Chapter 2: Beneath the Surface

2:4 and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,

      This verse uses terms for ancient mining activity (see Job 28:11). As part of a research team in the Sinai Peninsula a few years ago, I visited two ancient Egyptian mines. Both are remote desert mountain sites and it is hard to understand how either one was first discovered.
       At Serabit el-Khadem in the Sinai they mined turquoise and at Timnah in Israel's Negev they mined copper. Both were under Egyptian control and had temples to the Egyptian goddess Hathor (the goddess of mining). Both also had early graffiti inscriptions, apparently done by the miners, themselves – probably slave labor. At Khadem was one of the earliest alphabetic scripts known – dating to the same basic time and region as Moses and the Exiting Israelites!
       Somehow, the ancients found these and other minerals and metals in the ground and figured a way to make them of value for daily life. They developed effective mining techniques, as well as the ability to smelt and forge the metals into useful objects (see Gn 4:22).
       This verse is the first reference to silver in Proverbs – first mention in the Bible as part of Abram's wealth, along with gold (Gen 13:2). These two metals are frequently mentioned together in Proverbs (3:14; 8:10, 19; 16:16; 17:3; 22:1; 25:11; 27:21). Silver was a valuable metal to the ancients and well worth the effort of going after it – just like wisdom!

In the Timna Valley of southern Israel is a large ancient Egyptian copper mining complex, complete with mines, smelting workshops, temples and ancient rock art. Either dug from the surface or horizontal tunnels dug from the surface, miners hit veins of copper. They would dig the copper out by way of vertical shafts, as pictured here. Complete with a carved ladder down the side of the shaft, this major ancient mining operation was conducted by Egyptians at the site during the 15th century BC, hundreds of years before Solomon (courtesy BibleWalks.com).

2:7 He holds victory in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,

2:8 for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones

      The shield (:7) is the standard Hebrew word – magen. This is the term in the names "magen David adom" ("Red Shield of David" – the Israeli version of the "Red Cross") and Mogen David wine (Yiddish for "Shield of David").
       While a few metal shields were known from the time of Solomon and earlier, they were probably more ceremonial than for battle use. Most shields, regardless of nation and whether big or small, were typically made with wooden frames and covered over the front by leather or wicker. Archaeologically, the few shield parts which have been found have come from tombs (like King Tut's).

Pictured is one of the earliest known examples of the hexagonal Star of David, found in the famous 4th century AD limestone synagogue at Capernaum. So named because of its shape as a six-pointed star, it is known in Hebrew at the "Shield of David" (Magen David – yes, like the wine!). Magen is the word for "shield" in this verse.