Proverbs The book of Proverbs contains two basic kinds of material: longer didactic compositions (primarily in ch. 1-9) and shorter meshalim (primarily in ch. 10-31). The many meshalim stand quite independently of one another as so many "pearls on a string." With this material, footholds for analysis are limited to considerations such as paral- lelism and syntax within each individual mashal.3 The longer didactic compositions, on the other hand, provide somewhat greater breadth for analysis insofar as their very
3 The various superscriptions (1:1; 10:1; 24:23; 25:1; 30:1; 31:1) as well as certain other phenomena such as the independent acrostic of 31:10-31, the dependence of 22:17- 24:22 upon the Egyptian "Instruction of Amenemope" (cf. O. Eissfeldt, The Old Testament: An Introduction, trans. by P. Ackroyd [New York: Harper and Row, 1965], pp. 474-475), the predominance of antithetic parallelism in ch. 10-15 and synonymous or synthetic parallelism in 16:1-22:16, and numerous examples of catch-word arrangement and other paronomastic devices, point to the conclusion that the book is in fact an anthology of several collections (cf. U. Skladny, Die ältesten Spruchsammlungen in Israel [Gottingen: Vandenhoeck Ruprecht, 1962]). As "collections" however, the contents show no unmistakable signs of intentional development beyond that offered by their individual members. There seems to be no sure reason why one mashal should have led to the next, except in rare occasions (e.g., 26:4-5).
That there is, or was, some kind of architectonic structure to the book does seem probable (cf. P. Skehan, "A Single Editor for the Whole Book of Proverbs," Studies in Israelite Poetry and Wisdom [Washington: Catholic Biblical Association, 1971]), but it is equally probable that such a structure is recognizable and exegetically significant only in its broadest outlines. Thus, the "Hymn to the Good Wife" (31:10-31) forms the conclusion to the book in both MT and the Greek text, while 30:1-14 and 30:15-31:9 may occupy different places in the book's arrangement.