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that is, concise and sententious common sayings, founded on a close observance of men and manners.
This method of instruction is of very remote antiquity, and was adopted by those, who, by genius and reflection, exercised in the school of experience, had accumulated a stock of knowledge, which they were desirous of reducing into the most compendious form, and comprising, in a few maxims, such observations as they apprehended to be most essential to human happiness. Proverbial expressions were peculiarly adapted to a rude state of society, and more likely to produce effect than any other for they professed not to dispute, but to command, not to persuade, but to compel; they conducted men, not by circuitous argument, but led them immediately to the approbation and practice of integrity and virtue. That this kind of instruction, however, might not be altogether destitute of attraction, and lest it should disgust by an appearance of harshness and severity, the teachers of mankind added to their precepts the graces of harmony; and decorated them with metaphors, comparisons, allusions, and other embellishments of style.
Proverbial instruction was a favourite style of composition among the Jews, which continued to the latest ages of their literature; and obtained among them the appellation of Mashalim or parables, partly because it consisted of parables strictly so called, (the nature of which has been discussed in the preceding section,) and partly because it possessed uncommon force and authority over the minds of the auditors. The Proverbs of the Old Testament are classed by Bishop Lowth among the didactic poetry of the Hebrews, of which many specimens are extant, particularly the Book of Proverbs, composed by Solomon, of which an account is given in the subsequent part of this work. The royal sage has, in one of his Proverbs, himself explained the principal excellences of this form of composition; exhibiting at once a complete definition of a proverb, and a very happy specimen of what he describes :
Apples of gold in a net-work of silver
Prov. xxv. 11.
Thus intimating, that grave and profound sentiments should be set off by a smooth and well-turned phraseology; as the appearance of the most beautiful and exquisitely-coloured fruit, or the imitation of it perhaps in the most precious materials, is improved by the circumstance of its shining (as through a veil) through the reticulations of a silver vessel exquisitely carved. In the above-cited passage he further insinuates, that it is not merely a neat turn and polished diction by which proverbs must be recommended; but that truth itself acquires additional beauty when partially discovered through the veil of elegant fiction and imagery.
1. The first excellence of a proverb is Brevity, without which
1 See Vol. IV. Part I. Chap. III. Sect. III. PP. 116-118.
2" The brevity of this kind of composition," says an elegant critic of antient times," and the condensing of much thought into a small compass, renders it more sententious, more sage, and expressive as in a small seed, the whole power of
it can retain neither its name nor its nature. The discriminating sentiment should be expressed in a few words, not exceeding ten or at most twelve words, otherwise it is no longer a proverb, but a declamation; and it should force itself upon the mind by a single effort, not by a tedious process. Accordingly, the language must be strong and condensed, rather omitting some circumstances which may appear necessary, than admitting any thing superfluous. Horace himself insists on this as one of the express rules of didactic poetry, and has assigned the reason on which it is founded:
Short be the precept, which with ease is gained
expresses the same sentiment in his own parabolic manner :
The words of the wise are like goads,
And like nails that are firmly fixed. Eccles. xii. 11.
That is, they instantaneously stimulate or affect the mind; they penetrate deeply, and are firmly retained. Even the obscurity, which is generally attendant on excessive brevity, has its use; as it sharpens the understanding, keeps alive the attention, and exercises the genius by the labour of investigation, while no small gratification results from the acquisition of knowledge by our own efforts.
2. Another excellence, essential to a proverb, is Elegance; which is neither inconsistent with brevity, nor with some degree of obscurity. Elegance in this connection respects the sentiment, the imagery, and the diction: and those proverbs, which are the plainest, most obvious, and simple, or which contain nothing remarkable either in sentiment or style, are not to be considered as destitute of their peculiar elegance, if they possess only brevity, and that neat, compact form, and roundness of period, which alone are sufficient to constitute a proverb. Examples of this kind occur in the maxim of David, recorded in 1 Sam. xxiv. 13. and in that of Solomon, Prov. x. 12.2
II. Proverbs are divided into two classes, viz. 1. Entire Sentences; and, 2. Proverbial Phrases, which by common usage are admitted into a sentence.
1. Examples of Entire Proverbial Sentences occur in Gen. x. 9. and xxii. 14. 1 Sam. x. 12. and xxiv. 13. 2 Sam. v. 8. and xx. 18. Ezek. xvi. 44. and xviii. 2. Luke iv. 23. John iv. 37. and 2 Pet. ii 22.; in which passages the inspired writers expressly state the sen tences to have passed into proverbs.
