Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 18, “Proverbs” pp. 315-236.
Lessing recognizes the nature of Proverbs as a book of divine wisdom. He considers that it is often read without an understanding of God’s redemptive grace. This treats it primarily as a self-help book. Rathe, we can read it as a foreshadowing of God’s kingdom with us (Lessing 2014, 315). Though it is normally associated with Solomon, there are a number of authors identified in the text, covering a span of about 500 years (Lessing 2014, 316).
Proverbs 1:1-22:16 are ascribed to Solomon. Lessing considers this a reasonable claim (Lessing 2014, 317). That portion of the book shows an overall pattern of organization which Lessing considers consistent with Solomon. 22:17-24:34 seems to be collected from other sources. Lessing notes that Solomon would have had the connections to do this, particularly the Egyptian material (Lessing 2014, 318). Proverbs 35-29 is allegedly a transcription, probably of Solomon’s work, but in the time of Hezekaih (Lessing 2014, 318). Chapter 30 is ascribed to one Agur. Chapter 31 is derived from the mother of “king Lemuel,” who cannot be identified (Lessing 2014, 319). The entire book has a variety of brief aphorisms as well as other literary forms throughout.
The concepts of wisdom and foolishness are central to Proverbs (Lessing 2014, 321). Lessing describes the related words and characteristics in some detail. The brief aphorisms are intended to describe the world and people in general, rather than to make very specific commands or promises (Lessing 2014, 322).
The Masoretic text of Proverbs has some very problematic portions which Lessing sees as scribal corruption (Lessing 2014, 322). In general, the Septuagint and other ancient versions dependent on it are less problematic (Lessing 2014, 323). There are, however, a number of rearrangements and reinterpretations of the Masoretic Text in the Septuagint.
Lessing notes a broad range of themes in Proverbs. He does point the reader to the way God the Son is pictured in Proverbs (Lessing 2014, 324). He finds the idea of Wisdom personified to refer to Christ, the one who created and blesses the world, enabling kings to rule well, etc. Especially Proverbs chapter 8 is often considered to be about the pre-incarnate Christ (Lessing 2014, 324). Throughout the book, people are warned about the consequences of sin and urged toward godly behavior. The right relationship of Israel to God is one which looks for his mercy. This is affirmed in Proverbs (Lessing 2014, 325).