Psalms 1 And 112 As A Paradigm For The Comparison Of Wisdom Motifs In The Psalms -- By: Marlin E. Thomas

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 29:1 (Mar 1986)
Article: Psalms 1 And 112 As A Paradigm For The Comparison Of Wisdom Motifs In The Psalms
Author: Marlin E. Thomas

Psalms 1 And 112 As A Paradigm For The Comparison
Of Wisdom Motifs In The Psalms

Marlin E. Thomas*

There is a growing awareness among scholars of the complexity of thought in the ancient Near East. Ancient man did not only act out before the gods his fondest desires for a productive and successful year, whether agriculturally or militarily or economically. Nor did he merely divine for omens in the skies above or in the organs of sacrificial animals below. From the earlist periods we have clear evidence that man put his mind to the arduous task of seeking to understand at least the social processes of life. Those insights were then later reduced to writing so that succeeding generations might learn from the experiences of the past.1

This attempt by ancient man to control his destiny by comprehending and manipulating favorably the forces of social behavior has come to be known by the genre of “wisdom literature.” Its point of departure is the accumulated result of personal experience involving many persons and spanning many generations.2 To the extent to which it distills the known results of certain actions into carefully worded observations and aphorisms, or “guidelines for life,” it may even be called scientific, if such a concept is understood in its rudimentary forms of observation, data-gathering, hypothesization and experimentation. Those who promulgated such universally-gathered bits of wisdom were called “wise men,” and in time they came to be regarded highly as teachers in the monarchical courts of many lands.3

Such “schools” of wisdom, however, did not remain the property of isolated kingdoms or dynasties. Wisdom literature has been recovered from Egypt and Mesopotamia4 in addition to that which has been preserved for us in the inspired Hebrew Scriptures. Moreover, the visit of the Queen of Sheba to Solomon in 1 Kgs 10:1–2 (cf. also 4:34) offers a glimpse into the truly international character of wisdom. Studies focusing on the similarities between Prov 22:17

*Marlin Thomas is pastor of First Christian Church in Waukegan, Illinois.

24:22 and “The Instruction of King Amen-em-opet”5 have sought to determine whether one was dependent on the other with less than definitive results, further...

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