What I’m Reading: “God’s Wisdom in Proverbs”

Being a brainiac is good. Being a hard-working brainiac is better. Being a hard-working and eloquent brainiac? Mercy, that’s almost unfair. But that’s my friend, Dan Phillips.

I’ve enjoyed Dan’s witty and insightful writing at Pyromaniacs and Biblical Christianity. I was honored to be one of the final, blood-letting editors of his book The World-Tilting Gospel. (I blogged about it briefly here.) But I’ve not fully appreciated his diligence as a student or his eloquence as a writer until reading God’s Wisdom in Proverbs. It’s good. Exceptionally good. Here’s what I like, so far (about 100 pages in as of the time of writing):

  • He handles the genre of the book of Proverbs well. He explains what proverbs are—he describes a proverb as “an adage without paddage,” characterized by terseness, imagery, and parallelism. And he explains what proverbs aren’t—airtight promises, exhaustive treatises, or quick-and-easy thoughts to live by.
  • He handles the technicalities of the text well. This isn’t an easy book, though its challenging content is made more manageable by Dan’s keep-your-attention style and humor. Loaded with explanations of the original Hebrew, it will stretch pastors, and it might occasionally overwhelm people used to skim-the-cream, 100-page devotionals. But it’s well worth the effort. The amount of time Dan has spent researching is obvious. He’s worked through the Hebrew. He’s consulted the significant commentaries. He’s done a ton of behind-the-scenes work.
  • He demonstrates how the book of Proverbs fits with the rest of the Old Testament Scriptures, especially by showing that Solomon wasn’t only blessed with uncommon wisdom, but was also a student of the Word (see 1 Kings 2:1-4; Deuteronomy 17:18-19). Dan’s frequent allusions to the author and his historical setting shed new light on the book for me.
  • He relates the ancient wisdom of Proverbs to contemporary issues. He writes as a scholar, but occasionally his blogger flair surfaces with pointed, helpful applications to everyday life.
  • He shows that biblical wisdom grows from fellowship with God, especially by his thorough explanations of Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, and 31:30.
  • He relates the book of Proverbs to Christ, not through out-of-context leaps at the end of a chapter, but by showing how the gospel is woven into the book itself. He points the reader to Jesus skillfully, legitimately and repeatedly.

I’m enjoying this book immensely, and I’m glad to commend it to you. If you want to understand Proverbs better—and you should—this book will be a great asset to you. It’s the fruit of a lifetime of study by a dedicated student of Scripture. Color me impressed, and appreciative, Dan…er, (ahem) Mr. Phillips.



3 Responses

  1. Are you sitting down? I’m preparing to teach Proverbs at a small Bible college in November. I’ve been going through a ton of books! Just got Waltke today. After surveying quite a few, I am leaning to using Phillips as the text. In spite of his Pyromania! What I really appreciate is that he is zealous for inerrancy, doesn’t waffle around like so many evangelicals, and I think he’s ok on creation.

    It is amazing to me how many of the good writers on Proverbs are soft on creation. Tremper Longman goes so far as denying an historical Adam. But he says hes an inerrantist? So… its looking more and more to me like Phillips will be the book for the class, once all the dust settles.

    I especially liked the appendix at the end on How to Teach/Preach Proverbs. Good suggestions. My class is officially titled “Exposition of Proverbs” so I think this will be especially helpful.

    BTW, I’ve gotten all the other books as “Professor Reviews”, but this one I had to pay for. No regrets.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

  2. Chris, thank you so much for such a gracious, encouraging word.

    You too, Don; humbling and encouraging at the same time. My position on creation is six normal days, relatively young earth (relative to millions or billions of years). Any other questions, feel free to ask.

  3. Dan, I thought that was your view. I was so disappointed in some of the others as I discovered their views. I don’t hold that their commentaries are worthless, but it does give one pause if they have questionable orthodoxy on certain key points. I got suspicious of Longman in reading his recommended bibliography. He didn’t identify key problems with certain writers – Michael Fox, for instance. Your bibliography is another plus in your book, in my opinion. Quite refreshing approach. May your book stay in print a long time!

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

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