Solomon is said to have spoken 3,000 proverbs, but this in itself would not mean that they all originated with him. (1 Kings 4:32 [5:12]) Many of them could have been the sayings of sages prior to his time, including proverbs from lands outside the borders of ancient Israel. If (in this context) the Hebrew designation massá’ is correctly understood to apply to a region in north Arabia where descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael settled (Genesis 25:13, 14), this would mean that Agur the son of Jakeh (30:1), King Lemuel, and his mother (31:1, 4) were non-Israelites. No Israelite king was known as Lemuel (meaning “belonging to God”), and it appears questionable that, in a work that is specifically linked to Solomon, he would also be called by a name that does not appear elsewhere in the Hebrew text. In the Septuagint, the entire book of Proverbs is attributed to Solomon. There is no mention of Agur, but the reference is to what “the man says to those trusting [or believing in] God.” Instead of “words of Lemuel,” the Septuagint introduces what is the opening part of chapter 31 in the Hebrew text with the phrase, “My words have been spoken by God.” This phrase implies that Solomon received the words through divine inspiration.
The book of Proverbs did not exist as such in the time of Solomon. It appears to have been derived from collections that were made at various times in Israelite history. According to Proverbs 25:1, “men [friends (LXX)] of Hezekiah the king of Judah” copied or transcribed proverbs. These men may have been scribes or secretaries in the royal court. They did their work over 250 years after the time Solomon reigned as king.
Verses 2 through 6 of chapter 1 set forth the purpose the proverbs or wise sayings serve. From chapter 10 onward, the book of Proverbs primarily consists of brief sayings that often bear no direct relationship to one another.
The first nine chapters of the book of Proverbs are composed like lectures or discourses that a father is represented as delivering to his son. It is also possible that the fatherly admonition may be considered as being that of a teacher to a pupil or a learner. The counsel in these discourses often does not reflect what a king might say to his son. It is most unlikely that a prince would be tempted to join a violent robber band, live like an outlaw with its members, and consent to sharing a common purse with them. (1:10-19) In the time of Solomon, the palace complex was located adjacent to the temple and not on a street that would make it possible to observe the actions of a prostitute. (7:6-22)
The Septuagint rendering of the book of Proverbs departs in significant ways from the extant Hebrew text. Although there are times when the Greek wording is a literal translation of the Hebrew, this frequently is not the case. The Greek renderings can be more interpretive, with phrases that have no Hebrew parallel. Certain proverbs bear little resemblance to the Hebrew wording or are contained only in the Septuagint. Individual proverbs may also be found in sections other than those of the Hebrew text. From chapter 24 onward, entire sections appear in a different order. That the Septuagint contains both literal renderings and major departures from the Hebrew text in wording and arrangement cannot be definitively explained. Perhaps the Hebrew manuscript that served as the source text for the translator differed somewhat from the reading of the Masoretic Text. This, however, cannot be confirmed. Portions of the book of Proverbs found at Qumran are limited to fragments of wording from chapters 1, 2, 13, 14 and 15. This wording basically agrees with that of the extant Hebrew text but not with that of the Septuagint when the Greek rendering is different.
In the commentary and the accompanying “Notes” section, major differences between the Masoretic Text and the Septuagint will be considered.