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[Pre-publication version: Kynes, Will.

Wisdom Defined through Narrative and Intertextual

Network: 1 Kings 111 and Proverbs. In Reading Proverbs Intertextually. Edited by Katharine

Dell and Will Kynes. LHBOTS. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, forthcoming 2018.]

Wisdom Defined through Narrative and Intertextual Network

1 Kings 111 and Proverbs

Will Kynes

Never neglect the charms of narrative for the human heart. (Davies 1996, 75)

The perceived dissonance between the depiction of Solomon in 1 Kings 111 and the wisdom

attributed to him in Proverbs has long been a source of scholarly discomfort. At the turn of the

nineteenth century, for example, Georg Laurenz Bauer (1801) struggled to reconcile the

enlightened and right way Solomon speaks of God in his writings with his behavior in the

historical books, where he worships only a national God in Jehovah. He concluded, It is

undeniable that the historical books follow more the general principles of popular religion than

the concepts that wiser and more talented Israelites acquired through reflection and scholarly

education (152; trans. Schwb 2013, 21). More recently, Brevard Childs (1979, 552), even

while pursuing his canonical approach, was unwilling to acknowledge that the Solomonic

superscription of Proverbs connected the book with anything more than the sapiential material

in Kings, lest the uniqueness of the sapiential witness be merged with more dominant biblical

themes through Solomons participation in Israels sacred history. Walther Zimmerli (1964

[1963], 147) also acknowledged that the report of the divine gift of wisdom to the king of Gods

covenant people (1 Kings 3:14-15) might well lead one to deduce a relationship between history

and Wisdom Literature. And yet, he argued, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes make no attempt to

incorporate this way of thinking. In his commitment to this separation, he even argued that

though both books speak of the king, this king is never the anointed king of Gods people Israel

and the son of David, who received Gods special promise, despite the fact that Solomon is

explicitly identified in Prov 1:1; 10:1; 25:1 and strongly implied in Eccl 1:1, 12.

In fact, Proverbs and 1 Kings 111 are not only intertwined by the figure of Solomon but

also by the concept of wisdom. If mention of the word wisdom ( and its derivatives),

which appears 21 times, or interest in the topic are the main criteria for the category, then 1

Kings 111 should be chief among the Wisdom texts (Whybray 1974, 91; Lemaire 1995, 1067).

Some, such as R. B. Y. Scott (1960, 26971), have recognized that there are several types of

wisdom in the Solomonic account: wisdom for skillful and successful rule (1 Kgs 2:1-2, 5-9;

5:15-26 [ET 5:1-12]), wisdom as discernment to render true justice (3:4-15, 16-28), and

Solomons superior knowledge and intellect (1 Kgs 5:9-14 [ET 4:29-34]; 10:1-10, 13, 23-24).

However, most, like Childs, have followed Scotts conclusion that only the latter, intellectual

aspect of wisdom connects the king to the Wisdom Literature.

A modern definition of Wisdom Literature as enlightened, universalistic, scholarly

reflection, distinct from Israels history and cult, has been projected back onto the description of

Solomon in Kings, sundering most of it from the Solomon of Proverbs and the wisdom attributed

to him there. In this essay, I will reverse this hermeneutic, instead reading Proverbs according to

the definition of wisdom 1 Kings 111 provides. In the past, interpreters have ignored, excluded,

or denigrated several of the features of wisdom mentioned in 1 Kings, employing a definition of

wisdom that Katharine Dell (2010, 3536) argues is too narrow. Instead, this reading will use

those features to uncover a broader definition of wisdom in Proverbs, recognizing that it, as Dell

writes, is not a monochrome concept but has different manifestations. Indeed, given the

numerous connections between them, it is hard to imagine ancient readers interpreting these two

texts independently of each other (Camp 2000, 150).

Intertextual Method

1 Kings 111 does not provide a succinct dictionary definition of wisdom. Instead, the account

depicts the terms semantic range, including its antonyms (1 Kings 11:1-8) in a narrative.

