Interpreting the Book of Proverbs (Part 3)


Because of my schedule, I have been slow in continuing my pace on Interpreting the Book of Proverbs. As you may recall, in part 2 of this series, I focused on the first of six hermeneutical guidelines for interpreting Proverbs: recognizing the characteristics of a proverb. With the next two posts I will continue to develop this first hermeneutical principle by providing a descriptive list of six types of parallelism that are found in Proverbs. With this post, we will look at the first four types.

1. Synonymous

Synonymous parallelism is the most basic type of parallelism. With this type of parallelism, the second colon essentially repeats the first. Consider Proverbs 1:20.

Wisdom cries aloud in the street,

in the markets she raises her voice.

2. Contrast

This has also been called antithetical parallelism. This occurs when the poet places a line in contrast to its corresponding line. Proverbs 10:4

A slack hand causes poverty,

but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

3. Subordination

In this case one line is grammatically subordinated to the other line. In Proverbs 3:27 the first line involves a command and the second a temporal clause.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,

when it is in your power to do it.

4. Comparison

This has also been called emblematic parallelism. This is related to the subordination category of parallelism in that the comparative clause is subordinate to the other. However, in this case, a comparison is made between two lines in such a way that it forms a simile. Proverbs 10:26

Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,

so is the sluggard to those who send him.

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