2012. Vol.2, No.3, 325-334
Published Online July 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/sm) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/sm.2012.23043
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 325
Unsupervised Learning of Two Bible Books: Proverbs and Psalms
Department of Computer Science, Houghton College, New York, USA
Email: wei.hu@houg hton.edu
Received April 18th, 2012; revised May 12th, 2012; accepted June 3rd, 2012
The book of Proverbs teaches the wisdom of life that was relevant in the days of King Solomon, the prin-
cipal author of this book and a son of King David, but more importantly it is still applicable and needed in
the life of today. The book of Psalms is the longest book and perhaps the most widely read book of the
Bible, which contains 150 songs and prayers with King David as its main composer. The proverbs imparts
that the success in life depends on personal choices and actions that relate to other people, while the
psalms are used in worship that relates to God. In this report, we apply unsupervised learning to the study
of these two books because of their shared association with wisdom. The chapters in each of the two
books are grouped by content. Similar chapters and verses between these two books, written by a father
and a son, are also identified, allowing one book to illuminate the other. Our computational findings
match those by Biblical scholars at large, but have made a few new discoveries that could not be accom-
plished by traditional methods.
Keywords: Bible; Proverbs; Psalms; Affinity Propagation; Clustering Algorithm; Topic Model; Machine
Learning; Text Mining
Proverbs and Psalms are two books in the Old Testament
(OT) of the Bible. Both were written by several authors with
one main author for each: King David for Psalms and King
Solomon, a son of David, for Proverbs. Psalms is a collect on of
songs and prayers that reveal human hearts in worshiping God,
while Proverbs offers principles and instructions for wise daily
living with fellow human beings.
David was the youngest of the eight sons of Jesse from the
tribe of Juda. During his childhood, he tended his father’s sheep
in the fields around Bethlehem. With God on his side, David as
a young boy fought and killed the Philistine giant Goliath in a
battle. King Saul, Israel’s first king, became jealous of David’s
popularity and tried to kill him a few times, although Saul was
initially impressed by David’s talents as a soldier and musician.
As a result, David had to flee and hide out from Saul. During
this period of severe trial in life, David demonstrated his faith
and trust in God, as seen from the psalms he wrote during this
time. After Saul’s death, David became the king of Juda, and
the king of all 12 tribes of Israel seven years later.
David was a man after God’s own heart (I Samuel 13:14).
Yet, he was not a perfect man. After his adultery with Bath-
sheba and the indirect murdering of her husband, David made
her his wife. Prophet Nathan, sent by God, confronted him.
David repented of his sin and God pardoned him. However,
several penalties as consequences of his sin still followed
including the death of his first child with Bathsheba. Their
second child was Solomon, who succeeded his father as a king
David was a shepherd, musician, singer, composer, warrior,
and king. He composed many of the psalms collected in the
book of Psalms, expressing praises of the wonderful creation,
grace, and mercy of God, and the strugles, fears, and pains in
life. The inspiring story of David vs. Goliath becomes a classic
example of the weak unexpectedly defeating the strong.
King David was one of the great patriarchs of Israel. The
Gospel of Matthew describes Christ as a son of David, because
the promised Messiah was to be a descendant of David, pro-
claimed by the prophets during the Old Testament times.
When Solomon became the third king of Israel, he was
young and inexperienced to rule the nation. God appeared to
him, offering him anything he requested, but he asked for wis-
dom to be a wise king. God was very pleased with Solomon’s
answer and promised him great riches and honor in addition to
wisdom. He wrote 1005 songs and 3000 proverbs (1 Kings
4:32). He was the builder of the first temple in Jerusalem, al-
though his father King David engaged in collecting building
materials for the construction of this temple. Israel enjoyed 40
years of peace and prosperity during the reign of King Solomon,
the best years in the history of this nation. He was the last king
of the united kingdom of Israel before its division into the
northern and southern kingdoms. Unfortunately, Solomon
squandered his wisdom in the later stage of his life, which re-
minds us that wisdom must be used in a reverent relationship
The rich life experience of David prepared him to compose
many psalms in the book of Psalms. His son Solomon, with
God’s inspired wisdom, wrote many proverbs. Solomon was
also the author of the other two books of the Bible: Ecclesiastes
and Song of Songs. The OT could be divided into three divi-
sions: Law, Prophets, and Writings. The book of Psalms and
Proverbs belong to the third category.
The psalms were written from the time of Moses to the post-
exilic period that spans almost one thousand years, which
played a critical role in the public and private worship of an-
cient Israel. No book in the Old Testament has been read so
much in the history of mankind as the book of Psalms (Mow-
inckel, 2004). It is the longest book in the Bible and covers the
most diverse topics. It includes the creation, judgment, and
salvation of God, the history of Israel, the law of life, Davidic
messiah, warning against wickedness and exhortation to right-
eousness, the glory, mystery, and misery of human conditions,
and the kingdom of God. Psalms, along with Isaiah, are the two
Old Testament books most cited in the New Testament (Mays,
The book of Proverbs is a special type of literature, com-
posed of a collection of maxims covering a wide range of sub-
jects in human life. As stated clearly in the beginning of this
book, the main purpose of Proverbs is to teach people to be
wise through the fear of the Lord. The phrase “the fear of the
Lord” appears so many times in this book than any books else
in the Bible, indicating its central role in Proverbs. The com-
mandments expressed in the Law of Moses can never cover
every possible situation in the life of a man. Therefore, the only
way to live a life is to develop wisdom from the fear of God.