Norman Whybray (1968, 72) notes the long-recognized pedagogical power of narrative to grip

imagination and conscience evidenced in parables and fables from both Israel and the broader

ancient Near East. He writes, A vivid account of the life of specific persons, embellished with

circumstantial detail, is a hundred times more effective as a means of persuasion then a brief,

bare statement of fact or principle, whether to sell a commercial product or to teach a moral or

religious lesson. He argues that the records of political intrigue in the Succession Narrative (2

Samuel 920; 1 Kings 12) result from a deliberate effort to illustrate specific proverbial

teaching for school pupils (95). Solomons execution of his political rivals in 1 Kings 2, for

example, demonstrates the royal wisdom of Proverbs 20:26: A wise king winnows the

wicked, and drives the wheel over them (90).

Whybray is not alone in considering narrative a means of inculcating wisdom, whether

that is the Joseph Narrative (von Rad 1953), the edifying stories of Jonah, Ruth, and Esther

(Wolff 1973 [1970], 12023), the exemplification of the difference between wisdom and folly

through Abigail and Nabal, Joseph and Potiphars wife, and Tamar and Judah (Sneed 2011, 70),

or Abraham as the parent idal according to the proverbial model (Ska 2014). In this volume,

Dell argues the literary interplay between the book of Ruth and maxims from Proverbs is an

instance of didactic intertextuality. As James Kugel (2001, 22) writes, In the world of the

ancient sage, a story had always been an excellent way of teaching people proper conduct, and

such later wisdom narratives as Tobit or Susannah attest to the durability of this genre. Indeed,

even Proverbs stern warning against adultery (or foreign wisdom) is introduced sub specie


Rather than the widely debated historical value of the depiction of Solomon in 1 Kings 1

11 (e.g., Crenshaw 2010, 4250; Dell 2010), therefore, I will pursue its commonly overlooked

hermeneutical significance. This material may be late and legendary, as James Crenshaw argues,

but even he acknowledges that the Solomonic connection must tell us something about how

wisdom was understood. Without specifying a precise date for these legends, he claims that

Solomon exemplifies the success that wisdom promises (50). To this end, the other types of

wisdom Scott recognizes in the text deserve more attention. He also observes that the

Deuteronomist glorifies Solomon as builder of the Temple, which the text presents as a further

expression of wisdom.1 The text incorporates prophetic elements as well (see below). Just as

Proverbs superscription invites the book to be read according to the wisdom attributed to

Solomon in 1 Kings, so the variegated presentation of wisdom in that account draws other texts

across the canon into the interpretation of Proverbs. This expands the intertextual network in

which the book and its concept of wisdom are understood beyond the boundaries of Wisdom

Taking all the references to wisdom in the Bible into account, including those in 1 Kings,
Stphanie Anthonioz (2016, 56) creates a similar list of types of sapiential knowledge: building
and manufacturing (including of the tabernacle and temple), governance, and scribal concerns
about writing, singing, or praying.

Literature.2 Though Proverbs certainly shares a number of features with the books in that

category, a comparison with 1 Kings 111 reveals that the book also has significant verbal,

formal, and thematic similarities with other groups of texts.

When making this intertextual comparison, I am not attempting to reconstruct a particular

diachronic relationship between the two texts. I aim instead to demonstrate that wisdom has a

similar semantic range in both, which illuminates how wisdom was understood in ancient Israel

however the texts are historically related. I am also not attempting to argue that 1 Kings 111

should be considered Wisdom Literature or its content the result of Wisdom influence. Both

these concepts encourage precisely the type of overly strict divisions between texts and traditions

that this essay aims to overcome.3 Similarly, I am not arguing that Proverbs should be classified

in these other categories of texts with which it shares these affinities. Proverbs is not historical

narrative, law, liturgy, or prophecy, but its affinities with texts commonly categorized as such

create alternative textual groupings around the various definitions of wisdom in 1 Kings that cut

across these classificatory barriers, as previous scholarly work noting such cross-category

connections has demonstrated.

