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First Part of Major Solomonic Collection Mostly Antithetical (Proverbs 10)

1. Subheading (10:1a)

The subhead of Solomon's major collection, containing the attribution, is found in Proverbs 10:1. Of this core section of the book (10:1–22:16), the first part (chapters 10–15) is made up mostly of antithetical proverbs, highlighting the choice between the way of wisdom and the way of folly.

2. A Diligent Son and a Lazy Son (10:1b-5)

"TYPE: THEMATIC, INCLUSIO....Verses 1b-5 form a collection marked off by the inclusio [a section that begins and ends similarly] of 'wise son / foolish son' (v. 1) and 'wise son / disgraceful son' (v. 5). The theme of the collection is that a family will thrive if the children are diligent in their work but collapse if they are lazy or resort to crime" (NAC).

It is interesting, after the nine-chapter prologue presented as a father's counsel to his son to choose wisdom over folly, that the first compact saying in Solomon's major collection concerns the impact a son's decisions in this regard has on his parents. Actually, "son" here can be understood as "child," whether son or daughter. "The tense of the verbs suggests that time after time a wise child gladdens parents, and time after time a foolish child brings distress to parents" (Nelson Study Bible, note on 10:1).

Verse 2 is very similar to 11:4. Righteousness delivering from death should be viewed in light of the whole of scriptural revelation. This is generally applicable to life in the here and now, in that wise choices promote physical longevity (see also 3:2; 10:27; 12:28)—but of course, as noted previously, the verse should not be read as a rule or promise that righteous people won't die or won't die prematurely. God may decide to allow His faithful followers to die at a relatively young age. Jesus Christ, after all, died at 33. Yet in an ultimate sense, the verse, and others like it, can be understood to speak of deliverance from the second death—and thus the inheritance of eternal life.

In Proverbs 10:5, laziness characterized by oversleeping when there is work to be done is shameful (compare 6:9-11; 19:15; 20:13). Our time is our life. We must make good use of it.

3. The Mouth of the Wicked (10:6-11)

"TYPE: INCLUSIO, PARALLEL....Verses 6 and 11 form an inclusio as indicated by the repetition of the line, 'But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence' [NIV]. Within this inclusio vv. 7-10 are arranged in parallel (A B A B); v. 7 and v. 9 parallel each other (the fate of the righteous versus the fate of the wicked), and v. 8 and v. 10 parallel each other (both contain the line 'a chattering fool comes to ruin' [NIV]). The repetition of two lines in this section, both of which concern the mouth of the wicked, points to the major emphasis of the collection" (NAC).

Adding to the poetic parallelism, the Hebrew verb for "will fall" (verses 8, 10) or "comes to ruin" (NIV) comes from the same root as the verb translated "will rot" in verse 7 (Nelson, note on verse 8).

The one who "winks with the eye" in verse 10 denotes a person acting slyly with a hidden agenda. Thus two wrongs are contrasted here—rather than a right and a wrong as in most proverbs of this section. The silent deceiver is able to succeed in his schemes for a time while a chattering fool will get nowhere. This signals no approval of the deceiver—marking only the fact that he at least knows to choose his words carefully (compare 12:23). Eventually, as other passages show, he will meet judgment as well.

4. Seven-Proverb Collection (10:12-18)

"TYPE: INCLUSIO WITH TWO-PROVERB PAIRS.... Verses 12 and 18 form an inclusio...and vv. 13-14 and 15-16 are proverbial pair; catchwords are also used ["destruction" ("ruin" or "terror") in verses 14-15 and "to life" in verses 16-17]. Themes include wealth and poverty, wisdom and folly, and contentiousness" (NAC).

The apostle Peter essentially quoted from Proverbs 10:12 in 1 Peter 4:8. Some have taken "love covers all [or a multitude of] sins" to mean that showing love to others covers one's own sins before God. Yet in context, the clear meaning is that love is shown to others by covering their sins—that is, burying their past mistakes and not bringing them up, either to them (generating strife) or to others. Proverbs 11:13 speaks of not airing secrets (which include private past mistakes) as an act of faithfulness. Implicit in covering sins is forgiving them, as God does in Psalm 32:1. Of course, in the sense used there, only He can completely cover sins.

Proverbs 10:18 has caused some confusion. It is usually understood as synonymous parallel. In that case, however, all the proverbs of this section are in antithetical or contrasting forms except this one. It should be noted that the "and" here could be rendered "but," so that this proverb would be contrasting as well. In that case, as with 10:10, two negatives would be contrasted. The Expositor's Bible Commentary takes this view, saying in its note on verse 18: " In this comparison two errors are given, the second being climactic: hypocrisy is bad enough, slander is worse. At least in the first one—the 'lying lips'—one keeps hatred to himself."

5. On the Tongue, Personal Security, and Laziness (10:19-32)

"This section is a chiasmus [i.e., concentric arrangement] made up of four separate collections with a single proverb standing at the center as a somewhat humorous 'bridge.' The structure is:

• "THREE-PROVERB COLLECTION. Type: Thematic, with One Proverb Pair (10:19-21)....The use of the tongue is the theme of this collection, and each verse is merismatic [or antithetical in form]. Verses 20-21 closely parallel each other and can be regarded as a proverb pair. Verses 19 then is an ironic heading to vv. 20-21: Although the wise person gives sound advice, wisdom is found more in those who are silent than in those who are verbose!...

• "FOUR-PROVERB COLLECTION. Type: Thematic Parallel (10:22-25)... Only through righteousness and wisdom can one attain real security in life. The righteous can have wealth without the trouble that often goes with it (sycophants, legal problems), whereas the wicked will ultimately be brought down by the disaster they fear (vv. 22,24). And while the wicked find great amusement in their crimes, they will not withstand a real calamity when it comes (vv. 23,25). Verse 25 may be behind Matt 7:24-27....

• "SINGLE PROVERB. Type: Tricolon (10:26)" (NAC). The comparison here involves things that are unpleasant and irritating.

• "FOUR-PROVERB COLLECTION. Type: Thematic Parallel (10:27-30). The four proverbs of this collection all deal with the theme of long life for the righteous and destruction for the wicked. In addition, the proverbs are in an A-B-A-B pattern. This pattern is found in vv. 27 and 29, which are parallel with each other linked by the motif of the Lord, while vv. 28 and 30 are linked by the motif of the righteous. All four verses are linked by the motif of the fate of the wicked...and those who do evil" (NAC).

As with Proverbs 10:2, verse 27 about righteous living prolonging life and wickedness shortening it should be understood as: (1) a general principle of physical life, all else being equal (recognizing that circumstances in God's purview sometimes allow the opposite to occur in this world); and (2) in the context of eternal life for the righteous versus eternal death for the wicked, which is the most important context to bear in mind.

Next observe the similarity of language in 10:28 and 11:7 nearby.

• "TWO-PROVERB COLLECTION. Type: Thematic, Parallel (10:31-32)....The theme of this pair is the use of the tongue. The cola are in an A-B-A-B pattern, but note the inclusio using 'mouth' in v. 31a and v. 32b" (NAC).

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