APPENDIX TO "CANONIZATION OF THE OLD TESTAMENT"
by the late Dr. Ernest Martin
Preliminary Suggestions for the Structure of the Psalms
There are 150 individual psalms comprising the biblical Book of
Psalms. There are psalms (or songs) found in other parts of the
Bible. Examples: the psalm of Moses (Exo. 15:1-19; Rev. 15:3);
the psalm of Deborah and Barak (Jud. 5:1-31); the psalm of
Habakkuk - which is pure prophecy (3:1-19). Even in the New
Testament there are psalms (Luke 1:46-55; 67-79).
Almost all of the psalms positioned outside the regular Book of
Psalms have as their theme the matter of prophecy - usually
prophetic teachings regarding the nation of Israel or, sometimes,
information about the prophesied Messiah. This prophetic
relevance is also found among the psalms located within the Book
of Psalms itself. This has not been fully recognized by many
people, nevertheless it is true. This can be shown in several
ways, but prime teaching on the matter is found in the Book of
Chronicles. That book relates that the psalms were sanctioned to
be sung within the temple precincts by regularly assigned
Levitical singers. These Levites were ordained to "prophesy with
harps, with psalteries, and with cymbals" (I Chron. 25:1). These
special men were consecrated to their tasks by King David and the
prophet Samuel (I Chon. 9:22). There were 24 such designated
groups to sing specified psalms in a regular order of
administration (I Chron. 25:8-31). There were exactly 288 Levites
(12 x 24) who "were instructed in the songs [psalms] of the Lord"
(I Chron. 25:7). These 24 divisions were called "wards" and each
was accompanied by 12 Levites. This shows that the number 24 (and
12) was important to the arrangement of the singers and the
psalms which they sang.
It will be recalled that there were also 24 elders associated
with the ceremonies of the heavenly temple as recorded in the
Book of Revelation (Rev. 5:8,14; 11:16; 19:4). The Book of
Revelation is devoted entirely to prophecy, and the symbolic
numbers of 24 and 12 are found in several places in the book.
There were 144,000 Israelites ordained "to sing a new song" in
the future. Those 144,000 divided by 24 equals 6000 - the number
of years which seemingly is assigned to mankind for the period of
God's firstfruit activity in His redemption of humanity. At any
rate, the singing being done by those saved involves the use of
psalms (Rev. 15:3). This shows a distinctive prophetical ring to
some of the psalms.
The Levitical singing in the temple, which was established by
King David, was certainly prophetical. They "prophesied according
to the order of the king" (I Chron. 25:2) - they "prophesied with
a harp, to give thanks and to praise the Lord" (verse 3). One of
the principal prophets to King David was "Heman the king's seer
[prophet] in the words of God, to lift up the horn" (verse 5).
Even David himself, who composed most of the psalms in the Bible,
was called a prophet by the New Testament (Matt. 27:35). The New
Testament also said that Asaph, one of the principal men assigned
by David to sing the psalms, was called a prophet too (Matt.
We thus have abundant evidence from the Old and New Testaments
that the psalms had a prophetic content to them. Many were
written by prophets. Indeed, there were more verses quoted in the
New Testament from the Book of Psalms which contained prophecies
about Christ and of his future role in human affairs, than from
anv other book of the Old Testament. Christians thought that king
David was very typical of Christ. This fact in itself should show
that the Book of Psalms is essentially a prophetical book as much
as Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel. And truly, when one really
comprehends what the various psalms mean - and their
relationships to one another within the contexts in which they
are placed - a prophetic significance can be seen which is very
Let us now look at the 150 psalms within the Book of Psalms.
Their arrangement and contexts should be noted. When surveyed
properly, the structure and design might open up some outstanding
prophetic teaching that many of us may not have seen before.
