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Even a cursory reading of the book of Proverbs reveals that it is dominated by the subject of education, or personal formation. The voice of the teacher addressing his pupils resounds from its pages. A wide array of topics is presented, and frequent exhortations challenge the learner to hear and heed the teacher’s instruction. This material, however, comes, for the most part, without recognizable order or sequence. Much of Proverbs consists of apparently random collections of maxims. As readers, we see many individual pieces, but the puzzle as a whole remains unclear.
Daniel J. Estes synthesizes the teachings of the first nine chapters of Proverbs into a systematic statement of the theory of education and personal formation that lies behind the text. Working from the Hebrew text and building upon an extensive analysis of exegetical works, he organizes his study of Proverbs 1–9 into seven categories typical of pedagogical discussion: worldview, values for education, goals for education, curriculum for education, the process of instruction, the role of the teacher, and the role of the learner. His work agrees with but also transcends the original purpose of the text by revealing the foundational theory of intellectual and moral formation embedded in this important section of Scripture. It also has valuable things to say about constructing a biblically informed philosophy of education today.
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“In the thought of Proverbs, wisdom is skill in living according to Yahweh’s order.6 Folly is choosing to live contrary to the order which he embedded in the universe.” (Page 26)
“The fear of Yahweh produces a new way of looking at all of life, for it ‘sees each moment as the Lord’s time, each relationship as the Lord’s opportunity, each duty as the Lord’s command, and each blessing as the Lord’s gift’ (Hubbard 1989: 48). This reverence for Yahweh orientates a person to the kind of moral life that corresponds to the creator’s values. As Yahweh is just in his character and conduct, so his justice becomes the standard for measuring right and wrong in the realm of human behaviour. The fear of Yahweh represents the desire to please him in all things by respecting the divine order he has constructed in the world (Clements 1992: 62).” (Page 38)
“Second, Yahweh is sovereignly controlling the world which he created.” (Page 39)
“Third, Yahweh’s world is knowable, but it is also mysterious in part.” (Page 39)
“Fourth, humans must reverence Yahweh in their lives.” (Page 39)
It is the holistic vision of ‘instruction’ . . . that occupies the attention of Dr. Estes. His work not only illuminates some important chapters of the Old Testament but serves as a salutary reminder for the people of God today to keep certain fundamental priorities clear.
—D.A. Carson, research professor of New Testament, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
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