When Edom is renowned for wisdom and a small Judaean family boasts of sages whose names have south Palestinian affinity (1 Chron.
II) which seems to be meant as a commendation of the teaching of the sages in general: their words are said to be like goads (inciting to action) and like nails driven in a building (giving firmness to character); they issue from masters of assemblies,3 heads of academies (but not of the Sanhedrin).
The class of sages to whom we owe the Wisdom Books did not arise till a change had come over the national fortunes and life.
In the 2nd century B.C., about the time when the synagogue took shape, there were established schools presided over by eminent sages, in which along with instruction in the law much was said concerning the general conduct of life (see Pirke Aboth).
The extant writings of the Jewish sages are contained in the books of Job, Proverbs, Psalms, Ben-Sira, Tobit, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom of Solomon, 4th Maccabees, to which may be added the first chapter of Pirke Aboth (a Talmudic tract giving, probably, pre-Christian material).
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