Proverbs as Prior Work
Because the end result of what I call illumination appears to be the reception of wisdom, it is necessary that we situate this symbiotic capability within the larger framework of wisdom as outlined in the Scriptures. Although many commentators lump the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon into the category of "Wisdom Literature", I will examine Proverbs first, since it is acknowledged to be the book that deals most specifically with wisdom and its application. I will then follow up with an analysis of Ecclesiastes. (I had intended to look at Song of Solomon, but recent events indicate that this is better treated in a different essay in this Stage.)
The Overall Structure of Proverbs
The book of Proverbs is composed of five different sections. The first section (chapters 1 through 9), appears to be a collection of essays. The second section (chapters 10 through 24) is a collection of short sayings that usually deliver their message in a single verse or two, although there are some passages that take up more than two. The texture of the third section (chapters 25 through 29) is similar to the second, but appears to be the addition of a collection proverbs during Hezekiah's reign attributed to Solomon. The time of the addition of the fourth (chapter 30) and fifth (chapter 31) sections is unknown, but it is apparent that the final collator of Proverbs thought highly enough of the wisdom and reputation of Agur and King Lemuel's mother to append their works to that of Solomon's.
Current biblical criticism regarding the book of Proverbs holds that it is not divinely inspired, but rather the (dated) wisdom of (certainly) devout and (possibly) wise men. This appears to be a judgment based on Political Correctness: the numerous references to the necessity of corporal punishment are cited as examples of a brutal and primitive culture whose wisdom, they tell us, could not possibly benefit us more advanced moderns. The experience of Christian Parents whose children depart from the faith is appealed to as a proof of the non-divine origin of Proverbs 22:6 ("Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it."). Difficult oppositions such as Proverbs 26:4-5 are brought up as examples of the Bible "contradicting itself". These, it is claimed, make a strong case against Proverbs being of divine origin.
Such criticism diverts attention away from the obvious fruit that the book has consistently produced throughout the ages within those who have read it and wrestled with it. There is a general admission that a large majority of the advice given is good. I will not repeat what I have written elsewhere about the "Krell Mind Machine" effect that arises when one daily reads the chapter of Proverbs corresponding to the currrent day of the month. If we place a greater emphasis on fruit produced rather than conformance to current educational and child rearing beliefs and practices, the poor yield and quality of the fruit coming from the latter tells us that Proverbs is not only a Bible book worth believing, but is also a book that judges us, rather than it being a subject of judgment by us. It is our culture and practice that is in the docket, with Proverbs being in the Judge's seat, rather than the other way around.
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