Proverbs 1b – Balancing Proverbs
Proverbs 1:20-33 strikes a balance, demonstrating the cause-and-effect of rejecting Woman Wisdom’s call by clever use of repetitious terms. I mentioned a few verses towards the end of the sermon that showed this balance, but the whole of this passage is actually what we call a “chiasm.” A chiasm is when two halves of a poem or even a verse mirror each other, with the middle segment usually being the most important or the focal point.
Here’s a smaller example from 1:26-27 (ESV):
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you,
27 when terror strikes you like a storm and
your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
Notice how these two verses mention calamity and terror, then terror and calamity. This chiasm doesn’t have a middle component, but instead the third line of verse 27 sticks out and emphasizes the judgment coming upon the fool.
But this works on a larger level as well. Many commentators have noted that Pr 1:20-33 as a whole has a reflective pattern. Here’s an example of how this larger passage strikes a balance:
A – 1:20-21 – Wisdom Calls
B – 1:22 – “Simple” and “Fools” Called
C – 1:23 – Positive Response to Wisdom
D – 1:24-25 – “Counsel” and “Reproof” are Despised
X – 1:26-27 – Calamity and Terror
D1 – 1:28-30 – “Counsel” and “Reproof” are Despised
C1 – 1:31 – Negative Response to Wisdom
B1 – 1:32 – “Simple” and “Fools” Judged
A1 – 1:33 – Wisdom’s Rewards
Several of these verses reflect each other very well, using many key words in a strategic way (i.e., 1:22//32, 1:24-25//28-30). Some balance more in idea than exact verbiage (1:23//31). But overall, this is a pretty balanced chiasm that seems to work.
We will see more of this in Proverbs, some on an individual verse level, sometimes on the level of an entire passage. But here in Proverbs 1, this balance works to demonstrate the cause and effect of listening or rejecting Wisdom’s call. The simple and fools are called by Wisdom, and when they don’t respond, they get what they deserve. The structure of the poem itself supports the overall message.
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