Book Notice: Interpreting Old Testament Wisdom Literature

Book Notice: Interpreting Old Testament Wisdom Literature May 8, 2017

David G Firth and Lindsay Wilson (eds) 
Interpreting Old Testament Wisdom Literature. 
Downer’s Grove, IVP, 2017.
Available at

By Jill Firth

Wisdom literature has been the poor relation of Old Testament studies for much of scholarship’s recent history. This volume brings attention to a range of recent scholarship that shows the importance of wisdom books and wisdom thinking in the Old Testament. Craig Bartholomew reviews developments in the field over the past century by examining ‘a series of turns’ in scholarship, from historical scholarship in the nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries to a literary turn, a postmodern turn and a theological turn. Bartholomew encourages further wisdom scholarship in intertextuality, biblical theology, preaching, spirituality and ‘the public dimensions of wisdom.’

A series of essays examine core wisdom books and texts, including Proverbs (Ernest Lucas), Job (Lindsay Wilson), Ecclesiastes (Katharine Dell), Song of Songs (Rosalind Clarke) and some Psalms (Simon Stocks). Wisdom themes are examined in Ruth (Greg Goswell), Old Testament narrative (David Firth), biblical theology (Chris Ansberry), retribution (Lennart Böstrom) and divine absence (Brittany Melton).

I had the privilege of hearing a number of these papers presented at the Tyndale Old Testament study group in Cambridge in 2015. I particularly enjoyed hearing Ros Clarke who examined the Song of Songs for evidence of wisdom in its genre, instruction of women, parallels with Woman Wisdom, and in the role of Solomon. She explored how the woman in the Song has many similarities to Woman Wisdom in Proverbs, and how the man in the Song is ‘as good as Solomon in all the ways that Solomon was good, and better than Solomon in all the ways that Solomon had failed.’

Interpreting Old Testament Wisdom Literature is a valuable compendium of recent scholarship in what is now a vast field of research. It is a useful introduction to wisdom literature for a beginning student and could be used as a reader for a course in wisdom literature. It is also helpful in bringing teachers up to date with current approaches to reading wisdom literature. The book includes an author index and an index of scriptural references.

Jill Firth lectures in Hebrew and Old Testament at Ridley College, Melbourne.

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