Political Education

The first definition of wisdom in 1 Kings 111 is education for good governance. Solomon

receives his wisdom in 1 Kings 3 after asking, Give your servant therefore an understanding

mind to govern your people (1 Kings 3:9). Even so, Crenshaw (2010, 44) declares that the

For a developed intertextual network approach to the so-called Wisdom texts, see Kynes
3 For more on the weaknesses of the Wisdom Literature category, see Sneed 2011; Kynes

putative wisdom language [in 1 Kgs 3:4-15] belongs to royal ceremony, and Scott (1960, 270)

claims that this political type of wisdom has nothing to do with the making of proverbs.

However, those who argue significant sections of Proverbs, such as chs. 2829 (Malchow 1985),

if not the entire composition, commonly deal with the topic, were produced in a court setting,

and were intended primarily to train courtiers would disagree with the disjunction Crenshaw and

Scott create between the proverbial and the political (e.g., McKane 1970; Ansberry 2010).

Passages such as Prov 4:7-9; 8:14-16, 23 reflect the common ancient Near Eastern conviction

that wisdom was required in quite a special way by those who were charged with the duty of

government (Porteous 1960, 25354; cf. von Rad 1993 [1970], 1516; Ansberry 2010, 1135).

Whybrays work on the Succession Narrative groups Proverbs with the Succession

Narrative according to their common interest in wise government. The mention of Solomons

wisdom 1 Kgs 2:6, 9 bridges the artificial boundary between this narrative and the account of

his wise reign beginning in 1 Kings 3 (Gordon 1995, 104). Though it must be acknowledged

that the presentation of wisdom in these historical texts is somewhat ambiguous and even

divided (Gordon 1995, 98), the same could be said of Job and Ecclesiastes. Like the Wisdom

Literature corpus, which incorporates a wide variety of smaller genres, interest in a common

theme, in this case political training, ties these texts together, not formal similarity. Reading

Proverbs in this group of texts reveals the importance of that political theme in the book and

invites connections to other political texts, such as Genesis 23, the Joseph Narrative, the

Succession Narrative, Solomons Reign, the prophetic critique of the royal counselors in Isaiah

and Jeremiah,4 and Ezekiels criticism of the king of Tyre (Ezek 28:1-19) form a group of texts

4 See Inspired Instruction below.

(though not a formal literary classification), which Maurice Gilbert (2003, 17) argues dispute a

certain conception of power, which pretends to be wise without actually practicing the teaching

of the Wisdom sages. In 1 Kings 311, for example, Gilbert claims that even the wisdom of

Solomon fails because of his political and religious extravagances. Whether or not a separate

class of sages were responsible for teaching wisdom, Gilbert rightly observes that just political

power was a crucial application of the concept.

Ethical Paraenesis

Secondly, 1 Kings 111 defines wisdom as ethical paraenesis. When Solomon asks for skill in

governance, he requests forensic wisdom, the ability to discern between good and evil (1

Kings 3:9). The text puts this discernment in the context of the law. His dream ends with the

divine proclamation, If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments,

as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life (1 Kgs 3:14) (see Weinfeld 1972,

257). The broader account is widely considered to have a strong Deuteronomic cast, thereby

creating a textual conversation between wisdom and Torah (Camp 2000, 147). When Solomon

defies the law in 1 Kings 911, his wisdom becomes folly, which suggests that efficacious

wisdom must be subservient to the Law, at least as presented in Deuteronomy (Parker 1992).

Solomons behavior in Kings therefore violates the wisdom attributed to him in Proverbs 3:7;

wise in his own eyes, he fails to fear the Lord and turn away from evil.

While Deuteronomy equates wisdom with observance of the commandments (Deut 4:6),

the broader context of these words in Proverbs 3 identifies wisdom, in effect, with observing the

law (Blenkinsopp 1995, 156). Deuteronomy reverberates throughout Proverbs 3, in the emphasis

on choosing life (3:8; cf. Deut 4:40; 5:16; 11:9, 21), the mention of offering first fruits (3:9; cf.