2. Examples of Proverbial Phrases, which indeed cannot be cor rectly termed proverbs, but which have acquired their form and use, are to be found in Deut. xxv. 4. 1 Kings xx. 11. 2 Chron. xxv. 9. Job vi. 5. xiv. 19. and xxviii. 18. Psal. xlii. 7. and lxii. 9. Of this description also is that beautiful and memorable sentence, THE FEAR OF THE LORD IS THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM. Psal. cxi. 10., which is repeated in Prov. i. 7. ix. 10. and in Job xxviii. 28. The book of
vegetation, which is to produce a tree, is contained. And if any writer should amplify the sentence, it would no longer be a proverb, but a declamation." DENE TRIUS PHALEREUS, Пep Eounvuaç, sect. ix.
1 Art of Poetry by Francis, verse 455.
2 Lowth, Prælect. xxiv. pp. 312-318. (edit. 1763), or vol. ii. pp. 162-173. of Dr. Gregory's translation.
Proverbs likewise contains very many similar sentences; from among which it may suffice to refer to Prov. i. 17. 32. iii. 12. vi. 6. 27. x. 5. 13. 19. 25. xi. 15. 22. 27. xii. 11. 15. xv. 2. 33. xvii. 1. 10. 19. 28. xix. 2. 24. xx. 4. 11. 14. 21. 25. xxii. 6. 13. xxv. 11. 16. 27. xxvi. 4. 10, 11. 14. 17. 28. xxvii. 6, 7, 8. 10. 14. 17. 22. xxviii. 21. So in the book of Ecclesiastes, ch. i. 15. 18. iv. 5. 12. v. 2. 6. 8, 9, 10. vi. 9. vii. 17. ix. 4. 18. x. 1, 2. 8. 15. 19, 20. xi. 3, 4. 6, 7. xii. 12. And in the Prophets, Jer. xiii. 23. xxiii. 28. Ezek. vii. 5. Micah vii. 5, 6. Habak. ii. 6. Mal. ii. 10. &c. And likewise in the New Testament, as in Matt. v. 13-15. vi. 3. 21. 34. vii. 2. 5. 16. ix. 12. 16. x. 10. 22. 24. 26. xii. 34. xiii. 12. 57. xv. 14. xxiii. 24. xxiv. 28. Mark ix. 50. Luke ix. 62. xii. 48. xxiii. 31. Acts ix. 5. xx. 35. 1 Cor. v. 6. x. 12. xv. 33. 2 Cor. ix. 6, 7. 2 Thes. iii. 10. Tit. i. 15.
III. The Proverbs occurring in the New Testament are to be explained, partly by the aid of similar passages from the Old Testament, and partly from the antient writings of the Jews, especially from the Talmud; whence it appears how much they were in use among that people, and that they were applied by Christ and his apostles, agreeably to common usage. The proverbs, contained in the Old and New Testaments, are collected and illustrated by Drusias, and Andreas Schottus; whose works are comprised in the ninth volume of the Critici Sacri, and also by Joachim Zehner, who has elucidated them by parallel passages from the fathers as well as from the heathen writers, in a treatise published at Leipsic in 1601. The proverbs which are found in the New Testament have been illustrated by Vorstius1 and Viser, as well as by Lightfoot and Schoetgenius in their Hora Hebraicæ et Talmudice, and by Buxtorf in his Lexicon Chaldaicum Talmudicum et Rabbinicum; from which last-mentioned works Rosenmüller, Kuinöel, Dr. Whitby, Dr. A. Clarke, and other commentators, both British and foreign, have derived their illustrations of the Jewish parables and proverbs.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE FIGURATIVE LANGUAGE OF
I. Synecdoche.—II. Irony. — III. Hyperbole.
BESIDES the figures already discussed, and the right understanding of which is of the greatest importance for ascertaining the sense of Scripture, Glassius, and other writers, who have treated expressly on the tropes and figures of the sacred writings, have enumerated a great variety of other figures which are to be found in them. As, however, many of these are merely rhetorical; and though they are
1 Vorstius's Diatriba de Adagiis Novi Testamenti is printed in Crenius's Fasciculus Tertius Opusculorum quæ ad Historiam et Philologiam Sacram spectant. 18mo. Rotterdam, pp. 475-576.; and also in Fischer's second edition of Leusden, De Dialectis N. T. (8vo. Lipsia), pp. 168-252.
