The similarities between the ancient Egyptian composition The Instruction of Amenemope and the biblical book of Proverbs, particularly Proverbs 22:17-24:22, have been noted for years. However, what has not been widely observed is that Amenemope features themes and imagery that are shared with the Book of Job. In particular, Amenemope illustrates the fate of the wicked who perpetually desire to obtain ill-gotten gain by exploitation of the weak.
Although Job is an exceptional composition, it must be understood, though not exclusively, as a part of a larger corpus of ancient Near Eastern literature. This paper compares and contrasts the imagery depicted in Job 20 and Amenemope that represents the consequences of the wicked person’s attempt to obtain and retain ill-gotten gain. This comparison explores what each composition conveys regarding the consequences of exploitation of the weak, the ephemerality of possessions, and the imagery of swallowing. After reviewing the related imagery, I suggest how one might read Job 20 anew in light of the unmistakable similarities between word pictures in Job and Amenemope. The presentation concludes by suggesting that the poet of Job utilized well-known Egyptian imagery as employed in Amenemope to convey two main theological points: 1) Zophar’s claim that Job corruptly obtained his former possessions, as well as 2) portraying Zophar’s ardent belief in the theology of just retribution.