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The approach to the latter half of the book of Proverbs (starting with chapter 10) is problematic for someone writing a paragraph-by-paragraph commentary based around the Big Idea concept.  These individual proverbs (or sentence proverbs) often contrast the righteous and the wicked or the wise and the fool in just one very specific subject area.  There is no obvious flow of thought that connects the proverbs into thematic groupings.  The most common approach avoids the problem by resorting to a topical treatment of the various subjects covered in these chapters.  But God did not choose to structure His revelation in such a topical format.  So I will continue to make observations on a verse-by-verse basis without trying to fabricate any Big Idea statements for the various chapters.  I will also skip the appendix sections of Devotional Questions and Notes – since these will be included in conjunction with each individual verse as appropriate.

Paul Koptak does a good job summarizing his approach (which I am going to attempt to mirror):

How does one study the proverbs as individual sayings? The most basic and fruitful practice compares the two parallel lines, looking for the ways in which the two lines are similar and looking for the ways in which they are different. Thus, for example, in 10:29, “The way of the Lord” is stated in the first line and implied in the second, yet that same way is both “a refuge for the righteous” and “ruin for those who do evil.” The juxtaposition of the two lines often has an element of surprise that closer inspection uncovers. So here, the “way of the Lord” might be understood as the way one walks in life, a recurring image in the instructions of chapters 1–9. However, this way is a ruin for those who have never walked on it, so the second line defines “the way of the Lord” as a reference to God’s way of dealing with the world. The comparison also clarifies the use of the metaphor “way.” . . .

This commentary will also attend to repetitions and contrasts that link the proverbs in their literary context.  The proverbs seem to start one theme only to leave it off while taking on another that is related in some more or less obvious way. The theme will be picked up again, restated with variation of both vocabulary and content. For example, themes and images of final outcomes, blessing, but also dread and annihilation, intertwine in 10:22–32, although not every saying in this section treats that theme.

This technique reminds me of the interweaving of multiple stories in television dramas and soap operas. D. W. Griffith, one of the first great film directors, kept audiences on the edge of their seats when he brought together four related stories of Intolerance. Griffith’s intent was to show how the different stories related to a common truth; in a similar way, proverbs present various viewpoints of that common truth. Therefore, sections of these collected sentence proverbs do not address a single theme or present a monologue but rather use similarity and contrast in the way impressionist painters used strokes of color. For Claude Monet, splashes of light brown, when mixed with other strokes of blue or even green, could become a picture of a haystack at morning, noon, or sunset. So also in the writings of the ancient Near East, bringing disparate texts together by means of a perceived commonality can be seen in the Gilgamesh Epic and in Psalms 19, 83, and 89. . .

To summarize, readers can look for the following relations between individual proverbs: pairs, catchword clusters, links that may begin or end a section, and concentrations of Yahweh sayings. The connections highlight the concentrations of related proverbs and may point to an intended literary structure. . .  The lack of agreement about groupings among interpreters shows these proposals are somewhat subjective. Rather than saying that the proverbs are gathered into discrete sections, the outlines presented here are intended to point out concentrations of proverbs on a common theme. No outline will capture the organizational strategy of the collection, but suggestions about clusters can alert the reader to relationships and interaction.

Analysis by Roland Murphy:

It will become clear that several of the above studies have made important progress in the discernment of units within the book of Proverbs. The insight that a biblical book, even if it is unmistakably a collection, can constitute a certain unity has been applied to the book of Psalms, and perhaps with less success to the book of Proverbs. But in any case it is now recognized that the collections of sayings, especially of chaps. 10–22, and of 25–29, are not haphazard. In particular, the analyses of J. Krispenz and R. Scoralick have analyzed several units within these chapters. This research has been guided primarily by such literary features as catch words, paronomasia, etc., supported by analysis of the development of thought. The sound patterns studied by G. Boström and T. McCreesh have contributed to the recognition of units; stylistics do have a bearing on the collocation of proverbs in a group.

