A wrathful man stirs up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeases strife.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Luke 15:23, would indicate a stately magnificence. Stirreth up strife, because he is very apt both to give and to take all occasions of contention. Proverbs 26:21. He stirs up strife in families, sets one relation against another, and the house in an uproar; he stirs up contentions in neighbourhoods, and sets one friend and neighbour against another, whence proceed quarrels and lawsuits: he stirs up strife in churches, breaks brotherly love, and causes animosities and divisions; he stirs up strife in kingdoms and states, whence come wars and fightings, confusion, and every evil work;
but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife: a man of a quiet and peaceable disposition, possessed of the true grace of charity; who is not easily provoked, longsuffering, bears and endures all things; he allays the heat of anger; he quenches the coals of contention; he calms the storm and makes it quiet, as the word (o) signifies; he
"mitigates strifes raised,''
as the Vulgate Latin version renders it; he composes differences, reconciles the parties at variance, and makes all hush and still; and so prevents the ill consequences of contention and strife.A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)18. strife … strife] Contention … strife, R.V., to indicate that the Heb. words are different.Verse 18. - A wrathful man stirreth up strife (contention). This clause recurs almost identically in Proverbs 29:22 (comp. also Proverbs 26:21 and Proverbs 28:25). He that is slow to anger appeaseth strife (Proverbs 14:29). In the former clause the word for "contention" is madon, in the latter "strife" is rib, which often means "law dispute." It requires two to make a quarrel, and where one keeps his temper and will not be provoked, anger must subside. Vulgate, "He who is patient soothes aroused quarrels (suscitatas)." Septuagint, "A long suffering man appeases even a coming battle."
"Regina rerum omnium patientia." The LXX. here introduces a second rendering of the verse: "A long suffering man will quench suits; but the impious rather awaketh them."
To wise men he goeth not; -
and by the contrast, which prevails in the Book of Proverbs, between לץ (mocker) and חכם (wise), in which we see that, at the same time with the striving after wisdom, scepticism also, which we call free thought, obtained a great ascendency in Israel. Mockery of religion, rejection of God in principle and practice, a casting away of all fear of Jahve, and in general of all δεισιδαιμονία, were in Israel phenomena which had already marked the times of David. One may see from the Psalms that the community of the Davidic era is to be by no means regarded as furnishing a pattern of religious life: that there were in it גּוים (Gentile nations) which were in no way externally inferior to them, and that it did not want for rejecters of God. But it is natural to expect that in the Solomonic era, which was more than any other exposed to the dangers of sensuality and worldliness, and of religious indifference and free-thinking latitudinarianism, the number of the לצים increased, and that scepticism and mockery became more intensified. The Solomonic era appears to have first coined the name of לץ for those men who despised that which was holy, and in doing so laid claim to wisdom (Proverbs 14:6), who caused contention and bitterness when they spake, and carefully avoided the society of the חכמים, because they thought themselves above their admonitions (Proverbs 15:12). For in the psalms of the Davidic time the word נבל is commonly used for them (it occurs in the Proverbs only in Proverbs 17:21, with the general meaning of low fellow, Germ. Bube), and the name לץ is never met with except once, in Psalm 1:1, which belongs to the post-Davidic era. One of the Solomonic proverbs (Proverbs 21:24) furnishes a definite idea of this newly formed word:
An inflated arrogant man they call a scorner (לץ),
One who acts in the superfluity of haughtiness.
