The main concern of the rest of Solomon II is how the new king will rule, particularly how he will rule over the poor. Its verses remind us of the perfect king who was yet to come at this point — Jesus the Christ — who would be very concerned about the poor. Proverbs 27:24, however, show us that the original reader would be the king’s son being taught by these verses (proverbs written by Solomon and compiled by the men of Hezekiah). They continue to show as well that this son needs discipline so that he might not become wise in his own eyes. Chapters 28 and 29 are a highly structured collection with a framework. Clearly the men of Hezekiah did not shy away from an artistic organization of proverbs, and thus we simply should not read them independent of one another.
Proverbs 27:23-27 brings the first half of Solomon II to a close. It has been observed that there are some ways that this short poem answers the one that ended the fourth collection (cf. Proverbs 24:30-34). It also brings back the focus on the king by mentioning a crown (Proverbs 27:24). Thus the whole of Proverbs 25-27 has this loose inclusio concerning the king. We are treating this unit together with the second half of Solomon II because the mention of the crown also forms a janus to the second half of Solomon II. There may also be a link to Proverbs 9 ending the first collection of Proverbs and to the end of the seventh collection (and the end of the book). Only in these three places, for example, is there mention of servant girls (Proverbs 9:3, 27:27, and 31:15).
The five verse poem is an admonition followed by the reasons for doing it. The admonition is simple: ‘Know your flocks.’ More completely: ”Know well the condition of your flocks, and give attention to your herds” (Proverbs 27:23). The shepherd is a common metaphor for a king and thus the king is giving his son the prince an admonition concerning his rule. Often the prince would begin to rule while his father was still on the throne.
The reasons begin with a negative one: ”for riches do not last forever; and does a crown endure to all generations?” The implied answer is an emphatic ‘absolutely not.’ Riches and a crown are appropriate symbols for the ruler. But neither are truly imperishable. The next three verses then give positive reasons.
The structure of these five verses is pretty obvious: Proverbs 27:23-24 are a pair, Proverbs 27:25-26 are a pair, and then Proverbs 27:27 is a tricolon verse standing alone. This brings to mind earlier groups of five sayings and how the previous two subunits had both ended with tricolon verses standing alone.
The larger message of this unit is that if the young ruler pays attention to his flocks and herds then they will be able to provide what he and his household and his servant girls need and if he does not then his riches and crown will disappear.
The next two chapters are the second half of Solomon II. Waltke (following Malchow) suggests that the structure can be seen by noting the placement of proverbs mentioning the righteous and the wicked. Proverbs 28:1 and 29:27 open and end the whole section with these words and there are four proverbs within that have them: Proverbs 28:12, 28, 29:2, 16.
See the following outline:
”The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1).
”When the righteous triumph, there is great glory, but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves” (Proverbs 28:12).
”When the wicked rise, people hide themselves, but when they perish, the righteous increase” (Proverbs 28:28).
Note that those last two form a chiastic inclusio framing the second unit.
”When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2).
This then forms a chiastic inclusio with Proverbs 28:28 framing the center proverb at Proverbs 29:1.
”When the wicked increase, transgression increases, but the righteous will look upon their downfall” (Proverbs 29:16).
Note then the contrast offered by the opening lines framing the third unit – when the [righteous or wicked] increase.
Note then the similarity of the following: ”When the righteous triumph, there is great glory” (Proverbs 28:12a) and ”When the righteous increase, the people rejoice” (Proverbs 29:2a). These are the opening half of the first and third janus verses.
Note then the similarity of the following: ”but when the wicked rise, the people hide themselves” (Proverbs 28:12b) and ”When the wicked rise, people hide themselves” (Proverbs 28:28a). These are the second half of the first and first half of the second janus verses.
And then the similarity of the following: ”but when they (the wicked) perish, the righteous increase” (Proverbs 28:28b) and ”but the righteous will look upon their (the wicked’s) downfall (Proverbs 29:16b). This is the second half of the second janus and the fourth janus.
And for the final comparison note: ”but when the wicked rule, the people groan” (Proverbs 29:2b) and ”When the wicked increase, transgression increases” (Proverbs 29:16a). These are the second half of the second janus and the first half of the fourth janus.
Thus there is great similarity between at least one half of each janus verse and one half of another janus verse – and for two of the four janus verses this is true for both of their halves.
The whole unit comes to this conclusion: ”An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked” (Proverbs 29:27). Thus the unit begins and ends contrasting the lifestyles of the righteous and the wicked. The opening having to do with their lifestyles in general and the closing having to do with their aversion to the opposite way.
Since the first half of Solomon II opened and closed by referencing kingship, I did not expect this to be the case with the second half. That would have mirrored the Solomon I. Instead, all of the second half of Solomon II has to do with just kingship – this is its unifying theme.
Waltke tells us that Meinhold has noted the theme of the first unit (Proverbs 28:2-11) is that of the relationship of Torah (instruction) to the king, especially with regard to the rich ruling over the poor. We will look to see his summary of each unit.
Given our observations last time it is worth quoting Proverbs 28:11–”A rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has understanding will find him out.”
Seeing the mention of ”torah” in verses 4, 7, and 9 made me wonder if there is any particular structure for this unit that we should see. Waltke tells us that there is – it is an alternating structure (following Finkbeiner). Note the following key words: discerning person, poor, torah, evil, and rich. The keyword for discerning person appears in Proverbs 28:2, 6, 7, and 11. The two halves of the alternating structure are Proverbs 28:2-6 and 7-11.
Thus the A portions of the alternating pattern concern the importance of being a discerning person – Proverbs 28:2 in government and Proverbs 28:7 keeping torah in the home. The B portions of the alternating pattern concern the lack of discernment that leads to the oppression of the poor (Proverbs 28:3, 8). The C portions concern the basis of the discernment – torah (Proverbs 28:4 and social relationships, Proverbs 28:9 and God). The D portions look at the basis of discernment for the evil person (Proverbs 28:5, 10). And the E portions look at the pervasiveness of that discernment – the poor better than the rich (Proverbs 28:6, 11).
The second unit (Proverbs 28:13-27) then concerns ”relationship with God as a measure for ruling and striving for gain.” Thus both the first and second units concern this idea of a measure for ruling – the first with the Torah and the second with God Himself. And both have to do with wealth.
The center proverb (Prov 29:1) seems like a verse we should stress as it is the climax of the whole: ”He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.” This is the language of discipline and a warning about the consequences for a king who continually hardens his heart (or here, ‘stiffens his neck’).
The third unit concerns ”rearing and ruling that have proved worthwhile in dealing with the poor and humble (29:1-15).” Note that they have grouped the center proverb with the third unit (Proverbs 29:3-15).
Since the center proverb sounds like a rearing proverb it is not the surprising to see a basic rearing proverb open the third unit: ”He who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth” (Proverbs 29:3). It is also then fitting to see the last verse of the unit reads as follows: ”The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” Recall Proverbs 10:1, which opened Solomon I, ”A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.”
The fourth and final unit (Proverbs 29:17-26) then concerns relationship with God and rearing. It opens, ”Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart” (Proverbs 29:17). Given our discussion last time it is worth noting Proverbs 29:20 – ”Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” This is the danger when discipline is neglected. The unit ends, ”Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from YHWH that a man gets justice” (Proverbs 29:26).
And then Solomon II ends, as we noted earlier (Proverbs 29:27).
There are two more parts to Proverbs corresponding to the two remaining chapters (Proverbs 30-31).