The aim of Proverbs is to provide readers with principles as
well as practical and executable instructions on applying the
fear of the Lord to their lives, i.e., divine wisdom for daily life.
One feature of this book is that it imparts wisdom by means of
personification and discourse. It shows how the free will of
man can be best exercised under and harmonized with the sov-
ereignty of God. The major conclusion of this book is that the
ultimate wisdom is to be right with God. From this perspective,
a knowledgeable person may be deficient in wisdom.
Only Proverbs and Psalms in the Old Testament demonstrate
composite authorship, and yet their main contributor is David
(father) and Solomon (son) respectively. Both books display
similar Hebrew poetic form, and both elaborate on “the fear of
the Lord”. The father-son relationship could also be seen in
these two books.
Wisdom is the central theme of Proverbs, but a portion of
Psalms also deals with wisdom. Both books describe two dis-
tinctive pathways. The way of the righteous is guided by God
and therefore leads to salvation, in contrast, the way of the
wicked leads to destruction. These books demonstrate that
wisdom and obedience to God are closely bound, and both
pathways lead to their respective destinations.
Identifying groups of chapters or verses of similar content
from Proverbs and Psalms could enhance the learning of these
two books. To this end, computational techniques, topic model
and clustering, are employed in this study. We first cluster the
chapters of each book, and then find the correlation between
these two books at chapter level and at verse level, allowing
one book to illuminate the other .
Materials and Methods
The text of the Bible used in this study is from the King James
version (1611 authorized version), downloaded from http://
printkjv.ifbweb.com. Because Proverbs and Psalms are used as
data in our study, this section provides some background in-
formation about them.
The book of Proverbs offers the wisdom of daily living, and
explains how life, as God designed it, works in general. The
first six verses in Proverbs serve as an introduction of this book.
They state the purpose and theme of the whole book. Selected
and streamlined, the proverbs are given for attaining wisdom,
acquiring a prudent life, knowing what is right and wrong. The
seventh verse and first proverb of this book teaches the fear of
the Lord as the very beginning of knowledge and all wisdom,
the foremost principle repeated throughout the whole book.
Solomon is the chief author as the majority of the chapters
are under his name, including chapters 10:1 - 22:16 and 25:1 -
29:27. Because the name of Solomon shows in the start of
chapter 10, it is reasonable to believe the writings of chapters 1 -
9 do not belong to him. Proverbs can be divided into several
collections. There is a general title (Proverbs 1:1 - 7), introduc-
tory to the whole book. The first collection is made of chapters
1:8 - 9:18, composed not by Solomon, but by other wise men.
The second collection is “The proverbs of Solomon” (Proverbs
10:1 - 22:16). The third is “The sayings of the wise” (Proverbs
22:17 - 24:22) and “These also are sayings of the wise” (Prov-
erbs 24:23 - 34). The fourth is “These are other proverbs of
Solomon that the officials of king Hezekiah of Judah copied”
(Proverbs 25 - 29). The fifth is “The words of Agur” (Proverbs
30). The seventh is “The words of king Lemuel of Massa,
which his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1 - 31:9). The
eighth is “The ideal wise woman” (Proverbs 31:10 - 31:31)
(Stuart, 1852). The second collection of Solomon’s proverbs
contains proverbs extended to several verses, a clear contrast to
his first collection. However, as in the first collection, the sec-
ond also contains repetition of words or phrases (Stuart, 1852).
The topics covered in Proverbs can be generally divided into
three parts. The first part deals with ourselves that includes our
emotions, our relationships, our tongues and bodies, godly traits,
ungodly traits, and gluttony and drinking. The second talks
about our world including economic matters, political matters,
world of nature, cities. The third part presents principles (Pip-
The structure of this book is very distinct. In the verses from
chapter 1:8 to chapter 9:18, almost all of them are simple par-
allelisms, comprising two members or clauses in each verse.
Yet, there are only 11 triples. Further, the distribution of these
parallelisms is not even. There are 209 synonymous parallel-
isms, 36 synthetic, and four antithetic (Stuart, 1852).
The word “psalms” in Hebrew means praises or hy mns. This
book comprises meditations and reflections expressed in vari-
ous poetic forms. They include the prayer for help of an indi-
vidual, corporate prayer for help, thanksgiving songs of an
individual, hymns, and psalms of instruction (Mays, 1994).
Although some psalms exhibit more than one genre, in general
they can be viewed as psalms of lament, psalms of gratitude,
wisdom psalms, and psalms of praise (Campbell, 2012). Of
the 150 psalms, 73 are attributed to David, 2 to Solomon, 12 to
the sons of Korah, 12 to Asaph, 1 to Heman, 1 to Ethan, and 1
to Moses. The Davidic psalms reflect his life and faith in God.
Many of the psalms a re based on the events in Hebrew history.
For example, Psalm 51 is based on the story recorded in 2
Samuel 11 - 12.