By the self-sufficiency of his ungodly thoughts and actions he is distinguished from the פּתי (simple), who is only misled, and may therefore be reclaimed, Proverbs 19:25; Proverbs 21:11; by his non-recognition of the Holy in opposition to a better knowledge and better means and opportunities, he is distinguished from the כּסיל (foolish, stupid), Proverbs 17:16, the אויל (foolish, wicked), Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 7:22, and the חסר לב (the void of understanding), Proverbs 6:32, who despise truth and instruction from want of understanding, narrowness, and forgetfulness of God, but not from perverse principle. This name specially coined, the definition of it given (cf. also the similarly defining proverb PRomans 24:8), and in general the rich and fine technical proverbs in relation to the manifold kinds of wisdom (בּינה, Proverbs 16:16; מוּסר, Proverbs 1:8; תּבוּנות, Proverbs 21:30; מזמּות, Proverbs 5:2; תּחבּוּלות, Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 12:5; the תּוּשׁיּה first coined by the Chokma, etc.), of instruction in wisdom (לקח, Proverbs 1:5; תּורה, Proverbs 4:2; Proverbs 6:23; רעה, to tend to a flock, to instruct, Proverbs 10:21; חנך, Proverbs 22:6; הוכח, Proverbs 15:12; לקח נפשׁות, to win souls, Proverbs 6:25; Proverbs 11:30), of the wise men themselves (חכם, Proverbs 12:15; נבון, Proverbs 10:13; מוכיח, a reprover, preacher of repentance, Proverbs 25:12, etc.), and of the different classes of men (among whom also אדם אחרי, one who steps backwards [retrograder], Proverbs 28:23) - all this shows that חכמה was at that time not merely the designation of an ethical quality, but also the designation of a science rooted in the fear of God to which many noble men in Israel then addicted themselves. Jeremiah places (Jeremiah 18:18) the חכם along with the כּהן (priest) and נביא (prophet); and if Ezekiel 7:26) uses זקן (old man) instead of חכם, yet by reference to Job 12:12 this may be understood. In his "Dissertation on the popular and intellectual freedom of Israel from the time of the great prophets to the first destruction of Jerusalem" (Jahrbcher, i. 96f.), Ewald says, "One can scarcely sufficiently conceive how high the attainment was which was reached in the pursuit after wisdom (philosophy) in the first centuries after David, and one too much overlooks the mighty influence it exerted on the entire development of the national life of Israel. The more closely those centuries are inquired into, the more are we astonished at the vast power which wisdom so early exerted on all sides as the common object of pursuit of many men among the people. It first openly manifested itself in special circles of the people, while in the age after Solomon, which was peculiarly favourable to it, eagerly inquisitive scholars gathered around individual masters, until ever increasing schools were formed. But its influence gradually penetrated all the other pursuits of the people, and operated on the most diverse departments of authorship." We are in entire sympathy with this historical view first advanced by Ewald, although we must frequently oppose the carrying of it out in details. The literature and the national history of Israel are certainly not understood if one does not take into consideration, along with the נבוּאה (prophecy), the influential development of the חכמה as a special aim and subject of intellectual activity in Israel.
And how was this Chokma conditioned - to what was it directed? To denote its condition and aim in one word, it was universalistic, or humanistic. Emanating from the fear or the religion of Jahve (דּרך ה, the way of the Lord, Proverbs 10:29), but seeking to comprehend the spirit in the letter, the essence in the forms of the national life, its effort was directed towards the general truth affecting mankind as such. While prophecy, which is recognised by the Chokma as a spiritual power indispensable to a healthful development of a people (בּאין חזון יפּרע עם, Job 29:18), is of service to the historical process into which divine truth enters to work out its results in Israel, and from thence outward among mankind, the Chokma seeks to look into the very essence of this truth through the robe of its historical and national manifestation, and then to comprehend those general ideas in which could already be discovered the fitness of the religion of Jahve for becoming the world-religion. From this aim towards the ideal in the historical, towards the everlasting same amid changes, the human (I intentionally use this word) in the Israelitish, the universal religion in the Jahve-religion (Jahvetum), and the universal morality in the Law, all the peculiarities of the Book of Proverbs are explained, as well as of the long, broad stream of the literature of the Chokma, beginning with Solomon, which, when the Palestinian Judaism assumed the rugged, exclusive, proud national character of Pharisaism, developed itself in Alexandrinism. Bertheau is amazed that in the Proverbs there are no warnings given against the worship of idols, which from the time of the kings gained more and more prevalence among the Israelitish people. "How is it to be explained," he asks (Spr. p. xlii.), "if the proverbs, in part at least, originated during the centuries of conflict between idolatry and the religion of Jahve, and if they were collected at a time in which this conflict reached its climax and stirred all ranks of the people - this conflict against the immorality of the Phoenician-Babylonian