Proverbial Wisdom


We are now well into our study of Proverbs. This seems like a good time to take stock. Accordingly, this short essay isn’t really on the subject of this week’s lesson: instead, it’s a reflection on the point of studying Proverbs, or the genre of “wisdom literature” at all. (Wisdom literature is the term Biblical scholars use for Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.) Does a collection of aphorisms from the late Bronze/early Iron Age have anything to offer spiritually and theologically to people living in the post-Industrial Revolution, post-Information Revolution, 21st-century world? I’m going to suggest that the answer is “Yes”, but that we have to understand what we’re dealing with.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I had the good fortune to serve in several leadership capacities. Thus, I found the essence of leadership in the wisdom literature. I acted upon a five point Credo.

  1. listen intently
  2. Confirm thoroughly
  3. review all options objectively
  4. inform completely
  5. Act derisively with compassion and Grace.

year later my son at check out at a book store was asked, are you by chance the son of Dr. Tom Zwemer. my son acknowledged the relationship. the clerk said. I was a staff member at MCG. the word was, your dad was one man at the top you could trust. I liked that. Thank you Solomon and dad. Tom Z


Thank you for summarizing the enlightening information from Adventist history. There are some surprises indeed. Thank you also for bringing some much needed perspective to the book of proverb as being neither descriptive nor prescriptive … but poetry.
Indeed, if you read several different translations - especially poetic ones (in Germany Buber’s translation is particularly poetic), reading the book can become pleasurable rather than just “informative” or “instructive”. Yet I wonder whether I agree wholeheartedly with all the suggestions of the author. Surely Proverbs is not “descriptive” - at least not in a generalizable way. As Norman Loman points out we could give many examples that go contrary to the experience of the authors of the book. But shouldn’t the wisdom sentences be seen as prescriptive therefore? Or is the expression of emotion in poetry to be pondered experientially? (Is Proverbs all that “emotional” - compared for instance to the psalms?) If wisdom literature is not prescriptive - is it just to “entertain” (there is a double meaning to that word in English, I believe)?
Norman Loman is raising quite a few questions in me - and they are not meant to be rhetorical ones - because I don’t have answers to them. Not yet. It is an invitation to “think for yourself” to “think critically” (Prov. 14:15 ) … Well done. Thank you.

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Yes, the contributors to Proverbs have delivered up delectable offerings [in their entertaining].