The Structure of the Psalms
In the original Hebrew apportionment of the Book of Psalms, the
150 psalms are assorted among five major divisions. These five
"books" are not discemable in the ordinary King James Version,
but they are evident in the Hebrew manuscripts. The five
divisions are as follows:
Psalms 1-41 (Book I)
Psalms 42-72 (Book II)
Psalms 73-89 (Book III)
Psalms 90-106 (Book IV)
Psalms 107-150 (Book V)
The fact that there are five books is significant. The number has
a legal and prophetic symbol attached to it. Actually, the
original Ten Commandments were divided into 5 and 5 (not 4 and 6
as some imagine today). The first 5 were spiritual (including the
honor given to parents) and the last 5 were social (involving
relationships with other human beings). Prophetically, we can see
its importance in the Book of Isaiah. The prophet gave some
sequential references to the destruction coming upon Israel for
their evil. Isaiah gave a 5-fold admonition. [One should note the
context in which the 5-fold repetitive clause is given to
understand the full message of Isaiah.]
1) "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand
[God's hand] is stretched out still" (Isa. 5:25).
2) "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is
stretched out still" (Isa. 9:12).
3) "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is
stretched out still" (9:17).
4) "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is
stretched out still" (9:21).
5) "For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is
stretched out still" (10:4).
This same type of 5-fold prophetic scheme is also found in the
Book of Amos. It was intimately connected with prophetic
1) "Yet have ye not returned unto me" (4:6).
2) "Yet have ye not returned unto me" (4:8).
3) "Yet have ye not returned unto me" (4:9).
4) "Yet have ye not returned unto me" (4:10).
5) "Yet have ye not returned unto me" (4:11).
The sequential emphasis of the prophet Amos was to build up God's
case for the refusal of Israel to follow Him. God finally gives
up trying to reform them by saying: "Prepare to meet thy God, O
Israel" (Amos 4:12). In other words, 5 chances were all that God
was going to give them.
The Book of Lamentations, which is a message by Jeremiah
concerning the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the temple,
was also given in a 5-fold arrangement. The first chapter has 22
verses - each beginning with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet, and
all the letters are in their regular order. Then the second
chapter also has the same 22 Hebrew letters heading each verse.
The third chapter, however, has 66 verses, yet the same feature
is retained - only this time there are three verses beginning
with the first Hebrew letter, the next three verses the second
letter, etc. until all 22 letters are used up. Finally, chapters
four and five have 22 verses, but for some reason these verses do
not begin with the Hebrew letters. Nonetheless, the 5-fold
division is clearly seen. The number 5 seems to give the theme of
the prophecy a sense of certainty or dogmatism. This shows up in
the other sections of scripture where the 5-fold arrangement is
The Law of Moses was also divided into 5 parts: The Book of
Genesis (1), The Book of Exodus (2), The Book of Leviticus (3),
The Book of Numbers (4), The Book of Deuteronomy (5). This could
signify that all the law that was necessary to govern Old
Testament Israel was found within these 5-fold legal books.
And now, back to our Book of Psalms. It was also arranged in the
5-fold scheme. In fact, the ancient Jewish scholars saw a
comparison between the 5 books of Moses' Law and the 5 divisions
of the Book of Psalms. The early commentary on Psalms 1:1 (called
by the Hebrews the Midrash) says: "Moses gave to the Israelites
the five books of the Law; and corresponding with these David
gave them the five books of the Psalms." A good discussion on the
resemblance of each of the five divisions is given in the
commentaries at the start of the Book of Psalms. We show how they
tally in the paragraph below.
Psalms 1-41 (Book I) = Genesis
Psalms 42-72 (Book II) = Exodus
Psalms 73-89 (Book III) = Leviticus
Psalms 90-106 (Book IV) = Numbers
Psalms 107-150 (Book V) = Deuteronomy
But there is yet another 5-fold prophetic division of the Bible
which was designed, like the psalms, to be read in the temple at
certain times of the year. These were the 5 books in the original
Hebrew arrangement of the Old Testament called the Megilloth
(Scrolls) to be read at the holyday seasons and on two
commemorative days in the Hebrew calendar. The first book was the
Song of Songs (to be read at Passover), the second was Ruth
(Pentecost), the third was Lamentations (on the 10th of Ab - the
day on which the temple was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in the
sixth century B.C. - see Jeremiah 52:12-14; Zech. 7:5; 8:19), the
fourth book was Ecclesiastes (read in the period of Tabernacles),
and the fifth was Esther (read on Purim - see Esther 9:20-22).
