Thursday, February 12, 2015

A COMPARISON OF WISDOM LITERATURE: AMEN-EM-OPET AND PROVERBS

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Structural and Thematic Parallels to Proverbs 1-9

First, Proverbs 1-9 and Amen-em-opet both have what would be considered long introductions.  They both have titles in the introduction. For example, Proverbs 1:1 states, “The proverbs of Solomon, Son of David, King of Israel:” (ESV). This first verse clearly states who the author is followed by two titles one as being the song of David, and the King of Israel.  The parallels in Amen-em-opet are a bit longer. It states,
[M]ade by the Overseer of the Grains [and PROVIDER] of foods … The triumphant one of akhimim, possessor of a tomb on the west of Panopolis, possessor of a grave in Abydos, Amen-em-Opet, the Son of Ka-nakht, the triumphant one of Abydos…(ANET,421).[1]

This is just a portion of the introduction’s title. Like Solomon, it gives Amen-em-opet’s title along with his predecessors. It is important to note that since King David was the most powerful emperor/king of Israel and Solomon the second most powerful; there was no reason for them to have a long list of predecessors. Moreover, Saul was more of a nomadic king; Solomon and David were probably the only two real kings of united Israel that we were not failures.
            Second, the prologs also have a thematic link, even though structurally Proverbs is long and Amen-em-opet is short. They both talk about hearing some type of truth or wisdom that needs to be heeded. Proverbs 1:2-7 shows where the author is imploring the hearer to take wisdom and “understand” it. This theme is strewn throughout the prolog of Proverbs.[2] This same theme is paralleled in chapter 1 of the Amen-em-opet. It states,
Give thy ears, hear what is said,
Give thy heart to understand them.     
To put them in thy heart is worth while,
(but) it is damaging to him who neglects them.
Let them rest in the casket of thy belly,
That they may be a key in thy heart. (ANET, 421).

This is an interesting passage, because first it calls for the listener to use their ears to hear. This is common language in ancient text when the author or teacher is trying to convey knowledge that he or she wanted those no only to hear but to preserve it in his or her hearer’s heart.[3] People in the old and New Testament time periods perceived a person more from the inside rather than the outside. The heart was the center of their emotions not the mind.  
            Finally, Amen-em-opet and Proverbs both have several forms of parallelism. This can be seen in the quote above. It progresses from the ears to hearing which then leads to the heart for understanding. A reason/purpose statement where the first statement is positive and the second statement is negative follows this understanding. Simply put, it has several forms of parallelism that are also found within Proverbs.
Comparison of Proverbs 22:17-24:22
            As noted in the previous section there is a thematic comparison between the prolog of Amen-em-opet Chapter 1 and specific passages in Proverbs 22:17-24:22. For example, Proverbs 22:17-18 states: “Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge, for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you” and Proverbs 23:15 states, “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad.” (ESV).  This seems to introduce a new section within Proverbs as in subsections; just as Proverbs 1-9 is the prolog which introduces the book.  This is something that is not found within Amen-em-opet. While Amen-em-opet does have the prolog introduction to head the wisdom, it does not have a repetitive call to wisdom.
            Another clear theme is that both Amen-em-opet and Proverbs oppose robbing the poor. Proverbs states, “Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate. For the Lord will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them.” (22:22-23, ESV).  Meanwhile, Amen-em-opet chapter 2 states,
Guard thyself against robbing the oppressed
And against overbearing the disabled.
Stretch not forth thy hand against the approach of an old man…(ANET, 422). 

and Amen-em-opet chapter 8 which states,

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,
it makes a vomiting to the gullet….(ANET, 423).

This is a clear parallel where both Solomon and Amen-em-opet are arguing for social justice against oppressing the poor.
            Meanwhile, another theme can be found in Amen-em-opet  chapter 23 and Proverbs 23:1-7 about sitting with rulers to eat. Proverbs 23:1-4,6-7 states,
When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire delicacies, for they are deceptive food. Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. …Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy; do not desire his delicacies, for he is like one who is inwardly calculating. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart not with you. You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten, (ESV).

As compared to Amen-em-opet chapter 23,

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.
As a noble is great in his office,  
He is as a well abounds (in) the drawing (of water),…(ANET, 424).

These two sections while parallel are not exactly the same. Both passages seem to be giving a warning. Amen-em-opet directly states not to eat with a noble, meanwhile Solomon warns the hearer to be careful. Moreover, both seem to talk about how eating with the leaders. Solomon says not to eat with one who is calculating to the point where he or she will vomit what he or she ate. While Amen-em-opet states not to even eat with a ruler because it will cause false chewing and create a pastime of spittle. In other words, both seem to be claiming that eating with rulers is not so much about fellowship but saving face and acting. Whether the servant is performing false chewing or the leader is calculating, either way neither is eating for the right reasons.
 Next, the parallel theme is the command not to move the landmarks/boundary lines. Amen-em-opet chapter 6 states,
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 window… (ANET, 422).

This is comparable to Proverbs 22:28 which states, “Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set” and in Proverbs 23:10, “Do not move the ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless” (ESV). Here again we see a passage dealing with social justice for the families of widows and the children whose fathers have died. In other words, do not be so greedy as to steal again from the poor.
            In conclusion, there are many parallels found within the wisdom literature of Amen-em-opet and Proverbs both structurally and thematically. As noted above, both have introductions that provide each authors titles and positions. Moreover, both had prologs, but Proverb’s prolog is long while Amen-em-opet has only one short chapter.  Finally, both have parallelism, and both introduction and the prolog are calls for the hearers to embrace wisdom or truth.
           







[1] Pritchard, James Bennett. Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament. Princeton, N. J.: Univ. Press, 1971. All other references to ANET will be with text citations.
[2] The Prolog is Proverbs 1-9. This can be seen in Proverbs 1:2-7, 2:1-2, 3:1-2, 4:1-2,10-11, and so on through chapter 9. Throughout the prolog there is a common theme linking and asking the hearer to listen to the wisdom and understand and preserve the wisdom or truth in their hearts.
[3] Specific examples can be seen in the Old testament, Proverbs 2:2;5:1;7:1-3  New Testament: Mathew 11:16;13:9, 43; Mark 4:9;23; Revelation 2:7, 11; 3:6,13; 13:9 and others just to name a few.