The Peti and the Power of Speech in Proverbs 1-9



How to Cite

Widder, W. L. (2022). The Peti and the Power of Speech in Proverbs 1-9. Old Testament Essays, 35(1), 111–127. Retrieved from


Speech is a prominent theme throughout ancient Near Eastern wisdom literature. Accordingly, the proverbs in Proverbs 10–29 offer extensive instruction about the nature and power of speech. Speech also pervades Proverbs 1–9, a series of instructive lectures and interludes. However, speech is not primarily a topic of instruction; rather, it is a vehicle for instruction. Proverbs 1–9 puts speech on the lips of competing voices—the father, the gang, the seductress, Lady Wisdom, and Lady Folly—and admonishes, seduces, and encourages the son (the peti), who is presented with a choice: To whom will he listen? These chapters draw attention to what might be considered the most important trait of the peti: being a discerning listener. This article argues that, by prefacing the instruction of chapters 10–29 with chapters 1–9, the compiler of Proverbs sets discernment as the fundamental requirement for the instruction that follows. It surveys the topic of “speech” in ancient Egyptian wisdom literature; examines “speech” proverbs in Proverbs 10–29; and evaluates how “speech” in Proverbs 1–9 contributes to the portrayal of a teachable peti and one’s approach to the rest of the book.


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