Wisdom: chokmah- (Strong’s 2451)
Root: חָכְמָה (chet, kaf, mem, hey). [Sounds like hawk-MA. The first syllable is the gutteral letter chet which is spoken like the ch in Bach].
Where can wisdom be found?
Job, considered by many to be the oldest book in the Bible, asks this question:
Job 28:12-15, 20-28
But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?
No mortal comprehends it’s worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living.
The deep says, “It is not in me”; the sea says, “It is not with me.”
It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed out in silver…
…Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell?
It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing, concealed even from the birds in the sky.
Destruction and Death say, “Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.”
God understands the way to it and He alone knows where it dwells,
for He views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.
When He established the force of the wind and measured out the waters,
when He made a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm,
then He looked at wisdom and appraised it; He confirmed it and tested it.
And He said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”
Wisdom is a very important word within the Hebrew Bible as it has its roots from the beginning of creation. In the Proverbs we read that YHWH used wisdom to create the earth:
YHWH by wisdom founded the earth. By understanding He established the heavens. By His knowledge the deeps were broken up and the skies drip with dew.
The prophet Jeremiah also points this out:
It is He [YHWH] who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom; And by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. When He thunders, the waters in the heavens roar; He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth. He sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.
This wisdom, present from the beginning, is reflected in first person narrative in Proverbs 8:
“I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.
The fear of YHWH is to hate evil;
Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverted mouth, I hate.
Counsel is mine and sound wisdom;
I am understanding, power is mine.
By me kings reign, and rulers decree justice.
By me princes rule, and nobles, All who judge rightly.
I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.”
This personified wisdom also announces that she has been in existence from the beginning…
“From everlasting I was established. From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth; When there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled; Before the hills I was brought forth.
While He had not yet made the earth and the fields, nor the first dust of the world.
When He established the heavens, I was there.
When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep,
When He made firm the skies above,
When the springs of the deep became fixed,
When He set for the sea its boundary so that the water would not transgress His command,
When He marked out the foundations of the earth;
Then I was beside Him, as one brought up with Him, and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in the world, His earth and having my delight in the sons of mankind.
Now therefore, O sons, listen to me, for blessed are they who keep my ways.
Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.
Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts.
For he who finds me finds life and obtains favour from YHWH.
But he who sins against me injures himself; All those who hate me love death.”
Wisdom and Womanhood
There appears to be a special connection to wisdom and women in the Tenakh. In 2 Samuel 14 the wise woman of Tekoa convinces David to forgive his son Absalom. In 2 Samuel 20 the wise woman from Abel-bet-Maakah saves her city from King David’s army. King Lemuel’s mother tells him to seek a chayil woman, which is a woman who, among other things, speaks with wisdom (Proverbs 31:26).
It is not surprising then, that early Hebrew writings personify wisdom as a woman:
Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.”
Proverbs 3:13-18, 21-22
How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding.
For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold.
She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her.
Long life is in her right hand; In her left hand are riches and honour.
Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast…
…My son, let them not vanish from your sight; Keep sound wisdom and discretion, so they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck.
Wisdom of Solomon
Biblically the individual most commonly associated with wisdom is Solomon. In 2 Chronicles 1:7-12 God tells Solomon to ask for anything. Solomon could have asked for wealth, or fame, but instead he asks for wisdom. Solomon asked for the right thing, and as a reward he was granted everything.
1 Kings 10:23-25, 27a
So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart. They brought every man his gift, articles of silver and gold, garments, weapons, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year… The king made silver as common as stones in Jerusalem…
In the Proverbs, attributed to Solomon, he commends the female personification of wisdom:
Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding, for I give you sound teaching; Do not abandon my instruction. When I was a son to my father, tender and the only son in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me:
“Let your heart hold fast my words; Keep my commandments and live;
Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding!
Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; Love her, and she will watch over you.
The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom, and with all your acquiring, get understanding.
Prize her, and she will exalt you; She will honor you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a garland of grace; She will present you with a crown of beauty.
Hear, my son, and accept my sayings and the years of your life will be many.
I have directed you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in upright paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be impeded and if you run, you will not stumble.
Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life.
Rabbinic tradition attributes the wisdom-centric book, Ecclesiastes, to an elderly, and somewhat depressed sounding, King Solomon.
