Feminine Images of the Divine in Second Temple Judaism

Rabbinic Source About Wisdom and Proverbs

  1. The Canonicity of Proverbs

Shabbat 30b
The Book of Proverbs too they desired to hide, because its statements are self-contradictory. Yet why did they not hide it? They said, “Did we not examine Qohelet and find a reconciliation? So here too let us make search.” And how are its statements self-contradictory? It is written, “Answer not a fool according to his folly” (Prov 26:4); yet it is also written, “Answer a fool according to his folly?” (Prov 26:5). There is no difficulty: the one refers to matters of learning; the other to general matters. Even as a certain person came before Rabbi and said to him, ‘Your wife is my wife and your children are mine.’ ‘Would you like to drink a glass of wine?’ asked he. He drank and burst.

Avot de Rabbi Nathan A 1:4
At first they (i.e. the ancient sages) said: “Proverbs and the Song of Songs and Qohelet should be withdrawn,” because they said, “These are proverbs and not part of the sacred writings!” And they did withdraw them, until the men of Hezekiah (cf. Prov 25:1) came and explained them.

Second Temple Judaism

  1. What does it mean that Wisdom was an Amon (Prov 8:30)?

Bereshit Rabbah I.1
R. Oshaya began (his exposition in this way): “Then I was by Him, as an amon; and I was daily all delight” (Prov. 8:30). Amon means tutor; amon means covered; amon means hidden; and some say, amon means great. Amon is a tutor, as you read, “As an omen (= nursing father) carried the sucking child” (Num 11:12). Amon means covered, as in the verse, “ha’emunim (= those who were covered) in scarlet” (Lam 4:5). Amon means hidden, as in the verse, “And he omen (= concealed) Hadassah” (Est 2:7). Amon means great, as in the verse, “Are you better than No-amon?” (Nah 3:8) — which is rendered, “Are thou better than Alexandria the Great, that is situate among the rivers?”

Another interpretation: Amon is a workman (uman). The Torah (= Wisdom) declares: “I was the working tool of the Holy One, blessed be He.” In human practice, when a mortal king builds a palace, he builds it not with his own skill but with the skill of an architect. The architect moreover does not build it out of his head, but employs plans and diagrams to know how to arrange the chambers and the wicket doors. Thus God consulted the Torah and created the world, while the Torah declares, “In/by/with the Beginning (be-reshit) God created” (Gen 1:1), “Beginning” (reshit) referring to the Torah, as in the verse, “The Lord made me as the beginning (reshit) of His way” (Prov. 8:22).

Exodus Rabbah XXX:9
R. Abbahu, in the name of R. Jose b. Hanina, said: It can be compared to a king who had an orchard in which he planted all kinds of trees and in which only he entered, because he was its keeper. When his children became of age, he said: ‘My children, hitherto I guarded this orchard, not allowing any to enter it. I want you now to look after it as I did.’ This is what God said to Israel: ‘Prior to My creation of the world, I prepared the Torah, for it says, “Then I was by Him, as an amon (Prov. 8:30).” What is the meaning of amon? — A “tutor,” as it says, “As an omen (= nursing father) carried the sucking child” (Num 11:12).

  1. Wisdom, Torah, and the “Beginning” (Prov 8:22)

Bereshit Rabbah I.4
“IN THE BEGINNING GOD CREATED” (Gen 1:1). Six things preceded the creation of the world; some of them were actually created, while the creation of the others was already contemplated. The Torah and the Throne of Glory were created. The Torah, for it is written, “The Lord made me as the beginning of His way, prior to His works of old” (Prov 8:22). The Throne of Glory, as it is written, “Your throne is established of old” (Ps. 93:2)… I still do not know which was first, whether the Torah preceded the Throne of Glory or the Throne of Glory preceded the Torah. Said R. Abba b. Kahana: The Torah preceded the Throne of Glory, for it says, ’The Lord made me as the beginning of His way, prior to His works of old,’ which means prior to that of which it is written, “Thy throne is established of old.”

Zohar, Bereshit, Section 1, page 5a
R. Simeon proceeded: ‘See now, it was by means of the Torah that the Holy One created the world. That has already been derived from the verse, “Then I was near him as amon, and I was daily all his delight” (Prov 8:30). He looked at the Torah once, twice, thrice, and a fourth time. He uttered the words composing her and then operated through her. That is a lesson for men, how to study the Torah properly. This lesson is indicated by the verse, “Then did he see, and declare it; he established it, indeed, and searched it out” (Job 28:27). Seeing, declaring, establishing and searching out correspond to these four operations which the Holy One, blessed be He, went through before entering on the work of creation. Hence the account of the creation commences with the four words Bereshith Bara Elohim Et (“In-the-beginning created God”), before mentioning “the heavens”, thus signifying the four times which the Holy One, blessed be He, looked into the Torah before He performed His work.’

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