Biblical Wisdom in Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes

The books of Job, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs in the Kethuvim, otherwise known as Wisdom Literature, are concerned with wisdom; what it is, how to apply it, and how it relates to the way that the world works. Slightly differing from the Prophets, wisdom literature is mostly based on experience or observation of life and of the world, which is then used to explain the way one should live. This is in contrast to being more about revelation, however, revelation is not entirely ruled out. These three books show a good example of how there can seemingly be conflicting dialogue within the Hebrew Bible, as Proverbs seems to portray a world that Job and Ecclesiastes would not so much agree with. All three, however, are wrestling with the concept of how divine providence or favor is acquired (or not acquired) in the presence of evil or seemingly unjust circumstances. The book of Proverbs supposes and portrays a very mechanical, orderly world in which there are methodical ways of living that will be rewarded with providence and prosperity. The whole of the book provides sayings and discussion on things that just people do, things that unjust people do, what matters in life, how to manage different complications in life, etc.

At the core of how all of this is done is wisdom. Having wisdom is how you have a successful family life, good relationships, act like a just person, control passions, speak eloquently, manage money properly, and have a prosperous life. This is all the result of wisdom, and for Proverbs, the way that you acquire wisdom is the fear of YHWH. Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Understanding the fact that YHWH is the divine orchestrator of all life, knowing that his word will be the final judgment, and living in constant reverence of this is the only way to have wisdom.

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And for Proverbs, wisdom means living in accordance with the way the world w…