King Solomon: I said to myself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge. And I set my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly; I realized that this also is striving after wind. For in much wisdom there is much grief, and he who increases in knowledge increases in pain.”
Much has been discussed about how a wise man, like King Solomon, could live in such excess and frivolity. Arguably Solomon’s downfall hinges on the fact that his focus switched from Godly wisdom to worldly gain. By the end of his life he is muddled about what true wisdom is. Nevertheless, he will always be remembered for his wisdom, be it Godly or worldly.
The fear of YHWH is Wisdom
Many people are confused about the phrase, “the fear of God” or “the fear of YHWH”. The word fear is multi-layered. Just being scared doesn’t give the word full credit. To fear God, really, is to have a deep respect, an overwhelming awe and reverence, for YHWH. And yes, this type of fear changes your physicality. It will make you quake in your boots. Solomon confirms that the fear of YHWH is wisdom:
Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser,
Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.
The fear of YHWH is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
For by me your days will be multiplied,
And years of life will be added to you.
Ultimately the pinnacle of wisdom, far exceeding the wisdom of Solomon, dwells in the Messiah, who also recognizes that wisdom is the fear of YHWH:
Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.
The Spirit of YHWH will rest on Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and strength,
The Spirit of knowledge and the fear of YHWH.
And He will delight in the fear of YHWH;
And He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear;
But with righteousness He will judge…
Last week we looked into the word knowledge which is strongly associated with seeing and hearing. But notice here that the Messiah will not judge by knowledge (seeing and hearing). Instead with righteousness He will judge, and that comes out of the Spirit of wisdom and understanding.
Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) is consistently associated with wisdom:
And the Child [Yeshua] grew and became strong. He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.
When He got older and went to teach in His home town of Nazareth, the people agreed He was wise but did not agree that He was the Messiah:
Coming to His hometown, He taught the people in their synagogue, and they were astonished. “Where did this man get such wisdom and miraculous powers?” they asked. “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother’s name Mary, and aren’t His brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Aren’t all His sisters with us as well? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offence at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honour except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.
Our wisdom comes from the Spirit
People can know a great many things but not have an ounce of wisdom. Today sites like facebook are filled with little “wise” soundbites. But most of these are inspirational “feel goods” and not a full understanding of God-given wisdom. Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 2:6-14
Among the mature, however, we speak a message of wisdom—but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of the mysterious and hidden wisdom of God, which He destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it. For if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. Rather, as it is written:
“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no heart has imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him.”
But God has revealed it to us by the Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of man except his own spirit within him? So too, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. And this is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom, but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.
Yeshua promised his followers a great Helper after He left. It was the promise of His Spirit within us, as an internal voice that would guide us in wisdom and truth:
Yeshua: “But I tell you the truth, it is for your benefit that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send that [Helper/Spirit] to you… However, when the Spirit of truth comes, It will guide you into all truth. For It will not speak on Its own, but It will speak what It hears, and It will declare to you what is to come. It will glorify Me by taking from what is Mine and disclosing it to you. Everything that belongs to the Father is Mine. That is why I said that the Spirit will take from what is Mine and disclose it to you.“
Paul tells us about the gifts of the Spirit given to all who follow the Messiah. One of those is the gift of wisdom:
1 Corinthians 12:7-10
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of languages, and to still another the interpretation of languages.
The Spirit, sent by Yeshua, has no interest in dividing roles by gender, or race, or economic rank. The gifts of the Spirit (including wisdom) can be giving to female, male, Jew, Gentile, those living under bondage, and those who are free. Gifts that Paul mentions in other letters include teaching, encouraging, leading, giving, serving, showing mercy, and serving others. If you belong to an institution that tells you that a woman can’t teach, or preach, or lead, or be a voice of God’s wisdom, you may want to put this argument forward: Do you really understand the power of the Holy Spirit? Do you think there are limitation to what the Holy Spirit can do? Is not the Spirit that is put into a man the same Spirit that is put into a woman? Paul makes it clear:
1 Corinthians 12:11
All these [gifts] are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
Thank God for His great wisdom, and ask for it to be revealed to you… because the mysterious and hidden wisdom of God can be found by everyone who seeks and believes!
Next week: helper