For long scholars have noted that there are many similarities between the Egyptian proverbs of Amenemope; chapters III to XXII and the Words of the Wise particularly chapters 22:17 to 24:22. Although various individuals have drawn different accounts of the similarity, the general unanimity seems to be that the Words of the Wise borrows from Amenemope’s instructions. These two texts depict a concrete parallelism though not a literal copying of words. This paper examines the underlying parallelism; beginning with the specifics then analyzing it.
It is evident from the two works that they both begin by asking the reader to listen to the saying (The new oxford Annotated Bible, Pro 22:17-18; Amen III, 9-10) and assures the reader of the benefits of the readings (Pro 18-19, 21; Amen III, 11-16). Both text as also emphasize on material teaching; says no to the robbing of the poor(Amen IV, 4-5; Pro 22:22-23), advise against friendships with hotheads(Amen XI, 13-14;Pro 22:24;), prohibits the alteration of boundary demarcations(Amen VII, 12-19, VIII, 9-10; Pro 22:28, 23:10-11), guide against the greed for wealth (Amen IX, 14-X,5; Pro 23:4-5), teaches on how to behave when with kings or officials (Amen XIII, 13-18; Pro 23:1-3) and despises talking with fools(Amen XXII, 11-12; Pro 23:9 ). In examining these instances of parallelism alongside others which exist in both works, an ideological or literary dependence is drawn.
This implies that these two texts are closely related, although there are some differences which reveal that even though it may be viewed that some wisdom was parallel between the Egyptian and the Hebrew culture, the implied world view were substantially different, as they construed different understandings. The Words of the Wise instruct that the words should be treasured; “it will be with pleasure that you keep within youSo that your trust may be in the lord” (Pro 22:18-19). On the other hand, proverbs of Amenemope infer that the words should be kept within the heart in order to gain success and one will prosper upon the earth (Carr and Colleen 73). With these variations it can be drawn that the goals of the Hebrew wisdom had different targets as compared to the Egyptian wisdom.
This ideological, theological inference is also evident in other instances. The book of proverbs warns against the oppression of the poor for it displeases God. On a similar note the proverbs of Amenemope also warns against it, saying that if one does so, it is evil and will be swept by flood waters. The proverbs creates an interpretation of life, wisdom and God; stating that the beginning of knowledge if fearing God. Therefore, all texts assert that all evils are bad and if one commits; God or god will intervene. However, the proverbs have a unique mindset in that it recognizes the role of God in various aspects of life and wisdom.
In conclusion, a general exclusivism is seen to exist in the approaches to the two texts. God or the authors of the Words of the Wise use parallel ideas and common language to communicate and not categories which do not exist or rather meaningless, thus bring in relevance. The tohu vavohu (categories) which make sense to the Hebrews are used. Both the proverbs of Amenemope and the Words of the Wise shows that saying and acting truth fully, and keeping it in one’s heart is a desirable thing; however the uniqueness of the Hebrew literature is in its theological baptism.
Carr, David M. L, and Colleen M. Conway. An Introduction to the Bible: Sacred Texts and Imperial Contexts. Chichester, West Sussex, U.K: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010. Print.
Coogan, Michael D, Marc Z. Brettler, Carol A. Newsom, and Pheme Perkins. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/deuterocanonical Books: New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print