.24                                                                      63

                                    Exegesis                                                                     63

                                    Theological Analysis                                                63

                                    Observations                                                             64

                        Proverbs xxi.l                                                                        65

                                    Exegesis                                                                     65

                                    Theological Analysis                                                66

                                    Observations                                                             67

                        Summary                                                                                68


Chapter                                                                                                        Page

            7.         The Sovereignty of Yahweh and the

                        Wicked                                                                                   69

                        Proverbs xvi.4                                                                        69

                                    Exegesis                                                                     69

                                    Theological Analysis                                                73

                                    Observations                                                              75

            8.         Summary and Conclusion                                                     76


Bibliography                                                                                                  78


                                  CHAPTER ONE




            For the duration of this century, the Old Testament in

general (and Wisdom Literature in particular) has been vir-

tually the private property of a particular ideology. The

ideology in question is not, to be sure, a pure monolith;

rather, it may be envisioned as a multi-story building, con-

taining in its superstructure many floors and departments--

but all united in one building. Due to the lamentable lack

of a more suitable term, we may style this edifice "the

liberal approach" or, more simply, "liberalism."

            The approach is characterized by a rationalistic orien-

tation toward the Bible, as a result of which all statements

contained therein are essentially considered to be "in the

dock" until their veracity might be verified, and that on

the terms fixed by the individual investigator. Accord-

ingly, canonical claims of authorship are not considered

binding to any appreciable degree; nor are historical nar-

ratives granted as much as the benefit of a doubt unless

verified by an external criterion.

            As will be noted frequently in the ensuing investiga-

tion, these methodological presuppositions and predilections

exercise a profound effect on the manner in which Wisdom

Literature is approached and handled. The liberal approach




has been allowed to hold the day due in part to the shameful

abnegation of responsibility on the part of those who, like

the writer, adhere to what may be labeled the "conservative

approach." This approach is characterized in a rather

starkly contrasting way by a consistently receptive attitude

toward the data of the canonical text, whether those data

center about matters of authorship or of history. Lament-

ably, the energies of adherents to this position have not

been focused upon the Old Testament in any concentrated way

until comparatively recently. As a result, most of the

scholarly material treating of more specialized Old Testa-

ment subjects (as, in the present case, Wisdom Literature)

has been generated by practitioners of the liberal approach.


           Problem of the Alienation of Wisdom Literature

            In speaking of the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testa-

ment, one denotes especially the books of Job, Proverbs,

Ecclesiastes and several of the Psalms. Particularly appo-

site is the comment of Crenshaw that Wisdom Literature

"knows the fickleness of scholarship.”1 Indeed, at the

earlier part of this century and for some decades afterwards

it was fashionable to claim as a matter of general knowledge

the opinion that Wisdom Literature comprised something of a

foreign presence in the Old Testament.2  Reasons for this


                1 James L. Crenshaw, "Prolegomenon," in his Studies in

Ancient Israelite Wisdom, The Library of Biblical Studies

(New York: KTAV, 1976), p. 3.

                2 Crenshaw, "Prolegomenon," p. 2.


assessment will be examined and evaluated at greater length

in Chapter Two, wherein it will be noted that the theologi-

cal perspective of Wisdom Literature is often seen as being

diverse from that of the rest of the Old Testament canon,

due not merely to a different concentration or emphasis in

subject matter, but to a divergent (or even hostile)3


            This alienation of Wisdom in the perceptions of academ-

icians results in a peculiar handling of the contents of

Wisdom books. A resultant constellation of varied recon-

structions is witnessed in the writings of liberal scholars.

Perhaps the greatest single reason for the diversity in

reconstruction is to be located in the authors' handling of

introductory matters. Cavalierly dismissing the canonical

indications concerning authorship and dating of the various

Wisdom documents, the liberal writers are almost absolutely

free of any objective controls, as a result of which state

of affairs any number of evolutionary reconstructions are

superimposed upon the text of Scripture. The writer will

argue that this quagmire of subjectivism may be circum-

navigated--on the condition that the investigator take the

data of the text with due seriousness and respect.


                3 See, for example, James L. Crenshaw, Old Testament

Wisdom: an Introduction (Atlanta: John Knox, 1981),

p. 209 f.


           Conservative Solution to the Alienation

                          of Wisdom Literature


            In the opinion of the writer, scholars who do not avail

themselves of the data of the Old Testament text are as it

were cutting off their own legs in terms of any truly fruit-

ful investigation. Although the prospect of recreating the

rise and significance of a movement such as the putative

"wisdom movement" using in the most part only the building

blocks supplied by one's own creative imagination is an

exhilarating proposition, it will be argued in this thesis

that the conservative approach is far more productive and

far more genuinely satisfying.

            The ensuing discussion will block out a methodology for

approaching the task of the theological exegesis of the book

of Proverbs (as a chief representative of Wisdom Litera-

ture), utilizing largely (if not solely) the objective

guidelines provided in the text of Scripture itself. This

methodological discussion will comprise the first part of

the investigation. Here we will show the manner in which

Proverbs should be handled as an organic and integral part

of the Old Testament revelation.

            The second division will embody an application of this

method to the theological exegesis of representative pas-

sages in the book of Proverbs which assert the sovereignty

of the Lord Yahweh. Here will be seen a sample of the

fruitful results which can grow out of a proper regard for

and treatment of Proverbs as part of God's abiding word to






















                                                    PART I


                                Approaching Theological Exegesis


                                 CHAPTER TWO


                              Theological Exegesis



            The contents of the Old Testament obviously represent

themselves as laden with theological import. They are

not mere statistical tables or historical notes meant to

enlighten succeeding generations. Indeed, it would not

be an overstatement of the case to observe that even the

statistics and the historical sections of Scripture are

intended to serve a revelatory and theological purpose. As

Geerhardus Vos observes, "The process of revelation is not

only concomitant with history, but it becomes incarnate in

history. The facts of history themselves acquire a reveal-

ing significance."1

            In keeping with the theological nature of the text of

the Bible, one must examine the original terminology of

Scripture in a manner which does justice to the theological

intent and content of the sacred word. In thus doing, one

must avoid the Scylla of a dry, technical and untheological

dissection of the text, as well as the Charybdis of a

fanciful manipulation of Scripture so as to inject one or

more cherished (but inappropriate) concepts. A closer


                1 Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1948), p. 6.



examination of the practice of theological exegesis is

therefore a desideratum.


                      Practice of Theological Exegesis

            In fairness to the text of Scripture, one must give due

recognition to its theological intent and content. One may

not securely proffer any assessments of either factor with-

out some knowledge of a number of considerations. Leaving

aside the obvious matters (such as the use of the original

languages, etc.), one must endeavor to enter into the mind-

set of the inspired writer of Scripture to the greatest

possible degree. This is perhaps one of the chief areas of

difficulty: the temptation to read one's own Weltanschauung 

into the text. It is difficult not to read a given Old Tes-

tament text through New Testament spectacles, given the

modern reader's advantage of seeing ancient Israelite events

and credenda in the light of the full picture provided by

subsequent revelation.  The consequence of such a practice

is the attributing of distinctively Christian concepts to

pre-Christian writers, resulting in a failure to appreciate

the intrinsically valuable content of pristine Old Testament


            In the writer's view, the most important hermeneutical

consideration in this regard is what Kaiser calls the

"Analogy of Antecedent Scripture."2  Elaborating on this


                2 Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Old Testament

Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), p. 18.


theme, Kaiser observes that

            the Analogy of Scripture strictly limits its use to

            that build-up of the core of faith which temporally

            and historically preceded the text under investi-

            gation. . . . [it] is inductive and collects only

            those antecedent contexts which were in the Scripture

            writer's mind as he wrote this new passage as indi-

            cated by the same terminology, formulas, or events

            to which this context adds another in the series.3


One might wish to expand Kaiser's conditions for the deter-

mination of appropriate antecedent texts to include those

scriptural data which one may know from other indications to

be accessible (and very probably known) to the writer. For

an illustrative example, the possession of a California

driver's license would create the presumption that the

bearer had, at some time, read the California Driver's Hand-

book--whether or not the individual reflected this acquain-

tance by terminology or formulae.4  Thus, although Kaiser's

principle is not exhaustive,5 it does provide a corrective

and objective control in the determination of the meaning

which should be assigned to the texts of Scripture.

            It will be readily perceived at this juncture that

introductory matters come to be of paramount importance.

The only objective manner in which we may determine the


            3 Kaiser, Toward an O. T. Theology, pp. 18-19.

            4 For example, it will be contended below that Penta-

teuchal legislation mandated Solomon's familiarity with the


            5 That is, New Testament texts should be allowed to

illuminate or amplify problematic Old Testament texts--but

they must not be employed to determine the thinking of the

earlier writer unless they clearly indicate such an intent.


informing theology of a given text involves the examination

of those documents which we may properly hold to have been

in existence and available to the writer of the section to

be examined. As Kaiser further states, "It is this [ante-

cedent] theology which 'informs' the text and supplies the

background against which this new revelation was given."6

Indeed, Kaiser goes so far as to speak of the utilization of

subsequent Old Testament texts or of New Testament passages

in the interpretive process as "an outright act of rebellion

against the author."7

            How may we determine which texts provide the informing

theology for the passage which is to be analyzed? It is at

this point, obviously, that the student must engage in the

task of the investigation of introductory studies, arriving

at the most assured conclusions which one may attain con-

cerning the date of composition of the books of the Old


            Here the researcher who is of the conservative tra-

dition has an inestimable advantage over the liberal inves-

tigator. Whereas the latter lacks objective controls due to

his a priori dismissal of the textual indications as to date

and authorship (where such exist),8 the former accepts such


            6 Kaiser, Toward an O. T. Theology, p. 19.

            7 Kaiser, Toward an O. T. Theology, p. 19.

            8 Cf. Donn Morgan, Wisdom in the Old Testament Tra-

dition (Atlanta: John Knox, 1981), who attributes the

confusion in Wisdom studies partly to what his liberal


biblical indications as can be ascertained from the Bible

with any degree of certainty. This diversity of approach

and orientation in the two schools of thought calls for

further examination.


                  Difficulties in Theological Exegesis


Diverse Dating Systems

            The first and perhaps most obvious difficulty centers

about the area of determining the dates of the documents.

Generally committed to an evolutionary and naturalistic his-

toriography, liberal writers tend to date books of the Bible

as late as possible, disregarding textual claims to author-

ship (including New Testament data, where available).

Liberal dating of the book of Proverbs ranges from the

admission that some individual proverbs may date from Solo-

mon's time9 to the position that the book reached its final

form in the second century B.C.10  More conservative writers

view the Solomonic proverbs as coming from the king of the

same name. An even greater divergence may be witnessed in


orientation compels him to term "[t]he absence of easily

datable texts and explicit connections with other tradi-

tions[, which] makes it necessary for surmise" (p. 17). The

conservative finds no such "absence" and, accordingly, no

such necessity.

                9 Otto Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: an Introduction,

trans. Peter Ackroyd (New York: Harper and Row, 1965),

p. 476.

            10 Crawford H. Toy,  A Critical and Exegetical Commen-

tary on the Book of Proverbs, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T.

Clark, 1899), p. xxx.


the dating of other books. As will be argued in the follow-

ing chapter, the student believes that the solution lies in

the acceptance of the prima facie evidence of Scripture.


Isolation of Wisdom Literature

            As noted above, some scholars view Proverbs and the

other Wisdom books as representing an alien presence in the

Old Testament, bearing only a slight relation to Mosaism (if

any relation at all is granted). Writers of this perspec-

tive form something of a spectrum of vantage points.

            The common observation which forms the basis for this

rather negative assessment of the role of the Wisdom writ-

ings is concisely stated by Zimmerli: "Wisdom has no

relation to the history between God and Israel."11   Crenshaw

states the case more fully:

                        Within Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes one looks

            in vain for the dominant themes of Yahwistic thought:

            the exodus from Egypt, election of Israel, the Davidic

            covenant, the Mosaic legislation, the patriarchal nar-

            ratives, the divine control of history and movement

            toward a glorious moment when right will triumph.

            Instead, the reader encounters in these three books

            a different thought world.12

            The manner in which academicians respond, to this puta-

tive "different thought world" varies considerably. Some

would simply agree with Norman K. Gottwald in evaluating



                11 Walther Zimmerli, "The Place and Limit of the Wisdom

in the Framework of the Old Testament Theology," Scottish 

Journal of Theology, 17 (1964), p. 147. "This is an aston-

ishing fact," Zimmerli adds (p. 147).