religion of nature, which must often have led into the same region of the moral contemplation of the world over which this book moves?!" The explanation lies in this, that the Chokma took its stand-point in a height and depth in which it had the mingling waves of international life and culture under it and above it, without being internally moved thereby. It naturally did not approve of heathenism, it rather looked upon the fear of Jahve as the beginning of wisdom, and the seeking after Jahve as implying the possession of all knowledge (Proverbs 28:5, cf. 1 John 2:20); but it passed over the struggle of prophecy against heathendom, it confined itself to its own function, viz., to raise the treasures of general religious-moral truth in the Jahve-religion, and to use them for the ennobling of the Israelites as men. In vain do we look for the name ישׂראל in the Proverbs, even the name תּורה has a much more flexible idea attached to it than that of the law written at Sinai (cf. Proverbs 28:4; Proverbs 29:18 with Proverbs 28:7; Proverbs 13:14, and similar passages); prayer and good works are placed above sacrifice, Proverbs 15:8; Proverbs 21:3, Proverbs 21:27 - practical obedience to the teaching if wisdom above all, Proverbs 28:9. The Proverbs refer with special interest to Genesis 1 and 2, the beginnings of the world and of the human race before nations took their origin. On this primitive record in the book of Genesis, to speak only of the משׁלי שׁלמה, the figure of the tree of life (perhaps also of the fountain of life), found nowhere else in the Old Testament, leans; on it leans also the contrast, deeply pervading the Proverbs, between life (immortality, Proverbs 12:28) and death, or between that which is above and that which is beneath (Proverbs 15:24); on it also many other expressions, such, e.g., as what is said in Proverbs 20:27 of the "spirit of man." This also, as Stier (Der Weise ein Knig, 1849, p. 240) has observed, accounts for the fact that אדם occurs by far most frequently in the Book of Job and in the Solomonic writings. All these phenomena are explained from the general human universal aim of the Chokma.
When James (James 3:17) says that the "wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy," his words most excellently designate the nature and the contents of the discourse of wisdom in the Solomonic proverbs, and one is almost inclined to think that the apostolic brother of the Lord, when he delineates wisdom, has before his eyes the Book of the Proverbs, which raises to purity by the most impressive admonitions. Next to its admonitions to purity are those especially to peacefulness, to gentle resignation (Proverbs 14:30), quietness of mind (Proverbs 14:33) and humility (Proverbs 11:2; Proverbs 15:33; Proverbs 16:5, Proverbs 16:18), to mercy (even toward beasts, Proverbs 12:10), to firmness and sincerity of conviction, to the furtherance of one's neighbour by means of wise discourse and kind help. What is done in the Book of Deuteronomy with reference to he law is continued here. As in Deuteronomy, so here, love is at the bottom of its admonitions, the love of God to men, and the love of men to one another in their diverse relations (Deuteronomy 12:2; Deuteronomy 15:9); the conception of צדקה gives way to that of charity, of almsgiving (δικαιοσύνη equals ἐλεημοσύνη). Forgiving, suffering love (Proverbs 10:12), love which does good even to enemies (Proverbs 25:21.), rejoices not over the misfortune that befalls an enemy (Proverbs 24:17.), retaliates not (Proverbs 24:28.), but commits all to God (Proverbs 20:22) - love in its manifold forms, as that of husband and wife, of children, of friends - is here recommended with New Testament distinctness and with deepest feeling. Living in the fear of God (Proverbs 28:14), the Omniscient (Proverbs 15:3, Proverbs 15:11; Proverbs 16:2; Proverbs 21:2; Proverbs 24:11.), to whom as the final Cause all is referred (Proverbs 20:12, Proverbs 20:24; Proverbs 14:31; Proverbs 22:2), and whose universal plan all must subserve (Proverbs 16:4; Proverbs 19:21; Proverbs 21:30), and on the other side active pure love to man - these are the hinges on which all the teachings of wisdom in the Proverbs turn. Frederick Schlegel, in the fourteenth of his Lectures on the History of Literature, distinguishes, not without deep truth, between the historico-prophetic books of the Old Testament, or books of the history of redemption, and the Book of Job, the Psalms, and the Solomonic writings, as books of aspiration, corresponding to the triple chord of faith, hope, charity as the three stages of the inner spiritual life. The Book of Job is designed to support faith amid trials; the Psalms breathe forth and exhibit hope amid the conflicts of earth's longings; the Solomonic writings reveal to us the mystery of the divine love, and the Proverbs that wisdom which grows out of and is itself eternal love. When Schlegel in the same lecture says that the books of the Old Covenant, for the most part, stand under the signature of the lion as the element of the power of will and spirited conflict glowing in divine fire, but that in the inmost hidden kernel and heart of the sacred book the Christian figure of the lamb rises up out of the veil of this lion strength, this may specially be said of the Book of Proverbs, for here that same heavenly wisdom preaches, which, when manifested in person, spake in the Sermon on the Mount, New Testament love in the midst of the Old Testament.
