“The Tree of Life in Proverbs and Psalms

Bibliographic information:

Osborne, William R. “The Tree of Life in Proverbs and Psalms.” Pages 100-121 in The Tree of Life, Themes in Biblical Narrative 27. Leiden: Brill, 2020.



Metaphor is a powerful vehicle for ideological reorientation and recreation, and the metaphorical relationship between trees and life in Psalms and Proverbs does just that. Bringing together the fundamental ancient Israelite concepts of creation, wisdom, and divine blessing, the biblical writers use tree imagery and tree of life references to reveal how they saw the world and experienced life in relationship to YHWH. While both of Psalms and Proverbs speak to the relationship between tree imagery and life, unsurprisingly, they do so in different ways. The book of Proverbs makes explicit mention of a “tree of life” (‮עץ חיים‬‎), while the phrase is entirely absent from the Psalter. However, there are psalms that utilize tree metaphors in what appears to be a wisdom-like setting that is not dissimilar to what is encountered in Proverbs (e.g. Pss 1:3; 37:35; 52:10 HB; 92:13 HB; 96:12; 104:16–17). This essay will explore the unique voices of the respective authors of these tree texts in Psalms and Proverbs, seeking to uncover the unique perspectives provided by these books. Despite the use of various lexemes, both books speak to the metaphorical concepts of trees and life and profoundly contribute to the Hebrew Bible’s presentation of wisdom, blessing, creation, and life.


Brill (website: https://brill.com/view/book/edcoll/9789004423756/BP000005.xml)

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