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End of First Part of Major Solomonic Collection (Proverbs 15:1–16:8)

32. Two Collections (15:1–16:8)

"TYPE: A-B ENVELOPE SERIES….This text is, in effect, random repetition…but with recognizable clusters of proverbs. It is composed of two collections, 15:1-17 and 15:18–16:8, which parallel each other not structurally so much as in content. Each major collection begins with a word on patience versus the provocation of wrath (15:1,18), and each ends with 'better sayings' on apparent versus real prosperity (15:16-17; 16:8). Between these markers the two collections (here referred to as 'I' and 'II') contain teachings that correspond to one another in remarkable detail. In the following chart, collection I is set forth in its normal order, while units in collection II are set out in an order that corresponds to those in collection I. This does not imply that verses in collection II need to be transposed; it is done merely to make the comparison clearer…. Similarly, this analysis does not dispute that there are other parallels and ties among these verses other than those mentioned here.




15:1 gentle verses harsh answer; calming versus provoking anger

15:18 hot-tempered versus patient man; calming versus provoking anger


15:2-4 chiasmus: use of the tongue (2,4) and divine retribution (3)

15:24-27 chiasmus: life and death (24,27) and divine retribution (25-26)


15:5 foolish son; heeding admonition

15:20-22 wise/foolish son; need for advisers


15:6 income of righteous/wicked

15:19 way of sluggard/upright


15:7 speech of the wise/fools

15:28 speech of the righteous/wicked


15:8-9 Lord rejects sacrifice of the wicked

15:29 Lord rejects prayers of wicked


15:10-11 severity of the Lord's dealing with people

15:33–16:7 the Lord's ways of judgments


15:12-15 accepting/rejecting correction (12,14); cheerful face and heart

15:30-32 cheerful look and heart correction (30); accepting/rejecting correction (31-32)


15:16-17 better sayings on true prosperity

16:8 better sayings on true prosperity

"Collection II (twenty-four verses) is not only longer than collection I (seventeen verses) but it also contains one verse that has no parallel in collection I (15:23). On the other hand, 15:23 concerns the ability to give an appropriate answer and thus obliquely relates to the lead verses, 15:1,18" (NAC).

Verse 1 concerns not only what we say, but how we say it. It is important to maintain calm in most situations, for peaceful dialogue is usually much more effective in a dispute than screaming. This need not convey weakness for, as Proverbs 25:15 says figuratively, a gentle tongue can break a bone.

Regarding the chiasms (concentric arrangements) of the second section here, The New American Commentary states: "In the first series (vv. 2-4) a single proverb on God's [omniscience serving His perfect] administration of justice (v. 3) falls between two proverbs on the use of the tongue (vv. 2,4). In the second series (vv. 24-27) two proverbs on divine justice (vv. 25-26) fall between two proverbs on behavior that leads either to life and prosperity or to the grave (vv. 24,27). In both sections the middle proverbs reveal that the moral principles that govern the world are not mere abstractions but are actively maintained by God's intervention" (note on verses 15:2-4, 24-27). In verse 24, "grave" (NIV) rather than "hell," as it is commonly defined today, is the proper translation of the Hebrew sheol.

The verses of section 6 (15:8-9, 29) show the importance of proper attitude and manner of life in the worship of God. He will not accept a mere pretense of piety (see also 21:27). The Soncino Commentary notes on Proverbs 15:9: "As a pendant to what precedes [in verse 8], this verse is of the highest importance, because it clearly defines the final test of a man's religion. The criterion is not his scrupulous performance of rites such as sacrifice and prayer, but the way of life he treads and his ardent (the form of the verb is intensive) pursuit of righteousness" (note on verse 9).

In verse 11, "Hell [sheol, the grave] and Destruction" represent the fate of all people, the coming of death and what lies beyond being a great mystery in ancient times, as it is to most today. If this inscrutable mystery is "before the LORD"—that is, laid out before Him as within His purview and understanding—how much more is He able to discern the inner heart of human beings, which is not so hidden as the greater mystery.

Verse 20 is similar to the opening proverb of Solomon's major collection, beginning with an identical first colon (10:1). Proverbs 15:22 recalls 11:14.

In verse 30, where the KJV and NKJV have "the light of the eyes" (which rejoices the heart), the NIV says "a cheerful look" (that is, from someone else). The Contemporary English Version paraphrases this as "a friendly smile." Compare the "light of the king's face" in 16:15.

The verses of what is marked above as section 7 of collection II (15:33–16:7), linked by their focus on how the Lord deals with people, bring to a conclusion the first half of Solomon's core collection. In fact Proverbs 16:4, as the Zondervan NIV Study Bible points out, is "the middle verse of this section of Proverbs (10:1–22:16), aptly summarizing the Lord's sovereignty over every human thought and action. The verse also occupies the central position in a series of seven verses (1-7) at the beginning of ch. 16—the middle chapter in the book of Proverbs. Each of the seven verses features the name Yahweh [typically represented in English translations as "LORD" but meaning "He Is Who He Is"—the Eternal or Self-Existent One], again stressing his supreme position as Lord over all" (note on verse 4).

While Proverbs 15:28 shows the importance of studying how to answer, 16:1 balances this with the fact that human preparation has its limitations. Having done what we can, we must rely on God to enable us to always say what we need to. And He will help us in what we need to say in critical situations (compare Mark 13:11; Luke 21:12-15).

Proverbs 16:2 shows that human beings are prone to self-deception when it comes to our own motives. "The interaction of the two lines in this proverb suggest that Yahweh is better able to discern our motivations than we are, hence the need for wisdom and instruction in standards outside ourselves" (NIV Application Commentary, note on verse 2).

Verse 4, the central verse noted above, has seemed to some to say that God has created the wicked to destroy them. The point, rather, is that God has made all to fulfill His purposes and that even those who choose wickedness do not thwart His plan but fit within His purposes, in their case meeting the judgment He has already determined. Of course, God did predetermine that some would meet with destruction in this life (see Romans 9:14-24)—but this does not mean they are ultimately lost. (For a full discussion of this matter, see the article "Predestination: Are You Just a Pawn?," The Good News, May-June 2003, pp. 8-9, 26, online at

Proverbs 16:5 uses some of the same wording as 11:20-21.

Proverbs 16:7, which tells us that God causes the enemies of the righteous to be at peace with them, conveys a general principle. Scripture gives us some examples (see Genesis 20:15; 26:27ff; 33:4; 2 Chronicles 14:6-7; 17:10). A measure of peace allows God's people to live their lives in service to Him, to their families and to each other. Of course, there are often times when God allows enemies to be actively antagonistic against His people. The proverb must be considered as applying over the long haul of life—and it will find ultimate fulfillment in the age to come.

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