I’ve considered over and over what the best manner is to approach Proverbs 31. We technical Western Greek-thinkers like outlines, structures, and a step by step guide to the Bible. Hebraic thought, however, takes our simple clear cut sermons and makes them look empty. Hebrew culture is soooo relational, sooo intimate and eternal in their thoughts and writings. Hebrew has structure but it is as dynamic as Greek is direct. Hebraic thought moves in a circular pattern, Greek is linear, and if you want to really get confused read Paul who uses the Greek language to present direct, logical, linear thoughts in a circular Hebraic fashion! Now, the Proverbs are purely and beautifully Hebrew. A Father is stewarding his Son to manhood with words of wisdom, reason, truth, understanding, caution and encouragement. He counsels every aspect of his son’s life from eating and sleeping to marriage and parenthood, and he does so with great knowledge. If you read Solomon’s story in 1st Kings and make notes on his education and the lessons he learned, you’ll find that his wisdom and experience came from many sources of choice, both good and bad. The themes of Proverbs are some of the many themes of the Jewish people and they have been successful, through unspeakable odds, in preserving these words for us today. Therefore I think that I will begin verses 10 and following in the same manner that Solomon did, as a parent and spouse, with children whom I desire to raise up in the ways of the Lord.
It is difficult to continue in Proverbs 31 for one other reason, and that is because I feel so strongly that educators jump to this chapter to educate women without really studying or teaching on the previous 30 chapters! For one reason or another, Proverbs 31 is at the END of the book (as it is in English translations and several Hebrew transcriptions that I am aware of), so I must beg that we remember this in our study and not presume to think that one can study only Proverbs 31 by itself and really gain understanding about it’s context and purpose. It has been prefaced by 30 chapters, mountains of wisdom and knowledge that it would take a lifetime to truly experience and dig through, and if we are to study the conclusion of such wisdom, we have to be ready to go back and examine the premise (the foundation). I’ve touched on this in my introduction to the Proverbs 31 Woman series and will mention it again and again as we continue. I am going to add an aspect to this study called exegesis. This a Greek word meaning, “to lead out”, the “ex” at the beginning is the root preposition ek in Greek, meaning “out of” and ege means “to lead”. So we are going to “LEAD OUT” the meaning of these scriptures through careful study and examination of the text, verse by verse, pursuing understanding of the words, the meanings, and the context.
The first step in exegesis is finding definitions to words. These may be words that you already know, they may be completely unfamiliar. It doesn’t matter because each new time you look at a word you may discover an aspect of its meaning that you have never before considered. To help you, here is a link to an online Webster’s 1828, and I’ve underlined words that I think are pertinent. You can always look up more! These definitions help us to reason , relate, and record our findings in the English language, creating a foundation for learning and understanding. The next step in exegesis is definitions in the original language. A great resource to do this on a computer is E-Sword, a free downloadable study program with extra features that allow you to look at Hebrew and Greek scriptures, as well as many English translations, and their definitions and roots in a Strong’s Concordance. E-Sword also has a Webster’s 1828 that you can download to it. If this resource is unavailable to you at present, don’t worry, I’ll be going much of that research for you in our study. Finally, it is essential when doing exegesis in the Bible to look at the words you are defining in OTHER CONTEXTS to see how they are used, defined, and translated elsewhere in the Bible. The scriptures themselves are infallible but translations are not, and I’ve often found that translators have to choose one use of a Greek or Hebrew word from 3-4 other, perfectly accurate possibilities! I demonstrated this in my introduction to the chapter with the translation of ezer kenegdo in Genesis 2; what we read as a “suitable helper” can be just as reasonably translated as “powerful equal” based upon how those Hebrew words are used in other parts of the Bible. Now, I know this is a lot of information to digest, so I will stop here and call this section “Instructions for study” and let you think and ponder on them today before we continue the Proverbs 31 Woman.
In the mean time, your assignment is to read through the chapter on your own and underline words that you want to “EXEGETE”! These are words that you want to define, in English and Hebrew, and that you want to research further as to their meaning and use in other parts of the Bible. Also, mark your questions. Is there a verse or word that is confusing, that you wonder, “Why does it say that?” Questions are vital in Hebraic thought and education. The ability to ask questions shows an ability to think and reason, and that is why we are studying isn’t it?!
So have fun thinking and we’ll pick up verse 10 tomorrow!