It is said that in the times before Christ there was a tendency to apocryphize not only the Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes, but also the Book of Proverbs, and that for the first time the men of the Great Synagogue established their canonicity on the ground of their spiritual import; they became perplexed about the Proverbs, according to b. Sabbath, 30b, on account of such self-contradictory proverbs as Proverbs 26:4-5, and according to Aboth de-Rabbi Nathan, c. 1, on account of such secular portions as that of the wanton woman, chap. 7. But there is no need to allegorize this woman, and that self-contradiction is easily explained. The theopneustic character of the book and its claim to canonicity show themselves from its integral relation to the Old Testament preparation for redemption; but keeping out of view the book as a whole, it is self-evident that the conception of a practical proverb such as Proverbs 14:4 and of a prophecy such as Isaiah 7:14 are very different phenomena of the spiritual life, and that in general the operation of the Divine Spirit in a proverb is different from that in a prophecy.
We have hitherto noted the character of the instruction set forth in the Proverbs according to the marks common to them in all their parts, but in such a way that we have taken our proofs only from the "Proverbs of Solomon" and the "Words of the Wise," with the exclusion of the introductory proverbial poems of the older editor. If we compare the two together, it cannot be denied that in the type of the instruction contained in the latter, the Chokma, of which the book is an emanation and which it has as its aim (לדעת חכמה, Proverbs 1:2), stands before us in proportionally much more distinctly defined comprehension and form; we have the same relation before us whose adumbration is the relation of the instruction of wisdom in the Avesta and in the later Minochired (Spiegel, Parsi-Grammatik, p. 182ff.). The Chokma appears also in the "Proverbs of Solomon" as a being existing in and for itself, which is opposed to ambiguous subjective thought (Proverbs 28:26); but here there is attributed to it an objectivity even to an apparent personality: it goes forth preaching, and places before all men life and death for an eternally decisive choice, it distributes the spirit of those who do not resist (Proverbs 1:23), it receives and answers prayer (Proverbs 1:28). The speculation regarding the Chokma is here with reference to Job 28 (cf. Proverbs 2:4; Proverbs 3:14., Proverbs 8:11, Proverbs 8:19), and particularly to Job 28:27, where a demiurgic function is assigned to wisdom, carried back to its source in eternity: it is the medium by which the world was created, Proverbs 3:19; it was before the creation of the world with God as from everlasting, His son of royal dignity, Proverbs 8:22-26; it was with Him in His work of creation, Proverbs 8:27-30; after the creation it remained as His delight, rejoicing always before Him, and particularly on the earth among the sons of men, Proverbs 8:30. Staudenmaier (Lehre von der Idee, p. 37) is certainly not on the wrong course, when under this rejoicing of wisdom before God he understands the development of the ideas or life-thoughts intimately bound up in it - the world-idea. This development is the delight of God, because it represents to the divine contemplation of the contents of wisdom, or of the world-idea founded in the divine understanding, in all its activities and inner harmonies; it is a calm delight, because the divine idea unites with the fresh and every young impulse of life, the purity, goodness, innocence, and holiness of life, because its spirit is light, clear, simple, childlike, in itself peaceful, harmonious, and happy; and this delight is experienced especially on the earth among the sons of men, among whom wisdom has its delight; for, as the divine idea, it is in all in so far as it is the inmost life-thought, the soul of each being, but it is on the earth of men in whom it comes to its self-conception, and self-conscious comes forth into the light of the clear day. Staudenmaier has done the great service of having worthily estimated the rich and deep fulness of this biblical theologumenon of wisdom, and of having pointed out in it the foundation-stone of a sacred metaphysics and a means of protection against pantheism in all its forms. We see that in the time of the editor of the older Book of Proverbs the wisdom of the schools in its devotion to the chosen object of its pursuit, the divine wisdom living and moving in all nature, and forming the background of all things, rises to a height of speculation on which it has planted a banner showing the right way to latest times. Ewald rightly points to the statements in the introduction to the Proverbs regarding wisdom as a distinct mark of the once great power of wisdom in Israel; for they show us how this power learned to apprehend itself in its own purest height, after it had become as perfect, and at the same time also as self-conscious, as it could at all become in ancient Israel.
