Israel Museum

A school for wisdom? King Solomon appears to teach a class in this Hebrew manuscript’s opening of Proverbs. Some scholars speculate that the Bible’s Wisdom literature was created to instruct future courtiers and court administrators during the possible expansion of the Israelite state under David and Solomon. They point out that Proverbs 22:17–24:22 is very similar to the Egyptian Instruction of Amenomope, used to train courtiers in Egypt.

Other scholars, including Dell, are skeptical that a school context, for which there is little evidence, fully explains the milieu of Wisdom literature. They think the influence of Egyptian parallels is exaggerated, since most of the Bible’s Wisdom literature does not suggest a courtly setting but rather is about common human experience. Instead, these scholars suggest that many proverbs probably originated in a family or tribal context and may have been passed down orally for hundreds of years before they were finally written down.