Interpreting the Book of Proverbs (Part 5)

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II. The Seven Collections of Proverbs

With part 4 of this series, we concluded our examination of the first of six interpretative principles for reading the book of Proverbs: recognize the characteristics of a proverb. With this present post we are in a position to look at the second principle: placing individual passages within the overall structure of Proverbs. The comprehensive schematic arrangement of individual proverbs found in the book of Proverbs reflects that it is a “collection of collections of wisdom material” (Hubbard, Proverbs, p. 153). The point of this brief post is to identify the seven collections in Proverbs.

Each of the seven sections has their own unique introduction. These introductory headings are found at 1:1; 10:1; 22:17; 24:23; 25:1; 30:1; and 31:1. These various headings reflect that there were initially seven different collections of proverbial material with each section having its own specific purposes. These were then collected into the book of Proverbs.

In light of the above diagram that identifies the seven collections in Proverbs, each individual passage or proverb must be interpreted in light of the section in which it is found. Of course, this will also need to be integrated with the overall context of the book of Proverbs; however, this will need to wait until we look at the fifth hermeneutical guideline. Prior to discussing the fifth interpretative principle, there are some basic guidelines to consider and we will take up the third one with our next post.

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