Since the holyday periods given to Israel are of prophetic
relevance, it follows that the 5 books of the Old Testament
assigned to be read at those designated times are a commentary on
the meaning of the seasons.
The Passover season (1) shows the redemption of Israel from
Egypt, and in the New Testament it was the salvation afforded to
Christians by Christ's death on the cross - which occurred at
Passover. The Song of Songs was read at that time. Its theme is
that of a courtship and its setting is Springtime.
Then, Pentecost (2) shows the beginning of Israel as a nation at
Mount Sinai. Within the New Testament, the "church of Christ"
began on that day (Acts 2). The Book of Ruth was ordained to be
read in the temple and synagogues at that time. It describes Ruth
gleaning the firstfruits harvest from the land of Boaz in Judah.
The theme of the book fits Pentecost perfectly.
The 10th of Ab (3) was the anniversary day for the destruction of
the temple back in the time of Jeremiah. [Remarkably, the temple
which was rebuilt by King Herod - the one that existed in the
time of Christ - was also destroyed on the exact same day, and
quite by accident. It makes one wonder if the day is of more
importance in the prophetical chronology than at first meets the
eye.] The Book of Lamentations was ordained to be read (II Chron.
35:25) and the 10th of Ab was the day selected for its reading.
And what a significant book it was! Its subject was the
destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
Then came Tabernacles (4). This indicates the time that Israel
will be top in the world - under their Messiah. It is a time
denoting the Millennium of the New Testament (Rev. 20:3-6). The
Book of Ecclesiastes (which describes the peaceful reign of
Solomon - a type of the Millennium) was picked to be read at that
After that is Purim (5) which shows the complete redemption of
the nation of Judah - a central tribe of Israel, and the one
responsible for dispensing the message of salvation to the world
Thus, the three holyday seasons and the two main commemorative
periods (5 sanctified times) were graced with 5 books to be read
that backed up the significance of their themes. These 5 books
(and holyday seasons) also compare interestingly with the 5
divisions of the Psalms and the 5 books of the Mosaic Law. Let us
(1) Psalms 1-41 (BookI) = Genesis = Song of Songs (1)
(2) Psalms 42-72 (Book II) = Exodus = Ruth (2)
(3) Psalms 73-89 (Book III) = Leviticus = Lamentations (3)
(4) Psalms 90-106 (Book IV) = Numbers = Ecclesiastes (4)
(5) Psalms 107-150 (Book V) = Deuteronomy = Esther (5)
When these three sections of the Old Testament are compared with
one another, there is an amazing parallel in many features. It is
almost as if an over-all design was intended by the divine
canonizers to show a buttressing effect on the messages found in
each book. This may well be. To see this in a clear way, let us
focus on Book III of the Psalms. This will equate with the Book
of Leviticus in the Law of Moses and the Book of Lamentations in
the Megilloth. The third book of psalms comprises those from
Psalms 73 to 89 inclusively. Anyone who surveys those 17 psalms
can see quite easily that they generally refer, in the main, to
the temple at Jerusalem, and usually to its destruction. Note
some particular verses in the psalms of Book III which show this.
Psalm 73 = "The sanctuary of God ... they brought into
destruction" (verses 17,18).
Psalm 74 = "The enemy hath done wickedly in thy sanctuary....
they have cast fire into thy sanctuary, they have defiled by
casting thy dwelling place [the temple] of thy name to the
ground" (verses 3,7).
Psalm 75 = "The earth [land] and all the inhabitants thereof are
dissolved" (verse 3).
Psalm 76 = "In Salem [Jerusalem] is his tabernacle, and his
dwelling place in Zion. There [in Jerusalem] brake he the arrows
of the bow" (verses 2,3).