Deut 14:22-29; 26:1-2), and allusions to the Shema (e.g., Prov 3:3, 5; Deut 6:4-9) (see Overland

2000, 440; Anthonioz 2016, 4546), which recur in Prov 6:20-24 and 7:1-5 (Dell 2006, 17076;

Schipper 2013). These features contribute to the widespread Deuteronomic flavor of Prov 19

(Delitzsch 1873, 29), in which instruction may even refer to Deuteronomy itself (Weeks 2007,

103, 126, 172). Collectively, these allusions equate parental instruction with the will of YHWH

and continue the parental transmission of the law initiated by Deuteronomy (see Prov 3:12; Deut

8:5; Brown 2005, 27278; Weeks 2007, 1023; Schipper 2013, 60). Further echoes of

Deuteronomy also ring out across the rest of Proverbs. These include common references to the

falsification of weights (Deut 25:13-16; cf. Prov 11:1; 20:23), moving property boundaries (Deut

19:14; cf. Prov 22:28; 23:10), treatment of slaves (Deut 23:16; cf. Prov 30:10), partiality in

judgment (Deut 1:17; cf. Prov 24:23), and pursuit of righteousness (Deut 16:20; cf. Prov 21:21;

see Weinfeld 1972, 26574; Brown 2005, 26872; Dell 2006, 17678; Fox 2009, 95152). The

repeated references to torah in 28:4-9 suggest a broader Deuteronomic background to the

Hezekian collection (Prov 25:129:27; Brown 2005, 26872), and allusions to Deuteronomy also

appear in the Words of Agur in Proverbs 30 (e.g., Prov 30:6; cf. Deut 4:2; 13:1 ET 12:32; Fox

2009, 95657; Saur 2014, 579).

The resonance between Proverbs and texts in the Torah is broader than potential allusions

to Deuteronomy, though. Law and Wisdom share similar ethical obligations (Scott 1961, 4),

including a common concern for the welfare of society in general (Gerstenberger 1965, 49). This

shared content is matched with formal similarities (though not complete identification) both

between the casuistic case law and popular proverbial sayings, and between apodictic

commandments and sapiential instruction (Weeks 2010, 138; see also Blenkinsopp 1995, 92,

151). Whether or not this congruence in form and content means a common background for

wisdom maxims and legal commandments can no longer be denied (Gerstenberger 1965, 50), it

certainly legitimates reading Proverbs together with legal texts such as Deuteronomy in a

common literary grouping. Appropriately, then, a recent move toward reading the Law as ethical

paraenesis has drawn it closer to the Wisdom Literature (Barton 2014, 2122). Along these lines,

John Gammie (1990, 66, 51) argues the entirety of the books of Deuteronomy, Proverbs and

Sirach may be assigned without any hesitation to the genre Paraenetic Literature, given their

pervasive use of paraenesis, a form of address which not only commends, but actually

enumerates precepts or maxims which pertain to moral aspiration and the regulation of human

conduct (emphasis original). For Gammie, Proverbs has a closer generic affiliation to these

other Paraenetic texts than the rest of the Wisdom Literature, which he places in a different sub-

division of Reflective Essays. Gammies proposed genre highlights a significant affinity

between Proverbs and legal texts, though it is only one of many ways texts could be grouped in

the Hebrew Bible.

Cultic Guidance

Providing a third definition of wisdom as cultic fidelity, 1 Kings associates the concept with the

building of the temple by presenting Solomon as the wise master-builder of Gods house

(Gordon 1995, 100). Hiram, king of Tyre, responds to Solomons plan to build a house for the

Lord by praising his wisdom (1 Kgs 5:7), and Hiram, the Tyrian craftsman, is filled with wisdom

for the task of doing the building (1 Kgs 7:14). Chronicles accentuates this cultic characterization

of Solomons wisdom (e.g., 2 Chron 2:12; see Abadie 2008, 34850).

