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How to Read Proverbs (How to Read Series How to Read) Paperback – October 12, 2002
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"A brilliant blend of in-depth scholarship with an easy-to-understand conversational narrative. . . . An enjoyable read and a good guide for those who desire to explore the path of biblical wisdom." (Ted Hildebrandt, Gordon College)
"This handy volume will solve the riddle of the book of Proverbs for many. Longman's guidance for interpreting biblical proverbs in general is lucid and his clarification of special issues raised by Proverbs extremely helpful. A must-read for all who study and teach the book." (Daniel I. Block, D.Phil., Associate Dean, John R. Sampey Professor of Old Testament Interpretation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)
About the Author
Tremper Longman III (PhD, Yale University) is Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. He is also visiting professor of Old Testament at Seattle School of Theology and Psychology and adjunct of Old Testament at Fuller Theological Seminary. He lectures regularly at Regent College in Vancouver and the Canadian Theological Seminary in Calgary. Longman is the author or coauthor of over twenty books, including How to Read Genesis, How to Read the Psalms, How to Read Proverbs, Literary Approaches to Biblical Interpretation, Old Testament Essentials and coeditor of A Complete Literary Guide to the Bible. He and Dan Allender have coauthored Bold Love, Cry of the Soul, Intimate Allies, The Intimate Mystery and the Intimate Marriage Bible studies.
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Dr. Longman gives the reader plenty of background information in three informative sections. The first section deals with background on the nature of the proverb; what it is and what it is not. Knowing the historical setting is stressed. Exegetical principles are established by looking for patterns such as parallelism, and numerical parallelism, imagery and others. The second section deals with the context of wisdom in the Bible; how the comments in Proverbs relate to other Bible books such as Job and Ecclesiastes. On this topic, Tremper Longman may be one of the best because he has written extensively on the Hebrew wisdom literature, and his Biblical and historical insights are quite valuable. The final section is a list of a few special studies in proverbs, such as the topic of money and marriage. Although not exhaustive, they are insightful and help the reader to see how to put the ideas of the previous sections into practice.
The author deals with practical issues such as "Are proverbs always true?" This chapter is worth the price of the book, because in my experience Christians tend to take proverbs as always true when in fact they are reflections on life that are generally true. Why some proverbs seem to contradict each other is also discussed very well. Dr. Longman treats with integrity and thoughtfulness the topic of is Jesus/Yeshua referred to as the "wisdom" in Proverbs 8. And the comparison of proverbs to other forms of ancient literature was a real treat.
In short, this is a great first-stop shopping book that I recommend prior to a study of Proverbs. The book is not overly Jewish, but you will gain some insight into ancient Jewish culture from this study of wisdom literature. Advanced scholarly types might not find the book as useful, but Longman's explanations are pretty thoughtful and would be very useful for teaching purposes. I think regardless of training, you will still find some helpful insights. The book could also be the topic of a Bible study, since there are a series of group-discussion questions at the end of each chapter. There are also lots of suggestions for further reading, and a list of useful commentaries. A delightful book overall that will enhance your walk with God!
The proverbial material could readily be organised in different ways to the seven key themes he chooses - there are many ways to slice the proverbial pie! - but he himself admits that and doesn't press his own schema beyond its limits.
Lay readers, undergraduates and even graduates can benefit from this introduction to a book - and genre of historical literature - which is often misunderstood.