                12 James L. Crenshaw, Old Testament Wisdom: an Intro-

duction (Atlanta: John Knox, 1981), p. 29.


Proverbs as "a potpourri of sayings and short poems, gener-

ally mediocre as literature, tedious as ethics, banal as

religion."13  Stressing the ethical emphasis of Proverbs and

other Wisdom books, such scholars would see theology as a

minor aspect.14  Scott allows for the presence of theology

in the writings of the Old Testament, but denies that the

theology is systematic (as opposed to being merely


            Another line of approach is adopted by those scholars

who see the conceptual and ideological orientation of Prov-

erbs and other Wisdom books as being positively hostile to

its canonical environment. A singularly uncharitable eval-

uation is provided by H. D. Preuss, whose reaction to the

apparent absence of Heilsgeschichte in Proverbs is to rele-

gate it to the mass of heathen writings which proffer no

positive inspiration.16  Somewhat less extreme but definitely


            13 Norman K. Gottwald, A Light to the Nations (New

York: Harper & Bros., 1959), p. 472, cited by John Mark

Thompson, The Form and Function of Proverbs in Ancient 

Israel (Paris: Mouton, 1974), p. 7.

            14 For example, there is almost no discussion of theol-

ogy proper in James Wood, Wisdom Literature, Studies in

Theology (London: Gerald Duckworth, 1967).

            15 R. B. Y. Scott, "The Study of Wisdom Literature,"

Interpretation, 24, No. 1 (1970), 39.

            16 H. D. Preuss, "Erwägungen zum theologischen Ort

alttestamentlicher Weisheitsliteratur," Evangelische Theol-

ogie 30 (1970) 393-417, and "Das Gottesbild der ä1teren

Weisheit Israels," Vetus Testamentum Supplement 23 (1972),

117-45, cited by James L. Crenshaw, Old Testament Wisdom,

p. 245.


negative in his assessment is James Crenshaw, who sees

Wisdom literature as being opposed to Yahwism. Crenshaw

asserts that the Wisdom writers "offered an alternative mode

of interpreting reality to the Yahwistic one in which God

was actively involved in guiding history toward a worthy

goal."17  He further holds that the concept of Yahweh's

regal, sovereignly electing relationship to Israel embodies

a viewpoint that "is wholly alien to the sapiential one."18

In a rather similar vein, Bryce insisted that Wisdom writ-

ings were foreign to the law and the prophets, with wholly

different premises.19  He further argued that all attempts

to unite Wisdom Literature with the law and the prophets are

"vitiated" by "the total lack of religious premises neces-

sary for such literature."20

            Something of an impasse is, accordingly, to be expected.

Liberal scholars are faced with a mass of literature which

they regard as distinctive in its outlook, diverse from

Mosaism in its faith tenets (and yet somehow within the body

of Israel's literature), and unfathomable in terms of its


            17 Crenshaw, Old Testament Wisdom, p. 208. Crenshaw

titles this section "A VIABLE ALTERNATIVE TO YAHWISM," and

remarks in addition that "the beauty of this view is that it

makes no claim about divine control of history. . . . Reli-

gious claims, were modest ones" (p. 209).

            18 Crenshaw, Old Testament Wisdom, p. 208.

            19 Glendon E. Bryce, A Legacy of Wisdom (Cranbury:

Associated University Presses, 1979), p. 206.

            20 Bryce, p. 206. The book does not mention Prov. i.7.


origins. Not without resources, the scholars have plied

their considerable abilities in a studious endeavor to make

sense of this body of literary materials, resulting in a

rather bewildering array of theories, ranging from the views

noted above to the somewhat exotic multi-level reconstruc-

tion invented by William McKane.21  Nevertheless, the

impasse stands, occasioning the (to put the best face on it)

unfortunate result that the various portions of the Old

Testament are bifurcated (or, if one may proffer a neologism,

polyfurcated) into just so many essentially unrelated shards

of purely human notions.

            Is this impasse unavoidable, simply one of those hard

realities like the proverbial "death and taxes" couplet, to

which one must accommodate oneself? It is the writer's con-

viction that such is not the case.


                             Toward a Solution

            If the student of Scripture is to open this door which

has been locked by decades of unproductive methodologies, he

must utilize two keys. The first key involves the rejection

of alleged "levels" of Wisdom; the second key calls for the

recognition of Wisdom Literature's links with the covenantal

faith and community.


Rejection of Diverse "Levels"

            Many scholars (notably McKane, in more recent times)


            21 William McKane, Proverbs, OTL (Philadelphia: West-

minster, 1970), especially pp. 10-22.


have argued that Proverbs (in common with Wisdom Literature

generally, in their view) consists of distinct strata. The

older strata are secular and practical; the later strata are

Yahwistic. As a matter of course, no unified theology can

be drawn from Proverbs, nor can Proverbs fit into any truly

unified picture of Old Testament faith--for no such unified

faith exists.

            This thesis, however, has been weighed and found want-

ing. As a general principle, Morgan observes that "it is

usually the case that major traditions in any culture are

interrelated,"22 so that an artificial series of divisions

is not warranted. Further, Morgan notes that the (so-

called) wisdom influence is detectable in texts which are

not generally classified as "wisdom texts." He further

observes that this phenomenon

            does not therefore witness to a combination of two

            or more epistemologically and theologically separable

            traditions. On the contrary, it points to a way of

            theologizing which utilized many different perspec-

            tives in an effort to find the common, Yahwistic

            matrix or thread behind all experience.23

Similarly, Waltke affirms that "a distinction cannot be

established between an older, profane, and secular wisdom

and a younger so-called distinctively Israelite strain of

wisdom which transformed and supplemented the former."24

One may readily concur with the judgment of Thompson that


            22 Morgan, p. 21.                               23 Morgan, p. 26.

            24 Bruce K. Waltke, "The Book of Proverbs and Old Tes-

tament Theology," Bibliotheca Sacra, 136, No. 544 (1979),



the insistence upon seeing Wisdom Literature as "a late

addendum to the religion of Israel and not characteristic

of Hebraic thought" is indeed a "shabby treatment."25  No

facile separation between theological and non-theological

Wisdom traditions in the process of Israelite history can be

supported.26  Even Crenshaw, whose critical approach is in

many respects at loggerheads with that propounded herein,

admits that piety is "edited" into all the strata "so thor-

oughly that the additions can only be removed by sheer con-

jecture. Or the person who opts for secular wisdom must

be compelled grudgingly to admit that it never in fact

existed."27  We would differ from Crenshaw in suggesting

that the presence of Israelite piety had nothing to do with

any editing process, but was inherent in the world-views of

the sages.

            Perhaps some of the confusion in the analyses of

writers stems from the purpose and approach of Proverbs and

other Wisdom Literature. Scholars of a more liberal slant

insist that "the wisdom seeker must rely entirely on his


            25 Thompson, p. 96.

            26 Morgan, pp. 55, 145. Morgan also remarks that Wis-

dom "is from the beginning an integral, inseparable part of

Israel's self expression and theological witness" (p. 55).

            27 Crenshaw, Old Testament Wisdom, p. 92. "It follows

that wisdom contained a religious element from the beginning"

(Crenshaw, p. 92).


natural equipment."28  The truths presented in Proverbs are

thought to be "self-evident intuitions"29 beginning with

human viewpoint and the assumption that life's problems may

all be solved by truths culled sheerly from experience.30

The tacit assumption in these evaluations seems to be that

reason and revelation may be neatly dichotomized.

            This sort of distinction, however, is not desirable.

As Morgan aptly comments, this sort of polarization is

            not a step forward from archaic biblical world-

            views, but rather an impediment to the doing of

            theology, which takes seriously all the dimensions

            of our experience.31

In addition, one must assume the irrelevance of a number of

textual indications (chiefly Proverbs' internal claims to

authorship) if one is to support the bifurcation outlined

above--which assumption is not granted by conservatives.

            Perhaps many of the difficulties in the supposed vari-

ance in Proverbs' outlook may be ameliorated if one appre-

ciates the purpose of the book. The text itself informs

readers that Proverbs is designed to instill such principles

as are necessary for attaining success in godly living

(Prov. i.1-6). This practical emphasis is based firmly upon


            28 J. Coert Rylaarsdam, Revelation in Jewish Wisdom

Literature (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1946), p. 667. Cf.  

Crenshaw, p. 67: "All proverbs . . . were grounded in expe-


            29 Crenshaw, O. T. Wisdom, p. 19.

            30 Crenshaw, O. T. Wisdom, p. 18.

            31 Morgan, p. 29.



a Yahwistic principle which is thematic for the book (Prov.

i.7; cf. ix.10; xxii.19). This practical counsel operates

from a "supernatural assumption."32  As Oehler puts it,

Wisdom Literature's

            mode of procedure . . . is to endeavor, by means

            of that key of knowledge which revelation affords,

            better to understand God's ways in the world, and,

            through the knowledge of God's will furnished by

            the law, better to determine the duties of human


Due to this purpose, no need existed for a frequent refer-

ence to the various details of the cultus, nor to facets of

Israel's history. Of course, there is no real indication

that any antipathy towards the cultus can be found in Prov-


            Many indications of the unity of Proverbs' faith-

viewpoint and that of the rest of antecedent Scripture may

be easily detected.


Recognition of Links with the 

     Covenant Faith and Community

            Authorship. The first, most obvious (and yet most fre-

quently overlooked or discounted) indicator of unity with


            32 Gustav Friederich Oehler, Theology of the Old Testa-

ment, Amer. ed. George E. Day (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock,

1978 [rpt.]), p. 538.

            33 Oehler, p. 538.

            34 Oehler, p. 383. "Such a notion is at variance with

the fact that Solomon, who built the temple and gave com-

pleteness to the ritual of worship, stands at the head of

these men [viz., the sages of Israel]."


antecedent revelation is found in the fact that King Solomon

authored the first twenty-nine chapters of the work.35  This

king was a monarch under Yahweh, sired by a deeply devoted

Yahwist, involved deeply in the worship of Yahweh, and

schooled in the law of Yahweh. In the fact of Solomonic

authorship lies one of the most exciting veins for explana-

tion due chiefly to two considerations.

            The first consideration concerns Solomon's relationship

to the law of Yahweh given through Moses. According to

Deut. xvii.18-19,

            Now it shall come about when he [the king] sits on

            the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself

            a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the

            Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he

            shall read it all the days of his life, that he may

            learn to fear [Yahweh] his God,36 by carefully

            observing all the words of this law and these

            statutes (NASB).

This legal injunction was reinforced by its personal enunci-

ation by Yahweh in Solomon's encounter with his Sovereign,

as recorded in I Kings iii.l4. Here Yahweh exhorts the

young king to walk in His ways, keeping His statutes and

commandments, a charge echoed in Solomon's hymnic prayer

(Ps. lxxii.1 f.). It is accordingly not surprising that

numerous parallels between Deuteronomy and Proverbs have


            35 This portion of the argument assumes the conclusions

relating to date and authorship which are presented in the

following chapter.

            36 Compare this phrase with the theme-verse of Solo-

mon's pedagogic approach (Prov. i.7):


been noted.37  In addition, Waltke cites the references in

Proverbs to the sacred vow (xx.25; xxxi.2), sacred lots

(xvi.33), and firstfruits (iii.9).38  In a fascinating and

helpful survey, Payne notes many parallels between the

Decalogue and Proverbial ethics.39  Ample evidence exists to

indicate a close relationship between Proverbs and the law

of Yahweh.40

            The second consideration relates to David's influence

upon his sagacious son. Solomon himself attests in Proverbs

iv.3-4 that he was an attentive student to his father (King

David), who charged young Solomon to hold fast to his

father's teaching. This is in full keeping with the pattern

of teaching enjoined in Proverbs (cf. i.8 ff.) and, more


            37 Cf. Moshe Weinfeld, "The Wisdom Substrata in Deuter-

onomy and the Deuteronomic Literature," in Deuteronomy and 

the Deuteronomic School (Oxford: Clarendon, 1972), pp.

244-74, cited by Waltke, "The Book of Proverbs and O. T.

Theology,' p. 304. Waltke notes the following parallels:

Deut. iv.2; xiii.1 and Prov. xxx.5-6; Deut. xix.14 and Prov.

xxii.l0; and Deut. xxv.13-16 and Prov. xx.23.

            38 Waltke, "The Book of Proverbs and O. T. Theology,"

p. 306. Waltke also says, "In short, although the wise men

did not initiate the cultus, they assumed it" (p. 306).

