An Introduction to Wisdom Literature [Genesis 41-43]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! The wisdom books of the Old Testament are Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, and Song of Solomon. Certain individual Psalms are wisdom literature as well. Depending on the scholar, Lamentations and all of Psalms could count as wisdom literature.

The Law, the Histories, and the Prophets are the record of God speaking to man, whether it be giving the Law, the historical record of his interactions with man, or the prophets speaking for God. The wisdom literature, however, is about man’s relationship to God, his prayers, his day-to-day life.

Certain themes of wisdom literature are prevalent through all the books. Anyone who’s read Proverbs will know the themes of saving for the future, running from sexual immorality, and being cautiously prudent. You’re probably ahead of me here. Joseph absolutely, unequivocally runs from Potiphar’s wife, he advises Pharoah on rationing and saving the grain before the drought, and he shrewdly conceals his identity from his brothers until he can orchestrate matters for his liking.

I titled this post “An Introduction to Wisdom Literature” because Genesis 37-50 is the first instance of wisdom literature in the Bible. The section is primarily history, of course, but has prevalent wisdom themes. What’s interesting about it is that this transition to wisdom literature happens as soon as the setting shifts to Egypt. In the ancient Near East, Egypt is known for its wisdom literature. Three examples from Scripture will suffice to show this. The first is 1 Kings 4:30 (NASB), where it is assumed: “And Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt.” The second is in Acts 7:9-10 also tells us God saw to it Pharoah would see Joseph’s wisdom (as opposed to say, his compassion or his intelligence). Finally, in the same chapter, Stephen tells the Pharisees, “And Moses was educated in all the learning of the Egyptians, and he was a man of power in words and deeds” (Acts 7:22 NASB).

So there you have it, Scroll Eaters, the wisdom of Egypt, trumped by the wisdom of God.

For tomorrow, read Genesis 44-46.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

This entry was posted in Bible, Bible 2011, Bible Reading, Bible Reading Plan, Christian, Christianity, Histories, Ketubim, Ketuvim, Law, Old Testament, Religion, Theology, Torah, Wisdom Literature, Writings and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to An Introduction to Wisdom Literature [Genesis 41-43]

  1. somemusician says:

    I do not wish to start an argument or anything, but isn’t the Song of Solomon a book about a man professing (among other things) his love for one of his wives?

    • Hi, Somemusician. You’re absolutely correct. Song of Solomon is a love story (or a collection of love stories – scholars debate). It’s considered wisdom literature because it deals with everyday life – how one lives as a believer. “God” is mentioned by name in the book only once, yet it’s obvious that the Hebrew religion colors the proceedings. In other words, it’s a depiction of healthy, marital, sexual love in a godly marriage. Compare to Proverbs 3, where man are told to love his wife and “let her breasts satisfy you always.” Also, since Solomon is usually considered the author, then it’s logically associated with his wisdom collection of Proverbs.

      Thanks for the reply, and feel free to comment often!

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