2 Viser Hermeneutica Sacra Novi Testamenti. part ii. sect. ix. cap. 2. pp. 132——
admirably calculated to show how vastly superior the inspired volume is to all the productions of the human mind, for the beauty and sublimity of its composition; yet, as it would lead us into too wide a field of discussion, were we to introduce such figures at length, our attention must be directed to a few of those principal figures which have not been mentioned in the preceding pages.
The most important of these figures, which remain to be noticed, are, 1. Synecdoche; 2. Irony; and, 3. the Hyperbole.
A Synedoche is a trope in which, 1. The whole is put for a part; 2. A part is put for the whole; 3. A certain number for an uncertain one; 4. A general name for a particular one; and 5. Special words for general ones. A very few examples will suffice to illustrate this figure.
1. The whole is sometimes put for a part:
As, the world for the Roman empire, which was but a small though very remarkable part of the world, in Acts xxiv. 5. and Rev. iii. 10. The world for the earth, which is a part of it, 2 Pet. iii. 6. Rom. i. 8. 1 John v. 19. Thus the whole person is put for a part, as man for the soul, Luke xvi. 23. where the rich man, Abraham, and Lazarus, are respectively put for their souls; man, for the body, John xix. 42. xx. 2. 13. with Luke xxiv. 3., in which passages Jesus is put for his dead body. Time for a part of time, as Dan. ii. 4. which simply means, we wish you a long life and reign. Gen. xvii. 19. where the words everlasting covenant denote while the Jewish policy subsists, that is, until Messiah come, (Gen. xlix. 10.)-see also Exod. xxi. 6. where the expression for ever means the year of jubilee.
To this class of Synecdoche may be referred those instances, in which the plural number is sometimes put for the singular as the mountains of Ararat (Gen. viii. 4.), which term might refer to the bitopped form of that mountainous range. The cities where Lot dwelt, Gen. xix. 24, 25.; the sides of the house, Amos vi. 10.; the sides of the ship, Jonah i. 5.; the ass and foal, on which Jesus Christ was set, Matt. xxi. 7. compared with Zech. ix. 9.; the prophets, Mark i. 2. John vi. 45. Acts xiii. 40.; in all which places only one of those things or persons mentioned is to be undertood. So, children is put for child, Gen. xxi. 7., so daughters and sons' daughters, Gen. xlvi. 7., when Jacob had but one daughter, (verse 15.) and one grand-daughter, (verse 17.) So the sons of Dan, (verse 23.) when he had but one. So the cities of Gilead are mentioned in Judg. xii. 7., whereas Jephthah was buried in one city in that region. In like manner, by the sons of Jehoiada is intended only Zechariah, 2 Chron. xxiv. 25. compared with verses 20. and 21.; and our Saviour speaks of himself in the plural number, John iii. 11.
2. Sometimes the part for the whole.
Thus in Gen. i. 5. 8. 13. 19. 23. 31. the evening and morning, being the principal parts of the day, are put for the entire day. So the soul comprehends the entire man, Acts xxvii. 37. See similar expressions in Gen. xii. 5. xvii. 14. Exod.
xii. 19. Lev. iv. 2. Psal. iii. 2. xi. 1. xxv. 13. Isa. lviii. 5. Ezek. xviii. 4. Luke vi. 9. Acts ii. 41. &c.
So, the singular number is sometimes put for the plural:
This chiefly takes place when the Scriptures speak of the multitude collectively, or of an entire species. Thus in Gen. iii. 8. tree in the Hebrew is put for trees. Gen. xlix. 6. In their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they houghed an ox, that is, men and oxen. Exod. xiv. 17. (Heb.) I will get me honour Pharaoh upon and upon all his host, upon his chariots, and upon his horsemen, that is, the whole multitude of his chariots which are enumerated in verse 7. So in Exod. xv. 1. 21. the horse and his rider are put collectively for the horses and horsemen who were in the Egyptian army. So the Hivite, Canaanite, and Hittite, Exod. xxiii. 28., the ox and the ass, Isa. i. 3., the stork, the turtle, the crane, the swallow, Jer. viii. 7., the palmer-worm, Joel i. 4., street, Rev. xxi. 21., are respectively put for the Hivites, oxen, storks, &c. &c. It is proper to remark, that in very many instan
ces the learned and pious translators of our authorised version have justly rendered these singular words in the plural number where the sense evidently required it.
