The Good Man of the Proverbs
IN even the choicest anthology of proverbs it is vain to search for any consistent philosophy of life --a moral universe centring round some fixed principle--as in Aristotle and modern ethical systems. The world of proverbs is rather a cluster of shining points of light, with no discoverable order or harmony. A certain unity is given to the Proverbs of the Bible, however, by their vital relation to wisdom. Their authors are 'wise men,' who seek thus to instruct their readers in the ways of wisdom. And the wisdom of Proverbs is not the mere intellectual subtlety of the Greeks, nor yet the worldly shrewdness, sagacity, and savoir faire of early Hebrew sages, but the practical moral principle of the good. The wise man is he who directs his life worthily and well. His wisdom is thus virtually identical with goodness. And the roots of both lie in religion. The keynote of the Proverbs is struck in the opening chord. 'The fear of Jahweh is the beginning of wisdom' (i. 7). The same note rings through the whole Book.