            39 J. Barton Payne, The Theology of the Older Testament

(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962), pp. 338-44.

            40 The objective considerations adduced above are, how-

ever, of no value if one assumes with Crenshaw that "an

impregnable mountain called Fantasy stands between biblical

interpreters and the historical Solomon" (O. T. Wisdom,

p. 44). In the view of the present writer, Crenshaw does

not display an adequately self-critical consciousness of the

veritable Fantasy Island onto which one of necessity steps

when one casts aside the textual data, and begins to recon-

struct history de novo.


importantly, with the injunctions of the law of Yahweh (cf.

Deut. v.16; vi.6-9, etc.). We know from the historical

record that the elder king commanded his son concerning the

law of Yahweh in the most precise tones:

            And keep the charge of [Yahweh] your God, to walk in

            His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments,

            His ordinances, and His testimonies, according to

            what is written in the law of Moses, that you may

            succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn

            (I Kings ii.2 NASB).

These data establish the necessity of exploring the law of

Yahweh for the informing theology of Proverbs. The data

also counter the exclamation of Zimmerli (noted above in

footnote 11) concerning the "astonishing fact" that Wisdom

is unrelated to Israel's history. Indeed, the astonishing

fact is that scholarship has ignored the book's claim to

Solomonic authorship, and has thus skated past a wrought-

iron linkage with the history of Israel.

            The use of the name "Yahweh." Also significant for the

linkage of Proverbs with antecedent Old Testament revelation

is the occurrence of the name "Yahweh," found so frequently

and prominently in the book.41  It should never be forgotten

that Yahweh is the personal name of Israel's God; all other

appellations are titles.42  False deities could be



            41 Waltke, "The Book of Proverbs and O. T. Theology,"

p. 305. Waltke notes that the proportion of usage of יהוה

to אֱלֹהִים is about the same in Deuteronomy and Proverbs.

            42 This consideration may be contrasted with the confi-

dent (and bewildering) assertion that "the attentive reader

who is versed in the history of religion" will see that


inappropriately called by the generic word אֱלֹהִים, but would

not be called יהוה --for the latter is replete with that

specificity which the former lacks. When one speaks of

Yahweh, one eo ipso indicates the God who has entered into

personal relationship with the nation of Israel by means of

covenant and promise. As Waltke affirms,

                        Yahweh is God's covenantal name, and by using

            this name the sages present themselves as teachers

            within Yahweh's covenant community even though they 

            never mention Israel or the covenant. In short, the

            sages present themselves as spokesmen for the same

            God who encountered Israel though Moses and the

            prophets that succeeded him.43

If one should encounter literature making frequent use of

names such as Ahura Mazda, Shiva, Kali, or Zeus, one would

thereby derive some knowledge of the religious orientation

of the writer. It is so in the case of Proverbs.

            In a similar manner, the use of the significant phrase

יִרְאַת יהוה (Prov. i.7; ix.10, etc.) is of value for connect-

ing Proverbs to antecedent Scripture. As Crenshaw himself

notes, the phrase connotes the laws and statutes of Yahweh,

and all other covenantal obligations.44

            Prominence of the same doctrine. Proverbs presents the


generic terms such as "God" or "deity" may be substituted

for "Yahweh" in Prov. i.7 without any problem (J. Alberto

Soggin, Introduction to the Old Testament, OTL, trans. John

Bowden [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976], pp. 379-80).

            43 Waltke, "The Book of Proverbs and O. T. Theology,"

p. 305, emphases supplied.

            44 Crenshaw, O. T. Wisdom, p. 96.


same system of doctrine as that revealed in previous Scrip-

ture. Although, as Toombs points out, some writers have so

narrowly defined theology in terms of cultus and history

that they have automatically ruled out Proverbs' theological

contributions,45 Solomon's doctrines do in fact harmonize

with the full picture of Old Testament theology. Proverbs

describes Yahweh in terms of the same character facets and

acts as those ascribed to Him in the law,46 and propound the

same anthropology, the same epistemology, the same faith,

and the same hope, based on the same authority and making

the same ethical demands as those made in the law.47




            The impasse in theological exegesis of Wisdom litera-

ture (and, more specifically, of Proverbs) can be broken if

one is willing to face the textual data receptively. Work-

ing with these data, one observes that Proverbs claims

Solomonic authorship, creating a presumption in favor of

the view that Proverbs is an outgrowth of revealed Yahwism.

This presumption is handily borne out by the evidence, which

indicates a harmonious relationship between Proverbs and the


            45 Lawrence E. Toombs, "O. T. Theology and the Wisdom

Literature," Journal of Bible and Religion, 23, No. 3 (1955),


            46 Waltke, "The Book of Proverbs and O. T. Theology,"

p. 304.

            47 Waltke, "The Book of Proverbs and O. T. Theology,"

pp. 308-16.



covenant faith of Israel.48  From the information culled

out of antecedent Scripture, one may confidently carry out

a theological exegesis of Proverbs. Accordingly, the next

task shall involve the determination of which portions of

the Bible form the needed antecedent Scripture which will

inform the theology of Proverbs.


            48 See also the discussion in D. A. Hubbard, “The

Wisdom Movement and Israel's Covenant Faith,” Tyndale 

Bulletin, No. 17 (1966), pp. 5 ff.



                              CHAPTER THREE


                           Laying the Groundwork



            Having discussed the methodology for theological exege-

sis, as well as the qualifications for the data which inform

and control that exegesis, it now behooves the investigator

to make inquiry concerning the precise nature of the docu-

ments which provide background information for the texts

under consideration. Toward this end the writer will very 

briefly outline his understanding of the identity of the

relevant writings, preceded by an overview and conclusion

regarding the date and authorship of the bulk of Proverbs.


                      Date and Authorship of Proverbs

            Proverbs contains several explicit statements concern-

ing authorial identity (notably i.1; x.1; and xxv.11). The

degree of seriousness with which one will treat these indi-

cations is largely dictated by one's epistemological and

methodological orientation. A liberal writer such as Toy

is sure that "no OT. [sic] titles are in themselves authori-

tative,”2 and can readily dismiss the canonical evidence


            1 The writer does not consider xxii.17 nor xxiv.23 to

be statements of authorship, due in large measure to the

recurrent singular verbs and pronomial suffixes (e.g.,

xxii.17, 19; xxiv.30).

            2 Crawford H. Toy, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary

on the Book of Proverbs, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,

1899), p. xix.



concerning Proverbs.3   This essential procedure may also be

observed in the introduction of Sellin-Fohrer, wherein we

read about Proverbs that "it derives neither from Solomon

nor from Solomon's period."4  Thus liberal introductions

either dismiss the textual indications entirely, or allow

that Solomon had a very limited role in the contents of the


            By contrast, conservative introductions are fairly

unanimous in assigning at least Prov. x.l--xxii.16 to Solo-

mon.6  The writer agrees with Unger in believing that "unless

we view the introduction i.1-7 as a later addition [which


            3 Toy, p. xix ff.

            4 Ernst Sellin and Georg Fohrer, trans. David E. Green,

Introduction to the Old Testament (Nashville: Abingdon,

1968), p. 319.

            5 Cf. the following: Sellin-Fohrer; Brevard S. Childs,

Introduction to the Old Testament as Scripture (Philadelphia:

Fortress, 1979), pp. 545-59; Otto Eissfeldt, trans. Peter

R. Ackroyd (New York: Harper and Row), 1965, pp. 470-77;

J. Alberto Soggin, Introduction to the Old Testament, OTL,

trans. John Bowden (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976), pp.


            6 Cf. the following: Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey

of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody, rev. ed.

1974), pp. 465-74; C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to 

the Poetic Books of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody,

1979), pp. 164-68; Norman L. Geisler, A Popular Survey of 

the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), p. 205;

Roland Kenneth Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament  

(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 19697, pp. 1010-21; Karl Friedrich

Keil, Manual of Historico-Critical Introduction to the 

Canonical Scriptures of the Old Testament, 2 vols., trans.

George C. M. Douglas (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1952 [rpt.]);

Merrill F.. Unger, Introductory Guide to the Old Testament 

(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, rev. ed. 1956), pp. 372-74;

Edward J. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand

Rapids: Eerdmans, rev. ed. 1960.


the writer does not] . . . as even some conservatives unwar-

rantedly do, there is no reason for denying chapters 1-9, to

Solomon."7  One could go a step further and assert that the

text gives every reason to believe that Solomon authored

i.1-x.1, so that one could agree with Bullock that not only

is the practice of denying Solomonic authorship to the first

nine chapters "not justified," but the fact that the general

editor(s) of Proverbs thought i.7-ix.18 to be Solomonic is

"beyond doubt."8  Thus, this writer affirms the Solomonic

authorship of the first twenty-nine chapters of Proverbs.

            Inasmuch as Proverbs xxv.1 speaks of "the men of Heze-

kiah" as the transcribers of xxv.1 ff., one could concur

with Harrison that the final form of the book was completed

during the reign of Hezekiah, thus between 716-687 B.C.9  The

authorship and date of chapters 30 and 31 is problematic,

and for that reason those chapters will not be considered.

Thus, those texts which precede Solomon's tenth-century B.C.

reign will form the theological background for exegesis.


            7 Unger, p. 373. For example, Harrison makes the odd

statement that x.l-xxii.16 is the "first principal group

of material attributed directly to King Solomon" (p. 1017).

            8 Bullock, p. 165. Cf. Archer, Keil, and Young.

            9 Harrison, p. 1018. Cf. Bullock, p. 162. Because no

more is known about the authors of chapters xxx and xxxi,

it would be difficult to date the chapters with anything

approaching certainty, or to proffer very definite opinions

concerning the informing theology known to the authors. For

these reasons, this thesis will concentrate upon the data

provided by the Solomonic chapters of Proverbs, chapters



                    Identity of Antecedent Scriptures

            The writer believes that five scriptural portions may

be regarded with some confidence as being in existence by

Solomon's time, and accordingly available to the sagacious

sovereign. The writer's "bottom-line" understandings of the

books' dates will be given below, with reference to conserv-

ative introductions for more full documentation and discus-




            Generally, conservative scholarship agrees on the basi-

cally Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch due to internal

indications, New Testament confirmations, and indications

within the Old Testament. As seen in I Kings ii.2, Solo-

mon's father had enjoined his careful adherence to the law

of Yahweh recorded by Moses, establishing a connection. The

theology of the Pentateuch will be basic in understanding




            The book of Joshua gives evidence of the hand of an

eyewitness12 and was probably completed by 1045 B.C. at the

latest.13  Due to its continuative connection with the


            10 See, especially Archer, pp. 105 ff., 165 ff., 179-262;

Harrison, pp. 542-662; also standard introductions of Young,

Keil, and Unger.

            11 See Harrison, p. 691; Archer, pp. 264 f.; Young,

p. 163.

            12 Young, p. 163.                               13 Harrison, p. 673.


Pentateuch, it was probably also at Solomon's disposal.



            Internal indications evidence the authorship of Judges

before the capture of Jerusalem by King David in 990 B.C.,15

according to which fact the book would have been extant and

(on the presumption of prompt recognition of its authority)

known to the king of the covenant community.



            This is the most problematic of the books in terms of

determination of date or authorship. Guesses range from

composition ca. 2100 B.C. (J. D. Michaelis [1787], G. W.

Hazelton [1914], and F. A. Lamber [1919]) to composition

during the age of Solomon (Gregory of Nazianzus; H. A. C.

Havernick [1849]; C. F. Keil [1853]; F. Delitzsch [1864];

and E. J. Young [1949]).17  The writer provisionally concurs

with Young's assessment that the events date from patriar-

chal times and the final composition from (no later than)

Solomonic times.18  The discussion will at least assume the


            14 See Harrison, p. 691; Archer, p. 274; Young, pp.


            15 Archer, p. 274.

            16 See-Archer, pp. 456-62; Harrison, p. 1040; Young,

pp. 319 ff.

            17 The list is taken from Harrison, p. 1040, whom see

for complete documentation.

            18 Young, pp. 319, 323. Due to the uncertainty in this

matter, greater weight will be given to the first three

documents than will be assigned to Job.


possibility that the king was aware of the document or an

outline of its contents.


Davidic Psalms19

            As argued in the preceding chapter, King Solomon was

considerably influenced by his father David, the "sweet

psalmist of Israel" (II Sam. xxiii.l). Fortunately, we have

an entirely reliable record of David's faith preserved in

the Davidic Psalms, wherein the fountainhead whence Solo-

mon's own faith flowed may be explored.