Analysis by Allen Ross:

Each saying falls into one of a number of parallel patterns. Whybray, 57–59, lists and explains the most common of these:

  • antithetical parallelism, pointing to a contrast between the wise and the foolish (“A wise son brings joy to his father / a foolish son is his mother’s bane”; cf. 10:1);
  • synonymous parallelism, giving the statement greater comprehensiveness and authority (“Pride comes before disaster / and arrogance before a fall”; cf. 16:18);
  • the continuous sentence, preserving the twofold shape of the saying but simply running the thought on to the second line (“A strong man who trusts in the fear of the LORD / will be a refuge for his sons”; cf. 14:26);
  • comparisons, in which comparative value judgments are offered instead of black and white decisions (“If the righteous in the land get their deserts / how much more the wicked and the sinner!” cf. 11:31);
  • and the statement and explanation (“A king’s threat is like a lion’s roar / one who ignores it is his own worst enemy”; cf. 20:2).

The proverbs in Proverbs 10:1 – 22:16 seem to defy an orderly arrangement or outline. With this fact in mind, yet still endeavoring to make this section as accessible and useable as possible to the reader, I have given a topical heading to each of the proverbs.

John MacArthur: This large section [10:1 – 22:16] contains 375 of Solomon’s individual proverbs.  They are in no apparent order, with only occasional grouping by subject, and are often without a context to qualify their application.  They are based on Solomon’s inspired knowledge of the Law and the Prophets.  The parallel, two line proverbs of chaps. 10-15 are mostly contrasts or opposites (antithetical), while those of chaps. 16-22 are mostly similarities or comparisons (synthetical).

Jonathan Akin: The second section of Proverbs (10:1 – 22:16) mainly consists of aphorisms that deal with a host of themes like work ethic, money, speech, family relationships, friendships, and the royal court.  This section is highly concerned with ethics.  Wisdom and righteousness are connected, as are foolishness and wickedness.  In this section, Solomon often reveals rewards or consequences at the end of each path.  Health, happiness, contentment, a good reputation, perhaps wealth, and immortality are at the end of the wise and righteous path, while trouble, pain, an untimely death, and the judgment of God are ready to meet the disobedient at the end of the foolish and wicked path.

This section begins with the phrase “The proverbs of Solomon” and is dominated by sayings people most commonly think of when they hear the word “proverb.”  People generally associate proverbs with pithy sayings that state a general truth rather than the extended discourses of Proverbs 1-9.  However, the extended teachings of Proverbs 1-9 have set up these shorter sayings in Proverbs 10 and following.  Only if the son has made a faith commitment to the Lord can he follow the wise saying throughout the rest of the book.  Following these wise sayings will reveal genuine faith in the Lord.  On the other hand, failing to follow these sayings will reveal one’s idolatry.  Therefore, a wise son who brings joy to his father is the characteristic of one who fears the Lord, while a foolish son who brings grief to his mother is the characteristic of an idol worshiper.  The emotional consequences children bring their parents reveal where they stand with the Lord.

By contrast, David Hubbard explains his rationale for treating this section of Proverbs as topical:

At 10:1, however, the Book of Proverbs takes a different tack. No more extended arguments, no more lengthy poems in praise of wisdom, no more embellished examples of the wiles of folly. Instead, the menu served from 10:1 – 22:16 is 375 sayings, usually two lines long. The mode of service is not table d’hôte but a la carte, brief, detached snacks of wisdom, like a vast buffet of hors d’oeuvres. . .

Since there is no discernible significance to the sequence of the verses, except the loose connectives of occasional catchwords, our approach to them in this section of the book is topical.

This method has the advantage of suggesting to preachers and teachers how they may collect and arrange similar sayings in a way that makes for a more coherent form of communication than is possible when each tidbit is offered individually. It is not an exaggeration to say that there are only two ways in which we can deliver the truths embedded in this collection of terse sayings from 10:1 – 22:16: one at a time or in groups organized by topic.