Many other appearances also mark the advanced type of instruction contained in the introduction. Hitzig's view (Sprche, p. xvii.f.), that Proverbs 1:6-9:18 are the part of the whole collection which was earliest written, confutes itself on all sides; on the contrary, the views of Bleek in his Introduction to the Old Testament, thrown out in a sketchy manner and as if by a diviner, surprisingly agree with our own results, which have been laboriously reached and are here amply established. The advanced type of instruction in the introduction, chap. 1-9, appears among other things in this, that we there find the allegory, which up to this place occurs in Old Testament literature only in scattered little pictures built up into independent poetic forms, particularly in chap. 9, where without any contradiction אושׁת כּסילוּת a simple woman, Proverbs 5:13 is an allegorical person. The technical language of the Chokma has extended itself on many sides and been refined (we mention these synonyms: חכמה, דּעת, בּינה, ערמה, מזמּה, מוּסר, תּוּשׁיּה); and the seven pillars in the house of wisdom, even though it be inadmissible to think of them as the seven liberal arts, yet point to a division into seven parts of which the poet was conscious to himself. The common address, בּני [my son], which is not the address of the father to the son, but of the teacher to the scholar, countenances the supposition that there were at that time בּני חכמים, i.e., scholars of the wise men, just as there were "sons of the prophets" (נּבאים), and probably also schools of wisdom. "And when it is described how wisdom spake aloud to the people in all the streets of Jerusalem, in the high places of the city and in every favourable place, does not one feel that such sublime descriptions could not be possible unless at that time wisdom were regarded by the people as one of the first powers, and the wise men truly displayed a great public activity?" We must answer this question of Ewald's in the affirmative.
Bruch, in his Weisheitslehre der Hebraer, 1851, was the first to call special attention to the Chokma or humanism as a peculiar intellectual tendency in Israel; but he is mistaken in placing it in an indifferent and even hostile relation to the national law and the national cultus, which he compares to the relation of Christian philosophy to orthodox theology. Oehler, in his Grundzge der alttestamentl. Weisheit, which treats more especially of the doctrinal teachings of the Book of Job, judges more correctly; cf. also his comprehensive article, Pdagogik des A. T. in Schmid's Pdagogischer Encyclopdie, pp. 653-695 (partic. 677-683).
5. The Alexandrian Translation of the Book of Proverbs
Of highest interest for the history of the Book of Proverbs is the relation of the lxx to the Hebrew text. One half of the proverbs of Agur (30 of the Hebrew text) are placed in it after Proverbs 24:22, and the other half after Proverbs 24:34; and the proverbs of King Lemuel (Proverbs 31:1-9 of the Hebrew text) are placed after the proverbs of Agur, while the acrostic proverbial poem of the virtuous woman is in its place at the end of the book. That transposition reminds us of the transpositions in Jeremiah, and rests in the one place as well as in the other on a misunderstanding of the true contents. The translator has set aside the new superscription, Proverbs 10:1, as unsuitable, and has not marked the new beginning, Proverbs 22:17; he has expunged the new superscription, Proverbs 24:23, and has done the same to the superscription, "The words of Agur" (Proverbs 30:1), in two awkward explanations (λόγον φυλασσόμενος and τοὺς ἐμοὺς λόγους φοβήθητι), and the superscription, "The words of Lemuel" (Proverbs 31:1), in one similar (οἱ ἐμοὶ λόγι εἴρηνται ὑπὸ Θεοῦ), so that the proverbs of Agur and of Lemuel are without hesitation joined with those of Solomon, whereby it yet remains a mystery why the proverbs beginning with "The words of Agur" have been divided into two parts. Hitzig explains it from a confounding of the columns in which, two being on each page, the Hebrew MS which lay before the translator was written, and in which the proverbs of Agur and of Lemuel (names which tradition understood symbolically of Solomon) were already ranked in order before chap. 25. But besides these, there are also many other singular things connected with this Greek translation interesting in themselves and of great critical worth. That it omits Proverbs 1:16 may arise from this, that this verse was not found in the original MS, and was introduced from Isaiah 59:7; but there are wanting also proverbs such as Isaiah 21:5, for which no reason can be assigned. But the additions are disproportionately more numerous. Frequently we find a line added to the distich, such as in Proverbs 1:18, or an entire distich added, as Proverbs 3:15; or of two lines of the Hebrew verse, each is formed into a separate distich, as Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 11:16; or we meet with longer interpolations, extending far beyond this measure, as that added to Proverbs 4:27. Many of these proverbs are easily re-translated into the Hebrew, as that added to Proverbs 4:27, consisting of four lines:
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