Song of Songs
How Egyptian is the Book of Proverbs?

Or should we say, How Hebrew are the `Instructions of Amenhotep'?
Proverbs 19:19
Home Addtopics Submenu
As we have already discussed how King Saul helped Ahmose against the Hyksos/Amalekite occupiers of Egypt and how this event inclined the early kings of Egypt friendly toward Israel as can be seen by the interest Queen Hatshepsut took during the time of Solomon, to this we can add our as yet unproven but strongly suggestive identification of Senenmut with King Solomon himself. The records of Egypt bear out a great fascination of Egypt with Israel obviously because of its glorious and wealthy neighbor during the reign of Solomon until Thutmose III decided to invade the land and make its wealth his own. His records testify to an almost endless stream of goods transported to Egypt by the caravans of Thutmose III/Shishak over a period of several years. For these reasons it is not surprising that the texts of Egyptian wisdom literature were influenced, in structure and thought, by their Hebrew counterparts. For example, many passages from the `Instructions of Amenhotep', a hieratic papyrus dating between the 6th and 7th centuries BC, seem to be directly inspired by the `Book of Proverbs', especially Proverbs 22:17-24:22. Here we find the same advice given by Solomon put into the mouth of an Egyptian wise man. The striking similarities between Proverbs and Amenhotep's papyrus, which are highlighted below, occur in both vocabulary and idiom, leading us to believe that the Hebrew text directly influenced the Egyptian.

But in truth the admiration and fascination was mutual between Israel and Egypt. This would be a logical conclusion especially if the Senenmut/Solomon equation pans out. But modern historians, because of an erroneous chronology have stood up history on its head and as a result present a worldview which never existed.
Proverbs 22:17-24 The Instructions of Amenhotep
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 waiste 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 goods...
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 foods.
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.

Though arranged at a later date, there is no reason to doubt that the Book of Proverbs contains those sayings originating from Solomon. Those who argue that Solomon borrowed from the Egyptian sources do so from the viewpoint of a chronology of Egypt we show to be unreliable. The borrowing did not go from Egyptian to Hebrew but rather from Hebrew to Egyptian.

This same idea has been discussed by the French Egyptologist E. Drioton based on the lexical and syntactical peculiarities of the Egyptian version and shows some similarities to another source called The Wisdom of Ani'. [R.J.Williams, `Alleged Semitic Original of Amenemope' in JEA, Vol. 47, 1961, p. 100-106.]

The borrowing of Hebrew texts for use in Egypt is also exemplified by a rather large but only partially well preserved papyrus found to be written in Aramaic by using demotic script. This papyrus adopted Psalm 20 by changing the name for God to names of pagan gods for their own uses. [See: BAR, Vol. XI, Jan/Feb 1985, p. 20f.]

Explain the meaning of Proverbs 19:19: "A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment: for if thou deliver [him], yet thou must do it again." - - A good way is to read this scripture in another Bible version. The Good News Bible reads, "If someone has a hot temper, let him take the consequence. If you get him out of trouble once, you will have to do it again." Case closed.


Bible Topics Main Menu Submenu