            According to the methodology outlined in Chapter Two,

we shall now turn to a survey of the pertinent theological

contents of the writings enumerated above.


            19 See the discussions in Archer, Harrison, Unger, and

Young. The writer believes that he is in accord with con-

textual and New Testament evidence in seeing the ל of the

Davidic Psalms' superscriptions as being original and indi-

cative of authorship.


                           CHAPTER FOUR


                         Painting the Backdrop



            In this section a sort of backdrop will be painted,

illustrating the theology which informed Solomon as he

authored his Proverbs. Almost exclusive concentration will

be devoted to those data which pertain to the emphasis

entertained in Part Two, viz., the sovereignty of Yahweh.

The ensuing discussion will locate and illuminate the quarry

whence Solomon's ideas concerning Yahweh's sovereign control

of events and individuals were mined.


                            Pentateuchal Data

            Primary for the doctrine of sovereignty is the portrayal

in the early chapters of Genesis of Yahweh as creator of

all.1  If Yahweh were not indeed creator of all, He could

not be sovereign in creation, providence, or redemption.2

It was this framework of creation which provided the setting

for the reflections of Solomon and the other sages.3   In

striking contrast to Mesopotamian creation accounts, Genesis


            1 R. B. Y. Scott, The Way of Wisdom (New York: Mac-

millan, 1971), pp. 115-16.

            2 J. Oliver Buswell, "Creation," Baker's Dictionary

of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1960), p. 146.

            3 Walther Zimmerli, "The Place and Limit of the Wisdom

in the Framework of the Old Testament Theology," Scottish 

Journal of Theology, 17 (1964), 148.



narrates a struggle-free fiat creation, in which Yahweh's

mere verbalization of His desires results in the existence

of the intended result.4  Because all entities, sentient

and non-sentient, exist due to the will of God, creation is

utterly subordinated to Yahweh's will.5

            Genesis consistently depicts Yahweh as taking the ini-

tiative, whether in creation (i.1 ff.), judgment (iii.14 f.;

vi.5 f.; xi.l f.; xix.l f.), or election (xii.l f.). The

most illuminating revelation of Yahweh's exhaustive control

may be found in the Joseph narratives, in which Yahweh acts

through the brothers' evil deeds for a good end. No facile

equivocation is met in these chapters; the brothers did

indeed harbor an evil intention (1.20a), but Yahweh moved

through the entire chain for His beneficent ends (xlv.5, 7;

1.20b). As Carson aptly observes,

            the text will not allow the brothers to be classed

            as puppets and thus to escape their guilt. On the

            other hand, neither does it picture God as post 

            eventu deflecting the evil action of the brothers

            and transforming it into something good.6

The point is worthy of stress: Yahweh reaches His determined

goal by His sovereign control of the human process of


            4 Witness the later reflection on this fact in the

anonymous Psalm xxxiii.6, 9.

            5 Zimmerli, p. 153. See also D. A. Carson, Divine

Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (Atlanta: John Knox,

1981), pp. 24 f.

            6 Carson, p. 10.


fomenting and executing evil plans.7

            It is in the fact of Yahweh's creation and control of

what exists that the Wisdom writings can derive their doc-

trine of the orderliness of the universe.8  By virtue of

this fact, Yahweh transcends the cosmos and gives it its

order and harmony.9   The order is not an end in itself;

man's faith must be directed to Yahweh, who originated and

maintains this order.10

            Genesis also depicts Yahweh as sovereign in His choice

and rejection of different individuals. The doctrine of

reprobation is found, at least in germinal form, in Gen.

xxv.22-23. Here Yahweh expessses His election of the

younger child, and His concomitant rejection of the elder.11

The subsequent histories of these individuals evidence


            7 See the brief but pithy discussion in Robert L.

Reymond, The Justification of Knowledge (Nutley: Presby-

terian and Reformed, 1976), pp. 78-79 (footnote 1).

            8 Cf. Elmer Martens, God's Design (Grand Rapids:

Baker, 1981), p. 181; Bruce K. Waltke, "The Book of Proverbs

and Ancient Wisdom Literature," Bibliotheca Sacra, 136, No.

543 (1979), 234; C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the 

Poetic Books of the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody, 1979),

p. 55; and James L. Crenshaw, Old Testament Wisdom (Atlanta:

John Knox, 1981), pp. 18-19, 54, 67.

            9 Crenshaw's remark that Yahweh is "to a certain extent

. . . caught up in this system" (O. T. Wisdom, p. 95) is

puzzling at best, in view of Scripture's insistence upon

God's freedom.

            10 Bruce K. Waltke, "The Book of Proverbs and Old Testa-

ment Theology," Bibliotheca Sacra, 136, No. 544 (1979), 309.

            11 That such full value is to be drawn from the text is

evidenced by later, inspired reflections (Mal. i.2 f.; Rom.

ix.10 f.).


Yahweh's choice.

            Similar themes are developed harmoniously in the book

of Exodus. Faithful to His covenant with the fathers,

Yahweh delivers His chosen people in a manner specifically

designed to show His matchless, sovereign superiority over

the false deities of Egypt (vii.14-xii.36). In this manner,

God demonstrates both His election of Israel (cf. usage of

"My people" in iii.7; v.1, et passim) and His rejection of

the heathen (cf. viii.22 f.; ix.2 f.). As particular evi-

dence of the latter, Yahweh informs Pharaoh that He had

established him for the display of God's glory (ix.16; see

Paul's God-breathed commentary on this episode in Rom. ix.

17 f.). This glorious display involved Yahweh's prior

decision to harden Pharaoh's heart (iv.21), manifesting His

electing and rejecting prerogative (cf. Rom. ix.18).

            As covenant Sovereign, Yahweh in one act judges the

Egyptians and separates the Israelites unto Himself (xii).

Having delivered His people, Yahweh appoints the laws and

statutes by which they are to live, and in which they are to

find their true health and happiness (xix). Although the

entire earth was His possession, to be disposed according to

His pleasure (xix.5b), Yahweh had chosen Israel to be His

(xix.4 f.).

            A revealing note is sounded in Exodus xxi.13. Yahweh

lays down the general principle in verse 12 that anyone who

is the cause of a man's death should suffer the death pen-

alty. After this basic law, specific provisions are made


for exceptional cases. The determining factor was the moti-

vation, or lack thereof, for murder. Thus verse thirteen

excludes from capital offense culpability the man who has

not lurked about for the murder of the victim. This sort of

case is what could be called an "accidental death"--yet the

text clearly attributes the death to God's agency (v. 13).

"Thus even what men call accidental death is under God's

direction," as Oehler observes.12

            The Hebrew world-view is revealed boldly in such texts

as these. As Davidson correctly observes,

                        Two beliefs characterise the Hebrew mind from

            the beginning; first, the strong belief in causa-

            tion,--every change on the face of nature, must be

            due to a cause; and, secondly, that the only con-

            ceivable cause is a personal agent. . . . Every-

            thing is supernatural, i. e. direct Divine operation.13

It is in fact this recurring and almost substructural empha-

sis on the controlling factor of God's will that gives unity

and force to the Old Testament.14  Theories of mere "per-

mission" fall short of doing justice to the data of revela-

tion, creating a dualism which is false to the spirit of the


            12 Gustav F. Oehler, Theology of the Old Testament,

Amer. ed. George E. Day (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1978

[rpt.]), p. 122.

            13 A. B. Davidson, The Theology of the Old Testament,

ed. S. D. F. Salmond (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1904), p.


            14 Edmond Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament, trans.

A. W. Heathcote and P. J. Allcock (London: Hodder &

Stoughton, 1958), p. 37. Cf. also John Calvin, Concerning 

the Eternal Predestination of God, trans. J. Reid (London:

James Clarke, 1961 [rpt.]), p. 123, and R. B. Girdlestone,

Old Testament Theology and Modern Ideas, Anglican Church

Handbooks (London: Longmans and Green, 1909), pp. 83-93.


Old Testament.15

            Leviticus stresses in its twenty-sixth and twenty-

seventh chapters a theme with which Wisdom Literature is

redolent--the law of retribution.16  Simply put, the prin-

ciple is that "he who did right [viz., who walked in Yah-

weh's laws] would find his whole environment friendly; while

he who forsook 'the way of Yahweh' would find himself

thwarted at every turn."17  Obedience would bring Yahweh's

comprehensive blessing (Lev. xxvi.3-13), disobedience His

comprehensive curse (Lev. xxvi.l4 ff.).18  Thus, the key to

the truly good life lay in maintaining good relations with


            The book of Numbers depicts Yahweh as Israel's sover-

eign commander, making their way straight before them (Num.

ix.15 f.; cf. Prov. iii.5). Yahweh manifests His election


            15 Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament,

trans. J. A. Baker, OTL,-II (Philadelphia: Westminster,

1967), 178-79.

            16 For discussions of the principle and examinations of

varying theories, see Eichrodt, II, 423; J. A. Emerton,

"Wisdom," in Tradition and Interpretation, ed. G. W.

Anderson (Oxford: Clarendon, 1979), pp. 216-17; John G.

Gammie, "The Theology of Retribution in the Book of Deuter-

onomy," The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 32, No. 1 (1970),

1-12; W. O. E. Oesterly, The Book of Proverbs, Westminster

Commentaries (London: Methuen, 1929), pp. lxi-lxiv; Gerhard

von Rad, Wisdom in Israel, trans. James D. Martin (Nashville:

Abingdon, 1972), p. 128.

            17 Fleming James, "Some Aspects of the Religion of

Proverbs," Journal of Biblical Literature, 51 (1952), 33.

            18 "This retribution is not the result of an impersonal

fate but that of a personal God," observes D. A. Hubbard,

"The Wisdom Movement and Israel's Covenant Faith," Tyndale 

Bulletin, No. 17 (1966), p. 10.


and rejection in terms of singling out those who are to be

His servants, and rejecting any who would try to usurp this

privilege (Num. xvi-xvii). Numbers also depicts Yahweh as

sovereign over individuals. He is the God of the spirits

of all flesh (xvi.22; xxvii.16). This is illustrated in

the attempted hiring of the prophet Balaam to curse Israel,

during which episodes Yahweh constantly overrides the

prophet and the king by pronouncing His blessing on His

people (xxii.18, 35; xxiii.5, 20).

            The book of Deuteronomy iterates the same doctrine of

retribution discussed above (cf. Deut. xxviii). Yahweh is

also seen to have freely chosen Israel out of His love and

faithfulness, rather than out of any prevenient virtues in

the objects of His electing love (Deut. vii.6 f.). Yahweh's

control extends far beyond the borders of Israel, for He is

able to bring a foreign nation upon Israel for discipline

should it please Him (Deut. xxviii.49 f.), controlling the

rulers and strategists of that nation as surely as if they

were His puppets--though not contrary to their nature.


                             Data From Joshua

            Yahweh is prominent as the God who grants success to

His obedient servants. Obedience that brings success is

characterized by heeding His law-word (Josh. i.8; cf. Prov.

xvi.20). This is so sure and certain that the text often

finds it sufficient to state simply that Yahweh was or would

be "with" a given individual (Josh. i.5, 9, 17; vi.27, etc.).


To know Yahweh's presence was enough, for He was the Guaran-

tor of success and victory.

            This confidence of victory could, however, be forfeited.

When, in such a case, Achan's sin brought ruin to his people

(Josh. vii), Israel utilized the inerrant lot to determine

the criminal (Josh. vii.14-18; cf. Prov. xvi.33). The same

lot also determined the division of the land (cf. Josh.

xiv.2; xviii.6, 10, etc.). "Even in drawing lots there

rules no chance, Prov. xvi. 33; and so . . . the lot is used

in seeking to know the divine will."19


                              Data From Judges

            Judges paints a series of pictures illustrating the

principle of retribution. When Israel forsakes Yahweh and

His laws, He activates the thoughts and plans of foreign

dignitaries in such a way as to give them success over

Israel, to effect the sure punishment of the latter (Judg.

ii.11 f.; iii.7 f., 12 f.; iv.1 f., etc.). With equal

sovereignty, Yahweh also is at work to mercifully assure the

deliverance of His people (as indicated in the programmatic

statement of Judg. iii.l8)..

