Karel van der Toorn, in the accompanying article, discusses various cultural influences on the Book of Ecclesiastes. This is not a unique phenomenon: Portions of the Book of Proverbs, for example, have long been noted to mirror passages from the Instructions of Amenemope, an Egyptian work dating to the seventh or sixth century B.C.E. Written on papyrus in hieratic characters (a cursive script, more simple than hieroglyphics), the Instructions of Amenemope consists of admonitions intended to prepare young men for prosperous, upright lives. The striking similarities between it and Proverbs—particularly 22:17–24:22—have led many scholars to conclude that the latter was directly influenced by the former. The strong parallels in both vocabulary and idiom lend credence to the view that the similarities are too close to be a matter of coincidence.


Incline your ear and hear my words,
and apply your mind to my teaching.
(Proverbs 22:17)

Do not remove the ancient landmark that your ancestors set up…
Do not remove an ancient landmark or encroach on the fields of orphans.
(Proverbs 22:28, 23:10)

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.
(Proverbs 23:4–5)

Make no friends with those given to anger,
and do not associate with hotheads. (Proverbs 22:24)

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. (Proverbs 23:6–8)

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. (Proverbs 23:1–3)

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?
(Proverbs 22:20–21)

Instructions of Amenemope

Give thy ears, hear what is said,
Give thy heart to understand them.
To put them in thy heart is worth while. (Chapter 1)

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. (Chapter 6)

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. (Chapter 7)

Do not associate to thyself the heated man,
Nor visit him for conversation. (Chapter 9)

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. (Chapter 11)

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. (Chapter 23)

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. (Chapter 30)