The book of Psalms has an introduction (Psalms 1 and 2) and
a conclusion (Psalms 150). In imitation of Pentateuch (the five
books of Moses), the 150 psalms in this book could be further
divided into five smaller books, Psalms 1 - 41 (the book of
personal experience); 42 - 72 (the book of Elohim); 73 - 89 (the
dark book); 90 - 106 (the book of the King); 107 - 150 (the
book of praise) (Constable, 2012). This book could also be
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 327
logically grouped as: first Davidic collection (Psalms 3 - 41),
first Korahite collection (Psalms 42 - 49), second Davidic col-
lection (Psalms 51 - 70), Asaphite collection (Psalms 73 - 83),
second Korahite collection (Psalms 84 - 88), third Davidic col-
lection (Psalms 108 - 11), Egyptian hallel (Psalms 113 - 118),
songs of ascents (Psalms 120 - 134), fourth Davidic collection
(Psalms 138 - 145), and final hallel (Psalms 146 - 150) (Coulter,
The name of David appears in the superscriptions of 73
psalms out of the 150 in the book of Psalms. There are 13
psalms describing an event in David’s life (Collins, 2007). Of
the 49 psalms with no author ascription in the book of Psalms,
two are designated as Davidic in other books of the Bible (Acts
4:25 refers to Psalm 2 and Hebrew 4:7 points to Psalm 95).
In book 1, there are three psalms lacking a superscript, and
all the others carry a Davidic superscript. Textually, several
psalms in book 1 are similar to those in book 2 including
Psalms 14 and 53, Psalms 40 and 70, and Psalms 31:1 - 4 and
71:1 - 3, implying these two books were compiled around the
same time (Anderson, 1994). Of interest is the fact that Psalm
31 has a Davidic superscript, but Psalm 71 does not have a
There are various methodologies of defining genres of the
psalms. Genre refers to a group of texts that share similar mood,
content, structure or phraseology. The interpretation of a text is
mainly determined by the identification of its genre. Although
all psalms are in the genre of poetry, a psalm can also be
viewed on a narrower level such as a prayer, hymn, lament,
thanksgiving, wisdom, kingship, meditation, or exhortation.
The psalms in the hymn category share many common traits
while each has its own characte r (L o n g m a n , 2009).
German scholar Hermann Gunkel (Gunkel & Horner, 1967;
Gunkel, 1998) employed the form-critical approach to the
psalms, classifying each psalm by its form and type and then
attempting to identify the particular situation in the life of an-
cient Israel in which such a form might have been composed
and used. Recognizing the recurring patterns of structure, theme,
and compositional techniques of many psalms, he argued that
psalms are not spontaneous prayers of individuals, but represent
the fixed forms that communicated from generation to genera-
tion. Many scholars followed his approach in their study of the
Psalms as well as in other portions of the Old Testament (Con-
stable, 2012). The study by Gunkel identified several literary
types of psalms, hymn, individual songs of thanksgiving,
communal la ment, individual lament, royal psalms, lesse r types
(pilgrimage songs, torah liturgies, and wisdom poetry). Based
on these categories, Dennis Bratcher classified all 150 psalms
(Bratcher, 2011) in the book of Psalms (Table 1).
Classifying the Psalms by Ge n re according to (Bratcher, 2011).
Community12, 44, 58, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 85, 89*, 90, 94, 123, 126, 129
Individual3, 4, 5, 7, 9 - 10, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 27*, 28, 31, 36*, 39, 40:12 - 17, 41, 42 - 43, 52*, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59,
61, 64, 70, 7 1, 77, 86, 89*, 120, 139, 141, 142
Specialized Lament Psalms
Penitential6, 32*, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143
Imprecatory35, 69, 83, 8 8, 109, 137, 140
Thanksgiving Psalm s
Community65*, 67*, 75, 107, 124, 136*
Individual18, 21, 30, 32*, 34, 40:1 - 11, 66:13 - 20, 92, 108*, 116, 118, 138
Specialized Thanksgiving Psalms
Salvation History8*, 105 - 106, 135, 136
Songs of Trust11, 16, 23, 27*, 62, 63, 91, 121, 125, 131
Hymn and Doxology8*, 19: 1 - 6, 33, 66: 1 - 12, 67*, 95, 100, 103, 104, 111, 113, 114, 117, 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150
Liturgical Psal ms (for Public Worship)
Covenant S ongs50, 78, 81, 89*, 132
Royal / Enthronement2, 18, 20, 21, 29, 45, 47, 72, 93, 95*, 96, 97, 98, 99, 101, 110, 144
Songs of Zion46, 48, 76, 84, 87, 122
Temple Liturgies15, 24, 68*, 82, 95*, 115, 134
Community Psalm s
Wisdom Psalms1*, 36*, 37, 49, 73, 1 12, 127, 128, 133
Torah Poems1*, 19: 7 - 14, 119
*These Psalms are difficult to classify because they could fit into more than one group or are mixed types.
The largest group of psalms is under the type of individual
lament, which deal with prayers of supplication of a single
person in unfortunate situations and trust in God in times of
difficulty (Seybold, 2000). Many of Davidic psalms are in this
category. Although there are a few psalms of community la-
ments arising in national disaster, but most laments are indi-
vidual. Hymns used in worship are descriptive praises of who
God is. They comprise the second largest group of psalms and
appear mostly in the second half of the book.
Thanksgiving could be used in general terms as in some con-
texts, but it is used typically for what God had done in Psalms,
such as deliverance from the enemies or public celebration.
Although thanksgiving is one type of forms listed in Table 1,
thanksgiving and gratitude can also appear in laments.
