Saturday, April 3, 2010

“Mirror, Mirror . . . “

If “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” it is too bad that so many Bible commentators and translators apparently see so little! This state of affairs probably exists because few scholars these days spend time in the original texts of the Bible—Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek. Too much time is spent reading and commenting on what people say about the Bible and too little time is given to reading and meditating on the primary source for the Bible.

Proverbs 9 exemplifies some “hidden” beauty. The author crafted this chapter from the standpoint of a “mirror reading” regarding two kinds of women. Verses 1-12 focus on the woman called “wisdom;” verses 13-18 on a “foolish woman” [כְּסִילוּת, Holladay, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 161; Armstrong, Busby, Carr, A Reader's Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament, 539, “stupidity”].

Repetitive verses in each section justify the “mirror” concept: verse 4 is repeated in verse 16; verse 3 replicates verse 14. Beyond simple repetition lie conceptual parallels as well. Wisdom invites the naïve to a meal (verse 5); the foolish woman likewise suggests the naïve eat her meal of stolen water and secretly-eaten bread (verse 17). Wisdom celebrates a long and happy life (verse 11); the foolish woman entertains death (verse 18). Sid S. Buzzell (The Bible Knowledge Commentary, 923-25) outlines these parallels nicely. Though not as clear see also Duane A. Garrett in The New American Commentary: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, 113-16.

The “transition point” between verses 1-12 and verses 13-18 signals most clearly and beautifully the “mirror reading” for those looking at the Hebrew text. The author has a clear expectation that the reader will compare and contrast the two women. The last word of verse 12 and the first word of verse 13 “leap off the page:” תשׂא/אשׁת. Fold the former word over the top of the latter to see the “mirror reading.” Artistic beauty in poetic composition reveals itself here! What a shame that so few students of the Bible ever see it!

The Bible is a work of art. Artistic achievement and beauty displays itself magnificently, but often only to the pathetically few who read it in the original languages. May Proverbs 9, and תשׂא/אשׁת in particular, be an incentive to search for other elements of beauty scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments. Numerous other “incentives” can be discovered in the preceding postings that began in 2008.