            Yahweh's work with individuals is, to say the least,

varied. He activates Samson in such a manner as to be

"seeking an occasion against the Philistines" (Judg. xiv.4)

--using the morally wrong actions of Samson in the process


            19 Oehler, p. 122.


(Judg. xiv.l f.)! Yahweh's Spirit comes upon Othniel

(iii.10), Gideon (vi.34), Jephthah (xi.29), and Samson

(xiii.25), certainly as diverse a group of men as one could

hope to find, for the sole purpose (as one may readily sur-

mise) of executing His will. When Yahweh wishes to judge

evil men, He sends an evil spirit20 between differing

factions for the accomplishment of His purpose (Judg.

ix.23-24). Yahweh may indeed turn the individual just as

He pleases (Prov. xxi.l).


                                 Data From Job

            As this student understands it, the book of Job finds

its unifying theme and resolution in the free sovereignty of

God, exercised in blessing, hardship, and providence.

Yahweh gives Job great abundance in keeping with his piety

(i.1 f.), protecting those possessions from Satan (i.10a) so

that the latter may not touch so much as a molecule that is

Job's without Yahweh's permission (i.12). When the enemy is

allowed to strike Job's property and family, Job recognizes

even this as coming from Yahweh ultimately (i.21b). Even

after the adversary touches Job personally, Job acknowledges

Yahweh's sovereign right to dole out adversity (חָרָע, ii.10).

In all of the circular debatings between Job and his

"friends," none of the contestants employs the modern


            20 It makes no essential difference whether one sees

the term as being used ontologically or psychologically; the

central point is that the socially disrupting influence was

sent by Yahweh--the "flip side" of Prov. xvi.7.


commonplace of deferring to intermediate agencies or free

will. They are all agreed that Yahweh stands behind Job's

experience; the only question in their minds was, "Why did

Yahweh bring this turn of events?" The three thought the

cause lay in Job's sin; Job rather seemed to be of the

opinion that the cause lay in a sort of administrative error

(xix.9; xxvii.2; cf. xxiv.5).

            When He makes His appearance, Yahweh is not recorded to

have explained the dialogue with Satan to which the readers

had already been privy (chaps. i-ii). Instead, He asserts

His comprehensive sovereignty over all of reality as its

Creator and Sustainer (Job xxxviii-xlii). Job may dispute

with God when He can produce the requisite credentials

(xxxviii.4 f., 31 ff.; xxxix.l f., etc.). The point is not

lost on Job, who admits his folly (xlii.3-6) and affirms

Yahweh's absolute sovereignty (xlii.2).


                    Data From the Davidic Psalms

            The resources in the Davidic Psalms are rich and varied

and supply a great aid in understanding Solomon's theologi-

cal background, so we shall survey the data drawn therefrom.

Yahweh is seen as exalted so far above the greatest

rulers of the earth in Psalm ii21 that He may laugh at their


            21 Although the Hebrew text is without an ascription,

the New Testament claims David as the author in Acts iv.25

(though cited without ascription elsewhere--Acts xiii.33;

Heb. v.5, etc.). The New Testament testimony is accepted

in this discussion.



fierce plottings (Ps. ii.4; cf. lxix.8). This is so because

Yahweh's kingdom extends over all Gentiles (xxii.8), for He

is the King of Glory (xxiv.8, 10; xxvii.11) forever (xxix.

10; cf. lxvi.7), with a kingdom (מַלְכוּת) that rules over all

the world under the heavens, in which His throne is estab-

lished (ciii.l9). Yahweh is David's own king (obviously

subordinating the derivative sovereignty of David to Yahweh;

cxlv.1; cf. Prov. xxi.1), and His kingdom is majestic and

glorious (Ps. cxlv.12-13).

            In his personal relationship to Yahweh, David has come

to know Him to be his shield and protection (iii.3-6;

vii.10; xviii.1-3, 30; cxlii.5), who could direct David in

his path, establishing his steps and making his way broad

(xvi.7; xviii.32, 36; xxxvii.31; cxliii.8; cf. Prov. iii.5),

fulfilling all of David's deepest needs (Ps. xxiii) and

dispelling fear by His presence (xxiii.3; xxvii.l). None

can harm the man whom Yahweh protects (lvi). David had

found Yahweh to be a God to whom he could commit his path,

plans, and person (xxii.8; xxxi.5; xxxvii.5; lv.22; lxviii.

19; cf. Prov. xvi.3). Yahweh's word had healed, restored,

and given great reward to David (Ps. xix.7-11; cf. Prov.

xvi.20). Even his steps had been established by Yahweh

(Ps. xxxvii.23; cf. Prov. xx.24), whose knowledge and con-

trol of David's life were exhaustive (Ps. cxxxix).

            Yahweh could exercise such sovereignty because He was

creator. In fact, the heavens were His heavens (Ps. viii.3;

cxix.5); rather than saying with moderns "it is thundering,"



David's view of nature led him to say "Yahweh thunders" (cf.

xxix.3). Because He is creator, the entire world and its

inhabitants are Yahweh's personal possession (xxiv.l), and

it is His role to ensure that the creation is maintained

(lxv.6-13; cxlv.14-16). Jacob has rightly observed, "The

creation is maintained, not by virtue of autonomous laws,

but by Yahweh's free will."22

            Yahweh sovereignly moves in the affairs of men.  In

electing grace, He chooses and brings near whom He wills

(lxv.4). He surrounds His elect with favor as with a shield

(v.12). He delivers David from his enemies, restoring a

state of peace (iii.7; xviii.48; xxvii.2-3; cf. Prov. xvi.7).

David also clearly affirms the doctrine of retribution (Ps.

vii.15-16; ix.15-16; xxvii.4; lvii.6). So all-pervading is

Yahweh's just rule that a sin against an individual is

counted as a sin against Yahweh alone (li.4).



            From the start, the Old Testament contains a strong

cord of doctrinal strands presenting the sovereignty of

Yahweh in no uncertain terms. Dipping into the well of his

revelatory heritage, King Solomon would be taught to view

the universe as created, ordered, maintained, and controlled

by the good pleasure of Yahweh. The power of Yahweh pene-

trated the inner thoughts and plans of men, holding sway

over both the inception and the results of those intentions.


            22 Jacob, p. 227.


If need be, Yahweh could reign in any portion of His cre-

ation, animate or inanimate, sentient or insentient. No

purpose of His could be thwarted; in some way, the present

state of affairs reflects His counsel. Such is the foun-

dation for Solomon's theology.



















                                            PART II



                         Applying Theological Exegesis to the


                           Sovereignty of Yahweh in Proverbs




                                CHAPTER FIVE


          The Sovereignty of Yahweh and Man's Success



            In this chapter will be examined three texts relating

to Yahweh's sovereign control of man's steps as taught in

Proverbs. The format (as throughout Part Two) will involve

the exegesis of the text, a theological analysis of the

text, and observations relative to the text.


                                   Proverbs iii.5-6

            Trust in [Yahweh] with all your heart,

                        And do not lean on your own understanding.

            In all your ways acknowledge Him,

                        And He will make your paths straight (NASB).



            Solomon addresses his son (cf. iii.l) with the singular

imperative בְּטַח, imploring him to rely upon Yahweh with all

of his  לֵב  The term לֵב refers to man's "emotion, thought,

or will."1  Inasmuch as the next line employs a clearly

noetic term (בִּינָה, insight, discernment), it is probably best

to take the term as referring to the center of thinking,

with the volitional element underlying. Positively, the son

is to devote his entire thought processes to trust in Yahweh;

negatively, he is to eschew reliance (אַל־תִּשָּׁעֵן; שָׁעַן means to


            1 A[ndrew]      "לָבַב," Theological Wordbook of

the Old Testament (hereafter TWOT), ed. R. Laird Harris,

Gleason L. Archer, Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, I (Chicago:

Moody, 1980), 466.



lean, whether literally or figuratively)2 on his own insight

into the matter.

            The son is to "know Him" (דָּעֵהוּ) in all the paths down

which his life-course will take him. Although the NASB 

rendering is possible, it seems more likely that the knowl-

edge (like the preceding perceptional terms) is personal

rather than transmitted. Thus the sense would be equivalent

to "[r]ecognize him,"3 meaning something like "recognize Him

as the unconditional controller over all their willing and

doing,"4 in a knowledge that Delitzsch has termed “practico-

mystical.”5 The consequence of this knowledge of Yahweh is

the assurance that He will make one's paths straight (יְיַשֵּׁר,

factitive use of Pi'el imperfect, from the root  יָשַׁר to be

level, straight).6


Theological Analysis

            Although verse six has often been taken as a promise of

direct, somewhat mystical guidance, it is probable that

"[t]he idea of יְיַשֵּׁר is not that of guidance . . . but that


            2 H[ermann] J. A[ustel], "שָׁעַן," TWOT, II, 945.

            3 R. B. Y. Scott, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Anchor Bible

(Garden City: Doubleday, 1981), p. 44.

            4 Otto Zöckler, "The Proverbs of Solomon," trans. and

ed. C. Aiken, in John P. Lange, Commentary on the Holy Scrip-

tures, Vol. V (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978 [rpt.]), p. 61.

            5 F. Delitzsch, trans. M. G. Easton, Proverbs, Ecclesi-

astes, Song of Solomon, Commentary on the Old Testament, Vol.

VI (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973 [rpt.]), Vol. I, p. 87.

            6 "יָשַׁר" TWOT.



of making straight . . . or, perhaps, better still, making

smooth."7  The same form of יַשַׁר, is used again in Proverbs

xv.21, speaking of the manner in which the man of insight

makes his going straight and successful (יְיַשֶּׁר־לָכֶת), as

opposed to the foolish way of the crooked man. The point of

emphasis would seem to be the priorities of the man. If he

puts Yahweh at the center of his universe, being aware of

the control and presence of Yahweh,8 he will find that Yahweh

removes the obstacles from his paths and brings him to his

right end.9  The thought is analogous to that expressed by

Solomon's father in Psalm xxxvii.4, where the promise of

Yahweh's giving one the desires of his heart is preceded by

the injunction to delight oneself in Yahweh. David is say-

ing that one's delight in Yahweh will conform one's heart's

desires to Yahweh's plan; Solomon is similarly saying that

the one who fully trusts in Yahweh, knowing Him in all of

life's departments and not leaning upon human viewpoint,

will find his path being conformed to Yahweh's will. There

is no explicit injunction to seek the guidance of Yahweh;

the straightening of the way seems to be solely Yahweh's

doing, consequent upon one's maintenance of the right pri-

orities in the knowledge of Yahweh.


            7 Zöckler, Charles A. Aiken's note, p. 59.

            8 Fleming James, "Some Aspects of the Religion of Prov-

erbs," Journal of Biblical Literature, 51 (1932), 38.

            9 Delitzsch, I, 88.


            This attitude of wholehearted, undivided trust may well

have been instilled by the king's father, whose own attitude

is reflected so poignantly in Psalm lxii, wherein the recur-

rent theme is the waiting of David's soul upon Yahweh alone

(cf. verses 1-2, 5, 6). David exhorts the readers/singers

to trust in Yahweh "at all times" (v. 8, בְּכָל־עֵת--perhaps

conceptually related to בְּכָל־דְּרָכֶי, Prov. iii.6). Similar

terminology is reflected in the well-known Deuteronomy vi.5,

wherein believing Israelites are commanded to be loyal to

Yahweh with all of their beings, which results in an occu-

pation with Him extending to all the departments of life

(Deut. vi.6-9).



            The manner in which this passage blends with antecedent

revelation has been noted above. Casting a brief glance at

subsequent revelation, one sees in King Ahaz the very antith-

esis of this section. Eschewing pure Yahwism, Ahaz sought

his succor in humanly-devised aid (Isa. vii.l-2; cf. II Kings

xvi.5-18), refusing to trust Yahweh (Isa. vii.9, where note

the word-play) and rebelling against His proffered aid

(vii.12). As Jeremiah later reflects, when a man trusts in

mankind his heart necessarily departs from Yahweh (Jer.


            Again, Yahweh's "straightening" activity is later seen


            10 Cf. Charles Bridges, Proverbs (Edinburgh: Banner of

Truth, 1968 [rpt.]), p. 23.


in His sovereign, providential removing of obstacles from

the path of Cyrus (אֲוַשֵּׁר, Isa. xlv.2; cf. v. 13)--which

surely involved no mystical, immediate "guidance." Also,

the command goes out to prepare a way for the divine

Messiah (Isa. x1.3) by leveling out the terrain (v. 4).

This explicit illustration depicts Yahweh's method in

assuring the success of His servants.


                                   Proverbs xvi.3

                        Commit your works to [Yahweh],

                                    And your plans will be established (NASB).


