I am fascinated by the relationship between Egyptian and Israelite wisdom, which is illustrated quite well in the connections between “The Wisdom of Amenemopet” and Proverbs 22.17-24.22. “The Wisdom of Amenemopet” is one of the most compelling things I have read all semester; as I read it, I was shocked at the numbers of parallels with the biblical text. “The Wisdom of Amenemopet” could easily be mistaken for biblical text, and I found myself getting lost in the text and forgetting that it was not scripture. Honestly, at first I did not know how to react to these feelings, but my fascination quickly overpowered my hesitation. While this certainly challenges some of my assumptions about the Bible, it also opens new doors for me to understand the Bible and the context in which it was written.
One of the major similarities in “The Wisdom of Amenemopet” and Proverbs 22.17-24.22 is that both texts are divided up into thirty wise sayings. “The Wisdom of Amenemopet” is divided into thirty Roman numerals, and Proverbs 22.20 says, “Have I not written for you thirty sayings of admonition and knowledge,” which seems to be a direct reference to “The Wisdom of Amenemopet.” In my TNIV Bible, Proverbs 22.17-24.22 each of the thirty sayings is noted with a subheading. This makes comparison between “The Wisdom of Amenemopet” and Proverbs fairly simple if one has a copy of the Egyptian wisdom. The beginning of the first section of “The Wisdom of Amenemopet” is basically identical to Proverbs 22.17-19, and the striking similarities do not stop there. Proverbs 22.22-23 is parallel with the second section of “The Wisdom of Amenemopet,” focusing on defending the rights of the poor and weakest members of society. Section three of “Amenemopet” is nearly identical to Proverbs 22.24-25; both warn the wise to avoid making friends with the “hot tempered” (Prov 22.24) and “hot-heads” (Amenemopet III).
In addition to similarities between “The Wisdom of Amenemopet” and Proverbs 22.17-24.22, I also noticed parallels between other parts of the Bible and “The Wisdom of Amenemopet.” For example, in section 25 of “Amenemopet,” it says, “Man is clay and straw, God is the potter. He tears down and He builds up every day, creating small things by the thousands through His love.” This reminded me of two verses in Jeremiah, first and most notably Jeremiah 18.1-6, which portrays God as a potter and Israel as the clay in God the potter’s hands. In the next few verses, God speaks of tearing down wicked nations and building them up again after they repent and return to God (Jeremiah 18.7-11). This is strikingly similar to “The Wisdom of Amenemopet” and its description of God the potter. Also, in the call of Jeremiah in 1.10, God tells Jeremiah, “I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.” Though this is not a direct parallel to “The Wisdom of Amenemopet,” it shares the language and concept of God tearing down and building up, but here God includes Jeremiah in this work. I enjoyed exploring the similarities and differences in these two passages, as Jeremiah is often credited with the idea of God the potter.
Chapter 30 of “The Wisdom of Amenemopet” also reminded me of Psalm 119; this section of “Amenemopet” says things such as, “Mind carefully these thirty chapters— they delight, they instruct….come to treasure what they say. Peruse them, store them in your heart.” This idea of wisdom both delighting and instructing reminds me of verses such as, “I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you” (Psalm 119.11) and “Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it. Turn my heart to your decrees, and not to selfish gain” (Psalm 119.35-36). This focus on delighting in wisdom and holding it in one’s heart is found in both the wisdom Psalms and “The Wisdom of Amenemopet.” While “The Wisdom of Amenemopet” clearly has the most in common with Proverbs 22.17-24.22 and most likely predated and influenced the biblical text (Perdue 45), I also enjoyed exploring the countless other parallels and similarities.