From Proverbs 10:1 there is a remarkable change in the form of how Solomon passes on his proverbs. This changed form runs through until Proverbs 22:16. We do not find the powerful instructions there to seek wisdom and no long speeches with clear situations and persons or personifications. Instead we find what corresponds to the name of the book, Proverbs, a collection of brief and concise proverbs or pronouncements. There are about three hundred and seventy-five of them.
In the first part of the book, Proverbs 1-9, it is about two persons: the Woman of Wisdom and the Woman of Folly. In this second part, Proverbs 10:1-22:16, it is about two kinds of persons, of which each kind follows one of the mentioned women. The one kind is wise, righteous, good, etcetera; the other kind is foolish, ungodly, evil, etcetera.
The form of the proverbs in this second part consists, with a few exceptions, of two lines of the verse, whereby the second line works out the thought of the first line. This way of writing is called ‘parallelism’. The lines run parallel.
We will encounter three main types of parallelism. It is worthwhile to pay attention to that.
1. There are parallels that correspond with one another, which is also called synonymous parallelism. In that case a similar thought of the first line of the verse is repeated in the second line of the verse, written in other words. It is two parts that reflect one thought. An example of it is:
Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling. (Pro 16:1818Pride [goes] before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before stumbling.
2. There are also parallels that stand against one another, that form a contrast which is called antithetic parallelism. In that case, the opposite of what is said in the first line of the verse is written in the second line of the verse. That is often rendered by the word ‘but’ at the beginning of the second line of the verse. An example of it is:
A wise son makes a father glad,
But a foolish son is a grief to his mother. (Pro 10:11The proverbs of Solomon.
A wise son makes a father glad,
But a foolish son is a grief to his mother.)
3. A third form of parallelism is the complementary form, called synthetic parallelism. Thereby the second line of the verse gives a complement to the first line of the verse. The thought of the first line of the verse is elaborated in the second line of the verse. It is often rendered by the word ‘and’ at the beginning of the second line of the verse. An example of that is:
In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence,
And his children will have refuge. (Pro 14:2626In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence,
And his children will have refuge.
The use of these different kinds of ‘parallelism’ will make us experience the power of the separate proverbs even more. Moreover, we find this use of parallelism also in the Psalms and in Ecclesiastes.
The proverbs in this second part mainly deal with the consequences of a good or bad action. In the epistle to the Galatians, Paul says it like this: “For whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Gal 6:7b-87Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.). The proverbs that now follow help with making and stimulating to make the good choice; in other words, sow to the Spirit. There is no such thing as a predestination for making a choice, as if it would be inevitable to make that choice. That would exclude one’s own responsibility. This book makes it clear that everyone is responsible for the choice that he makes and in that way for the consequences of that choice. That makes this book so important.
There is no clear rank order to be remarked in this part of the book, although it occurs sometimes that two or more successive proverbs are related to one another. In that case it appears from a theme or a word which is mentioned in the successive verses. The fact that in most cases there is no relation between the verses, compels the reader to examine profoundly the meaning of one single certain verse, so one specific proverb, before he goes to the following proverb.
That the context is missing, in any case in our sight, also connects to the course of daily life in which all things do not always happen according to a specific pattern, a firm order. Although we have a specific expectation pattern on the basis of experience, life is still full of surprises too. When we will be with the Lord, it may probably be the case that all kinds of happenings, between which we did not see the connection, were surely connected to one another, but which we did not notice.
Precisely because of the apparent incoherence, this book invites us to read in it day by day. It is not so much the intention to read a chapter every day. That is certainly not wrong, for in that way we get more and more familiar with the contents in general. The point is that we read one or some verses and meditate on them. Who knows, we may face a situation to which we can apply what we have read and meditated on.
In that way the proverbs in this part of the book give new impulses over and over by presenting again and again another truth or the same truth from a different point of view. God’s Spirit has, through Solomon, given to us these ‘separate’ proverbs, in which at first sight no certain rank order is to be discovered, with a purpose. He knows what we need on a certain day or in a certain situation. He is able to bring to our remembrance a certain proverb for that occasion or make us read that specific proverb at that very moment.