            The student is exhorted to literally roll (גֹּל from

גָּלַל) his works onto Yahweh. The root idea of the verb is

literal (cf. Gen. xxix.3, 8, 10; Josh. x.18, etc.),11 but

does not likely refer to the rolling of the Urim and Thum-

mim.12  The metaphorical sense is well-attested, used by

Solomon's father in Psalm xxii.8 and xxxvii.5. The works 

contemplated are probably not so much deeds already done as

they are deeds which are to be done (as in Ps. xc.17).13

The futurity of the deeds is also confirmed by the parallel

term "plans" (מַחְשְבֹתֶי, a noun derived from חָשַב, to think,


            11 Cf. E[arl] S. K[alland], "גָּלַל," TWOT, I, 162-65.

            12 Pace Saadia, cited in W. Gunther Plaut, Book of

Proverbs, The Jewish Commentary for Bible Readers (New York:

Union of American Hebrew Congregations, 1961), pp. 176-77.

            13 Delitzsch, I, 336.


reckon, estimate).14  The appended promise assures the

respondent that his contemplated plans will be established.

The word used is  וְיִכֹּנוּ, which is waw-conjunctive with the

Niph'al imperfect from the root כּוּן, which signifies "to

prepare, make ready, establish.15  Solomon's parallel

usages in Proverbs (xii.3; xvi.12; iii.19; xxix.14) support

the idea of a thing being rendered stable, secure, and last-

ing. The simple וְ used with the imperfect form here sug-

gests a non-indicative mood, perhaps the subjunctive; thus

one may accept McKane's rendering, "that your plans. . . .”16


Theological Analysis

            A divine-human interplay is attested in this verse.

The human is seen as a significant actor; the deeds are

"your” deeds, and the plans are "your" plans. Nevertheless,

the fruition of the plans is dependent upon Yahweh's plea-

sure. For that reason, the plans must consciously be sub-

mitted to the Sovereign with "an element of resignation to

Yahweh's will, a willingness to give up anything which

clashes with Yahweh's resolve and so a request for attune-

ment and harmony."17

            Solomon's stress upon the necessity of commitment to


            14 Cf. L[eon] J. W[ood], "חָשַׁב," TWOT, I, 329-30.

            15 J[ohn] N. O[swalt], "כּוּן," TWOT, I, 433.

            16 William McKane, Proverbs, OTL (Philadelphia: West-

minster, 1970), p. 235.

            17 McKane, p. 497.


Yahweh was doubtless derived from his father (cf. Ps.

xxii.8; xxxi.5; xxxvii.5; lv.22; lxvii.19). As Solomon him-

self attested elsewhere, ever so much labor in building and

guarding is worthless if Yahweh's blessing is absent from an

endeavor (Ps. cxxvii.1-2). No human acts or plans can

counter Yahweh (Prov. xix.21; xxi.30). Such knowledge was

important for a king; plan as he might, nothing outside of

Yahweh's sovereign will could hope for fulfillment.



            The emphasis of this verse is clearly positive and

optimistic; the assumption underlying the text is that the

planner is in harmony with Yahweh's designs. Godly plans

which fail inexplicably are not considered here. In any

event, as a later (?) psalmist sang, the believer who feared

Yahweh would not fear evil tidings, because his own heart

would be fixed, established, steadfast (נָכוֹן), in his trust

of Yahweh (Ps. cxii.7). By contrast, those whose plans were

not committed to Yahweh would come to know what it was to be

vetoed from above (cf. Isa. vii.7 and context; also x1.23-24;

Neh. iv.15).


                                  Proverbs xvi.7

            When a man's ways are pleasing to [Yahweh],

                        He makes even his enemies to be at peace with

                        him (NASB).


            The largest exegetical question concerns the subject of


יַשְלִם. Some see אִישׁ as the subject of the verb.18  However,

אִישׁ is the construent of דַּרְכֵי־  which would mean that the

alternative subject to Yahweh is not the man but the ways of 

the man. This concept is possible and yields an acceptable

sense, but might more naturally call for a verb in the

plural number, whereas יַשְׁלִם is singular--although the number

of the verb could agree with either the absolute or the con-

struct word. The first stich, in this case, does not par-

ticularly underscore the need for good, wise, or successful

behavior. Rather, the question raised by the first stich

is, Do a given man's ways please Yahweh? When this question

can receive an affirmative reply, the second stich gives

assurance that He--Yahweh, the crucial Person of the first

stich--will make even that man's enemies to be at peace with

the man. Since Yahweh is the crucial element and touchstone

of the first clause, it is best to see Him as the prime

Actor in the second clause. The verb is a Hiph'il imperfect

inflection from the root שָׁלַם, which means to be in a state or

covenant of peace.19  Thus, Yahweh is said to make even the

enemies of a man whose ways please Him to cease from their

enmity, coming into a sound and peaceful relationship with

the man.


            18 So McKane; see also A. Cohen, Proverbs, Soncino Books

of the Bible (London: Soncino, 1946), p. 104.

            19 G. L[loyd] C[arr], "שָׁלֵם," TWOT, II, 930.


Theological Analysis

            Solomon would have found both the truth of this general

principle and some exceptions to it in the life of his

father. David was hunted by Saul for no fault of his own,

and in spite of the fact that he was a man who pleased Yahweh

(I Sam. xvi.12b-13; cf. xiii.14). At will, Yahweh gave

David moments of respite in the (temporary) restoration of

peaceful relations with Saul (e.g., I Sam. xxiv.15-17; cf.

Bridges, p. 231). Similarly, Joseph was hated by his broth-

ers, but was given grace in the eyes of his masters (Gen.

xxxix.2-5). The bottom-line theological point here is that

it is always within Yahweh's power to grant favor to His

servants, giving them success in personal relations. Solo-

mon himself had known what it was to have Yahweh grant rest

(here the verb is חֵנִיַה) from all adversaries (I Kings v.4),

and he knew that Yahweh was able to do so at any suitable


            Deserving of some emphasis is the relation of this

verse to the "free will" theory which some have advanced.

It would appear from this verse that the primary emphasis is

vertical, teaching that once one's relationship with Yahweh

is as it should be, Yahweh is able to control the volitions

of others in such a way as to bring about a state of peace

where enmity had formerly existed.



            The larger context of Scripture shows this verse to be


true in principle, but capable of modification. "Other

scriptures (e. g. Jn. 15:18ff.) show that this is not a flat

statement of law, but an encouragement to fearlessness," as

Kidner remarks.20  God allows His godly ones to suffer

the pressure of the worldlings (II Tim. iii.12), even as He

had allowed the flawless Lord Jesus to be killed by wicked

men (who were no less under His control--Acts ii.23;



            The focus of one's life must be upon Yahweh first and

foremost. If such as the case with one's heart, Yahweh can

grant success to one's life (Prov. iii.6), plans (xvi.3),

and personal relations (xvi.7), due to His control of those

areas and all others.


            20 Derek Kidner, The Proverbs, TOTC (Downers Grove:

Inter-Varsity, 1964), p. 119.

            21 Cf. Bridges, p. 231.





                                 CHAPTER SIX

           The Sovereignty of Yahweh and Man's Plans


            Due to the relative abundance of texts asserting the

control Yahweh exercises over the plans of men, only six

verses will be singled out for examination: Proverbs xvi.l,

9, 33; xix.21; xx.24; and xxi.l.


                              Proverbs xvi.l

            The plans of the heart belong to man,

                        but the answer of the tongue is from [Yahweh]



            The exegesis of this passage is quite problematic, to

say the least. The verse introduces a series of Proverbs.

dealing with the theme "man proposes, God disposes."1  The

least that may be safely said would seem to be that man's

plans are here contrasted with "the answer of the tongue,"

which (whatever it is) comes from Yahweh.2   The word for

plans (מַעֲרָ) occurs only here, and "is a word suggesting

placing things in order: e. g. setting a battle-array


            1 Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Toward an Exegetical Theology

(Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981), p. 230.

            2 Although W. O. E. Oesterly (alone, it would appear)

takes the וְ of the second stanza as continuative, so that

"both thought and its utterance are from God" (The Book of 

Proverbs, Westminster Commentaries [London: Methuen, 1929],

p. 126).




(Gn. 14:8), or laying a fire (Gn. 22:9)."3  Each stanza

begins with an inseparable preposition and a noun for empha-

sis; the first preposition is a לְ (in לְאָדָם), and the second

is מִן (in וּמֵיהוה), contrasting the facts that while the plan

of the heart are man's possessions, the answer of the tongue

issues from Yahweh as ultimate source.

            The most troublesome phrase in the verse is מַעֲנֶה לָשׁוֹן.

Does this mean the reply of Yahweh's tongue, His final,

decisive answer,4 one's own task of speaking in self-defense

before great men,5 getting an answer to a rough problem as

from Yahweh,6 the divine gift of the answer that one should

render in any given situation,7 general inspiration,8 gen-

eral speech as given success or frustration according to

Yahweh's will,9 the spoken word with which one would carry

out one's plans after deliberation and subject to Yahweh's


            3 Derek Kidner, The Proverbs, TOTC (Downers Grove:

Inter-Varsity, 1964), p. 118.

            4 William McKane, Proverbs, OTL (Philadelphia: West-

minster, 1970), pp. 235, 492.

            5 C. H. Toy, Proverbs, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,

1899), p. 320.

            6 F. Delitzsch, Proverbs . . . , trans. M. G. Easton,

Comm. on the O. T., Vol. VI (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973

[rpt.]), Vol. I, pp. 334-35.

            7 Otto Zöckler, "The Proverbs of Solomon," trans. and

ed. C. Aiken, J. Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures,

Vol. V (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978 [rpt.]), p. 154.

            8 New English Bible.

            9 John Gill, An Exposition of the Old Testament, IV

(Streamwood: Primitive Baptist, 1976 [rpt.]), 441.


will,10 the ability to phrase ideas in convincing words,11

or something else? The decision is not easy. The term מַעֲנֵה

is found again in Proverbs only in xv.l, 23; xvi.4 (?); and

xxix.19. The closest grammatical parallel is xv.23, where

the phrase is בְּמַעֲנֵה־פִיו, and clearly denotes the answer

which one's own mouth gives (as the parallel stanza would

seem to demand). This would yield what appears to be a dif-

ficult sense: how could it be that the arrangements of the

heart would be man's, but the answer which a man's tongue

gives would be Yahweh's?

            We would suggest that the sense of the verse is this:

in man's own perception he mentally struggles about in his

calculations and anticipations, searching for the proper

path to take. In all of this process, he is unaware of any

other influencing factors beside his own mental machinations;

it is as if he is alone in the universe, deciding out of his

own volition. Yet Yahweh's control is so absolute and so

all-encompassing that the man's final decision, the answer

which his tongue gives, is ultimately from Yahweh--whether

for welfare or for woe. The thought (though not the gram-

mar) would then be quite parallel to Proverbs xvi.9 and



            10 Gerhard von Rad, trans. James Martin, Wisdom in

Israel (Nashville: Abingdon, 1972), p. 100.

            11 A. Cohen, Proverbs, Soncino Books of the Bible

(London: Soncino, 1946), p. 103.


Theological Analysis

            If the proposed understanding of the verse is correct,

its implications are far-reaching. The verse would set in

some perspective the sovereignty/volition tension, by teach-

ing that man's proper duty is the construction of arrange-

ments concerning his own future--but never forget that the

final result (whatever it may be) is an expressive result of

the all-embracing will of Yahweh.

            Solomon would have known that Yahweh had exercised

direct control over the tongue of the pagan prophet Balaam,12

overruling what the prophet might otherwise have wished to

say. In fact, he basically would have been reflecting the

biblical world-view as outlined in Chapter Four, above.



            The truth of this verse blends in with the statement of

Isaiah concerning Yahweh's comprehensive creative control

(Isa. xlv.7), as well as with the New Testament church's

understanding of God's control (Acts ii.23; iv.27-28; cf.

Eph. i.11). Man remains responsible for his arrangements

and preparations, but Yahweh controls and holds the reins on

the entire process (cf. Dan. iv.35; Rom. ix.19-20).


                                 Proverbs xvi.9

            The mind of man plans his way,

                        But [Yahweh] directs his steps (NASB).


            12 Num. xxii.18; cf. Bridges, p. 224.



            The proverb is something of a cross between xvi.l and 3.

The mind of man calculates, reckons, makes estimates (יְהַּשֵׁב)

concerning his way, as in (allowing for different

terminology). His steps are, however, established and made

firm (rather than NASB's "directs"; יָכִין) by Yahweh accord-

ing to His will.


