What is wisdom literature?

Andy is the former senior manager of content for Bible Gateway. He currently works at Calvin College.

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Earlier this year, we began a tour of the different sections of the Bible, starting with the books of Moses. Today, we’re continuing our tour with the next section of the Bible: the Wisdom Books.

The wisdom books (which number five in the Protestant canon, seven if you include Apocryphal books) represent a major shift in style from the historical books that precede them. They fall into lớn the category of Ancient Near East wisdom literature, a genre of writing that focuses on existential questions about God, humanity, Creation, và the nature of evil and suffering. Wisdom literature could take the size of short, memorable insights (as in the book of Proverbs) or a dialogue (as in the book of Job, where Job, Job’s friends, & God engage in a conversation that teaches & enlightens the reader). Wisdom literature was produced in several different cultures in the Ancient Near East, but by far the best-known are those that found their way into the Bible canon: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, & Song of Songs.

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Here are the wisdom books of the Protestant Bible:

Song of Songs: Another unique book, Song of Songs is a poetic dialogue about love, celebrating marriage & the gift of sexuality. Many Christians also find in it an allegorical message about the love sầu of Christ for His church.

The wisdom books contain some of the most beautifully-written sections of the entire Bible, although they can be a challenge to lớn read straight-through in the way one might approach the clear narratives of the Bible’s historical books. While many books of the Old Testament give us a historian’s view of God’s people và their experiences, the wisdom books provide us with a more pastoral glimpse at the state of their hearts. We see that despite the gap of time that separates us from ancient Israel, the Israelites grappled with the same faith issues that we do today: they asked tough questions about sin và suffering; they experienced joy & confidence in God’s love; they looked for God in life’s pleasures & trials alike; they sometimes entertained doubts & they looked to lớn God for help both physical và spiritual.

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Beyond that, the wisdom books show us that God values và responds to lớn these myriad questions and prayers. We can take comfort that no experience in our lives, whether wonderful or terrible, can place us outside the love sầu & understanding of a gracious God.


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