Psalm 77 = "In the day of trouble I sought the Lord.... Will the
Lord cast off forever?" (verses 2,7).
Psalm 78 = "He forsook the tabernacle of Shilo [when the temple
was once there], the tent which he placed among men" (verse 60).
Psalm 79 = "O God, the heathen are come into thy inheritance;
thy holy temple have they defiled ... and there was none to bury
them" (verses 1,3). [The latter reference is to the Two
Witnesses, as shown in the New Testament. See Rev. 11:9].
More examples from Book III of the Psalms could be given, but
this is enough to show that the theme of destruction is the
general context of all of those 17 psalms. And what is parallel
to Book III of the Psalms? In the Megilloth it is the Book of
Lamentations. And, as said before, this book was ordained to be
read on the anniversary of the temple's destruction (Jer.
52:12-14; Zech. 7:5; 8:19). There could be no book more apt for
comparison to the subject matter of Book III of the Psalms. But
these two books are arranged opposite (in their 5-fold structure)
to Book III of the Law - the Book of Leviticus. And its theme? It
is all about the priesthood and the Levites regarding their
duties in the temple. It could hardly be accidental that the
books found such an arrangement. The three books support each
other in subject matter.
Now look at Book IV of the Psalms. There are also 17 psalms in
this division (Psalms 90-106). Psalm 90 introduces its contextual
subject by mentioning a 1000 years (verse 4). A thousand years
is, of course, a millennium of time. And the general teaching of
these 17 psalms is millennial - about the time peace and security
will be over all the earth. But before peace can come to the
earth, there is the time of the Great Tribulation that must first
occur. Psalm 91 describes such a subject in detail. Then, it is
followed by Psalm 92 - a psalm for the Sabbath day (note its
superscription). The Old Testament Sabbath day (the seventh day
of the week) also represented the 7000th year period (after 6000
years of human rule) called in the Book of Revelation the 1000
year time when peace reigns throughout all the earth and Satan is
bound in chains (Rev. 20: 2-4). And note! It takes only a cursory
reading of the rest of the psalms in Book IV of the Book of
Psalms to see the Millennial connection. But also, it must be
noted that the Judaic authorities consecrated the Book of
Ecclesiastes to be read at the Tabernacles' season. Ecclesiastes
described the glories of the Solomonic kingdom (a type of the
Millennium) and Tabernacles itself had its spiritual theme as
that of the same Millennium.
Book V of the Psalms (Psalms 107-150) is associated with
Deuteronomy in the Law. Deuteronomy is called "the second law"
or, a recapitulation of the earlier parts of the Law of Moses.
And this is what the 44 psalms of Book V denote - a summing up of
the subjects from Book I to IV. It is also equalled to the Book
of Esther, which shows the complete salvation of the Jewish
people. It looks like they will be one of the last nations on
earth to finally accept Christ (Rom. 11:25,26). And Book V of the
Psalms gives information that could emphasize how God will
accomplish this salvation upon those of Israel.
Books I and II of the Psalms are songs composed exclusively by
King David. At the end of Psalm 72 is the statement: "The prayers
of David the son of Jesse are ended." Of course, there are other
Davidic psalms in later sections, but this reference indicates
that Book I (Psalms 1-41) and Book II (Psalms 42-72) were all
written by David.
Let us now note this interesting feature. The number of the
Davidic psalms are 72 (that is 24 x 3). Since King David arranged
the Levitical singers into 24 "wards" (I Chron. 25:8-31), it can
be seen as being very likely that these first 72 psalms were
established to fit a pattern of singing them in order by the
Levites who found themselves positioned by David into 24
Look at these psalms. In Book I there are 41 psalms. If one
reckons the first psalm as introductory, then there are 40 psalms
left. The number 40 is a number of trial. [We have given evidence
of this in our December, 1978 Commentator.] But in Book II there
are 31 psalms. If one allows the first psalm of the second book
to be introductory, then there are 30 psalms left. When one adds
40 and 30 together (equallying 70), one has the exact age of
David when he died. The age of 70 is also considered in Psalm 90
as the ideal length of man's life on earth (Psa. 90:10). And
isn't it interesting that Psalm 71:18 (next to the last psalm in
the Davidic collection) records David as saying: "Now also when I
am old and greyheaded." Then, the next psalm (the last one of
Book II), concerns the glories of the Solomonic kingdom which was
to occur at the death of David.