Psalms 1 starts the whole book with a teaching of “two ways
of life” as a general truth: the way of righteousness that leads to
prosperity and the way of wickedness to ruin, suggesting this
book ought to be studied as a guide to a blessed life. There are
several psalms in the style of teaching, including Psalms 1, 37,
49, 78, and 112 (Mays, 1994). Therefore, there is rich wisdom
in Psalms, and further it begins through the voice of wisdom.
Studying Proverbs and Psalms together enables us to dis-
cover the psalms that are similar to some proverbs. Some of the
wisdom psalms are Psalms 1, 36, 37, 49, 73, 112, 127, 128, 133,
as listed in Table 1, and moreover Psalms 1, 10, 12, 15, 19, 32,
34, 36, 37, 49, 50, 52, 53, 73, 78, 82, 91, 92, 94, 111, 112, 119,
127, 128, 139 are considered wisdom psalms in (Campbell,
Top 30 Mostly Used Words in Proverbs and Psalms
To gather the usage of various words in Proverbs and Psalms,
we conduct a word count. The top 30 mostly used words in
these two books are displayed in Table 2. The word “fear”
appears 23 times in Proverbs and 64 times in Psalms. The ex-
pression of “fear of the Lord” appears in many books of the
Bible, from Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy, to
Revelation. To fear God is to know Him, to obey His com-
mands with reverence and awe, to praise Him, to enjoy His
blessings, and to care what God desires of us, but at the same
time to fear His wrath or judgment. In short, it simply means to
live a life with an awareness of the divine presence all the time,
which should then be complemented by an awareness of the
love of God.
Of the top 30 most frequently used words, there are 12
shared between these two books: fear, hand, heart, lord, man,
men, mouth, righteous, righteousness, soul, wicked, word(s),
illustrating the commonality of these two different books. On
the other hand, the unique words in Proverbs are: wise, wisdom,
understanding, evil, son, fool, knowledge, lips, life, poor, eyes,
ways, house, instruction, woman, father, king, abomination,
and in Psalms: God, praise, earth, people, mercy, David, ene-
mies, made, strength, give, sing, make, salvation, Israel, chief,
day, hear, deliver. These different key words in Proverbs and
Psalms represent the distinctive focus of each book.
In order to appreciate how the word “fear” is used in differ-
ent contexts, the verses containing the word “fear” are collected
from Proverbs and Psalms respectively, from which word
clouds images are generated (Figure 1). It seems that the word
“fear” is combined with words, Lord, knowledge, wisdom,
instruction, evil, wicked, and depart in Proverbs, and with Lord,
God, praise, mercy, great, and earth in Psalms, revealing char-
acteristic emphasis on the phrase “fear of the Lord” in these
Different from keyword searching in traditional text data
mining, topic models have been developed recently to discover
Top 30 mostly used words and their counts in Proverbs and Psalms.
Word Count Word Count Word Count Word Count
Man 171 Life 38 Lord 793 Give 72
Wicked 89 Poor 38 God 440 Righteousness 71
Lord 87 Soul 38 Praise 160 Sing 70
Heart 81 Men 34 Earth 141 Make 69
Wise 66 Eyes 30 Soul 132 Fear 64
Righteous 54 Ways 29 People 130 Mouth 64
Understanding 54 House 28 Heart 125 Salvation 63
Wisdom 54 Hand 25 Man 101 Israel 62
Mouth 52 Instruction 25 Mercy 100 Men 62
Evil 50 Woman 25 Hand 99 Righteous 60
Son 45 Father 23 Wicked 90 Word 60
Fool 42 Fear 23 David 88 Chief 58
Knowledge 42 King 22 Enemies 81 Day 58
Lips 42 Righteousness 21 Made 76 Hear 57
Words 40 Abomination 20 Strength 74 Deliver 55
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Word clouds from the verses containing th e w ord “fear” in Psalms (left) and Proverbs (right).
the hidden thematic structure in a collection of documents
(Steyvers & Griffiths, 2007; Griffiths, Steyvers, & Tenenbaum,
2007; Griffiths & Steyvers, 2004). They employ statistical
analysis on the words (observed variables) in the documents to
infer their themes (hidden variables). The simplest topic model
is latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA) (Blei, Ng, & Jordan, 2003),
which builds on the assumption that a single article or docu-
ment generally contains multiple topics and the topic distribu-
tion is a Dirichlet prior. In topic models, a topic is defined as a
distribution over words. For instance, the school topic may
contain words such as teachers, students, homework, curricu-
lum, and GPA. The mixture of topics could be found through
the discovering of the hidden thematic structure in the docu-
ment, in which words are observed whereas the topic distribu-
tion needs to be inferred from them. The computational task of
LDA is therefore to compute the posterior distribution, the con-
ditional distribution of the hidden variables given the docu-
In this study, the topic proportion identified by LDA from
each document is used to define a correlation to measure the
similarity between two documents. The software we use in this
report is MALLET (McCallum, 2002) that has an implementa-
tion of LDA. The standard Pearson correlation formula for two
vectors in n-dimensional Euclidean space is defined as follows:
and Y represent the average of the two vectors, and
stand for the standard deviation of the two vectors. X
In the calculation of the correlation between two topic dis-
tributions from two documents, the irepresents the prob-
ability of topic i, and the sum of all these i is one. Since the
contributions from different ito the correlation are not
equal, we assign a weight to each expression
as shown below:
which suggests that the higher the probability of a topic is, the
greater its contribution to the correlation. Throughout the cur-
rent study, we use this weighted Pearson correlation for
comparing two topic distributions.