3. Very frequently a certain or definite number is put for an uncertain and indefinite number :
Thus we find double for much or sufficient, in Isa. xl. 2. lxi. 7. Jer. xvi. 18. Zech. ix. 12. Rev. xviii. 6. Twice for several times, in Psal. lxii. 11. Five for a few, 1 Cor. xiv. 19. in which verse ten thousand are put for many. Ten for many, Gen. xxxi. 7. and 1 Sam. i. But most frequently we have seven for an indefinite number. See Gen. iv. 15. Lev. xxvi. 18. 21. 24. 28. Ruth iv. 15. 1 Sam. ii. 5. Psal. xxii. 6. cxix. 164. Prov. xxiv. 16. xxvi. 25. Isa. iv. 1. Jer. xv. 9. Ezek. xxxix. 9. 12. Zech. iii. 9. Matt. xii. 45. One hundred for many, indefinitely, in Eccl. vi. 3. viii. 12. Prov. xvii. 10. Matt. xix. 29. Luke viii. 8. A great many, Exod. xx. 6. xxxiv. 7. Deut. i. 11. 1 Sam. xviii. 7. Ten thousand for an immense number, 1 Sam. xviii. 7. Psal. iii. 9.; and ten thousand thousand for a countless host, in Numb. x. 36. (Heb.) Dan. vii. 10. Rev. v. 11. &c.
thousand for a Psal. cxix. 72.
4. A general name is put for a particular one,
As in Mark xvi. 15. where every creature means all mankind; as flesh also does in Gen. vi. 12. Psal. cxlv. 21. Isa. xl. 5, 6. xvi. 23. Matt. xxiv. 22. Luke iii. 6. and Rom. iii. 20.
5. Sometimes special words or particular names are put for such as are general:
Thus Jehovah is, in Psal. xlvi. 9. said to break the bow, and cut the spear in sunder, and to burn the chariot in the fire: that is, God destroys all the weapons of war, and blesses the world with peace. Again, in Dan. xii. 2. we read, Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake; some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Here many is put for all. So man, generally, is put for all mankind, both male and female, Psal. i. 1. Mark xvi. 16. Numerous similar passages might be adduced. So, father is put for any ancestor, Psal. xxii. 4. xliv. 1. cvi. 6. Father for grandfather, 2 Sam. ix. 7. Dan. v. 11. Mother for grandmother, 1 Kings xv. 10. 13. compared with verses 2. 8. Brother for kinsman, Gen. xiii. 8. and xiv. 14. with Gen. xii. 5. Matt. xii. 46. John vii. 3. 5. In the same manner, son is put for any of the posterity; thus Laban is said to be Nahor's son, in Gen. xxix. 5. when he was the son of Bethuel, and grandson or nephew of Nahor. Compare Gen. xxii. 20. 23. with xxiv. 29. So Rebekah is called Abraham's brother's daughter, Gen. xxiv. 48. Father and mother intend all superiors, Exod. xx. 12. In like manner the Greeks, who are the most eminent of the heathen nations, are put for the whole Gentile world, in Rom. i. 16. Gal. iii. 28. and Col. iii. 11. So bread denotes all the necessaries of life, in Matt. vi. 11. and numerous other places. The fatherless and widows are put for any who are in distress or affliction, Isa. i. 17. 23. James i. 27. &c.
An Irony is a figure, in which we speak one thing and design another, in order to give the greater force and vehemence to our meaning. An irony is distinguished from the real sentiments of the speaker or writer, by the accent, the air, the extravagance of the praise, the character of the person, or the nature of the discourse.
Very numerous instances of irony are to be found in the Scripture, which might be produced; but the following will suffice to show the nature of this figure.
Thus, the prophet Elijah speaks in irony to the priests of Baal - Cry aloud, for he is a God: either he is talking, or he is pursuing; or he is on a journey, or peradventure he sleeps, and must be awaked. (1 Kings xviii. 27.) So the prophet Micah bids Ahab go to battle against Ramoth-Gilead and prosper. (1 Kings xxii. 15.) We meet with an irony in Job xii. No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you. That well known passage in Eccles. xi. 9. may also be considered as an irony. Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thine heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the way of thine heart and in the sight of thine eyes. Nay, the Almighty himself appears to speak ironically in Gen. iii. 22. And the LORD God said, Behold the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and also in Judges x. 14. Go and cry unto the gods which