This accords with the broader sapiential significance of architecture indicated by the

close parallels between the descriptions of YHWHs foundation and filling of the earth (Prov

3:19-20), the building and stocking of a house (Prov 24:3-4), Hirams construction of the temple

(1 Kgs 7:13-14), and Bezalels crafting of the tabernacle (Exod 31:1-3; Van Leeuwen 2010). All

these passages include the parallel terms wisdom (), skill (), and knowledge

( )in the same order in similar architectural contexts. Raymond Van Leeuwen argues that in

the wider ancient Near Eastern conception of wisdom, all these types of construction were

considered of a piece, interlocked like Russian dolls. The Western separation of theoretical and

practical wisdom, which contributes to the scholarly distinction between Wisdom Literature and

the historical traditions of Israel, he argues, has fragmented this integrated presentation of reality

and action grounded in a creation suffused with the wisdom of God (41819). Zoltan Schwb

(2013, 190) takes this argument a step further, and claims that the book of Proverbs as a whole

understands wise living as living in a temple. He argues the temple-universe-wisdom topos

found throughout the ancient Near East and across the Bible, from Genesis 1 onward, combined

with the close connections between Proverbs and 1 Kings 111, suggest the temple is the

hermeneutical key for Proverbs (202). Read together in the canon, the two texts suggest,

living wisely is like building a temple (205).5

Schwb (2013, 2058) draws on similarities between Proverbs and a number of psalms to

support his cultic interpretation of Proverbs.6 Psalm 15, his prime example, is generally not

considered a wisdom psalm, likely because it appears to be a cultic entrance liturgy. However,

the qualifications it requires for the one who may abide in YHWHs tent and dwell on his holy

hill (v. 1) are all ethical behaviors endorsed by Proverbs. These include walking blamelessly

Similarly, Claudia Camp (2000, 183) speaks of a shift in Proverbs to the temple as the book
that, in turn, is Wisdoms house (emphasis original).
Dell (2006, 18185) likewise notes a broad range of connections between Proverbs and the
Psalms and takes the existence of wisdom psalms as [p]erhaps the most compelling evidence

( ; Ps 15:2; Prov 28:18) and not doing harm ( )to ones neighbor (( )Ps 15:5;

Prov 3:29), both phrases uniquely used in these pairs of passages. According to Schwb,

therefore, as Proverbs advocates temple-worthy behavior, it sanctifies secular, everyday life,

transforming it into liturgy, such that [m]aking wise decisions becomes worship of Yahweh


Given the books use of the language of the priestly world, such as

(abomination; 7:15; 20:10), divine ( pleasure; 11:1, 20; 12:22), and ( clean; 15:26)

(Zimmerli 1964 [1963], 154), and the references to a range of cultic practices in Proverbs,

including sacrifice (15:8; 21:3; 21:27), prayer (15:29; 28:9), vows (20:25; 31:2), sacred lots

(16:33), feasts (17:1), and the offering of first fruits (3:9-10), one might also argue that in

Proverbs properly worshipping Yahweh becomes a wise decision.7 Solomons extended prayer

(1 Kings 8:2253), his extravagant sacrifices (1 Kings 8:63), and the judgment levied against his

idolatry (1 Kings 11:11) in the narrative suggest the same. Comparing these texts indicates

wisdom and worship, creation and cult are more intertwined than modern conceptions of

Wisdom Literature may lead one to believe.

Inspired Instruction

Finally, 1 Kings 111 defines wisdom as inspired instruction. Though Solomons dream at

Gibeon may have been originally intended to give temple-building instructions, as it now stands,

it resonates with a prophetic call (1 Kgs 3:7; cf. Jer 1:5-6; Weinfeld 1972, 252). Moreover,

of mutual influence between sapiential and cultic traditions.
See Perdue 1977, 14546, 15565; Brown 2005, 26263; Dell 2006, 17880. Perdue (1977,
160) claims, The wise were quite aware of cultic theology and were in accord with it, to which
Brown (2005, 263) adds that the sages drew from cultic legislation and actively endorsed cultic

Solomons prayer at the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:22-53) is prophetic in its

presentation of history (Ben Zvi 2013, 86). Early Jewish and Christian interpreters frequently

referred to Solomon as a prophet, which, Gerald Sheppard (2000, 389) argues, confirms his

appointment by God to write and to testify, like Moses (cf. Deut. 31:24-30).