At present, common clustering algorithms such as K-means
use data to find centers of clusters. The novelty of affinity
propagation clustering algorithm (Frey & Dueck, 2007) lies in
the search of exemplars from data to represent clusters through
message passing. The data points in a cluster connect to the
exemplar that best represents it.
Affinity propagation (AP) was designed to searches for a set
of exemplars from data points so the minima of the fol-
lowing energy function could be achieved
where i represents the exemplar of data point , and ei
e is the similarity between data point and its exem-
plar i. In general, finding an optimal set of exemplars from
data is a computationally intensive endeavor. However, the
identification of these exemplars in AP was accomplished with
an efficient algorithm that employs real-valued messages ex-
changed among data points. There were two types of messages,
responsibility and availability. The responsibility
,ri , sent
from data point to candidate exemplar point , reflects the
suitability for point to be the exemplar for point . The
,kai , sent from candidate exemplar point to
point , represents the propensity for point to choose point
as its exemplar. In this study, the similarity used as input to
AP is the Hamming distance between two sequences. At the
beginning of affinity propagation the availability matrix is set
to zero, and then repeats the following iteration until a stopping
criterion is satisfied:
At each iteration, the messages indicate the current affinity
between data points and their exemplars.
In the present study, this clustering algorithm is used to
group chapters in Proverbs and Psalms, where each chapter is
represented by its topic distribution as a vector in Euclidean
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 329
Results and Discussion
The topic model and affinity propagation clustering algo-
rithm are utilized to group the chapters of Proverbs (Figure 2
and Table 3) and Psalms (Figure 3 and Table 4) respectively,
thus illustrating the internal order of these chapters by content.
The chapters in each cluster are presented in Tables 3 and 4,
while the closeness among the clusters is shown in Figures 2
and 3. To refine the clustering of the chapters and to understand
the connection of these two books, the correlations of the chap-
ters and verses between these books are analyzed (Figures 4
and 5). We also compare our computational results with those
by Biblical scholars.
Clustering Chapters of Proverbs by Content
The usual division of the chapters in Proverbs is based on
authorship and in sequence. However, our clustering algorithm
does that based on content, and thus with nonlinearity (Figure
2 and Table 3). Figure 3 shows that there are three large
groups of clusters: clusters 1 and 2; clusters 3, 4, 5; and cluster
6. The proverbs of Solomon are grouped together in clusters 3,
4 and 5 except chapters 20, 24, and 30, and those of non-
Solomon in clusters 1, 2, and 7. Chapter 24 contains part of the
30 wise sayings, and the majority of the verses in chapter 20 are
part of Solomon’s proverbs and a small fraction of chapter 20 is
part of the 30 wise sayings. Finally chapter 30 is the wisdom of
Chapters of Proverbs i n different clusters and their exemplars.
Cluster Number Exemplar Chapter Number Chapters in Each Cluster
1 2 1 2 3 8 9
2 5 4 5 6 7 23
3 17 17 18 26 27
4 20 16 20 22 24 25 30
5 21 10 11 12 13 14 15 19 21 28 29
6 31 31
Chapters of Psalms in differe n t cl us ters and their exemplars.
Chapter Number Chapters in Each Cluster Common Ge nre
1 8 2 8 50 72 104 14 4 148 Hymns
2 16 3 5 16 18 20 21 22 23 26 27 63 91 110 116 12 0 124 131 13 2 139 142 Individual laments, songs of trust , thanks givings
3 36 1 10 11 12 15 19 32 34 36 39 49 52 58 64 73 92 94 1 01 112 125 140 Wisdom
4 37 37 Wisdom
5 40 25 35 40 69 70 71 109 Individual laments, imprecatory laments
6 43 42 43 57 60 62 68 108 Individual laments, Songs of trust
7 53 14 53 81 83 114 Individual an d community laments
8 54 4 6 7 13 17 31 38 41 51 54 55 56 5 9 61 88 141 1 43 Individual, penitential laments
9 74 44 74 77 79 80 Community laments
10 87 46 48 65 76 84 87 137 Songs of Zio n
11 90 90 102 Special laments
12 93 24 29 45 89 93 97 99 Royal/e nth ronement
13 98 47 96 98 149 Royal/enth ronement
14 105 78 105 106 Salva t ion history
15 107 107 Community thanksgiving
16 117 9 30 33 66 67 75 82 85 86 95 100 111 113 117 123 138 145 146 147 150Hymns, thanksgivings
17 119 119 Torah Poems
18 134 28 103 115 11 8 121 122 126 127 128 129 130 133 134 135 Songs of asc ents
19 136 136 Salvation history
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
Cluster dendrogram for chapters of Proverbs.
Cluster dendrogram for chapters of Psalms.
