Mishlei/Proverbs

Weaving the Web of Wisdom

in European Judaism
Author:
Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz University of Manchester and London School of Jewish Studies, UK

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Abstract

A fresh look at the book of Proverbs (Mishlei) questions its criticism as misogynistic, and explores scholarly evidence of women's varied functions in biblical society, including teaching and transmitting wisdom, particularly of the pragmatic kind lauded in Proverbs. The structure of the book is examined, noting how the introductory section (chapters 1–9), with its praise of Lady Wisdom, mirrors the concluding section (chapters 30–31), which features a wise queen's counsel to her son and the eshet chayil, or ‘woman of worth’. An examination of references to fathers and mothers, and to both male and female figures of wisdom and folly, suggests that many of the proverbs of the main, earliest section (chapters 10–29) may be examples of women's wisdom. Finally, the image of weaving – a central feature of women's wisdom in the ancient Near East – is used to suggest a new understanding of this intricate and elaborate book.

Contributor Notes

Dr Lindsey Taylor-Guthartz is Research Fellow at the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester and at London School of Jewish Studies. She has lectured at Cambridge, Oxford and King's College London. She has a PhD from UCL in Jewish Studies and Anthropology, and is currently studying for ordination at Yeshivat Maharat, New York. Her first book, Challenge and Continuity: The Religious Lives of Orthodox Jewish Women, was published by the Littman Library of Jewish Civilization in 2021.

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European Judaism

A Journal for the New Europe

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