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RELS 101.20 Crash Course OT Wisdom and Primer on Proverbs

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Andrew Perrin

on 15 November 2017

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Transcript of RELS 101.20 Crash Course OT Wisdom and Primer on Proverbs

Introduction to Old Testament Studies
Trinity Western University

A Crash Course in Old Testament Wisdom and a Primer on Proverbs
Illumination of Solomon covered in wisdom and wealth, from Persian epic poem "The Shahnameh" or "The Persian Book of Kings" (17th cent. CE manuscript).
Pillage Twitter for Wisdom:
"Don't knock it til' you've tried it."
"Your damned if you do, you're damned if you don't."
"Anybody can buy anything."
"Books are your best friends."

what characterizes old testament wisdom?
General Characteristics of OT Wisdom
Comprised of "aphorisms:" pithy sayings embodying general truths through observation and experience
It is assertive (i.e., "this is the way things are!") and admonitory (i.e., "therefore, you should live this way!")
It is frequently self-explanatory
Often presented in "nuggets" of wisdom that are short, concise, and memorable
Typically involves play on words, comparisons, paradoxes, metaphors, or juxtaposition
"You can sleep when you're dead!"
a few wisdom sayings in my family heritage
It is
A hallmark of Hebrew poetry is parallelism; when two lines are paired and express a common idea through paired perspectives, terms, or images.
"The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
but the perverse tongue will be cut off."
Prov 10:11
(1) "Folk" sayings that speak common truths about nature or social dynamics, often cast in context of parent-child instruction. These are often insights torn from the pages of real life experience.
"The lazy person does not plow in season; harvest comes, and there is nothing to be found"
Prov 20:4
"Hear, my child, your father's instruction, and do not reject your mother's teaching."
Prov 1:8
Armenian Bible opened to book of Proverbs (Venice, 1733).
(2) Royal sayings: advice and insight that applies to or originated in political contexts of the royal court.
Prov 1:1
"The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel."
Prov 11:14
"Where there is no guidance, a nation falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety."
"Do not put yourself forward in the king's presence or stand in the place of the great; for it is better to be told, 'Come up here,' than to be put lower in the presence of a noble."
Prov: 25:6-7
In the Old Testament, as in other ancient Near Eastern cultures, wisdom says were increasingly
associated or attributed to kings
This is similar to how Moses became a magnet for Penteuchal traditions.

"God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt."
1 Kings 4:29-30
Prov 25:1
"These are other proverbs of Solomon that the officials of King Hezekiah of Judah copied"
Prov 31:1
"The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him."
As a result, much of the OT wisdom literature portrays Israelite kings (esp. David & Solomon) as speaking into central spheres of everyday life, politics, and religion.
Eccl 3:18-20
Song of Solomon 7:6-8
Prov 13:24
(3) Theological: wisdom literature provides a space for deep reflection and challenge on issues that touch at the heart of the human-divine relationship, like:
How do we know God?
Where is God?
Why is there suffering?
Is God there in the highs and lows?
Are my prayers being heard?
Why are the wicked prospering?
Is God just?

Prov 25:3"It is the glory of God
to conceal things
, but the glory of kings
to search things out."
How to we situate the OT wisdom literature in the ancient world
the Bible?
The genius of wisdom is that it is not out of reach, but observable, experiential, and attainable in the natural world around us/them (i.e., possible for non-Israelites to recognize wisdom/truth that is woven into the fabric of the natural world).
The OT does not claim to have a monopoly on wisdom.
The OT wisdom tradition, however, qualifies that true/full wisdom is only possible when general truths are viewed through the interpretive lens of the character and promises of God.
The Queen of Sheba hears of Solomon's renown wisdom and pays him a visit and offers lavish gifts (1 Kings 10). Even a pagan Queen knows wisdom when she sees it.
An imaginative and playful LEGO scene blending the spirit of 1 Kings 10:3 with an outlook on existence from Eccl 9:2-3, 5-6.
Prov 9:10
Find at least one wise saying on Twitter, jot it down, and be prepared to share it with the class and explain briefly what "wisdom" it offers.
Church signs: the original Twitter.
Full transcript