We use cookies to enhance your experience on our website. By continuing to use our website, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more
Select Bible Use this Lookup to open a specific Bible and passage. Start here to select a Bible.
Make selected Bible the default for Lookup tool.
Book: Ch.V. Select book from A-Z list, enter chapter and verse number, and click "Go."
:
OR
  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result

The Jewish Study Bible Contextualizes the Hebrew Bible with accompanying scholarly text on Jewish traditions and history.

Wisdom Literature

ACCORDING TO MOST BIBLICAL SCHOLARS, the three books Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes should be viewed together as wisdom literature. “Wisdom literature” describes works thatdo not focus on the nation Israel, on its great formative historical memories, such as the exodus and conquest, on the Temple and Jerusalem, or on covenant as the central theological notion binding together God, the people Israel, and the land of Israel. Wisdom books are thus in some ways a departure from the concerns of other biblical books. They share, rather, as their focus, reflection on universal human concerns, especially the understanding of individual experiences and the maintenance of ordered relationships that lead both to success on the human plane and to divine approval.

In more recent scholarship, the concept of “wisdom” has been criticized as too elastic and amorphous. Indeed, the three wisdom books in this collection are remarkably different from one another and do not form a clear unit: Proverbs, in contrast to Job, suggests that the righteous are rewarded and do not suffer, while Ecclesiastes, in contrast to both Job and Proverbs, is deeply skeptical of the utility of wisdom. In addition, “wisdom” is a modern category, deriving from the beginning of the twentieth century, and thus Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes were not originally grouped together on generic grounds. They nevertheless share a thematic interdependence. Proverbs provides a normative version of a type of ancient Near Eastern thought that looked for pattern and repetition in nature and in the moral life. In this tradition, the regular recurrence of natural phenomena could provide an analogy to guide human beings in their social interactions:

Charcoal for embers and wood for a fire And a contentious man for kindling strife. ( 26.21 )

The inevitability of the natural occurrence is mirrored in the inevitability of the social one. This kind of thinking then was extended to moral behavior, with the argument that good behavior, like good farming practice, will be rewarded:

He who tends a fig tree will enjoy its fruit, And he who cares for his master will be honored. ( 27.18 )

Job and Ecclesiastes relate to this normative tradition in different ways. Job denies the inevitability of rewards for living an upright life and decisively refutes the idea that human suffering is always deserved. Ecclesiastes treats the idea of inevitability in a still different way, emphasizing the great power of God that may be seen through the natural repetitions of seasons, tasks, and occupations. Human attempts to circumvent this power, or even to understand it fully, are futile. The themes found in these wisdom texts are found in other biblical texts as well, suggesting that the wisdom school did not have a narrow sphere of influence. Additionally, the themes of the wisdom tradition are continued (with significant changes, as wisdom and Torah become identified) in later postbiblical Jewish works, such as the Apocryphal book of the Wisdom of (Ben) Sirach, which is also known as Ecclesiasticus.

  • Previous Result
  • Results
  • Look It Up Highlight any word or phrase, then click the button to begin a new search.
  • Highlight On / Off
  • Next Result
Oxford University Press

© 2018. All Rights Reserved. Privacy policy and legal notice