And too, Book I of the Psalms corresponds to the Song of Songs
which was sung at the Passover season. The whole of the 41 psalms
(1 plus 40) relate to this theme. Note, as an example, Psalm 22
which says that the wicked "pierced my hands and my feet" (verse
16). This reference, in prophecy, referred to the crucifixion of
Christ - who died at the Passover! Also, since Israel came out of
Egypt at Passover, the 40 psalms of Book I (after the
introductory one) probably denote the 40 years of wandering in
the wilderness. The 30 psalms of Book II (after the introductory
one) may show the 30 years for the establishing of the nation of
Israel in the land of Canaan - and this took exactly 30 years
from their crossing of the River Jordan to the death of Joshua.
None of us can know for certain why the psalms in the Book of
Psalms are arranged the way they are. Certainly, there is a
reason behind their positioning because some of the psalms were
repeated in other sections. Psalm 14 and Psalm 53 are virtually
the same in content, yet one occurs in Book I and the other in
Book II. Also, Psalm 70 is parallel with Psalm 40:13-17 and Psalm
60:9-12 with Psalm 108:10-13. In fact, with Psalms 9 and 10 there
is an acrostic feature (the use of Hebrew letters at the
beginning of verses - like in the Book of Lamentations) which
shows that the two separate psalms were at one time one psalm.
See the commentaries for proof of this. This all helps to show
that there is a definite reason why the psalms were positioned in
the way that they were. It is not the simple message that they
give that is all the truth, it is the context in which they occur
that makes the difference.
And since it can be shown that the psalms in the Book of Psalms
are basically of a prophetic nature, it looks like a prophetic
theme is to be found within the 5-fold divisions of the Psalms.
We can sum up, succinctly, what it might mean.
The 41 (1 plus 40) psalms of Book I seem to refer to Passover -
the beginning of Israel as a nation, and the start of the New
Testament scheme of salvation with the death and resurrection of
Christ. Book II is equated with Pentecost - the feast of the
first-fruits. It shows Israel as a corporate body in the land of
Israel, and it also can refer to the creation of the New
Testament church and the spreading of the Gospel to the world.
Book III is almost totally devoted to describing the destruction
of Israel and the temple (both in 586 B.C. and in A.D. 70). This
is a subject that parallels the prophecy of the Great Tribulation
in the Book of Revelation very well.
Indeed, some of the teachings about that great time of trouble
are reflective of verses found within this section of the psalms.
Book IV of the psalms shows Israel regathered after their ruin
(as demonstrated in the context of Book III). This book concerns
the Millennium which is prophesied to happen after the ruin of
the Israelitish system in Palestine just before the return of
Christ to earth. And finally, Book V is equated with the feast of
Purim - the time when Judah (all Israel) shall be delivered - as
they were in the Persian period as recorded in the Book of
Esther. Book V is also similar to that of Deuteronomy in the
sense that it combines all the major features of the first four
Since there are 150 psalms in the entire collection (3 x 50)
there may have been a three-year reading plan-a reading of a
psalm for each of the 150 weeks to correspond with the triennial
reading of the Law and the Prophets in the temple (Acts 13:15).
This possibility has been suggested in the Jewish Encyclopaedia
, Vol. 12, under article Triennial Cycle. This could well
be one of the reasons for the positioning of the psalms in the
manner they are.
The main thing to recognize, however, is that there is far more
teaching in the Book of Psalms than at first meets the eye. No
one knows for sure just what every detail is trying to reveal.