Structurally the first nine chapters are all long wisdom dia-
logs between a father and his sons. Our clustering algorithm
groups chapters 1 through 9 into clusters 1 and 2, where cluster
2 selects the chapters that focus on lady adulteress and cluster 1
chooses the chapters on lady wisdom. However, a few verses in
chapter 2 of cluster 1 also deal with the adulteress, and chapter
4 on lady wisdom is part of cluster 2. Cluster 3 contains verses
about a fool, as a common feature, in all the four chapters of
It is amazing to have the same subject of lady adulteress be-
ing brought up so frequently in chapters 5, 6, 7. It is suggested
in (Stuart, 1852) that one single compiler brought these various
writings of several authors into one piece. The same reasoning
that leads to a diversity of authorship co uld also b e applied to th e
repetition of wisdom observed in all the chapters in cluster 1.
The chapters in cluster 3 share some verses, such as 18:8 and
26:22, 17:3 and 27:21, 17:17 and 27:10, which gives another
support of the same authorship of the two collections of Solo-
mon’s proverbs and two different compilers of these two col-
lections. There are 6 times of using the word “fool” and one
time for “folly” and one time for “foolish” in chapter 17. In
chapter 18, there are 3 times of “fool” and one time of “folly”.
In chapter 26, 9 times of “fool”, 3 times of “folly”. In chapter
27, 2 times of “fool”. There are similar verses in chapters 17
and 18: 17:15 and 18:5, 17:22 and 18:14.
Cluster 4 contains the 30 wise sayings of the wise (verses
22:17 - 24:22) that have the signature phrase “my son” as in
chapters 1 - 9 and the further sayings of the wise (24:23 - 34)
that lack the signature phrase “my son”, which exhibit a com-
posing style different that of Solomon (say, sentences are com-
pleted in one verse are the exception, and “my son” is not pre-
fixed to a paragraph). However, they were grouped with several
chapters of Solomon because of their shared content. The say-
ings of King Lemuel (chapter 30), as part of cluster 4, are dif-
ferent from those of Solomon not only in style but also in con-
tents. The phrase “my son” in Proverbs suggests that some
instructions are particular relevant to a young person.
Cluster 4 has chapters containing several verses on kings. It
was enlightening to see three such verses in chapter 30, which
are: A servant who become a king, a fool who is full of food
(verse 22); Locusts have no king, yet they advance together in
ranks (verse 27); A strutting rooster, a he-goat, and a king with
his army around him (verse 31).
Cluster 5 contains chapters 10 - 15 that deal with wise living
through instructive contrasts, thus this cluster also contains
chapters 19, 21, 28, and 29. Chapter 28 starts with verse: the
wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are
as bold as a lion, and ends with verse: when the wicked rise to
power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the
righteous thrive. Similarly chapter 29 starts and ends with a
contrast between the righteous and the wicked.
Apart from the common features of the chapters in cluster 5,
chapters 28 and 29 have their unique verses that are mainly for
prospective kings/rulers to have kingly wisdom, a feature
shared in cluster 4.
Chapters 10 through 15 exhibit strong patterns of comparison,
but right in chapter 16 this pattern stops. Our clustering algo-
rithm detects this shift in chapter 16 and includes it in another
Chapter 23 is included in cluster 2 with chapters 4, 5,6, and 7,
because it contains the signature address “my son” as in many
verses in the first collection and two verses that deal with pros-
titutes that is the major theme in chapters 5, 6, and 7. For this
reason, the exemplar of this cluster is chapter 5. Therefore, it is
surprising to have chapter 4 in cluster 2, rather than in cluster 1.
Two verses in chapter 4 are similar to those in chapters 5 and 7:
4:4 and 7:2, 4:20 and 5:1, but more verses in this chapter are
similar to those in chapters 1, 2, and 3 than in chapters 5, 6, and
7. The verses in the start of Chapter 31 teach how to be a wise
king, but the majority of this chapter describes the noble char-
acter of a wife, which is made of verses each starting a succes-
sive letter in the alphabet of Hebrew. Therefore, it makes sense
to be grouped as a different cluster from cluster 4.
Clustering Chapters of Psalms by Content
The understanding of a psalm could be enhanced by classi-
fying it according to its content such as historical, or wisdom.
From Figure 3 and Table 4, we can see that the grouping of the
chapters in Psalms is largely in line with those in Table 1. Fig-
ure 4 shows the overall grouping of different clusters, which, in
particular, highlights the uniqueness of cluster 17 that contains
Psalms 119 alone. Due the multi-faceted nature of psalms,
some of them exhibit several types, such as lament and thanks-
giving, within a single psalm. As a result, our clustering algo-
rithm groups these in one cluster, as shown in clusters 2, 5, 6, 7,
and 8. For example, Psalm 40 is in cluster 5 of individual and
imprecatory laments. It has a thanksgiving feature in verses 1 -
10, but a lament flavor in verses 11 - 17.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 331
At the same time, our clustering algorithm is able to detect
the similarity between psalms. From the text, it is clear that
Psalms 43 is a continuation of Psalms 42, also supported by our
clustering. Other pairs of similar psalms are recognized by our
algorithm as well: Psalms 53 and 14; Psalms 70 and 40: 13 - 17;
Psalms 108 and 57: 7 - 11; and Psalms 108 and 60: 5 - 12, as
also observed in (Driver, 1891).
