Chapters ten through thirteen form one unit in the Hebrew text, the first of three long sections, with no paragraph marker until the end of the four chapters. Unlike the first nine chapters, the format starting at this point is what most people consider a “proverb,” e.g., a one- or two-line saying containing a general principle or command, though not necessarily a guaranteed of promised results in every case.
Most of these proverbs are contained in a single verse and follow one of four patterns. In nearly every case, these use a common form of parallelism (A-B or A-A) to make the point.:
- Positive statement…but parallel negative opposite
- Negative statement…but parallel positive opposite
- Positive statement…and further positive statement
- Negative statement…and further negative statement
Solomon called the people in his positive statements righteous, wise, upright, shrewd, faithful, diligent, generous, and blameless. In contrast, the person we should not emulate is wicked, foolish, lazy, perverse, sluggard, evildoer, faithless, ruthless, without discretion, stupid, twisted, and a scoffer.
The topics of this section are just as plentiful as Solomon’s descriptions of those who participate in them. Because he addressed finances, instruction and discipline, personal appearance, parenting, integrity, anxiety, hope, work, speech, and motives, this section contains a wealth of wisdom and general principle for many of life’s daily situations.