Of all the books of the Bible, Proverbs is probably the one book I turn to most frequently (there are 31 chapters in Proverbs, no more than 31 days in a month--perfect devotional reading). However, while I read Proverbs with frequency, this is my first commentary on the book, and I must express my disappointment in Murphy's treatment of it.
To be sure, Roland Murphy, a professor of Biblical Studies at Duke University, had a tremendously difficult task in preparing a commentary on such a Biblical book: not only are most of the chapters disjoined and unconnected, but many of the verses seem unrelated to the surrounding verses; context is nearly impossible to ascertain, etc. Murphy is to be commended for researching and presenting the connections and threads which are woven throughout the Biblical book, frequently having to reach both forward and backward to make connections. He effectively argues that the person who put the final form of Proverbs together didn't do it as haphazzardly as modern man often thinks. Furthermore, Murphy's translation and explanation of the individual proverbs were found beneficial for this reader. The final 50 pages of excursuses also provided a helpful, holistic treatment of various topics.
However, I tend to disagree with many of the theological assumptions that Murphy brings to Proverbs and as a result, have found much in the commentary that I disagree with. (1) On pages 276-277, Murphy argues for religious pluralism in the book of Proverbs; (2) throughout the book, he argues that Israelite wisdom is dependant upon Egyptian wisdom (as opposed to a high view of Scripture which does not deny the connection but at the same time tends not to elevate the Egyptian worldview); (3)Murphy holds on to the belief that Ancient Israelites did not believe in an afterlife(making the theology of many proverbs suspect); (4)and Jesus Christ is kept to a minimum in this commentary (mentioned only three times in passing to dismiss the idea that "Woman Wisdom" in Proverbs 8 and the "Son of God" in Proverbs 30 referrs to Christ). While Murphy is definately not a theological liberal (he argues against some liberal arguments), his moderate attitude does tend to lead to many doubtful conclusions.
While there is much to commend in Murphy's well-researched, scholarly, thorough commentary. Furthermore, he is to be doubly commended because of the difficult nature of the book of Proverbs. However, I cannot recommend this book because Murphy approaches the text with a lower view of Scripture than is helpful, and holds on to too many ideas which run counter to Orthodox Christianity.