Essay 3 - Hebrew Wisdom
October 4, 2015
In this essay, we will discuss the Hebrew wisdom on “wisdom and folly”, also
looking at the contrast between “diligence and laziness”. These terms appear frequently
in the Old Testament. However, we will concentrate on their use and meaning in the
Solomon is considered to be the man who founded the wisdom movement (1 Kings 4:2934). The purpose of the wisdom movement was initially a practical one: to educate the nobility
for cultural and political leadership. The main concern of teachers was to inform and discipline
the mind and life at an early age. 1 In Israel, however, ...view middle of the document...
I have seen slaves riding on horses and princes walking like slaves on the land”
(Ecc 10:6-7). The self-destruction of the fool is accomplished by his own talk, but “the lips of the
wise” establish him (Pr 14:3).
The virtue of self-control is another example of wisdom versus folly. Endurance,
patience, and self-control are central criteria to wisdom. As a source of folly, only jealousy is a
match for anger. By invoking the virtues of restraint and self-control, the wisdom movement
simply endorsed a universally admired virtue. 5
Another problem with folly is shown in a simple task of going to town. “The fool’s labor
is wearisome because the fool does not even know the way to the city” (Ecc 10:15). This implies
that if he is going to work in the city, then he exerts far more energy than is necessary in his
labor. 6 Finally, the scriptures state that “wisdom is light and folly is darkness” (Ecc 2:13).
3. Ed Hindson, Essence of the Old Testament: A Survey (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2012),
4. Ibid, 263.
5. Rylaarsdam, Layman's Bible Commentary: Vol. 10 - Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, 59.
6. Craig G. Bartholomew, Ecclesiastes (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 325.
3. Diligence and Laziness
In contrast to wisdom and folly, diligence and laziness is much more a philosophy of a
work ethic. The “diligent man” is literally the man whose hand is sharp; it grips the tool
employed. In contrast, we have the slack or lazy man, whose hand is limp because it is not
employed. 7 “Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes
rich”. (Pr 10:4). This is further illustrated in (Pr 13:4), “The...