Proverbs 22b-23a – The Instruction of Amenemope

Bethany Bible Church   -  

Proverbs 22:17a says, “Incline your ear, and hear the words of the
wise” (ESV).  “Wise” here is plural – the
wise ones.  This section of Proverbs
focuses on a number of wise sayings that apparently were drawn from more than
just Solomon – they were taken from “the wise ones.”

                  One of
those wise ones might’ve been a guy named Amenemope, an ancient Egyptian scribe
that lived at least 100 years before Solomon. 
Amenemope had collected 30 chapters of sayings for his son.  Since the early 1900s when the text was
published, scholars have noted a connected between Amenemope’s sayings and the
proverbs in Proverbs 22:17 – 23:11 (there are a few parallels after 23:11, but
most of the more closely-worded sayings stop there).

                  Though
scholars are divided about how much influence Amenemope had on the biblical
text, most agree that there is some evidence
of a relationship there.  Even the
translation of Scripture has been influenced by this extra-biblical text, for
in 22:20 the text reads, “Have I not written for you thirty sayings of counsel
and knowledge?”  That’s the ESV
translation.  Many others also translate
the Hebrew word here as “thirty sayings.” 
This provides an interesting link with the “30 chapters” of Amenemope’s
sayings.  There are some textual
difficulties at this point in the verse, so whether it should read “30 sayings”
or something different (e.g., “excellent things” – KJV) remains a
question.  But the majority of
translations today seem to lean towards the “30 sayings,” likely due in part to
the influence of Amenemope.

                  Either way,
the links are plentiful and intriguing. 
Below is a chart comparing the two texts.  All Scripture is from the ESV, and the
translation of Amenemope is from James B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, 421-24.

22:17 Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise,
and apply your heart to my knowledge, 18 for it will be pleasant
if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips.

3:9-11 Give thy ears,
hear what is said,
Give thy heart to understand them.
To put them in thy heart is worth while,
3:16 They shall be a
mooring-stake for thy tongue. (Ch
1)

22:19 That your trust may be in the LORD, I have made
them known to you today, even to you.

1:7 in order to
direct him to the ways of life
(Intro)

22:20 Have I not written for you thirty sayings of
counsel and knowledge,

27:7-8 See thou these
thirty chapters:
They entertain; they instruct; (Ch 30)

22:21 to make you know what is right and true, that you
may give a true answer to those who sent you?

1:5-6 To know how to
return an answer to him who said it, and to direct a report to one who has
sent him, (Intro)

22:22 Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush
the afflicted at the gate,

4:4-5 Guard thyself
against robbing the oppressed
And against overbearing the disabled. (Ch 2)

22:23 for the LORD will plead their cause and rob of life
those who rob them.

No parallel

22:24 Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor
go with a wrathful man,

11:13-14 Do not
associate to thyself the heated man,
Nor visit him for conversation.
Preserve thy tongue from answering thy superior,
And guard thyself against reviling him. (Ch 9)

22:25 lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a
snare.

13:8-9 (Ch 9) – No
translation in ANET.

22:26 Be not one of those who give pledges, who put up
security for debts. 27 If you have nothing with which to pay, why
should your bed be taken from under you?

No parallel

22:28 Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers
have set.

7:12-15 Do not carry
off the landmark at the boundaries of the arable land,
Nor disturb the position of the measuring-cord;
Be not greedy after a cubit of land,
Nor encroach upon the boundaries of a widow. (Ch 6)

22:29 Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will
stand before kings; he will not stand before obscure men.

27:16-17 As for the scribe
who is experienced in his office,
He will find himself worthy (to be) a courtier. (Ch 30)

23:1 When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe
carefully what is before you, 2 and put a knife to your throat if
you are given to appetite. 3 Do not desire his delicacies, for
they are deceptive food.

23:13-18 Do not eat
bread before a noble,
Nor lay on thy mouth at first.
If thou art satisfied with false chewings,
They are a pastime for thy spittle.
Look at the cup which is before thee,
And let it serve thy needs. (Ch 23)

23:4 Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough
to desist. 5 When your eyes light on it, it is gone, for suddenly
it sprouts wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven.

9:14 – 10:5 Do not
strain to seek an excess,
When thy needs are safe for thee.
If riches are brought to thee by robbery,
They will not spend the night with thee;
At daybreak they are not in thy house:
Their places may be seen, but they are not.
The ground has opened its mouth…
that it might swallow them up,
And might sink them into the underworld.
(Or) they have made themselves a great breach of their (own)
size
And are sunken down into the underworld.
(Or) they have made themselves wings like geese
And are flown away to the heavens. (Ch 7)

23:6 Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not
desire his delicacies, 7 for he is like one who is inwardly
calculating. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not
with you.

14:5-10 Be not greedy
for the property of a poor man,
Nor hunger for his bread.
As for the property of a poor man,
it (is) a blocking to the throat,
It makes a vomiting to
the gullet.
If he has obtained it
by false oaths,
His heart is perverted by his belly. (Ch 11)

23:8 You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten,
and waste your pleasant words.

14:17-18 The mouthful
of bread (too) great thou swallowest and vomitest up,
And art emptied of thy good. (Ch 11)

23:9 Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will
despise the good sense of your words.

22:11-12 Spread not
thy words to the common people,
Nor associate to thyself one (too) outgoing of heart. (Ch 21)

23:10 Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields
of the fatherless, 11 for their Redeemer is strong; he will plead
their cause against you.

7:12-15 Do not carry
off the landmark at the boundaries of the arable land,
Nor disturb the position of the measuring-cord;
Be not greedy after a cubit of land,
Nor encroach upon the boundaries of a widow. (Ch 6)
8:9-10 Guard against
encroaching upon the boundaries of the fields,
Lest a terror carry thee off. (Ch 6)

24:11 Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.

11:6-7 Not
represented in ANET.

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