Yet, when one realizes that a consistency of doctrinal and
prophetical emphasis is found throughout the Old Testament, it
could be that the Psalms are a simple reflection of that fact.
These suggestions are intended as a preliminary survey of the
various 5-fold sections which are found in the Old Testament. We
should recall that the New Testament also has a 5-fold
"Pentateuch" of the Gospels and Acts, and that Matthew's Gospel
is arranged in a 5-fold structure. It appears, when one studies
them closely, that these designs are not haphazardly formed, but
that some kind of message is intended by their application in
matters of interpretation. Certainly, further research among
scholars and biblical students is needed to comprehend these
matters in a better way. Such study, however, would be
facilitated if people will retain the manuscript order of the
biblical books rather than the arbitrary one that is now being
presented to the world. We hope that the information in this book
can prove to be an incentive to accomplish this task.
The Book Of Proverbs - Its Structure, Design, and Teaching
Most people are not aware that the proverbial statements in the
Book of Proverbs are really parables. They are sayings that use
natural and normal illustrations to show comparisons to moral,
social, or religious principles. In other words, the use of the
proverbs (parables) is intended to portray spiritual truths
through the ordinary usage of words and explanations. The
intended result, however, may involve the revelation of many
"dark sayings" that the ordinary person may be unaware of. Or, to
put it simply, there is often more to the proverb than at first
meets the eye.
The introduction to the Book of Proverbs in the Holy Bible tells
us this very fact. The first six verses are the superscription to
the whole book. It says the proverbs have been given in order to
show wisdom, instruction, understanding, justice, judgment,
subtlety to the simple, knowledge, discretion, learning, counsel,
and - "to understand a proverb [parable], and the interpretation;
the words of the wise [the word "wise" is plural: "wise ones"],
and their dark sayings" (Prov. 1:6).
This means that the Book of Proverbs does not only contain the
proverbs originated by King Solomon, but it represents a
compilation of wise and dark sayings which were associated with
the "wise men" who lived before Solomon. Of those mentioned in
the Bible there were the sons of Zerah [who was the son of
Judah]: Ethan, Heman, Chalcol, and Darda (I Kings 4:31). These
four "wise men" (or ancient philosophers) lived in Egypt at the
time that Joseph was in power (Genesis 41). And let us not forget
the patriarch Joseph himself! When Joseph was able to interpret
Pharaoh's dream that a famine of seven years was to grip the
Middle Eastern world, Pharaoh admitted that "there is none so
discreet and wise as thou [Joseph] art" (Gen. 41:39). [We will
soon see that some of the proverbs found within the biblical book
are certainly those that originated with Joseph long before the
Exodus of the Israelites from Egypt.] Other "wise men" were those
"of the east country" (I Kings 4:30) - the people in the land of
Edom (Obadiah 8), where the "wise man" Job had his residence (Job
1:1). The land of Uz (Job 1:1) was located east of the Jordan
These indications in the Bible show that there were many people
of the ancient past who were considered "wise men." And what is
the Book of Proverbs? It is basically a compilation of proverbs
(parables) uttered by many "wise men" of the past, but brought
together by King Solomon (or later editors), in order that the
people of God could be instructed in the "dark sayings" and words
of wisdom which have been uttered by people who learned the
principles that governed life. They represent the "cream of the
crop" of ancient philosophical teaching. When really understood,
the "sayings" in the Book of Proverbs are no doubt some of the
oldest literary statements known to man. It will pay us to
understand just what the proverbs are all about, and especially
why they have been placed in the order that they have. There is
significant instruction awaiting us if we do.
We are told in the Bible that the proverbs accumulated (or
written) by Solomon were "set in order" (Eccl. 12:9) - indeed,
the proverbs had been "sought out" by Solomon for the express
purpose of teaching the people of Israel essential knowledge.
