Proverbs, Wisdom, and the Land

Let me begin by saying that I’m not a Proverbs scholar, and so what I’m about to say probably has already been said many times. But I thought I’d bring it up anyway.

I’m reading through Proverbs both for devotional purposes and because I’m currently teaching a class on the Latter Prophets and Writings. I’m through chapter 11 at this point, and I continue to notice language about wisdom as it relates to the land and exile, all couched in eschatological terms.

Positively, Prov. 3:1-4, 6:20-23, all seem to refer to 7:1-5 the promises of Deuteronomy (and especially ch. 6) concerning the wisdom of obeying the commandments of the Law and the corresponding result of long life and living in the land. They also, though, appear to reference the new covenant, as each of these sections not only promises long life and dwelling in the land through obedience but obedience through the giving of God’s spirit.

Negatively 2:20-22, and especially v. 22 (“cut off from the land”) implies exile for the foolish (or wicked), and this exile is related to following the adulteress in 2:16-19. This section immediately precedes 3:1-4 and warnings against the adulteress are found in the other two positive promises of 6:20-23 and 7:1-, thus linking those sections with exile as well as the new covenant.

Exile further appears to be in view in 1:24-27, as the promise of God to laugh at the calamity of foolish Israel sounds like the prophets and Lamentations. Lady Folly and her call to adultery is also reminiscent of the prophets and especially their language of idolatry and the resulting exile.

What I’m concluding from this, at least for now, is that the instruction in Proverbs is not just about wise living, but wisdom through the eschatological promises of God to pour out his Spirit (e.g. 1:23) in the new covenant. Historical Israel is used as a negative example of idolatry and adultery (cf. also 10:30), resulting in exile, while future Israel and the land are used as promises and figurative imagery.

I also think that there is quite a bit of creation language here – Prov. 8 is obvious, of course, but I’m really thinking more about the ability to discern good and evil, the resulting blessings and cursings, and the use of “tree of life” (3:18; 11:30). These are also put in an escahtological light by reminding the reader not only of what happened originally to Adam and Israel through these allusions but also what will happen in eternity (e.g. 11:4, 6-10, 19-21, 23).

Thoughts?

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One thought on “Proverbs, Wisdom, and the Land

  1. It seems to me you’re wanting to look at Proverbs through an eschatological lens. You note that what you’re saying has probably been said before. Perhaps it has. For what it’s worth, I’ve never heard Proverbs presented in any sort of eschatological way, period. I’ve never heard any preacher or lecturer interpret the “blessings and curses” language found in Proverbs in an eschatological sort of way. Of course, that’s probably due to my rather limited and shallow research into deeper scholarly works on Proverbs. I say all of that to simply state that I think at the very least you’re pointing out a possible theological interpretation of Proverbs that Christians should take seriously. In fact, when you look at the directives and promises found in Proverbs through an eschatological lens, I think it makes much more sense in light of the whole of Scripture and its overarching narrative than the “general life principles” interpretation given by so many pastors and preachers. Those are my thoughts.

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