NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible

NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study BibleBack

37:3 – 4 These verses echo the thought of Pr 3:5 – 6. The foundational importance of this wisdom theme in Near Eastern thought is highlighted by the fact that a comparable proverb was chosen for the sole text of a Mesopotamian cylinder seal (used by a private individual to “sign” documents and mark ownership). The owner expresses that he conscientiously sought the god and that such an attitude will mean that he will lack for nothing.

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NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study BibleBack

37:4 desires of your heart. In Akkadian texts, the attaining of one’s desires concerns receiving a favorable omen concerning either intended activities or needs, such as illness or oppression, from which one seeks deliverance. One text reports that when the individual prayed to the gods he was granted his desire. If the Israelite concept has any similarity, the desire referred to here is not just any desire, but particularly the desire that concerns the psalmist in this prayer (which is articulated in v. 6; see 20:4, where the context is a request for one’s plans for relieving distress to succeed).

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37:7 Be still. See note on 46:10.
37:16 This common advice (cf. Pr 15:1616:8) is reflected in the Egyptian “Instruction of Amenemope”: “Better is a bushel given you by the god, than five thousand through wrongdoing.”
37:28 offspring … will perish. In ancient Near Eastern culture, a fate worse than death was to witness the tragic death of one’s children. This concept is more than just an extension of the natural feelings one has toward one’s offspring. The most meaningful afterlife a person had in the ancient world was found in the idea that their line continued in the land of the living. In that way, the deceased not only joined the community of the ancestors that had died, but, more important, continued to have a place in the community of descendants that survived. Community extended beyond the land of the living. A curse on an Aramaic tomb inscription warns that the offspring of anyone disturbing the deceased would perish. Zedekiah’s fate was aggravated by the slaughter of his sons before his eyes (2Ki 25:7).
37:34 Hope in the Lord. This admonition is based upon trust that God will judge the wicked, and therefore personal vengeance is wrong. This thought lies behind the Egyptian proverb stating that a person is better off not to take matters into his own hand but to wait and hope and see how his god acts on his behalf. Mesopotamian wisdom warns that the speaker of evil will be accountable to Shamash (the god of justice). Nevertheless, vengeance is differentiated from justice. The gods carried out both, and humans were responsible for executing justice, but were not to carry out vengeance.

37:35 – 36 flourishing like a luxuriant native tree, but he soon passed away. Egyptian wisdom observed the temporary success of evil men using the same metaphor when it described an angry worshiper in the temple as like a tree growing indoors. It may flourish for a brief time, but then will be destroyed.

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