Wisdom: context

waterandspiritThe Spirit in Creation
22 “The LORD begot me, the first-born of his ways,
the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago;
23 From of old I was poured forth,
at the first, before the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no fountains or springs of water;
25 Before the mountains were settled into place,
before the hills, I was brought forth;
26 While as yet the earth and the fields were not made,
nor the first clods of the world.
27 “When he established the heavens I was there,
when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
28 When he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth;
29 When he set for the sea its limit,
so that the waters should not transgress his command;
30 Then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
Playing before him all the while,
31 playing on the surface of his earth;
and I found delight in the sons of men.
(Proverbs 8:22–31)

Context – An Overview of the Book of Proverbs (adapted from the Reading Guide by Rev. Donald Senior in “Catholic Study Bible”) I would typically provide some insight to the upcoming Gospel, but this passage of The Book of Proverbs is captivating and so I thought perhaps we might look at the first reading for the upcoming Trinity Sunday.

Composition. Proverbs is a compendium of collections of sayings and instructions. Many of the sayings and perhaps some instructions were composed during the era of the kings of Judah and Israel. (late eleventh to the early sixth centuries BCE). Most scholars believe the book reached final compilation and written form in the period immediately after the Exile in Babylon – when chapters 10-31 were “pulled together – and chapters 1–9 were added as the introduction. There is a verse (25:1) that suggests the materials could be traced to King Solomon and the scribes of the royal court: “These also are proverbs of Solomon. The servants of Hezekiah, king of Judah, transmitted them.” This perhaps refers to the task of compiling what seems to have its roots in the traditions of the tribes of Israel. The origin of the material, however, need not be imagined in an either/or scenario. Folk wisdom could have well be taken up and re-expressed by royal scribes. In any case Proverbs wins over readers with its compelling portrait of wisdom and inviting them to see life afresh, “wisely,” through its wit, originality, and shrewd observation.

Purpose.  The primary purpose of the book is to teach wisdom and to young and old alike: “That people may know wisdom and discipline, may understand intelligent sayings; May receive instruction in wise conduct, in what is right, just and fair; That resourcefulness may be imparted to the naive, knowledge and discretion to the young. The wise by hearing them will advance in learning, the intelligent will gain sound guidance.” (1:2-4) What is being taught is not theoretical knowledge but practical expertise. Jewelers who cut precious stones were wise; kings who made their dominion peaceful and prosperous were wise. One could be wise in daily life, too, in knowing how have a prosperous household while living a long and healthy life without trouble in God’s universe. Ultimately wisdom, or “sound guidance” (1:5), aims at the formation of Godly character.

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