Through its attribution to this Solomon, who received his wisdom from God (1 Kgs

3:12), the book of Proverbs claims for itself an authority that comes not from human reason, but

divine inspiration (Sneed 2015, 25455). As Prov 2:6 declares, The LORD gives wisdom; from

his mouth come knowledge and understanding (cf. 21:30). While affirming that true wisdom

comes from God, Proverbs, like the prophets, is skeptical of autonomous human insight (Prov

3:5-7; 9:10; 15:33; cf. Isa 11:2-4; 33:5-6; Jer 8:8-9; Whedbee 1971, 126; Van Leeuwen 1990,

300, 306). This means the sages cannot be distinguished from the prophets by the formers

reliance purely on human reason (contra Rylaarsdam 1946, 7072; Gilbert 2003, 14). In fact, this

concern with establishing Proverbs divine backing (contra Crenshaw 2010, 13) is consistent

with ancient Near Eastern texts before Proverbs,8 later texts associated with Wisdom, such as

Ben Sira (1:1-10), which draws a parallel between prophecy and wise instruction (24:33; cf.

39:6; Blenkinsopp 1995, 16364), and rabbinic interpretation.9 The suspiciously modern

separation of secular from theological thought, even if applied only to the earliest strata of

Proverbs, would leave it radically distinct from this broader Wisdom tradition (Bostrm 1990,

36; see also Weeks 2010, 115).

participation (emphasis original).
The father in the Egyptian instruction Ptahhotep, for example, describes his teaching as the
transmission across generations of a body of knowledge taught by the gods (Weeks 2016, 15).
Midrash Proverbs identifies my instruction (torah) and my words in Proverbs with divine
speech (Fox 2009, 948) and b. Baba Bathra 12a declares that prophecy has been transferred from
the prophets to the sages (Blenkinsopp 1995, 159).

Though the Solomon to whom Proverbs is attributed may be a divinely called and

inspired prophetic figure and the book may oppose autonomous human wisdom like the

prophetic books, Proverbs lacks explicit verbal revelation (Fox 2009, 950). Proverbs never

declares, Thus says the Lord. Lady Wisdom, however, does cry out as a bearer of revelation

(Offenbarungstrger) (von Rad 1993 [1970], 163). The extensive prophetic portrayal of this

figure (Dell 2006, 161), both in Proverbs 8 and 1:20-33, where words from Jeremiah 7 and 20

are recontextualized (Harris 1995, 95), conveys the authors intent to enhance the authority of

their teaching through presenting it prophetically (Blenkinsopp 1995, 15859). Wisdom, as they

present her, takes on the mantel of the prophetess and the authority that goes with it (Baumann

1996, 289).

Whether the focus is on how Proverbs provides a practical outworking of prophetic

instruction, as was often the case before the 1930s (Schwb 2013, 14, 30), or on potential

Wisdom influence on the prophets, as has tended to be the case since (Whybray 1982, 195),

the similarities between Proverbs and the prophets are notable. In addition to their shared

conviction that true wisdom comes from God, Proverbs also shares with the prophetic books a

similar range of ethical concerns, including care for the poor (e.g., Prov 14:21, 31; 29:7; cf.

Amos 5:11-12; Jer 5:28; Isa 10:2) and the dangers of drunkenness (e.g., Prov 23:29-35; cf. Isa

5:11-13; Delkurt 1993, 8892, 11422). Like the prophets, Proverbs intertwines religion and

morality by repeatedly critiquing cold cultic practices separated from such ethical behavior

(Prov 15:8, 29; 17:1; 21:3, 27; 28:9; cf. Amos 4:4-5; 5:4-7, 10, 21-27; Hos 6:6; Isa 1:10-17; Jer

7; Murphy 1998, 274; Ernst 1994). This unity of piety and morality is evident in Proverbs

emphasis on righteousness, which it communicates by pairing ( righteousness) along with

