«Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise» (Proverbs 1:5, 6, NW).
A thousand years before the children of Israel became part of history, a literary genre known as sapiential, which expressed itself in poetic lines, had already developed in the ancient Near East. Sapiential literature is a poetic reflection of human experience and presents itself, in summarized form, in proverbs and aphorisms. From the third millennium B.C., various writers already participated in those kinds of activities, which took place in royal courts and temples of powerful nations along the Nile and Mesopotamia.The theme of the Bible books of Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes is mainly focused on the Hebrew concept of wisdom (hokmah), a word that refers to both the intellectual and moral traditions of ancient Israel. Hokmah can be defined as «a realistic approximation to life’s problems, including all the practical skills and technical arts of civilization»—Robert Gordis, Kohelet, New York: Schocken Books, 1968, p. 16, 17. Given that Israelite wisdom belonged to the large context of the ancient Near East, there are some parallelisms between Biblical sapiential literature and Egyptian and Mesopotamian wise men’s aphorisms.
The thing is that constantly living among these people, due to wars and the resulting dominion over them or the overwhelming influence of these cultures over their neighbors, resulted in Hebrew literature reflecting some ideas that abounded at that time, including them in their holy writings, setting them forth as their own ideas.
True knowledge can’t be isolated from the world around us, both the physical and intellectual one. Some of the greatest lessons to be learned are in nature. That’s why it’s very important to pay attention to everything it has to teach us. But there are also great reflections on human life in the records we’ve been left. That’s why wisdom is not limited to acquiring information, but also to making wise decisions that will lead life down a better road.
What’s your attitude toward knowledge? Do you look down on it and think you can do without it? Learning wisdom requires reflecting, examining ourselves and analyzing our actions. Acquiring that virtue can be the secret to success in your life.