They were the words of the "wise ones" (Eccl. 12:11- the word
"wise" is, again, plural, and signifies many wise people of the
past that were known by Solomon). The proverbs were "acceptable
words" and "words of truth" which were "upright" [full of
righteous teaching] (Eccl. 12:10). Since Solomon "set them in
order," this shows that the proverbs were not arranged
haphazardly. They also must be a selection of some of the better
sayings of the wise ones. Actually, Solomon himself "spake three
thousand proverbs" (I Kings 4:32). Since the Book of Proverbs
contains only 915 verses (and some proverbs take up several
verses), it can be seen that Solomon was selective even of his
own proverbial creations in order that the whole book could be
streamlined to contain the best of many "wise men."
The main ingredient to understanding a proverb, according to the
superscription itself, is "the interpretation" behind the words
(Prov. 1:6). They may well be "dark sayings," (Prov. 1:6), but
they are designed to give enlightenment to those who read. Since
this is the case, it will pay us first to apprehend the divisions
of the Book of Proverbs and to understand the context in which
the various proverbs are placed. This will help us to comprehend
what the individual messages are all about.
Prov. 1:7 to 9:18.
"The Proverbs of Solomon" Prov. 10:1 to 22:16.
"The words of the wise [ones]" Prov. 22:22 to 24:22.
"These also belong to the wise [ones]" Prov. 24:23 to 24:34.
"These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah
king of Judah copied" Prov. 25:1 to 29:27.
There are yet two remaining divisions to the Proverbs. These
final two sections seem to represent individual compositions
about two men of whom we have no further information as to their
identities in the Bible.
"The words of Agur the son of Jakeh" Prov. 30 (the whole
"The words of king Lemuel" Prov. 31 (the whole chapter).
There is a general "story flow" which pervades the proverbs in
each of the designated divisions. When this is realized, it helps
us to better identify the author of most of the individual
proverbs in the various sections and to see why the proverbs were
placed in the manner they were. It also gives us the over-all
teaching of the theme.
DIVISION ONE: The first six verses of the book are an
introduction to the whole of the Book of Proverbs. The very first
"proverb," in itself, is found in verse seven.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools
despise wisdom and instruction."
This sets the theme of the first division, and also to all of
Proverbs. "The fear of the Lord," which is the Old Testament way
of saying: "Have faith and trust in God," is the very start of
wisdom. All else, according to the author of this section, is
subsidiary to this main principle. And what is the next step to
"My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the
law of thy mother: for they shall be an ornament of grace unto
thy head, and chains about thy neck."
Paying attention to the teachings of one's parents is the next
step to gaining wisdom. Who was the author of this first
division? We are not told precisely, but there are some hints.
Who was it that respected his father so much that he finally had
a "chain of authority" put around his neck? Such a person was
Joseph (Gen. 41:42). This first division speaks very much about
the "strange woman" (Prov. 2:16-18; 5:3-6; 5:15-20; 6:24-35;
7:5-23; 9:13-18), and of all the early "wise men" of Israel,
Joseph was noted for his refraining from an adulterous union with
the king's wife (Gen. 39:7-23). Since Joseph was described as
being "discreet and wise" (Gen. 41:39) - and lived at the same
time as the sons of Zerah in Egypt (I Kings 4:31) - it could well
be that he was the main author of the first division (or helped
to compose it with the sons of Zerah).
Joseph was also able to interpret Pharaoh's dreams for him in a
very judicious way (Gen. 41:25-36) and he recognized that the
Sun, Moon, and Eleven Stars represented his father, his mother,
and his eleven brothers (Gen. 37:5-11). And what are the proverbs
in Division One really about? They are "dark sayings" which need
"interpretation" (Prov. 1:6). As said before, they are statements
that mean more than at first meets the eye. One must dig beneath
the surface to understand the real meaning.
Division One is filled with such "secret" teachings. Note that
the main textual subject of this division is Wisdom (1:20;
2:2,6,7,10; 3:13,19,21; 4:5,7; 5:1; 7:4; 8:1,12,14; 9:1).
