Proverbs and Wisdom
The word of God came to the people of Israel in different ways. We have already dealt with the origin of the prophetic and historical books: they arose from the prophets’ preaching and from the reflection of religious circles on the history of Israel.
However, other believers preferred to meditate on human behavior, the vicissitudes of life, the different fortunes of those who are irresponsible and those who control their desires. In particular, they wanted to understand God’s justice in this world.
The wisdom of people of all times has developed around these themes. We hear about Chinese wisdom, Hindu wisdom… Yet, the wisdom of the Middle East may have come first. There had been an abundance of wisdom writings for almost thirty centuries before Christ both in Egypt and Mesopotamia (as we know, Palestine is between the borders of these two countries).
The Jewish people were profoundly marked by this wisdom which shines through almost all the parables and’“sayings” of Jesus who was formed at that school.
This literature, what the religious community has preserved and accepted, is no less the word of God than the prophetic books. Even if, at times, this wisdom seems a bit pedestrian and utilitarian, it does attest to many convictions of the Jewish and the Christian faiths, namely, as human beings, we are responsible for our actions; experience is a teacher of truth and it is the touchstone of what sages have declared; God created the world and he reveals himself in his creation. Finally, our wisdom has its limits and beyond that, we can only put our trust in the justice and the providence of God.
The greater part of the Book of Proverbs is very old (chapters 10–31). The first section (chapters 1–9), however, is much more recent, around the second century before Christ. There we find a meditation on the Wisdom of God, from which all human wisdom proceeds. The height of this contemplation on divine Wisdom is found in the famous eighth chapter.
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