Psalms 18, 20, and 21 are considered as royal/enthronement
psalms in Table 1, but our clustering algorithm groups them
into songs of trust, which is more appropriate according to their
The songs of ascents (Psalms 120 - 134) were sung by pil-
grims going to Jerusalem for annual festivals. Psalm 125 is a
song of ascents, but our clustering considers it as a wisdom
psalm, consistent with its content. For the same reason, songs
of ascents 120, 124, 131, and 132 are grouped in cluster 2 of
individual laments, songs of trust, and thanksgivings. Song of
ascents 123 is in cluster 16 of hymns and thanksgivings. Inter-
estingly Psalms 28, 103, 115, 118, and 135 are grouped with
many songs of ascents in cluster 17 because of their contents.
Taken together, the songs of ascents have different genres, but
our clustering algorithm still detects those that are similar, and
further identifies a few psalms such as 28, 103, 115, 118, 135
that are not part of songs of ascents but are still similar.
Psalm 73 is a wisdom psalm that sees the wicked prospering
and the righteous suffering. It opens book three of Psalms and
starts a new era after the kingdoms of David and Solomon.
Psalm 11 is considered as a song of trust in Table 1, here it is
treated as a wisdom psalm. Our correlation analysis in section
3.3 also connects this psalm with chapter 11 of Proverbs.
Hymns could be divided into the “imperative” a nd “particip-
ial” subgroups. The former is characterized with exhortation
(“sing!”, “play!”, and “praise!”, Psalms 100 and 136) and the
latter typically contains a chain of participles (“wrapping your-
self in light… stretching out the heavens… making… riding…”,
Psalms 104). These two subgroups have different functions.
The imperative are suitable for public worship, while the parti-
cipial focus on objective representation of theological contexts
(Seybold, 2000). Our clustering results correctly identify these
two subgroups, cluster 1 for the participial and cluster 16 for
Psalm 136 is unique among the psalms because of its recur-
rent refrain, “His love endures forever”. Each verse recites a
great redemptive act of God, followed by a refrain with a total
of 26 times. Because of its unique style, this psalm is itself a
cluster (cluster 19). This distinct feature is also automatically
detected by our pairwise correlation analysis conducted in Sec-
tion 3.3 and displayed in Figure 5.
Correlation between Psalms and Proverbs
The purpose of this section is to find the similar chapters and
verses between Proverbs and Psalms. To process the verses, we
divide them in groups of three. The first number in Figure 5
means the chapter number, and the second is the group number.
The outcome of pairwise correlation analysis of chapters and
verses between these two books is contained in Figures 4 and
As seen from Figure 4, Proverbs 11 is highly correlated with
Psalms 11, 37, and 112, and they share several key words.
Thereby some verses in Psalms 11, 37, and 112 display the
characteristics of proverbs. Two such verses in Psalms 11 are:
Top 50 pairs of highly correlated chapters in Proverbs and Psalms,
where letter “R” represents Proverbs and “S” for Psalms.
Top 25 pairs of highly correlated verse segments in Proverbs and
Psalms, but none is selected from Proverbs, where the first number
represents the chapter number and t he s e co nd i s t he se gment number.
The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked and those who
love violence his soul hates (verse 5); For the Lord is righteous,
he loves justice upright men will see his face (verse 7). In
Psalms 37: Better the little that the righteous have than the
wealth of many wicked (verse 16); for the power of the wicked
will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous (verse 17).
In Psalms 112: Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who
finds great delight in his commands (verse 1); Even in the
darkness light dawns for the upright, for the gracious and com-
passionate and righteous man (verse 4); The wicked man will
see and be vexed, he will gnash his teeth and waste away; the
longings of the wicked will come to nothing (verse 10). Impor-
tantly, the fear of the Lord is part of Psalms 112:1.
Some verses in Psalms 11 have similar verses in Proverbs
such as Psalms 11:4 and Proverbs 15:3. Although Psalm 11 is
not listed as a wisdom psalm in Table 1, our correlation analy-
sis connects it with Proverbs 11, and the text of this psalm re-
veals its wisdom nature.
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
There are many verses in Psalms that contain the concept of
“fear of the Lord”. Here we list some of them: 2:11, 19:9, 22:23,
25:12, 25:14, 33:8, 33:18, 34:7, 34:9, 40:3, 86:11, 96:4, 102:15,
103:13, 103:17, 111:10, 112:1, 115:11, 128:1, 135:20, and
Comparing the two books of Proverbs and Psalms (Figures 4
and 5), Proverbs has a higher correlation between its chapters,
while Psalms has a higher correlation between its verse seg-
ments. It was found in (Anderson, 1994) that no two psalms of
the same textual material are found in any single book, but in
two different books from the five books (Anderson, 1994).
Furthermore here we identify a few similar chapters in book 1:
Psalms 11 and 37; 25 and 31; 27 and 41 (Figure 4).
Psalms 11 and 37 in book 1 are highly correlated, and some
similar verses between them are: Psalms 11:2 (For look, the
wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings
to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart) and 37:14
(The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down
the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright); 11:5
(The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked and those
who love violence his soul hates) and 37:17 (for the power of
the wicked will be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous);
11:7 (For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; upright men
will see his face) and 37:28 (For the Lord loves the just and will
not forsake his faithful ones).
The highly correlated verse segments (Figure 5) reveal that
Psalms 136 has many similar verses within itself. The examina-
tion of the text of this chapter shows the repeated verses of the
same sentence: His love endures forever. Although the two
verse segments in Psalms 17 and 102 selected in Figure 5 do
not contain same or similar verses, but do share many key
The clusters in Tables 3 and 4 indicate an overall similarity
of the chapters within the same cluster. The connected groups
of highly correlated chapters in Figure 5 are consistent with the
clusters in Tables 3 and 4. For example, Psalms 35, 40, 70 and
71 forms a group in Figure 5, and they are also in the same
cluster 5 in Table 4; Psalms 78, 105, and 106 formed a group in
Figure 5 are in the same clust er 14 in Table 4.
