||First Hebrew translation of the apocryphal work. Wessely began his literary career with the translation of this work, Wisdom of Solomon (from Luther's German translation), to which he appended a brief commentary, later elaborated into a full-length exegesis, Ru'ah Hen (Berlin, 1780; Warsaw, 1885). The ascription of the book to Solomon is mentioned explicitly in chapters 7–9 (particularly in 9:7), but such early writers as Jerome (Praefatio in libros Solomonis), and Augustine (De Civitate Dei, 17:20), already were skeptical about this ascription, and attributed the work to Philo despite the fact that its viewpoint differs from his.
The book can be divided into three parts. Chapters 1–5 deal with eschatology, 6–11 deal with wisdom, and 11–19 are a Midrash on the Exodus from Egypt with a Hellenistic presentation. The purpose of the book is to strengthen the Jewish believer against the seduction of idolatry. The problem of the sufferings of the righteous, already discussed in the Bible, is dealt with here against the background of Hellenistic thought. The punishment of the righteous serves the purpose of "testing" or "educating," but his reward is granted in the world to come.
As far as the language is concerned, a conscious effort is made to imitate biblical style, including parallelism, but construction of the sentences is Greek and is polished. There is a tendency toward alliteration, paranomasia, and complex words rare even in Greek. Opinions differ as to the composition of the book. Some are of the opinion that the first part was written in Hebrew, others consider the whole book to have been written in Hebrew, while yet others divide it among various authors all of whom wrote in Greek. However, the composition of the Greek words, the use of assonance, the rhythmic construction and the imagery (crowning the head with flowers, the victory processions of athletes, etc.) in all parts of the work alike support the view that it was written in Greek by one person, apparently in Alexandria. The date of composition is uncertain.
Naphtali Herz Wessely (Hartwig; 1725–1805), was an important member of the German Haskalah. Wessely's ancestors had fled Poland during the Chmielnicki pogroms and settled in Wesel on the Rhine from where the family took its name. Born in Hamburg, Wessely spent his childhood in Copenhagen where his father was a purveyor to the king of Denmark. He received his religious education at the yeshivah of R. Jonathan Eybeschuetz, who influenced him greatly, and read literature and scientific works in a number of European languages, Associated with the Feitel Bank, Wessely's business affairs took him to Amsterdam and Berlin. In Berlin he met Moses Mendelssohn and contributed a commentary on Leviticus (Berlin, 1782) to the Biur.