"Wisdom" is personified as a woman and rendered in the plural
(Prov. 1:20ff). Other than the simple use for the meaning of
"wisdom," it no doubt refers to something far more - especially
since it is put in the feminine gender. The Old Testament was a
"man's world," but "Wisdom" and other virtuous attributes are
feminine! The holy name for Jerusalem was Zion and it is called a
"she" in Psalm 46:5. Israel and Judah are called daughters (Ezek.
23:1). The New Testament body of believers in the Book of
Revelation is called "the wife" of Christ (Rev. 19:7). The virtue
of "understanding" is also feminine (Prov. 7:4,5), and the chief
attitude of all - "love" - is as well placed in the feminine
gender (I Cor. 13:5).
But we also find that Babylon, Nineveh, and the evil system
condemned in the Book of Revelation are also called "women" (Rev.
17:5; Nah. 2:10; 3:4; Zeph. 2:13-15; Micah 5:6 margin). The
subject to whom the proverbs of Division One is directed is "My
Son." He is told to have his affection set on Wisdom and
Understanding (both expressed in the feminine). Yet he is equally
advised to stay away from "the strange woman." Since the proverbs
are parables which are "dark sayings" requiring interpretation to
understand them, the significance could be intended to show the
people of Israel to stay away from the alluring environments of
the false "women" of Babylon, Nineveh, and the great woman of the
Book of Revelation. But the "true women" are Wisdom and
Understanding. There may be more teaching in the Book of Proverbs
than one might imagine on the surface!
"Wisdom" is also personified as being with the creator of nature.
"The Lord possessed me [Wisdom] in the beginning of his way,
before his works of old" (Prov. 8:22-36). It is almost as though
"she" were a creator herself (Prov. 9:1) - almost like Christ in
relation to the Father (Col. 1:16-18 along with Prov. 8:22-36).
There may be far more "dark sayings" to comprehend in this
section of Proverbs than many people imagine. Perhaps Joseph (or
those associated with him before the Exodus) understood even some
of the "secret" things mentioned in the New Testament, though in
a veiled way. At any rate, the first nine chapters of Proverbs
represent the sayings of ancient "wise ones" - the ones who lived
long before Solomon.
DIVISION TWO: The next thirteen chapters of the book are short
proverbial statements made exclusively by King Solomon. The
simple title to the section is: "The proverbs of Solomon" (Prov.
10:1). And what is its primary emphasis? Look at the first
proverb of this division:
"A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the
heaviness of his mother."
Whereas in the first division the thrust is mainly upon spiritual
things: Wisdom, Understanding, Faithfulness, Duty to God, in this
second section it is foremostly the relationships between humans.
Of course, the most important association is that of children and
parents, and that is emphasized first. There is nothing
especially esoteric about these short and to-the-point
statements, yet the order in which they occur could be
significant. Since we are told by Paul that a "root of all evil"
is the desire for riches (I Tim. 6:10), it is interesting that
the second proverb of Solomon's personal section shows that the
"treasures of wickedness profit nothing" (Prov. 10:2).
DIVISION THREE: This is one of the most interesting sections in
the whole of Proverbs. One who reads the King James Version would
hardly realize that a new division was being introduced - but it
is clearly evident in the original text. Division Three actually
begins in the middle of chapter 22. The title to it is found from
Proverbs 22:17 to 21. Let us look at it. [It must be understood
that the verses that now follow are not individual proverbs in
themselves. They represent a superscription to Division Three.]
"Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise [plural:
"wise ones"], and apply thine heart unto my knowledge. For it is
a pleasant thing if thou keep them [the following proverbs of
Division Three] within thee; they [these particular proverbs]
shall withal be fitted in thy lips. That thy trust may be in the
Lord, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee. Have not
I written to thee excellent things [or, as the Revised Standard
Version has it: "thirty sayings"] in counsels and knowledge, that
I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that
thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto
After this long introduction, we then find the first proverb of
Division Three. It is Proverbs 22:22,23.
"Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the
afflicted in the gate: for the Lord will plead their cause, and
spoil the soul of those that spoil them."