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					Wisdom—you know it when
you see it
• Tôb šēm miššemen tôb—a good
  reputation (name) is better than
  precious ointment Ecc 7:1
• Do horses run on rocks, or does one
  plow the sea with oxen? Am 6:12
• Those who restrain their words have
  knowledge; those who have a cool
  spirit have understanding. = A fool
  who keeps silent is considered wise;
  a fool with closed lips is considered
Wisdom in the OT and
the ANE
• Egypt: Instructions offered by a
  father to his son, teacher to pupil.
  Life in accord with maat (justice,
  order, truth) brings blessings—and
  vice versa. Self-control a top virtue.
• Instructions of Amen-em-opet are
  similar to Prov 22:17-24:22.
• Tale of the eloquent peasant—a
  corrupt official robs a peasant; later
  regrets his actions against such an
  eloquent person
Wisdom in Mesopotamia

• “I will praise the Lord of Wisdom.” A
  person loses social status and
  health; values are reversed where
  the gods are concerned. But he is
  visited by deity and recovers
• Babylonian theodicy—remoteness of
  gods and inscrutability of their ways.
• Dialogue of pessimism. Master and
  slave. What is good—to have our
  necks broken and be thrown into the
More wisdom in
• Do not sacrifice—it only makes your
  god follow you about like a dog.
• Do not make love, master. A woman
  is a pitfall, a ditch, a woman is a
  sharp dagger that slits a man’s
• Ahiqar: three virtues: one who
  drinks wine and gives it to others;
  one who guards wisdom; and one
  who hears a word and does not tell
Wisdom Books in the
•   Proverbs
•   Job
•   Ecclesiastes/Qoheleth
•   Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus)
•   Wisdom of Solomon
•   Psalms 1, 19, 37, 73, 119
•   Elements of wisdom in Joseph,
    Deuteronomy, even prophets
Definition of Wisdom
• How to accommodate one’s life to the
  orderliness of the world, or what to do
  when that order fails. Being wise meant a
  search for and a maintenance of “order”
• God embedded truth within all of reality.
  Humans are to seek for that insight and
  live in harmony with the cosmos.
• In “wisdom” there is confidence in the
  world and in human potential. “In
  humanity we trust.” People do not need
  and cannot expect divine assistance.
More definitions of
• Wisdom based on close observation and
  careful reflection on the world. There is a
  wisdom or order built right into the world
• Creation more prominent than saving
  history in wisdom literature—no Exodus,
  Davidic covenant, Mosaic legislation,
  divine control of history. God created
  universe and expected humans to figure it
  out. Job 38-41; Proverbs 8
• Experience more important than revelation
• Much of early wisdom “secular”; but the
  fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom
More definitions of
• Wisdom is the reasoned search for
  specific ways to assure well-being
  and the implementation of those
  discoveries in daily existence.
• Israel did not keep faith and
  knowledge separate
• Is wisdom misogynist or a resource
  for feminism? Better to live in a
  desert than with a contentious wife.
  But experience valued.
• The wisdom through which God
  created the world is personified
• Is Practical—know how, judicial activity,
  composition of proverbs and songs
• Has limits—Job refutes his friends but he
  is refuted by God.
• Is a human task and a divine gift. Wisdom
  is acquired through experience and
  obedience and given by God.
• Is a reflection on wisdom. Wisdom is
  hidden with God; wisdom is an attractive
  woman who shares with her friends the life
  she shares with God.
Relationship of
Wisdom/Saving History
• What is the relationship
  between nature and grace,
  creation and saving history?
• Sirach 24—wisdom sought for a
  home everywhere and finally
  found it in Torah
• Sirach 44-48 “famous men”—
  from Enoch to Hezekiah and
The Doctrine of
Retribution: Reward and
• Life in harmony with the principles of
  the universe leads to health, wealth,
  fame, honor, longevity, progeny.
• Evil deeds produce evil results
• Canonical wisdom contains
  assertion of wisdom theology—and
  its rebuttal (Job, Ecclesiastes)
• Job broke through a simplistic
  understanding of divine justice, and
  Ecclesiastes guarded the
Social Setting of
• Royal court: Solomon (“author”
  of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and
  Wisdom of Solomon—wealthy
  and wise), men of Hezekiah
  (Prov 25:1), international
  connections of wisdom. An
  elite phenomenon? Schools?
• Wisdom also among the clans
  and the elders and among

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