( justice), key terms in the prophetic corpus, with wisdom, instruction, and

understanding in its programmatic opening verses (Prov 1:2-4; Dell 2006, 162; see also Steiert

1990, 12930; cf. 8595; Lyu 2012).10 Warnings against the strange woman in Proverbs 19

bring to mind the prominent prophetic use of adultery as a metaphor for idolatry, indicating this

image may be intended to enjoin both marital and religious fidelity (cf. 1 Kings 11:1-8; Perdue

1977, 15455; Blenkinsopp 1995, 159; Camp 2000, 42). Further, Proverbs shares with the

prophets an emphasis on retribution (e.g., Isa 24), even individual retribution (Ezek 18; Jer

31:29-30; Rylaarsdam 1946, 56; Bostrm 1990, 15354), order (e.g., Prov 30:2123; cf. Isa 3:1-

2; 5:8-10, 20; 29:15-16; Barton 2014, 95, 11516), and the internalization of the Law (Prov 2:10;

cf. Jer 31:33-34; Ezek 11:19-20; 36:26-27; Weeks 2007, 112). Finally, the pronounced prophetic

aspects of the Words of Agur (30:1-9), including its prophetic superscription (cf. Jer 1:1; Amos

1:1) and designation as a ( oracle; cf. Nah 1:1; Hab 1:1; Zech 9:1; 12:1; Mal 1:1), suggest

a theological convergence between prophetic and sapiential circles (Saur 2014, 57374).

Proverbs could be characterized along with the prophetic texts in the Hebrew Bible as

divinely inspired instruction for righteous living. Proverbs itself acknowledges that prophecy

provides important restraint on behavior (Prov 29:18). If passages such as Prov 11:4 (Riches

do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death) or Prov 21:3 (To do

righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice) sound like they could

be uttered by the prophets, and other passages such as Prov 3:7 (Do not be wise in your own

eyes) actually are (Isa 5:21), then further literary and theological connections between the texts

are worth pursuing, whether or not historical influence can be demonstrated.

William McKane (1970, 265) attributes this language to his proposed prophetic
reinterpretation of old wisdom (cf. 1022).


According to the reigning consensus, Proverbs is Wisdom Literature. And yet, Proverbs does not

merely invite comparison with Ecclesiastes and Job, but political, legal, cultic, and prophetic

texts as well. Stuart Weeks (2007, 174), for example, argues that Proverbs 19 participates in a

broader Persian and early Hellenistic Jewish milieu, in which Deuteronomy associates wisdom

with law (Deut 4:6), Isaiah connects it to the knowledge and fear of YHWH (Isa 11:2; 33:6), and

Jeremiah sets it in the context of divine creation (Jer 10:12; 51:15). Understanding Proverbs and

the wisdom it seeks to communicate through such connections shines new light on both so that

facets obscured by the Wisdom Literature category can sparkle again.

Form criticism, with its emphasis on pairing each literary genre with a specific historical

Sitz im Leben, has reinforced the rigidity of approaches to genre in biblical studies (Newsom

2005, 43739). However, given the diversity of genres already included in the Wisdom category,

such as proverb, dialogue, and fictional autobiography, refusing to group Proverbs with other

texts due to formal differences would be special pleading. The categorys formal diversity

indicates its ultimately thematic foundation, which invites other thematic comparisons like those

briefly explored above. Further, since the concerns of a purported class of ancient sages are

derived from the contents of the category, using those commitments to exclude further texts

would be circular (see Van Leeuwen 2003, 73). The Solomonic attribution invites Proverbs into

the complex intertextual network represented in the description of the wise king in 1 Kings,

which provides a definition of wisdom in which politics and prophecy, intellect and piety, the

secular and the sacred intersect. As interpreters have noted some of these features in Proverbs,

they have pointed to the potential of reading the book in multiple intertextual groupings rather

than only as Wisdom. They have also demonstrated the variegated nature of Proverbs and the

wisdom it describes. The compilers of 1 Kings 111 were a step ahead of them.


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