Considering ancient Israel’s fascination with its glorious and powerful neighbor to the southwest, it is not surprising that the texts of Israelite wisdom literature were influenced, in structure and thought, by their Egyptian counterparts. For example, many passages from the Book of Proverbs, especially 22:17–24:22, seem to be paraphrased from the Instructions of Amenemope, a hieratic papyrus probably dating to between the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.E., which contains the advice of an Egyptian wise man. The striking similarities between Proverbs and Amenemope’s papyrus, which are highlighted below, occur in both vocabulary and idiom, leading some scholars to think that the latter text directly influenced the former.


Instructions of Amenemope
Incline your ear and hear my words,
and apply your mind to my teaching;
Give thy ears, hear what is said,
Give thy heart to understand them.
To put them in thy heart is worth while …
Do not remove the ancient landmark
that your ancestors set up …
Do not remove an ancient landmark
or encroach on the fields of orphans …
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 …
Do not wear yourself out to get rich;
be wise enough to desist.
When your eyes light upon it, it is gone;
for suddenly it takes wings to itself,
flying like an eagle toward heaven.
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 …
Make no friends with those given to anger,
and do not associate with hotheads …
Do not associate to thyself the heated man,
Nor visit him for conversation …
Do not eat the bread of the stingy;
do not desire their delicacies;
for like a hair in the throat, so are they …
You will vomit up the little you have eaten,
and you will waste your pleasant words.
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 …
The mouthful of bread (too) great thou swallowest and vomitest up,
And art emptied of thy good …
When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
observe carefully what is before you,
and put a knife to your throat
if you have a big appetite.
Do not desire the ruler’s delicacies,
for they are deceptive food.
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 …
Have I not written for you thirty sayings
of admonition and knowledge,
to show you what is right and true,
so that you may give a true answer to those who sent you?
See thou these thirty chapters:
They entertain; they instruct;
They are the foremost of all books;
They make the ignorant to know.
If they are read out before the ignorant,
Then he will be cleansed by them …