Wisdom: khokmah. feminine noun. (Strong’s 2451); khakam. verb. (Strong’s 2449). khakam. adjective. (Strong’s 2450); khak’moht. feminine noun. (Strong’s 2454).
Sounds like khawk-MA. (The first syllable is the guttural letter chet which is spoken like the ch in Bach).
Where can wisdom be found?
Although wisdom is found throughout the Bible, there are three books that stand out as wisdom literature: Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job. In the latter of these three writings, Job asked this important question: Where do you find wisdom?
Job 28:12-15, 20-28
“But where can wisdom [w-ha-khakmah] be found? And where is the place of understanding? Mankind does not know its value, nor is it found in the land of the living.
The ocean depth says, ‘It is not in me’; and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ Pure gold cannot be given in exchange for it, nor can silver be weighed as its price.
…Where then does wisdom [w-ha-khakmah] come from? And where is this place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of every living creature, and concealed from the birds of the sky. Abaddon and Death say, ‘With our ears we have heard a report of it.’
God understands its way, and He knows its place. For He looks to the ends of the earth; He sees everything under the heavens.
When He imparted weight to the wind, and assessed the waters by measure, when He made a limit for the rain, and a course for the thunderbolt, then He saw it and declared it; He established it and also searched it out.
And to mankind He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom [khakmah]; and to turn away from evil is understanding.’”
Wisdom was a very important word within the Hebrew Bible and it had roots back to the beginning of creation. In the Proverbs we read that YHWH used wisdom to create the earth:
YHWH founded the earth by wisdom [b-khak’mah], He established the heavens by understanding. By His knowledge the ocean depths were burst open, and the clouds drip with dew.
The prophet Jeremiah also pointed this out:
It is He [YHWH] who made the earth by His power, Who established the world by His wisdom [b-khak’mahtoh]; and by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens.
When He utters His voice, there is a roar of waters in the heavens, and He makes the clouds ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain, and brings out the wind from His storehouses.
This wisdom, present from the beginning, was reflected in first person narrative in Proverbs 8:
“I, wisdom [Ani khak’mah], dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.
The fear of YHWH is to hate evil; pride, arrogance, the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate.
Advice 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 announced that she had been in existence from the beginning…
[Wisdom:] “From eternity I was established, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.
When there were no ocean depths, I was born, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, I was born; 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 a boundary for the sea so that the water would not violate His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was beside Him, as a master workman; and I was His delight daily, rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in the world, His earth, and having my delight in the sons of mankind.
Now then, sons, listen to me, for blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to instruction and be wise [wa-kha’kamu], and do not neglect it. Blessed is the person who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts.
For one who finds me finds life, ad obtains favour from YHWH. But one who sins against me injures himself; all those who hate me love death.”
Wisdom is patience. It listens, it watches, it waits… and it finds life.
Wisdom and Womanhood
Say to wisdom [la-khak’mah], “You are my sister,” and call understanding your intimate friend.
Wisdom was almost exclusively personified wisdom as a woman. In the first chapter of Proverbs she shouted, she cried out, she raised her voice and declared her intentions:
Wisdom [khak’moht] shouts in the street, she raises her voice in the public square; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the gates in the city she declares her sayings:
“How long, you naive ones, will you love simplistic thinking? And how long will scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Turn to my rebuke, behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.”
The Proverbs also expressed that the greatest wealth one could gain was wisdom… and that wealth would lead to the greatest happiness:
Blessed is a person who finds wisdom [khak’mah], and one who obtains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver, and her produce better than 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 those who hold on to her.
Wisdom was personified as a woman, but there were also literal human women who were described as wise:
- In 2 Samuel 14 the wise woman of Tekoa convinced David to forgive his son Absalom.
- In 2 Samuel 20 the wise woman from Abel-bet-Maakah saved her city from King David’s army.
- King Lemuel’s wise mother told him to seek a chayil woman, a woman who, among other things, spoke with wisdom (Proverbs 31:26).
