The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1-15 [ending 15:29] and Chapters 15-31 [beginning 15:30]. By BRUCE K. WALTKE. The New International Commentary on the Old Testament. 2 volumes. Grand Rapids, Mich.: EERDMANS, 2004, 2005. Pp. xxxv + 693; xxxxi + 589. $50 each.
This book is aimed at an audience of religious people and particularly home-schoolers, not especially scholars. Waltke's approach assumes that the Bible, including Proverbs, should be read holistically, that is, as a part of the Christian monotheistic revelation. This approach is doubtful since Proverbs does not mention the salvation history of Israel and can be seen as part of a critique of many of the basic ideas of the salvation tradition.
Waltke has distinguished himself in a long career as an expert on Hebrew syntax, and that should recommend him as a commentator on Proverbs. But the homiletic urge has overwhelmed his scholarship, and the critical reader must sift through his ecclesiastical assumptions to find useful hints at understanding this pivotal Biblical book.
I look for a modern Biblical commentary to be based on a broad bibliography drawing from many traditions of scholarship, and Waltke does have the bibliography. He lists articles in the major languages of Europe except Russian, and he seems to have followed Israeli scholarship in Hebrew. Obviously this is the work of a lifetime, but it might have been revised for currentness; for example, Harold Washington's 1992 Ph.D. thesis appears in the bibliography, but not his 1994 book, Wealth and Poverty in the Instruction of Amenemope and the Hebrew Proverbs; this is also the case for Knut Martin Heim's 1996 thesis and 2001 book, Like Grapes of Gold Set in Silver.
In a modern commentary I look for a careful study of the junctures among collections and relations among them, including repetitions of words and phrases as well as ideas. If one thinks that Solomon wrote it all, such matters are of little interest. In fact, nothing that might show any historical change or development is of concern, since Waltke knows that the overall meaning must be the teaching of obedience to religious authority supposedly sanctioned by salvation history. Still, he rather naively suggests that repetition in 14:12 and 16:25 points to "originally distinct collections incorporating the same proverb" (vol. 1, p. 16), though my 1991 book Twice-Told Proverbs, which he lists in his bibliography, showed that that really has to be demonstrated. He does not...