Wisdom Critiquing (Qohelet’s) Wisdom?

Slicing and dicing! Solomon copying with competing claims of motherhood. (And let's face it, this is one creepy picture. What is with the boy sleeping [dead?!] on the steps, the woman clutching her breasts [lactating?], and the Solomon's pudgy King Joffrey look?)

Morning Prayer today has as its OT reading Wisdom 2. I have not read the Wisdom of Solomon for many years. Given what I have recently been writing on, specifically Ecclesiastes, this chapter stuck out to me. It reads, in part,

Slicing and dicing!

Slicing and dicing! Solomon coping with competing claims of motherhood. (And let’s face it, this is one creepy picture. What is with the boy sleeping [dead?!] on the steps, the woman clutching her breasts [lactating?], and the Solomon’s pudgy King Joffrey look?)

2:1    For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,“Short and sorrowful is our life,

and there is no remedy when a life comes to its end,

and no one has been known to return from Hades.

2 For we were born by mere chance,

and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been,

for the breath in our nostrils is smoke,

and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts;

3 when it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes,

and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.

4 Our name will be forgotten in time,

and no one will remember our works;

our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud,

and be scattered like mist

that is chased by the rays of the sun

and overcome by its heat.

5 For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow,

and there is no return from our death,

because it is sealed up and no one turns back.

6 “Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist,

and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.”

It carries on like that for quite a while, telling us how those who “reasoned unsoundly” considered the world and all in it, including ourselves, a fleeting and vain thing. So much so that we should just enjoy what we have while we can. “Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.” I think I can be forgiven for immediately wondering if this was a critique of Qohelet (Ecclesiastes). So I turned to the only reference I have on hand at the moment, the digital Eerdmans Bible Dictionary and Roland Murphy wrote the article on Wisdom. In this very brief article he makes the point of saying,

The acerbity of Qoheleth’s thought is absent (although some have erroneously thought to see Qoheleth’s reflection in the presentation of the views of the wicked in ch. 2).

I will clearly need to do more research and Murphy was an incredible scholar whose views are not to be taken lightly. Yet at first blush, it would seem to be a fairly strong and direct summary of the views found in a work such as Qohelet. The author concludes chapter 2 with this affirmation of a more purposeful view of our world.

2:21 Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,

for their wickedness blinded them,

22 and they did not know the secret purposes of God,

nor hoped for the wages of holiness,

nor discerned the prize for blameless souls;

23 for God created us for incorruption,

and made us in the image of his own eternity,

24 but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,

and those who belong to his company experience it.

 

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