The seventh chapter of Proverbs depicts the senseless fool who thinks he can with impunity gain some temporary pleasure by breaking the holy and righteous laws of God. All human beings are gifted with the delusion that they are wise, but in very truth we would be more wise if we all admitted we were fools. No one can rightfully boast of his mature wisdom.
The eighth chapter, however, by contrast, tells much concerning real wisdom. Wisdom makes her address to all sorts of human beings, not under cover of darkness, but openly and publicly and candidly. Yet how few human beings make any positive search for the true wisdom.
Money has its uses. Without coins and bank notes we should need to bend our backs with barter, a most clumsy method of conducting life and business. But wisdom is better than rubies, and all desirable worldly things are as rubbish compared with wisdom.
We must recognize that while "The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of knowledge" (Prov. 1:7), and "The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom" (9:10), the word for beginning in the former case is reshith (first principle), while in the latter case it is a very different term, thchillah, which seems to mean a breaking through. Wisdom can only break through and enter us when we possess a healthy and wholesome fear of God.
It is quite true that the description given of wisdom, as personified, is similar in some ways to the description of the Logos or Word in John 1:1-18. It has long been the custom to declare that the eighth of Proverbs is a picture of Christ, as God's Wisdom. In 1. Cor. 1:24 Paul says that to the called themselves, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is "God's power and God's Wisdom." He is not here called the Wisdom of God, but simply "God's Wisdom," just as God's Son is never called the Image of God, because mankind also is God's image. But it must not be supposed that John based his statements about the Logos upon Proverbs 8. Solomon was not writing about the Logos. Everything came into being through the Logos, and apart from the Logos there came into being not one single thing which has come or has been coming into being (John 1:3). The Logos became flesh, and was a real human person, not merely a quality or an attribute. But nothing like this is said concerning Wisdom by Solomon. Solomon does not say that Wisdom is God. Wisdom is personified as an attribute of God. Jehovah acquired Wisdom, the beginning or first principle of His way (v. 22). This may seem a rather strange statement, that God acquired Wisdom, and I do not pretend to be able to explain it fully. The word in Hebrew (qanah) clearly means to acquire, through effort or payment, and is rendered very often as buy. Abraham swore in front of the King of Sodom by Jehovah, the Most High God, the acquirer (not possessor) of heaven and earth (Gen. 14:22 and cf. 19). The very same word is used in Proverbs of human beings getting wisdom or understanding (4:5, 7; 15:32; 16:16; 17:16; 18:15; 19:8). Perhaps the meaning is that God acquired or brought into being a system of Wisdom, which Wisdom was eventually to become "delights with the sons of men" (ch. 8:31). We know from 1. Tim. 1:17 that the King of the Ages is an incorruptible, an invisible, an only, and a wise God.
Solomon tells us that before the physical creation, Wisdom was brought forth (8: 24, 25). Here the meaning seems to be that creation was brought forth in travail (Heb. chul, chil) and once more there is the thought of pain, illness, grief or a breaking through, reminding one inevitably of the woman in travail. One writer renders verse 24, "While there were no depths I was born, when there were no fountains laden with water," and the next verse, "Before the mountains were sunk down, before the hills, was I born." Perhaps this will help to solve any difficulty connected with Jehovah acquiring Wisdom. For in very deed, God did travail to bring forth, for the sons of humanity, and for the whole creation, His grand solution of the Sin question, through His Son. "Yet out of Him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to become (passive) Wisdom to us, from God" (1. Cor. 1:30). In Christ do we find that Wisdom which God had stored up for us from obscurity, and brought forth with so much suffering and travail.
Here we have, it seems to me, a powerful argument in favour of God's reclamation of the whole of humanity. In Gen. 9:1 after the Flood, mankind was plainly told by God to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. This Divine Law is still in force, and it is in force even though a great proportion of children born are not born in wedlock. God is, and must be, entirely responsible for His own Laws and the result of these Laws. Each child that is born is a direct creation of God, not of its parents. Not only so, but just as the physical creation was brought forth by God in travail, it is God's Law that womankind must suffer in the same way as God did, in travail in pain, in grief. If God is thus the responsible Creator of all human beings, where would be the Wisdom of thus creating masses of them merely for the purpose of again destroying them? The travail of the woman is irrefragably linked up with the Divine travail in creation and in the Cross.
The Greek O.T. reads at Provo 8:22, "The Lord creates me, beginner (or, beginning) of his ways." The word used is ektisen, creates. But the Greek version of Aquila reads a very similar word, ektEsato, which means "acquires." The stems of both words are KT, which seems once more in both cases to speak of acquiring or bringing into being through effort, or travail.
Omnipotence, without Wisdom, would be indescribably terrible. There used to be a popular song which said some thing about being "Born unlucky." That was all I knew of it. We certainly would have been born most unlucky had the Deity been like some of our human monsters, or like Satan. Not yet do we know how well off we are, in being called into God's favour.
The essence of real Wisdom is to choose the best ends and the best means of reaching them. We know that God's designs are altogether benignant, and that He will far more than restore all the misery and damage brought about through evil. He is wise enough and powerful enough to do this, even though we cannot as yet trace all His footsteps.
Wisdom, however, is not God, but something He possesses and in which He delights. Therefore Wisdom is not the Logos. In our chapter, the early Fathers discovered that Wisdom of God which pities and will save the perishing human race.
But there is certainly one point in which Proverbs 8 resembles John 1. John tells us that the Word or Logos was "toward God," or facing God, face to face with God. The meaning of this strange statement has probably not yet been made clear. Where in the New Testament someone talks toward (pros) another, he is speaking very directly, face to face, fronting his hearer, sometimes bluntly, as in Acts 18:14. Paul was just about to open his mouth, when Gallio burst in and said something "facing" or "face to face" with the Jews, which resulted in their being driven away from the court. It would be a great boon if the common Greek word pros could be thus rendered in many places.
The Revised Standard Version reads at Prov. 8:30, "then I was beside him, like a master workman (or, a little child); and I was daily (his) delight, rejoicing before him always." Rotherham translates thus, "Then became I beside him, a firm and sure worker." The word for beside is in Hebrew etzlo (or atzlu), and its clear meaning is alongside or facing. Instead of workman or worker the 1611 King James version has "one brought up (with him)." The Hebrew word is amon, but the Greek reads something answering to amman or umman, meaning connected with or joined up with. Aquila's Greek version however uses a term which means one getting nursed or fondled, probably answering to Hebrew amun, which would correspond to our word alumnus, one who is educated, or literally, nourished, brought up (at a college). This sense is now commonly approved of and thus the King James reading has been vindicated.
These Hebrew words are forms of the word Amen, which simply means reliable. The verb is often rendered as faithful, believe, establish, but also (in the Qal conjugation), nurse, nourish, and bring up, the sense being that only reliable persons were accepted as nurses or educators.
Perhaps the general sense of Proverbs 8 might be summed up in Psalm 104:24, which states that Jehovah makes all His works in Wisdom, and that the earth is full of His acquisitions (brought forth in travail). That is how the Hebrew reads. God has all along been directed by His Divine Wisdom, which has always been His companion, alongside of Him.
It was necessary for "the wisest man the world ere saw" to emphasize this fact, because true Wisdom, like real Love, as even he found, only occurs in human beings occasionally, and in patches.
A.T. Last updated 16.10.2005