However, our pairwise correlation analysis of these chapters
(Figures 4 and 5) provides more details in this regard. In Prov-
erbs, chapters 17, 18, and 26 in cluster 3 in Table 3 are mutu-
ally highly correlated, but chapter 27 in the same cluster is not
strongly associated with them. Chapters 16 and 24 in cluster 4
are mutually highly correlated, but chapters 20, 22, 24, 25, and
30 in the same cluster are not. Chapters 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19,
and 21 are mutually highly correlated, but chapters 11, 28 and
29 in the same cluster are not.
The connected group of chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, 8, and 9 of Prov-
erbs in Figure 4 suggests their mutual similarity, which cor-
rects the inclusion of chapter 4 in cluster 2 in Table 3. In Prov-
erbs, chapter 15 is highly correlated with chapters 9 and 10,
which could not be seen from the clustering in Table 3. To
summarize, the connected groups of chapters in Figures 4 and
5 refine and detail the clusters in Tables 3 and 4.
Conclusion and Discussion
The aim of this study is to apply a data-driven approach to
finding the similarity of the chapters in each of Proverbs and
Psalms, and the similarity of chapters and verses between these
two books, due to their shared wisdom emphasis. Meanwhile,
we compare our computational results with those by Biblical
The word “wisdom” usually refers to knowledge, intelligence,
education, and experience, however, the meaning of this word
in Proverbs includes and surpasses them (Lennox, 1998). Wis-
dom in ancient Israel and early Judaism includes at least six
critical components: knowledge, imagination, discipline, piety,
order, and moral instructions (Perdue, Mays, & Miller, 2000).
The book of Proverbs is designed to teach wisdom, instruction,
justice, and judgment. It presents the main theme that true wis-
dom is a natural consequence of fearing God. The wisdom of a
person is defined in terms of his relationship with God, rather
than his academic knowledge and life experience. Fear of the
Lord is the beginning of wisdom, which is the proverb of prov-
erbs, and the foundation of all other proverbs.
The notion of fearing God was expressed even in Genesis
(Genesis 22:12 and 42:18). Three wisdom books of the Bible,
Job, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs, contain similar verses like this
one: The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is
understanding (Job 28:28), Fear God and keep his command-
ments, for this is the whole duty of man ( Ecclesiastes 12:13),
the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools
despise wisdom and discipline (Proverbs 1:7), the fear of the
Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy
One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10). All these verses high-
light that God is the only source of wisdom.
Psalms are a collection of diverse poems, expressed as
prayers and praises. It starts with a wisdom psalm, Psalm 1, as
an introduction to the entire book. Proverbs leads indirectly to
God through wisdom, whereas Psalms points directly to God
through worship. In other words, Psalms deals with the rela-
tionship with God (in vertical direction), whereas Proverbs is
about the association to other people (in horizontal direction).
The book of Psalms is perhaps the most read book among all
the books in the OT. It has the longest chapter of the Bible,
Psalm 119, and the shortest chapter of the Bible, Psalm 117.
The poetic parallelism is widely employed in Psalms. Three
types of parallelisms are commonly observed in this book:
synonymous—the thought in the first line is repeated in the
second line in different but equivalent words; antithetic—the
second line gives a thought in the opposite of the first line; and
synthetic—the second line completes the thought of the first
without parallel meaning.
There is a great variation of character among the 150 psalms.
Oscillating between lament and praise, many psalms, like
Psalms 13 and 22, may begin with lament or prayer and then
change into thanksgiving and praise, which makes it hard to
classify them by content. Psalms tend to be grouped together
with the same heading or with the same opening lines such as
Psalms 3 - 6; 19 - 24, and more (Seybold, 2000). Several re-
lated psalms appear together such as Psalms 5 - 7, 54 - 57, 61 -
64, 69 - 71, 140 - 143 (laments of the individuals) and Psalms
103 - 105, 134 - 136, 145 - 150 (hymns). However, in general
no clear internal relationship between neighboring psalms can
be observed (Gunkel, 1998). Beyond the 150 psalms recorded
in the book of Psalms, there are other psalms in the OT, such as
Moses’ “Song of the sea” (Exodus 15), the thanksgiving songs
of Hanna (1 Sam 2), of David (2 Sam 22), of Jonah (Jonah 2),
and of Hezekiah (Isa 38).
Scholars have proposed various ways of categorizing the
psalms, i.e., grouping them according to their content and liter-
ary forms. Our work here is to apply the topic model and clus-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 333
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
tering method to group the psalms together by content, and then
see how well the outcome of this unsupervised learning
matches their literary forms. Our findings demonstrate and
reveal their internal arrangement in this diverse material. We
use the same approach to study of Proverbs. The last task of our
investigation is to find similar chapters and verses between
Proverbs and Psalms, allowing one book to shed light onto the
other to enhance the understanding. Our computational results
are consistent with those by Biblical scholars, but have made
several interesting new discoveries along the way.
We thank Houghton College for its financial support.
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