Theological Analysis

            Again, the volition of man is given its proper and sig-

nificant role in making careful decisions concerning the way

to choose. As always, however, the last word belongs to

Yahweh. In this, Solomon was theologically informed by the

same traditions noted in the passage above and in Chapter


            Of particular background value is Genesis 1.20. Joseph

allows that the brothers had indeed calculated and intended

(חֲשַׁבְתֶּם) evil against him, but Yahweh had intended and calcu-

lated it (חֲשָׁבָהּ) for good. The brothers had made their plan,

but the actual intent and results issued from Yahweh.



            As Bridges observes, "What vast results hung upon the

sleepless night of the Eastern autocrat! Esth. vi. 1" (p.

233). Even the restive pacings of the king were directed by

Yahweh and were made firm in the accomplishment of His

decree. As the psalmist Asaph observed, Yahweh is able to

catch and establish us just as our steps are slipping and we


are in danger of falling (Ps. lxxiii.2 ff.).


                                     Proverbs xvi.33

                        The lot is cast into the lap,

                                    But its every decision is from [Yahweh]



            The first term in the first clause is בְּחֵיק, referring

(according to Oesterley) to the fold in the garment at the

breast where things were carried.13  Into this fold is

hurled14 the גּוֹרָל, the "lot," which appears to have been a

small stone or pebble which could be thrown so as to land in

such a way as to render a decision in a matter.15  The deci-

sion in this case is referred to as a מִשְׁפָּט, a judgment. The

proverb declares that the decision comes from Yahweh.


Theological Analysis

            Although we may be fairly sure that this verse is not

necessarily a "certain reference to the machinery for con-

sulting Urim and Thummim," pace McKane,16 it is difficult to

determine the exact context of this lot-casting. There is


                13 Oesterley, p. 137.

                14 Oesterley, p. 137, who observes that this is the

only occurrence of the verb in this connection.

                15 E[arl] S. K[alland], "גּרל," Theological Wordbook of

the Old Testament (hereafter TWOT), ed. R. Laird Harris,

Gleason L. Archer, Jr. and Bruce K. Waltke, I (Chicago:

Moody, 1980), 171-72.

                16 McKane, p. 499.


no compelling reason for ruling out a reference to God in

the casting of this lot.17  Although the Pentateuch does not

mandate the use of the lot explicitly, its use is taken up

and sanctioned to a certain degree.18  Delitzsch correctly

observes that "it was a practice, animated by faith, in

God's government of the world, which . . . stood high above

the unbelief of the 'Enlightenment.'"19  Kidner goes beyond

the evidence in asserting that this verse refers not to God's

control of random events, but to His "settling of matters

properly referred to Him."20  Oehler both affirms what is

here taken as the proper signification of the text and pro-

vides the background of antecedent revelation: "Even in

drawing lots there rules no chance, Prov. xvi.33; and so in

Num. xxvi. 55f., Josh. vii. 14ff., xiv. 2, 1 Sam. xiv. 41,

the lot is used in seeking to know the divine will."21  Von

Rad is surely wide of the mark in denying full theological

significance to this verse.23  Solomon uses a figure which,


            17 R. N. Whybray, The Book of Proverbs, Cambridge Bible

Commentary (London: Cambridge, 1972), p. 97. Cf. Toy,

p. 334.

            18 Delitzsch, I, 351.                           19 Delitzsch, I, 352.

            20 Kidner, p. 122.

            21 Gustav Friederich Oehler, Amer. ed. G. Day, Theology

of the Old Testament (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1978

[rpt]), p. 122.

            22 Glendon Bryce, A Legacy of Wisdom (Cranbury: Assoc.

Univ. Presses, 1979), p. 199.

            23 Gerhard von Rad, Old Testament Theology, trans.

D. M. G. Stalker, II (New York: Harper & Row, 1965), 439.


at present, is proverbial for pure randomness and chance,

and utilizes the figure to illustrate Yahweh's sovereignty.



            Kidner points out that the last recorded use of the lot

is in Acts i.26, after which it became inappropriate guid-

ance for a church composed of individuals who were no longer

slaves who knew not their Master's plans.24  It is of periph-

eral interest (and uncertain connection) to note the use of

the figure again in II Peter i.1, wherein the apostle

addresses his letter to those who had obtained an equally

precious faith by lot (τοῖς ἰσότιμον ἡμῖν λαχοῦσιν πίστιν).


                                    Proverbs xix.21

                        Many are the plans in a man's heart,

                                    But the counsel of [Yahweh], it will stand




            As in xvi.3 the reader encounters the noun מַחְשְׁבוֹת,

referring to the calculated plans and thoughts of the human

heart in all of their diversity. This plural noun is

opposed to the singular עֵצָה of Yahweh, contrasting the con-

flicting desires of the human mind as opposed to the unified

and successful counsel of Lord Yahweh. The emphasis on the

singularity of Yahweh's counsel is stressed syntactically by

the feminine pronoun הִיא. This counsel תָקוּם, will stand--


            24 Kidner, p. 122.


both in becoming actual fact and in enduring.25


Theological Analysis

            In terms of theological background, Solomon had doubt-

less heard from his father concerning the time David had

prayed that Yahweh would turn his enemy Ahithophel's counsel

into foolishness (II Sam. xvi.31), which Yahweh did (II Sam.

xvii.l4). Previously, Yahweh had seen that the מַחְשְׁבוֹת of

men's hearts were only wicked all day (Gen. vi.5), and His

willingness to cancel out these machinations in favor of His

own counsel is not surprising.



            Again, Yahweh retains the power of veto. Several cen-

turies after Solomon (Isa. xlvi.10), God is overheard saying

עֲצָתִי תָקוּם (a reminiscence of the same words found in this

verse?), וְכָל־חֶפְצִי אֶעֱשֶׂה (a reminiscence of similar words

found in Ps. cxv.37). No serious challenge to His sovereign

counsel is contemplated.


                                     Proverbs xx.24

                        Man's steps are ordained by [Yahweh],

                                    How then can man understand his way? (NASB).


            The first stich is without a verb, reading literally,

"From Yahweh the steps of a strong man." Lord Yahweh is the

source of the man's steps; it might be better to supply a


            25 Delitzsch, II, 32.


less "loaded" phrase such as "come from," rather than "are

ordained by" (NASB) or some form of "direct" (NEB, Anchor

Bible [Scott]). The man is a גָּבֶר, a strong man; how much

more would this apply to an ordinary man!26

            The resultant query concerns man's inability to see

into ( יָבִין from  בִּין to discern, have insight)27 the mean-

ing of his way. Since the infinite God Yahweh is the source

of man's way, what finite man of dust (אָדָם) can penetrate

into an exhaustive knowledge of His purposes?


Theological Analysis

            Solomon may begin this proverb with a quotation from

his father's words in Psalm xxxvii.23, since the wording is

identical.28  Man's ignorance concerning the ultimate mean-

ings and issues of his life must move him to unqualified

trust in Yahweh, his ultimate source.29  Yahweh both rules

and overrules men,30 and should receive their full reliance.

It is this ignorance which rules out any leaning upon one's

own בִּינָה (Prov. iii.5). All men are very small pieces upon

a very large board; Yahweh has the advantage of a total

overview, which is denied to mankind. Thus men must trust



            26 W. Gunther Plaut, Book of Proverbs, Jewish Commen-

tary for Bible Readers (New York: Union of American Hebrew

Congregations, 1961), p. 213.

            27 L[ouis] G[oldberg], "בִּין," TWOT, I, 103.

            28 Cohen, p. 136; Delitzsch, Vol. II, p. 55.

            29 Whybray, p. 116.                           30 Kidner, p. 140.



            The prophet Jeremiah later reminisces on the same

truth, reflecting more fully that it belonged (in the last

analysis) to man neither to possess his way autonomously nor

to direct his steps (Jer. x.23). "God's uncontrollable

power and sovereignty; man's absolute dependence and help-

lessness--let these be foundation principles," exhorts

Bridges wisely.31 The verse is not intended to paralyze

man but to assign to him his true place at the feet of the

Master of the universe.

                                  Proverbs xxi.l

                        The king's heart is like channels of water

                                    in the hand of [Yahweh];

                                    He turns it wherever He wishes (NASB).



            More literally, the verse reads: "Channels of water

(is) the king's heart in Yahweh's hand. . .     "Just as a

farmer leads water along the irrigation channels in pursu-

ance of his agricultural projects, Yahweh directs the mind

of the king and makes him the agent of his designs."32 The

verb translated by "wishes" is יַחְפֹּץ, the Qal imperfect form'

from the root חָפֵץ, which means "to take delight in, be

pleased with, desire."33  The verb denotes being emotionally

pleased and satisfied in something. "Turns" renders  יַטֶּנּוּ, a


            31 Bridges, p. 357.                             32 McKane, p. 559.

            33 L[eon] J. W[ood], “חָפֵץ,” TWOT, I, 310.


Hiph'il imperfect form of the root נָטָה.  It is frequently

used of literal and metaphorical inclination, applied to

wadis and heart alike.34


Theological Analysis

            This is an interesting proverb to find on the lips of a

king. Solomon found his proper place at the disposal of

Yahweh, and realized that he was not above the control of

the King. Calvin's comment is apposite, as he notes that

Solomon in this verse

            comprehends the whole race under one particular

            class. If any will is free from subjection, it

            must be that of one possessed of regal power, and

            in a manner exercising dominion over other wills.

            But if it is under the hand of God, ours surely

            cannot be exempt from it.35

The truth of this verse gives trouble to the theory of free

will36--except as possessed by Yahweh. Calvin further

remarks that this verse goes far to show Yahweh's control

over "the depraved affections of the ungodly," and shows

that "in general the will not less than external works are

governed by the determination of God."37  Remarkably enough,

however, the setting of this verse in as pragmatic a book as


            34 M[arvin] R. W[oudstra], “נָטָה,” TWOT, II, 573-74.

            35 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion,

trans. H. Beveridge, I (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975

[rpt.]), 270.

            36 Cf. the strong words of Gordon Clark, Biblical Pre-

destination (Nutley: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1969), p. 125.

            37 John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predestination 

of God, trans. J. Reid (London: James Clarke, 1961 [rpt.]),

p. 175.


Proverbs forbids the application of this verse in any way

that would lead to what Eichrodt calls "a flat determination

depriving Man of the responsibility for his actions."38

            Solomon would have seen this truth illustrated often in

antecedent Scripture. God had kept the (pagan?) Abimelech,

king of Gerar, from sinning against Himself in taking Sarah

(Gen. xx.6; cf. Ps. cv.14-15, a later reflection).39  Yahweh

also controlled Pharaoh in Joseph's day for the good of the

chosen people and, derivatively, of the Egyptians (Gen. xli.

37-45; xlv.5-7; 1.20). Again, Yahweh had the heart of the

Pharaoh of the Exodus equally in His hand, but this time for

hardening and judgment (Exod. iv.21; vii.3, etc.). Yahweh

could deal freely in keeping with His will in the hearts of

men from all walks of life.



            Although Kidner states that this verse treats of provi-

dence rather than regeneration,40 subsequent revelation does

not require such a facile differentiation. It is the work

of Yahweh to open the heart of one to the Gospel (Acts

xvi.14) and to blind or harden the hearts of others (John

xii.37 -41).

            Surveying subsequent revelation, Kidner very aptly

observes that "Tiglath-pileser (Isa. 10:6, 7), Cyrus


            38 Walther Eichrodt, Theology of the Old Testament, II,

trans. J. A. Baker, OTL (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967),


            39 Bridges, p. 364.                             40 Kidner, p. 141.


(Is. 41:2-4) and Artaxerxes (Ezr. 7:21) are all examples of

autocrats who, in pursuing their chosen courses, flooded or

fertilized God's field as He chose. The principle is still

in force."41

            This truth formed a most difficult lesson for

the sovereign Nebuchadnezzar and necessitated a rather har-

rowing journey to God's woodshed (Dan. iv., especially

verses 17, 25-26, and 34-35). Yahweh could freely use

Assyria as His punishing rod (Isa. x.5), sent out on His

mission (v. 6), overriding and realigning the purpose of the

nation (v. 7)--and then punishing the nation, holding it

responsible for its wicked intention in carrying out Yahweh's

sovereign decree (v. 12)! In similar manner, the wicked

acts of the rulers of Christ's day subserved God's eternal

plan (Acts iv.27-28).