Wisdom in the Torah
In the first five books of the Bible (the Torah) wisdom was expressed a little differently. The only appearance of wisdom in Genesis was when Pharaoh described Joseph as “wise” and put him in charge of his household (Genesis 41). Wisdom made its first appearance as a noun in the scroll of Exodus where it was generally associated with crafters:
And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. You shall speak to all the skillful [wisdom-hearted: khak’meh lev] people whom I have endowed with the spirit of wisdom [ruakh khak’mah], that they make Aaron’s garments to consecrate him, that he may serve as priest to Me.
It is interesting that what has been translated as “skillful” was, in Hebrew, “wisdom-hearted”. It takes wisdom and patience to be a good crafter and YHWH recognized the importance of those whose hearts were filled with the passion and ability to create and produce good and beautiful products. He endowed those, both men and women, who had this ability with the spirit of wisdom (see Exodus 35:26-29).
In the scroll of Deuteronomy Moses highlighted the wisdom of following YHWH’s laws and ordinances:
“See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as YHWH my God commanded me, that you are to do these things in the land where you are entering to take possession of it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom [khak’mat’kem] and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise [khakam] and understanding people.’
For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is YHWH our God whenever we call on Him? Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole Law which I am setting before you today?
At the end of his life Moses sang a song, lamenting the fate of the Hebrew people. In it he said:
Deuteronomy 32:5-6, 28-29, 36-39
“They have acted corruptly against Him, they are not His children, because of their defect; but are a perverse and crooked generation.
Is this what you do to YHWH, you foolish and unwise [w-lo khakam] people? Is He not your Father who has purchased you? He has made you and established you…
..For they are a nation destitute of counsel, and there is no understanding in them.
If only they were wise [lu khak’mu] and they understood this; if only they would discern their future!..
…For YHWH will vindicate His people, and will have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their strength is gone, and there is none remaining, bond or free.
And He will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge? Those who ate the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you, Let them be your protection!
See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can save anyone from My hand.'”
At his end Moses, passed on his wisdom to his successor:
Now Joshua the son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom [maleh ruakh khak’mah], because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the sons of Israel listened to him and did as YHWH had commanded Moses.
Wisdom of Solomon
Biblically the individual most commonly associated with wisdom was Solomon. In 2 Chronicles 1:7-12 God told Solomon to ask for anything. Solomon could have asked for wealth, or fame, but instead he asked 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 wealth and wisdom [u-l-khak’mah]. And all the earth was seeking the attention of Solomon, to hear his wisdom [ha-khak’matoh], which God had put in his heart. And they were bringing, everyone, a gift: articles of silver and gold, garments, weapons, balsam oil, horses, and mules, so much year by year… And the king made silver as common as stones in Jerusalem…
In the Proverbs, attributed to Solomon, the female personification of wisdom was commended:
Listen, my sons, to the instruction of a father, and pay attention so that you may gain understanding, for I give you good 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 take hold of my words; keep my commandments and live; acquire wisdom [Q’neh khak’mah]! Acquire understanding!
Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not abandon her, and she will guard you; love her, and she will watch over you.
The beginning of wisdom [khak’mah] is: Acquire wisdom [Q’neh khak’mah]; and with all your possessions, acquire understanding. Prize her, and she will exalt you; she will honour you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a garland of grace; she will present you with a crown of beauty.”
Listen, my son, and accept my sayings, and the years of your life will be many. I have instructed you in the way of wisdom [khak’mah]; I have led you in upright paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; and if you run, you will not stumble. Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life.
The Rabbinic tradition attributed the wisdom writings in Ecclesiastes to an elderly and jaded King Solomon.
I said to myself, “Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom [khak’mah] more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom [khak’mah] and knowledge.”
And I applied my mind to know wisdom [khak’mah] and to know insanity and foolishness; I realized that this also is striving after wind. Because in much wisdom [khak’mah] there is much grief; and increasing knowledge results in increasing pain.
