The fifth part of Proverbs is Proverbs 25:1-29:27. This collection is often called ‘Solomon II.’ Like Solomon I, Solomon II consists of various pithy proverbs (what we usually think of as proverbs). The superscription to this collection reads as follows, ”These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.” Thus at some stage parts 1-4 were the Solomonic book of Proverbs, and then this was added to it. Also this subtitle further highlights the link with Solomon I, which was subtitled, ”The proverbs of Solomon.” And also like Solomon I, Solomon II has two major sections. The first consists of Proverbs 25:2-27:27 and the second is Proverbs 28:1-29:27. The first half is mostly comparative proverbs with the exception of Proverbs 25:2, 27:6, 7, and 12. The second half are 33 antithetical proverbs. There are also content differences. The poem at Proverbs 27:23-27 may serve as a janus or hinge between the two halves. In any case, the two parts should remind you in reverse order the characteristics of Solomon I. Solomon I’s first half was mostly antithetical proverbs and its second half was mostly synthetic and synonymous proverbs. Now Solomon II reverses the styles of proverbs by starting with the latter and then moving to antithetical proverbs. Also, you will remember that the second half of Solomon I stressed the king, which we will also note with regard to the first half of Solomon II. This post will explore the first unit of Solomon II.
The first unit in the first half of Solomon II is Proverbs 25:2-27. Proverbs 25:28 serves then as a janus between this unit and the one that follows it. The text is marked as a unit using the feature of a chiastic inclusio. In Proverbs 25:2 the proverb reads, ”glory…to search out a matter,” and in Proverbs 25:27 it reads, ”to search out a weighty matter is without glory.” This is Waltke’s translation, which brings it out well. The second half of this unit also is separated out using the same feature: ”honey…eat,” ”eat honey.” This is Proverbs 25:16, 27.
The verses that we have in mind then are below for reference:
”It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out” (25:2)
”If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it” (25:16)
”It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory” (25:27).
The unit consists of an introduction and the two subunits. The introduction is Proverbs 25:2-5, which is two proverb pairs and tells us the theme of the unit and the context for understanding the rest of the unit.
It has been noted that there is a general alternating pattern in this unit between sayings and admonitions. The introduction consists of sayings, then verses 6-10 are admonitions and then verses 11-15 are sayings, etc. The pattern also (with two exceptions – v.14 and 25) reflects positive and then negative sayings and admonitions.
The introduction makes it clear that the theme of the unit has to do with God and the king and his subjects. As we have come to expect, the king sounds divine.
Proverbs 25:6-15 is a decalogue of proverbs about proper court etiquette. Note that Jesus teaches the same thing found here in Proverbs 25:6-7 in Luke 14:8-11. The first five are negatively stated admonitions and the second five are sayings (all positive except for Proverbs 25:14). The topics include among others humility, confidentiality, and reliability (to use words that Waltke does in describing the text).
You can also explore the inclusio feature linking Proverbs 25:2 and 25:15 – note the use of king or ruler. Thus both subunits are framed by chiastic inclusio. Unlike earlier parts of Proverbs, which openings were marked by general educational or rearing proverbs, the main structural indicator of units and subunits at least for this unit is chiastic inclusio. We will see as we go forward whether that continues to be the case. But there is another feature marking the end of each subunit here. Proverbs 25:15 is a single verse unlike the ones before it. Thus there are seven pairs and then this single verse. And then Proverbs 25:27 is also a single verse not paired with another, unlike those before it.
The focus in the first subunit was on the king’s court whereas the second subunit speaks more broadly. It may be divided into two parts v.16-22 and v.23-27 because of the chiastic inclusio of eating and hating in verses 16-17 and 21-22. In any case, there are negative admonitions in v.16-17, negative sayings in 18-20, positive admonitions in 21-22 and negative sayings in 23-27 (except v.25 is positive).
Waltke summarizes this whole subunit with the title: ”Resolving Conflicts.”
The first pair (Proverbs 25:16-17) have to do with consuming in moderation and acting in restraint.
The next three (Proverbs 25:18-20) are linked and all concern people to be avoided.
And the first half of this subunit concludes with a pair (Proverbs 25:21-22). Proverbs 25:21-22 should sound familiar because Paul quotes it in Romans 12:20. Remember here the context is conflict with a neighbor and how this son can resolve that conflict.
Proverbs 25:23-26 is the next half of the subunit. These four proverbs use a metaphor in the first half of the verse and the corresponding topic in the second half of the verse. Proverbs 25:23-24 is a pair. Proverbs 25:25-26 is a pair. When you read these it is obvious. And then as we noted earlier Proverbs 25:27 is a single verse to bring the unit to a close.
Thus the men of Hezekiah did not just copy Solomon’s proverbs, they have arranged and adapted these proverbs. And therefore, as we have noted all along, these proverbs are not meant to be read individually but in dialogue within the book, other collections, the collection in which it is found, as well as the half in which it is found, and the unit, and the subunit, etc.