The superscription: These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah King of Judah copied out. The word "also" implies that a previous collection was known to the compiler of the present book—probably the one which we have in Pr 10-22:16, of which nine proverbs are inserted here. But there was still a large number of proverbial sayings attributed to Solomon, and preserved partly by oral tradition and partly in writing, which it was advisable to collect and secure before they were lost. The zeal of Hezekiah took this in hand. He was not, as far as we know, an author himself, but he evidently felt a warm interest in literature, and "the men of Hezekiah," not mentioned elsewhere, must have been his counsellors and scholars, to whom was entrusted the duty of gathering together into a volume the scattered sayings of the wise king. Among those contemporaries, doubtless, Isaiah was eminent, and it is not improbable that Shebna the scribe and Josh the chronicler were members of the learned fraternity ( 2 Kings 18:18 ). The verb rightly translated "copied out" ( athak ) means, properly, "to remove," "to transfer" from one place to another ( transtulerunt , Vulgate); hence it signifies here to copy into a book words taken from other writings or people's mouths. The sayings thus collected, whether truly Solomon's or not, were extant under his name, and were regarded as worthy of his reputation for wisdom. The title is given in the Septuagint, thus: αὗται αἱ παιδεῖαι σαλωμῶντος αἱ ἀδιάκριτοι ἂς ἐξεγραψαντο οἱ φίλοι ἐζεκίου τοῦ βασιλέως τῆς ἰουδαίας . What is meant by ἀδιάκριτοι is uncertain. It has been translated "impossible to distinguish," equivalent to "miscellaneous;" "beyond doubt," equivalent to "genuine," "hard to interpret," as in Polyb; 15.12, 9. St. James ( James 3:17 ) applies the term to wisdom, but the interpreters there are not agreed as to the meaning, it being rendered "without partiality," "without variance," "without doubtfulness," etc. It seems best to take the word as used by the LXX . to signify "mixed," or "miscellaneous."
This superscription gives us a hint of a very interesting historical event of which we have no account elsewhere. It suggests a picture of the days of Hezekiah; we see his scribes busily engaged in ransacking the ancient libraries, and bringing together the long-forgotten sayings of his famous predecessor.
I. A REVIVAL OF RELIGION SHOULD LEAD TO A REVIVAL OF LEARNING . The Renaissance preceded the Reformation, and, because it had no deep spiritual basis, it threatened to degenerate into dilletantism and pedantry. But after the second movement had takes hold of Europe, real, solid learning received a powerful impulse, because men were then in earnest in the search for truth. It would seem that a similar result was produced in the days of Hezekiah. Then there was a religious reformation, and that was followed by a newly awakened interest in the national literature. Of course, this was the more natural among the Jews, because their national genius was religious, and their literature was the vehicle of their religious ideas. The danger of a time of religious excitement is that it shall be accompanied by attenuated knowledge. But the more the religious feelings are roused, the more reason is there that they should be directed by truth. Revival preachers should be studious men if they wish their work not to be perverted into wrong and false courses through ignorance.
II. IT IS WISE TO PROFIT BY THE THOUGHTS OF OTHER MEN . The men of Hezekiah were not above learning from Solomon, who had left a reputation for unparalleled wisdom. But lesser lights have also their claims. It is a mistake to live on one's own thoughts without guidance or nourishment derived from the thoughts of other men. Private thinking tends to narrowness unless it is enlarged by the reception of a variety of ideas from external sources. The mind will ultimately starve if it is left to feed upon its own Juices. We must judge for ourselves, and only accept what we honestly believe to be true—seek truth, and think out our own convictions. But we shall do those things the better if we also allow that others may have light to give us. Above all, the Christian thinker needs to found his meditations on the Bible. Of the New Testament it may be said, "A Greater than Solomon is here." If the men of Hezekiah did well to collect the proverbs of Solomon, much more is it desirable to treasure up the sayings of him who spake as never man spoke.
III. WE MAY LEARN LESSONS FROM ANTIQUITY . Nearly three hundred years had passed between the days of Solomon and the time of Hezekiah—a period equal to that which separates us from the great Elizabethan writers; so that Solomon was as far anterior to Hezekiah as the poet Spenser is to our own generation. He belonged to the antique age. Yet the glamour of the great Hezekiah did not blind men to the glory of the greater Solomon. In the splendid achievements of the present day we are threatened with an extinction of antiquity. The nineteenth century, is the new image of gold that has been set up on our Plain of Dura for all men to worship. We shall suffer an irreparable loss, and our mental and spiritual life will be sadly stunted, if we fail to hearken to the teachings of our forefathers. We are not to be the slaves of the past. The new age may have its new truths, as well as its new needs and duties. But what was true in the past cannot cease to be so by simply going out of fashion; for truth is eternal. The very diversity of the ages may instruct us by widening our notions and correcting the follies of prevalent customs. The age of Solomon was very different from that of Hezekiah; yet the wisdom of the royal sage could profit the newer generation.