Wisdom would not be an easy ride. Understanding what should be done, and seeing very little response or wise reaction from others would be disheartening. It would also cause much grief to understand wisdom but not be capable of following wisdom, and Solomon most certainly fit into that category:
I tested all this with wisdom [ba-khok’mah], and I said, “I will be wise [ekh’kamah],” but it (wisdom) was far from me. What has been is remote and very mysterious. Who can discover it? I directed my mind to know and to investigate, and to seek wisdom [u-vaqqesh khak’mah] and an explanation, and to know the evil of foolishness and the foolishness of insanity.
Much has been discussed about how a wise man, like King Solomon, could have lived in such excess and frivolity… and engage in what seemed clearly like unwise behaviour. Arguably Solomon’s downfall hinged on the fact that his focus switched from Godly wisdom to worldly gain. By the end of his life he was muddled about what true wisdom was… and the one thing he asked for, and received, from God (wisdom) seemed to slip away like smoke through his fingers.
The fear of YHWH is Wisdom
Many people are confused about the phrase, “the fear of God” or “the fear of the LORD (YHWH)”. Fear is complex and multi-layered. Just being scared doesn’t give the word full credit. To fear God, really, was to have a deep respect, an overwhelming awe and reverence, for YHWH. Solomon confirmed that the fear of YHWH was fundamental for gaining 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 [khak’mah], 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.
According to the prophet Isaiah true treasure, which included wisdom, would be delivered to those who feared YHWH:
YHWH is exalted, for He dwells on high; He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness.
And He will be the stability of your times, a wealth of salvation, wisdom [khak’mat], and knowledge; the fear of YHWH is his treasure.
Ultimately the pinnacle of wisdom, far exceeding the wisdom of Solomon, would be found dwelling in the Messiah to come:
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 [khak’mah] 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 decisions by what His ears hear; but with righteousness He will judge the poor, and decide with fairness for the humble of the earth…
Last week we looked into the word knowledge which was strongly associated with seeing and hearing. But notice here that the coming Messiah would not judge by knowledge (seeing and hearing), but with righteousness, and that came out of the Spirit of wisdom and understanding.
Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah) was consistently associated with wisdom:
Now the Child continued to grow and to become strong, increasing in wisdom [Greek: sophia]; and the favour 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 they did not agree that He was the Messiah:
And He came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, with the result that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man acquire this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is His mother not called Mary, and His brothers, James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man acquire all these things?”
And they took offence at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not dishonoured except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.
Nearing the end of His ministry, Yeshua spoke of future tragic events and those who would be dishonoured for following Him:
“But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, turning you over to the synagogues and prisons, bringing you before kings and governors on account of My name. It will lead to an opportunity for your testimony. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will provide you eloquence and wisdom which none of your adversaries will be able to oppose or refute.”
Although followers of YHWH would suffer hardship, Yeshua promised to provide wisdom and good speech to all who stood up for His Name.
Our Wisdom comes from the Spirit
People can know a great many things but not have an ounce of wisdom. Today, websites 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 2:6-13
Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature; a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away; but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written:
“Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which we have not entered the human heart, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”
For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among people knows the thoughts of a person except the spirit of the person that is in him? So also the thoughts of God no one knows, except the Spirit of God. Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God. We also speak these things, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.
Yeshua promised his followers a great Helper (John 14:16, 14:26, 15:26, 16:7) after He left. It was the promise of His Spirit within us, as an internal voice that would guide us in wisdom and truth. Paul spoke about the gifts of the Spirit and one of those was the gift of wisdom:
1 Corinthians 12:7-11
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
The Spirit, sent by God, had no interest in dividing roles by gender, or race, or economic rank. The gifts of the Spirit (including wisdom) could be giving to female, male, Jew, Gentile, those living under bondage, and those who were free. Other gifts mentioned in Paul’s letters included: teaching, encouraging, leading, giving, serving, showing mercy, and serving others.
Although some people have been specifically gifted in wisdom, truth be told wisdom is available to all who seek her:
My son, eat honey, for it is good; yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste!
Know that wisdom [khok’mah] is the same for your soul; if you find it, then there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.
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
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