Book Notice: Ernest Lucas on Proverbs

Book Notice: Ernest Lucas on Proverbs August 7, 2016

Ernest C. Lucas 
Proverbs 
Two Horizons Old Testament Commentary
Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2015.
Available on Amazon.com

By Jill Firth

Ernest C. Lucas is author of Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Psalms & Wisdom Literature, and has written the Apollos commentary on Daniel and several articles on Daniel. He is vice-principal and tutor in biblical studies at Bristol Baptist College in England.

Lucas considers that the wisdom books of the Old Testament (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes) teach the skill of coping with life on a practical level, rooted in commitment to the LORD. While Solomon may have collected, sponsored and written some of the proverbs, the book of Proverbs did not receive its final shape until the time of Hezekiah (Proverbs 25.1) or later. Lucas proposes that the book of Proverbs is a collection of collections, developed over at least five hundred years.

The introduction surveys the literary forms in Proverbs, including statements and admonitions. Sayings include those which describe actions as ‘good’, ‘not good’, ‘an abomination’, or ‘better than’, as well as those who indicate blessing. Lucas disagrees with those who argue that the verses of Proverbs are arranged haphazardly. He discusses pairs (26.20-21), strings (10.1-5), poems (ch. 25), and clusters (10.18-21) which are linked structurally or thematically. He also considers rhetorical devices and Ancient Near Eastern wisdom.

In the commentary, Lucas engages in a detailed reading of the text, with an emphasis on theological insight. He regularly describes a range of interpretations, as in his discussion of the valiant woman of Proverbs 31.10-31, where he notes that allegorical interpretation was usual up to 1600, but the text was read ‘literally’ as referring to an exemplary woman in subsequent decades. Lucas cites a range of commentators on the valiant woman including Wolters, Waltke, McCreesh, Clifford, Yoder, Brenner, Camp, Schroer, Van Leeuwin, and Carmody, including a Jewish (Valler) and an African perspective (Masenya), and interacting with feminist readings.

The section on the theological horizons of Proverbs includes essays on spirituality, wealth and poverty, family, friends and neighbours as well as on God and Proverbs, wisdom and Christology, and words and Proverbs in the New Testament. A comprehensive bibliography, author index, and Scripture and ancient author index add to the usefulness of the book for readers.

This volume is a helpful and practical approach to Proverbs for students, pastors and scholars and for any thoughtful reader of the book of Proverbs who seeks to live a wise and faithful life.

Jill Firth lectures in Hebrew and Old Testament at Ridley College in Melbourne.

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