Wisdom you know it when you see it
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Wisdom—you know it when you see it. Tôb š ēm mi šš emen 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

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Wisdom you know it when you see it
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 intelligent.

Wisdom in the ot and the ane
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
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 sea.

More wisdom in mespotamia
More wisdom in Mespotamia

  • 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 throat.

  • 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 bible
Wisdom Books in the Bible

  • 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
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
More definitions of wisdom

  • 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 wisdom1
More definitions of wisdom

  • 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 (Proverbs 8) Hokhmah; sophia


  • 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
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 Isaiah

  • The canon finally joins wisdom and saving history.

The doctrine of retribution reward and punishment
The Doctrine of Retribution: Reward and Punishment

  • 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 inscrutability and freedom of God.

Social setting of wisdom
Social Setting of Wisdom

  • 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 parents.