            The discussion has shown that Yahweh exercises control

over man's plans (Prov. xvi.3; xix.21), steps (xvi.9; xx.24),

and speech (xvi.1). Even an apparently random, inanimate

object is in His control (xvi.33); nor is absolute King of

men beyond His absolute control (xxi.1). Yahweh is ruler of



            41 Kidner, p. 141.


                                 CHAPTER SEVEN


               The Sovereignty of Yahweh and the Wicked

                                     (Proverbs xvi.4)


            [Yahweh] has made everything for its own purpose,

                        Even the wicked for the day of evil (NASB).


            The text under consideration is notoriously difficult.

Almost each clause admits of not only differing interpre-

tations but also different translations. It is probably the

most knotty passage in the book of Proverbs, thus meriting

close attention.



            The first term encountered is כֹּל, which is necessarily

a singular collective noun.1  The verb is פָּעַל, meaning to do

or make, and it occurs only in poetic passages.2  When man

is the subject, the verb denotes moral actions whether good

or bad.3  Its usage in the sense of "create" is fairly rare;

the participle is found in Job xxxvi.3 in Elihu's reference

to Yahweh. Similar usages with Yahweh as the subject in


            1 Gill is thus wrong in arguing that the singular

suffix in לְמַעֲנֶהוּ must refer to Yahweh; grammatically, it

could refer equally well to  כֹּל(John Gill, The Cause of God

and Truth [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980 (rpt.)], p. 72.)

            2 F. Brown, S. R. Driver, and C. A. Briggs, A Hebrew 

and English Lexicon of the Old Testament (hereafter BDB),

            3 V[ictor] P. H[amilton], "פָּעַל," Theological Wordbook 

of the Old Testament (hereafter TWOT), ed. R. Laird Harris,

Gleason L. Archer, Jr. and Bruce K. Waltke, II (Chicago:

Moody, 1980), 730.



antecedent passages are as follows: Exodus xv.17 (Yahweh

made the mountain of His inheritance for His dwelling place);

Numbers xxiii.23 (what God has wrought for Israel); Deuter-

onomy xxxii.27 (Yahweh's action in judging Israel); Psalm

vii.13 (Yahweh making his arrows fiery shafts); xxxi.19

(Yahweh has made goodness for those who fear Him). Solomon's

other uses in Proverbs refer to man's doing of iniquity

(Prov. x.29; xxi.15). Solomon's father used the noun פֹּעַל to

refer to Yahweh's acts in days past (including creation?;

Ps. cxliii.5). The noun was used in Deuteronomy xxxii.4 to

refer to Yahweh the Rock's works as תָּמִים and again by David

in Psalm lxiv.9 to refer to God's work. The rendering of

the New International Version, "works out," yields an inter-

esting sense--but is not supported explicitly by any of the

usages of the verb or noun. All of the usages noted refer

to God's direct, causative action, and not to His mere

superintendence of a process (although this meaning could

conceivably be read into the texts). The text of the Sep-

tuagint here has only the most coincidental relationship to

the Hebrew text and is of no help. Most commentators agree

on or at least accept the meaning of "to make," i.e., cre-

atively.4 An equally acceptable refinement is added by Gill,


            4 E.g., R. B. Y. Scott, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Anchor

Bible (Garden City: Doubleday, 1981, 2nd ed.), pp. 104, 106;

Otto Zöckler, "The Proverbs of Solomon," trans. and ed. C.

Aiken, J. Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Vol. V

(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978 [rpt.]); and William McKane,

Proverbs, OTL (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970), pp. 235,

497. The rendering is also supported by the New English


who cites usages in Exodus xv.17 and Psalm xxxi.19 to sup-

port the idea of a designing rather than strictly a cre-

ating (which would be בָּרָא) or merely a doing (which would be


            The next difficult term is לְמַעֲנֵהוּ.  The simplest aspect

to identify are the ל preposition and the pronomial suffix

הוּ.  The root is ענה, to answer or respond,6 and probably

לְמַעֲנֵהוּ represents ל preposition with the noun מַעֲנֵה, an

answer or response, rather than the conjectural form מַעַן

(cf. frequently used לְמַעַן). Thus, the term means "for his

or its response, answer," with the following proffered

alternatives: "with its counterpart" (Scott); "for its own

end" (NEB; cf. Zöckler, Toy); "with relation to its counter-

part" (McKane); and "for its purpose" (Delitzsch, Perowne--

which seems more related to לְמַעַן). The repetition of the ל

in the next clause in לְיוֹם, with the additional וְגַם, seems

to point to a definite end, which supports the rendering of

NEB, Zöckler, and Toy. The sense of the renderings of Scott

and McKane is also possible, inasmuch as the counterpart for

the wicked man is the day of evil as his end.

            This conclusion presupposes that the pronomial suffix

in לְמַעֲנֵהוּ refers not to Yahweh but to כֹּל. This is not cer-

tain, and the "His" possibility is not to be rejected by


Bible and the Modern Language Bible, to pick two versions

from opposite ends of the theological spectrum.

            5 Gill, Cause, p. 71.              6 "עָנָה," BDB.


some a priori theological notions alone.7  The parallelism

to the second clause of this synthetic parallelism8 distich

supports the reference of לְמַעֲנֶהוּ to כֹּל, for the second

clause is incomplete and derives its consummative idea from

the first clause.9  The two thoughts are linked by the first

word of the second clause, וְגַם.

            The corresponding end for which Yahweh made the wicked

is said to be לְיוֹם רָעָה.  The precise signification of this

phrase is not certain.  Some (Calvin, Gill, Bridges) seem to

take the phrase in an eschatological sense, referring to the

damnation of the wicked. This will be discussed further in

the next section; here we note that the precise expression

is not used again in Proverbs. In Ecclesiastes, which we

take as Solomonic, is an interesting parallel. Solomon

counsels his audience in vii.l4 to be happy in the day of

"prosperity" (בְּיוֹם טוֹבָה), but to consider (רְאֵה) in the day

of adversity (בְיוֹם רָעָה) that Yahweh made (עָשָׂה) the one as

well as the other. One would hardly take the first clause

to refer to the Eternal State; the phrases seem to denote

times of felicity and adversity, respectively. A similar

expression is found in xii.12, where the reader is counseled


            7 As S. Malan, Original Notes on the Book of Proverbs 

(London: Williams & Norgate, 1892), p. 376.

            8 John M. Thompson, The Form and Function of Proverbs

in Ancient Israel (Paris: Mouton, 1974), p. 61.

            9 C. H. Toy, Proverbs, ICC (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,

1899), pp. 319-20.


to remember his Creators (בּוֹרְאֶי) he is still young,

before the evil days (יְמֶי הָרָעָה) come. Again, a reference to

perdition would not lie close at hand. There is no question

that the emphasis in the occurrences or רָעָה, in Proverbs is

quite this-worldly (cf., e.g., Prov. i.33; iii.29-30; xi.27;

xiii.21; xvii.l3; xxii.3, etc.). Inasmuch as eschatological

realities were not the regular focus of Old Testament

writers (though by no means beyond their purview), it would

be best to take the primary reference to fall upon pre-death

adversity, perhaps more precisely the "come-uppance" of the

wicked. Yet it must be observed that the general reference

would quite handily fit the eschatological, eternal woes of

the damned, for that period is most surely רָעָה!10

            At the close of this section the writer would proffer

the following interpretive paraphrase: "All has Yahweh

fashioned for its own answering destiny, including the

wicked for their own time of adversity."


Theological Analysis

            The very least that could be said for the meaning of

this proverb (and that which is most frequently said, as

being least objectionable) is that it teaches that there are


            10 The eschatological reference cannot be finally

excluded due to the fact that the first clause seems to

bring up ultimate considerations, reaching as it were into

eternity past to inquire as to the reason for the design of

reality. Since the ultimate meaning of the creation of

things seems to be emphasized, it is not untoward to see a

reference also to the ultimate destiny of those things.


no loose ends in Yahweh's creation.11  Seeing לְמַעֲנֵהוּ as

referring primarily to כֹּל in no way minimizes this verse's

stress upon the sovereignty of Yahweh, as Perowne observes:

"The two meanings really run into one another, for he who

makes a thing to serve its own purpose makes it to serve his

own purpose in so making it."12  The verse also surely pro-

vides a basis for teleological inquiries as well.

            Does Proverbs xvi.4 support double-predestination? The

thought may not be dismissed summarily as it is by some,13

for antecedent Scripture could suggest the idea (cf. Gen.

xxv.23 [in the later light of Mal. i.2 f., and Rom. ix.

10-18]). It is not surprising that many have adduced this

verse in support of double-predestination.14  None of the

supporters of this view argues that the verse asserts that

Yahweh made evil men as such nor solely for the purpose of

damning them,15 but rather that the proximate cause for


            11 E.g., Derek Kidner, The Proverbs, TOTC (Downers

Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1964), p. 118, and A. Cohen, Proverbs,

Soncino Books of the Bible (London: Soncino, 1946), p. 103.

            12 T. T. Perowne, The Proverbs, The Cambridge Bible

Commentary for Schools and Colleges (Cambridge: Cambridge

University, 1916), p. 114.

            13 I.e., F. Delitzsch, Proverbs . . ., Vol. I, Bib.

Comm. on the O. T., trans. M. G. Easton (Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1973 [rpt.]), p. 337.

            14 E.g., J. Barton Payne, The Theology of the Older

Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962), pp. 180, 197;

Gill, Cause, p. 71; John Calvin, trans. H. Beveridge, Insti-

tutes of the Christian Religion, II (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,

1975 [rpt.]), 231.

            15 Cf. Gill, Cause, pp. 71-72.


their damnation lies in the evil ones who walk into their

doom to the greater glory of God.16

            Solomon thus confesses that Yahweh made all things to

serve assigned purposes. A sterling example would have been

found in Yahweh's statement to Pharaoh in Exodus ix.16.

Further, since the initial clause is by no means restricted

to humans, it would have found antecedence in Genesis 1.20;

Yahweh works even in evil situations to bring about thereby

His own goal. Earlier, Job had reflected on the truth that

the wicked man had been and was being reserved for the day

of adversity.17  Solomon was well in line with the progress

of revelation.



            The apostles Paul (Rom. ix.10-23) and Peter (I Pet. ii.

8b; II Pet. ii.9) later reflected upon the same truth. The

sovereign purpose of Yahweh embraces all of reality, the

wicked no less than the good. This truth is given depth and

color when one recalls that all of reality was brought into

existence through and for the Son (Col. i.16), and for the

glory of the Father (Rom. xi.36; Heb. ii.10; Rev. iv.11).


            16 Cf. John Gill, An Exposition of the Old Testament,

Vol. IV, p. 442; John Calvin, Concerning the Eternal Predes-

tination of God, trans. J. Reid (London: James Clarke, 1961

[rpt.]), pp. 100-101.

            17 Charles Bridges, Proverbs (Edinburgh: Banner of

Truth, 1968 [rpt.]), p. 228.



                              CHAPTER EIGHT


                         Summary and Conclusion



            The preceding discussion has shown that the deadlock in

Proverbs-studies can be broken if (and only if) the student

is willing to take the text of Scripture seriously as reli-

able factual data. When this step is taken, Proverbs and

other Wisdom writings are seen to fit in with the rest of

Old Testament revelation in perfect harmony. Solomon was

inheritor of a rich and deep tradition of revealed theology,

and he incorporated that into his own world-view. Bifur-

cations are strictly artificial and unwarranted.

            The methodology of theological exegesis was applied to

a strand of texts relating the truth of the sovereignty of

Yahweh to the human situation. These verses were found to

accord with and focus the theology already unveiled in

earlier Scripture. These passages assessed that Yahweh

unerringly controls all of reality. On Him depend man's

plans (Prov. iii.5-6; xvi.1, 3), from Him come man's very

steps (Prov. xvi.9; xx.24), on Him the decision of the lot

rests (Prov. xvi.33), to Him the king is pliant (whether

consciously or not; Prov. xxi.l), on Him human relations

depend (Prov. xvi.7), and against Him all plans are of no

avail (Prov. xix.21). Even the human process of deciding

and verbalizing plans depends upon Him (Prov. xvi.l).



            All of the data lead in one direction: the realization

that all of existence is designed and ruled by the sovereign

Lord Yahweh (Prov. xvi.4). Scripture almost exhausts the

device of metaphor in stressing this point. As the preced-

ing investigation has shown, this truth grows out of and is

in perfect keeping with the assertions of antecedent Scrip-

ture, both in its primal form and in its development, both

in assertions and in historical narratives. It remains only

for the creature to internalize these realities and to find

his proper place--in worship of his Creator, at the foot of

the cross.







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