Ancient Hebrew verse is carefully wrought literature. Asymmetries counterpoint symmetries according to patterns designed to delight the mind and ear. Sameness in lexis is balanced by difference in syntax. Below the fold, the interplay of syntax and parallelism in Prov 2:1-4 is patiently explained.
בְּנִי אִם־תִּקַּח אֲמָרָי וּמִצְוֹתַי תִּצְפֹּן אִתָּךְ
לְהַקְשִׁיב לַחָכְמָה אָזְנֶךָ תַּטֶּה לִבְּךָ לַתְּבוּנָה
בְּנִי אִם־לַבִּינָה תִקְרָא לַתְּבוּנָה תִּתֵּן קוֹלֶךָ
אִם־תְּבַקְשֶׁנָּה כַכָּסֶף וְכַמַּטְמוֹנִים תַּחְפְּשֶׂנָּה
1 My son, if you take my words
and put my dictates in your safekeeping,
2 inclining your ear to wisdom,
you will direct your heart to understanding;
3 My son, if it’s knowledge you cry out for,
understanding you raise your voice for,
4 if you look for her as for silver,
and dig for her as for buried treasure,
Prov 2:1-2, the poem’s exordium, is a self-contained unit which nevertheless concatenates with all that follows. Together with 2:3-4, it constitutes the “if” part of a complex “if” – “then” sentence that concludes in 2:22.
Translations often ride roughshod over the syntax of 2:2. The infinitive specifies the circumstances of the following verb: cf. 2:8; in reserve order, 1:5-6. The yiqtol clause in 2:2b is the “then” part of a conditional sentence, with “then” unexpressed, as often: cf. 6:1-2.
2:3-4 renew the “if” premise which governs the entire poem. For repeated בני, cf. Prov 1:8, 10; 6:1, 3. For repeated אם, cf. Prov. 1:10-11. 2:3-4 related more closely to 2:5 than does 2:1-2.
The syntax of 2:2 makes it a continuation and conclusion of 2:1. At the same time, lower level syntactical features tie 2:2 and 2:3 together: the verb + ל + object structure repeated four times; the אזנך-לבך-קולך sequence. The verb + direct object structure of 2:1 is repeated in 2:4. 2:1 and 2:3 parallel each other syntactically, but so do 2:1 and 2:4. 2:1 and 2:4 are further tied together by the recurrence of the semantic field of “hiding away / treasure”: צפן and מטמונים. ABBA (chiasm) and ABAB (alternation) structures within lines and across the entire unit combine to create a complex weave.
Items in parallelism typically move from simple to more complex:
תִּקַּח > תִּצְפֹּן אִתָּךְ
תִּקְרָא > תִּתֵּן קוֹלֶךָ
אֲמָרָי > וּמִצְוֹתַי
חָכְמָה > תְּבוּנָה
בִּינָה > תְּבוּנָה
כַּכָּסֶף > וְכַמַּטְמוֹנִים
It is possible to treat אתך in 2:1b as a reprise of בני in 2:1a – so Dennis Pardee, Ugaritic and Hebrew Poetic Parallelism: A Trial Cut (‘nt I and Proverbs 2 (VTSup 39; Leiden: Brill, 1988) 95. In line with example (b) and others further on in Prov 2, such as 2:6b; 2:7b, it nonetheless seem better to view אתך as a part of the larger recurring pattern in which a simpler expression is followed up by and paired with a more complex expression. The simple-to-complex rule is not iron clad, as the following example shows:
תְּבַקְשֶׁנָּה > תַּחְפְּשֶׂנָּה
This example is different:
לְהַקְשִׁיב אָזְנֶךָ > תַּטֶּה לִבְּךָ
The normal move from simple to complex across half-lines does not occur. The break with the normal pattern coincides with a switch from syntactic parallelism to syntactic progression across half lines.
In short, repeated parallel structures reinforce a sense of simultaneity in the opening lines of Prov 2. But the poem moves forward nevertheless because of changeups on the syntactic level.