How to Read Proverbs Paperback – Sep 1 2006
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"This handy volume will solve the riddle of the book of Proverbs for many. Longman's guidance for interpreting biblical proverbs in general is lucid and his clarification of special issues raised by Proverbs extremely helpful. A must-read for all who study and teach the book."--Daniel I. Block, D.Phil., Associate Dean, John R. Sampey Professor of Old Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
"A brilliant blend of in-depth scholarship with an easy-to-understand conversational narrative. . . . An enjoyable read and a good guide for those who desire to explore the path of biblical wisdom."--Ted Hildebrandt, Gordon College
About the Author
Tremper Longman III (Ph.D., Yale University) is the Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College. He has authored or coauthored more than twenty books, including commentaries on Daniel, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs.
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Dr. Longman gives the reader plenty of background information in three informative sections. The first section deals with background on the nature of the proverb; what it is and what it is not. Knowing the historical setting is stressed. Exegetical principles are established by looking for patterns such as parallelism, and numerical parallelism, imagery and others. The second section deals with the context of wisdom in the Bible; how the comments in Proverbs relate to other Bible books such as Job and Ecclesiastes. On this topic, Tremper Longman may be one of the best because he has written extensively on the Hebrew wisdom literature, and his Biblical and historical insights are quite valuable. The final section is a list of a few special studies in proverbs, such as the topic of money and marriage. Although not exhaustive, they are insightful and help the reader to see how to put the ideas of the previous sections into practice.
The author deals with practical issues such as "Are proverbs always true?" This chapter is worth the price of the book, because in my experience Christians tend to take proverbs as always true when in fact they are reflections on life that are generally true. Why some proverbs seem to contradict each other is also discussed very well. Dr. Longman treats with integrity and thoughtfulness the topic of is Jesus/Yeshua referred to as the "wisdom" in Proverbs 8. And the comparison of proverbs to other forms of ancient literature was a real treat.
In short, this is a great first-stop shopping book that I recommend prior to a study of Proverbs. The book is not overly Jewish, but you will gain some insight into ancient Jewish culture from this study of wisdom literature. Advanced scholarly types might not find the book as useful, but Longman's explanations are pretty thoughtful and would be very useful for teaching purposes. I think regardless of training, you will still find some helpful insights. The book could also be the topic of a Bible study, since there are a series of group-discussion questions at the end of each chapter. There are also lots of suggestions for further reading, and a list of useful commentaries. A delightful book overall that will enhance your walk with God!
This book is not a verse by verse study of Proverbs. For that you will want a commentary, such as that by Dave Bland or Bruce Waltke (see my reviews). Instead, this book is an introduction to Proverbs and the nature of wisdom literature.
Chapter one is entitled "Why Read Proverbs?" Below are comments from that chapter:
"Wisdom is the skill of living." (P.14)
"Wisdom entails the ability to avoid problems, and the skill to handle them when they present themselves. Wisdom also includes the ability to interpret other people's speech and writing in order to react correctly to what they are saying to us." (Pp.14-15)
Proverbs is more about E.Q. (emotional quotient) than I.Q. (intelligent quotient). Proverbs uses stories of animals (Prov. 24-28). "These animals don't have a high I.Q., but the verses plainly describe a skill in living that is remarkable."
"People who have a high I.Q. know many facts; they can solve difficult mathematical equations. Their ability to reason and use logic is superior to others'. People with emotional intelligence have other abilities, including `self-control, zeal and persistence and the ability to motivate oneself ... to control impulse and delay gratification; to regulate one's moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think...'" (Longman quotes from Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence). Biblical wisdom is closer to EQ than IQ. (P.15-16)
"Wisdom is a skill, a `knowing how': it is not raw intellect, a `knowing that.'" "Why read Proverbs, then? To gain wisdom, which is an ability to navigate life." (P.16)
You'll appreciate the insights Longman's book will give you to get a handle on wisdom in general and Proverbs in particular. I recommend it.
The proverbial material could readily be organised in different ways to the seven key themes he chooses - there are many ways to slice the proverbial pie! - but he himself admits that and doesn't press his own schema beyond its limits.
Lay readers, undergraduates and even graduates can benefit from this introduction to a book - and genre of historical literature - which is often misunderstood.
- Easy to read
- Good structure
- Very helpful study questions and "for further reading" at the end of each chapter
- Good approach to the subject
- Compares Proverbs to Near Eastern wisdom texts to give background information of such kind, in such days in that region - amazing similarities!
- The author uses the New Living Translation (NLT)
I must admit that I am a lover of the King James Version (KJV). But in such a book I would have expected a different version of the Bible. An example might illustrate my point:
Proverbs 8:14-15 NLT
"Common sense and success belong to me.
Insight and strength are mine.
Because of me, kings reign,
and rulers make just decrees."
Proverbs 8:14-15 KJV
"Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.
By me kings reign, and princes decree justice."
Proverbs 10:19 NLT
"Too much talk leads to sin.
Be sensible and keep your mouth shut."
Proverbs 10:19 KJV
"In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise."
Overall an excellent book, for beginners and advanced students of the Bible alike. The author took me several layers deeper into the Word of God - I enjoyed the ride!