The task of organizing them is a judgment call; many would fit more than one of the thirty or so subject categories which I have identified. Both the table of topics and the cross-references in the commentary will give help in finding how and where each proverb is treated. The basic approach is to deal with two or three topics in each chapter using its relevant verses and also applicable sayings from other chapters.

Charles Bridges: The previous chapters have beautifully set out the nature and value of heavenly wisdom and contrasted it with the fascinations of sinful folly.  We now come to what are more correctly (not excluding the foregoing) the proverbs of Solomon.  They are for the most part unconnected sentences, remarkable for profound thought and acute observation, expressed in an antithetical or illustrative form.  They comprise a divine system of morals that should be universally applied.  They are a treasure of wisdom in all its varied details.  They apply to the individual, the family, and governments.  The previous chapters form a striking introduction to the book.  The glorious description of the great Counselor (chapters 1 and 8) commends to us his gracious instruction concerning the principles of true happiness and practical godliness.

Jonathan Akin is concerned with what approach we take to reading these chapters in Proverbs:

There is a right way and a wrong way to read the book of Proverbs. There is a right way to read Proverbs that leads to joy and life, and there is a wrong way to read Proverbs that leads to misery or pride. Here’s the difference—you can read the Proverbs like a Pharisee and say, “I need to do these things in order for God to love me. I need to obey these practical bits of advice because if I do them, God will accept me.” That is one way to read the book of Proverbs—and that is the wrong way! We should not read it like a Pharisee. Instead, we need to read the Proverbs like blood-bought Christians who say, “These are not the things that we do in order to get God to love us; these are the things that we do because God already loves us. We do not do these things to become his children; we do these things because in Jesus Christ we have already been adopted into his family, and now here is how we live our lives.”

The behaviors that we read about here—most of Proverbs 10–31 does talk about conduct—are not things that God tells you to do in order to become his child. They are not things God tells you to do in order for him to love you. These behaviors are what the Lord is producing in those who are already his children—those who are already a part of his family. He is slowly, progressively conforming you to the image of Christ; he is making you more like Jesus Christ, who is the Wisdom of God. Proverbs is very much a book on sanctification. . .

What we see differently starting in chapter 10 is how random everything is now. Let me talk to you about being a wise son, then let’s talk about money, then let’s talk about laziness, then let’s talk about the blessing of the Lord, then let’s talk about how you use your mouth, and then let’s talk about how you discipline your children. It is all over the place and scattershot. We should not think this is by accident. The reason it is random is because the book of Proverbs is Solomon obeying the command to parents in Deuteronomy 6 to teach their children the law.  God gave very specific commands to the parents about how to teach their children the law. He said you do it when they wake up, when they sit, when they walk along the road, and when they lie down. How much of your day is given to waking up, sitting, walking around, and lying down? The entire day! That is the point. He is saying that your task as a parent is to teach your children the law throughout the day. How does that work? For those of you who are parents, do you sit children down one day and say, “OK. Let me map out our week. Monday, I will teach you everything you need to know about marriage and dating and romance (most of you probably do not have a lot of material here). Tuesday, I will teach you everything you need to know about work. Wednesday, I will teach you everything you need to know about how to communicate.” And so on. Is that the way we teach our children? Do you just sit them down and pour every bit of information you have into them? Of course not. Instead, we may talk about a hundred different things as we go through the day. We will talk to them about things from the mundane to the sublime, like how to throw a baseball, how to drive a car, how to do a job interview, how to spend money wisely, how to handle a conflict with a friend, how to handle dating issues, how to improve their prayer life—all kinds of things. We go through our day, and as conversations and topics come up, we have the responsibility to teach our children. That is what’s happening in Proverbs. Solomon says that as you go throughout the day, conversations will come up about all kinds of different topics, and you need to be ready to instruct your children and impart wisdom to them.