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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Conclusion

The wisdom tradition has been variously described as: a humanistic outlook on life; a world view for coping with reality; a search for the underlying principles of causality and order for the purpose of conforming to them; an attempt to organize an otherwise chaotic existence. Each of these characterizations, though distinctly nuanced, highlights the primary concern of the movement. Wisdom thinking is interested in appropriate attitudes toward life and attendant behavior that will bring about happiness.

While it is true that proverbs preserve insights into life which have been gleaned from experience, each proverb depicts life only in a certain situation and under a specific set of circumstances. What is fitting in one context may be false in another. This explains why certain proverbs seem to contradict others. For instance, Prov. 10.19 , “the prudent hold their tongues,” and Prov. 10.31 , “Wisdom flows from the mouth of the righteous,” seem at the least to clash in emphasis. The wise person is not one who merely learns the teachings of the wisdom tradition and then applies them to another setting, but one who is able to decide what is appropriate in a new situation. Experience is both the originator of wisdom and the basis for criticism of its value. Wisdom is a dynamic reality. It takes seriously the tradition of the past, but is absorbed with the needs of the present, needs that may at times move believers beyond their traditional understandings. Though we may have “no comprehension of God's work from beginning to end” (Eccles. 3.11 ), still we are instructed to “Get wisdom!” (Prov. 4.5 ).

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Oxford University Press

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