As we get further into Proverbs, there will be more and more moments where you read a verse and think, “I feel like I’ve already read that verse!” There’s a simple reason for this (and no, it’s not déjà vu) – you probably already have! Like most of Hebrew literature, Proverbs tends to repeat itself in clever ways, sometimes switching up a word or two to give the text a slightly different emphasis.
There are a number of times in Proverbs 9 that the text plays on the words of what we’ve seen before. I mentioned in the sermon that verses 4 and 16 are exactly parallel:
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, (all Scripture in ESV)
But this is not the only example in Proverbs 9. One of the most obvious is 9:10a, which calls back to 1:7a:
9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
The first line of each verse is similar, though the word “knowledge” is switched to “wisdom” in 9:10 and the Hebrew word order is rearranged. The second line in 9:10 references “insight,” which was used earlier in 9:6 as that quality in which we should walk. So putting together these thoughts, the passage demonstrates that we should walk in insight, which defined is knowledge of God (the Holy One). This concept is parallel to fearing God, which is the beginning of all wisdom and knowledge.
Proverbs 9:11 offers one more interesting example of repeated proverbs. This one repeats a few words from other proverbs:
Proverbs 9:11 For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life.
Proverbs 3:2 for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.
Proverbs 4:10 Hear, my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many.
The Hebrew text of Proverbs 9:11b and 4:10b share three words in order. Doesn’t sound like a lot at first, but Hebrew is much more compact than English. For instance, Proverbs 9:1 is 16 words in the ESV, but only 7 words in Hebrew! So sharing three words is like saying that it shares half the verse.
Proverbs 9:11 and 3:2 have five words in common, though the word order is different and sometimes the words aren’t the same part of speech. But it’s enough to say there’s a significant connection between the verses.
In 3:1-2, the father urges the son to keep his commandments so that life and peace will increase for the boy. This is the same idea found in 4:10. In both of these texts, it is the father’s words that the son must keep in order to enjoy longevity of life. But in 9:11, it is “by me” that days and years will be lengthened. There is some question regarding who the “me” is here, but most likely it is Woman Wisdom still speaking (some scholars think it’s the father speaking, which is a viable possibility, especially with the parallels).
The reason this is significant is because 3:2 and 4:10 both indicate it’s the father’s words that grant life, and 9:10 indicates it’s wisdom that grants life. Therefore, by pulling these verses together, we can see that the father’s words = wisdom. And as we saw earlier, wisdom is inherently connected with fearing God and comes from God (Pr 8). Therefore, the father isn’t just teaching a few wise tips from his experience; he’s passing along to the son divine wisdom from God Himself.