Practicality is a word that is sacred among ranches. The simplest way to do something is always valued. When dealing with 1500 lbs animals, refurbished equipment, or hand me down tools, simple is always better. Murphy’s law, “if it can go wrong, it will go wrong” is offset by Okham’s razor, “the simplest solution is usually the correct one.” That is why a horse, a saddle, and a rope is still relevant amidst a world that is mechanized.
Proverbs is the horse, saddle, and rope book of the Bible. Set among the backdrop of the elegant poetry and beautiful worship compositions of the Psalms, the creative angst and despair of Ecclesiastes, the romance of Song of Solomon, or the deep questions posed by Job, Proverbs is just a down to earth, practical application of the best way to live life. There isn’t a lot of hidden meaning or deep interpretation that needs to be done. It is a book of simplicity that cuts out all the excess. That’s the kind of life we need more of today.
As part of the wisdom literature (as is the aforementioned 4 books), Proverbs is all about attaining wisdom. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. It was Bezalel, who was given “wisdom” [chokmah] to build the Tabernacle in Exodus 31. It was not just that he had the mental and theoretical understanding of what to build; his hands were able to accomplish the task. I can give you all the theory on how to shoe a horse; but when it comes down to using a hoof knife, I’m worthless. Wisdom is knowledge getting its hands dirty. Wisdom is knowledge in action. Proverbs is all about living life well, by putting knowledge into action: wisdom. Just over 25% of the times this word, chokmah, “wisdom” is used in the Old Testament, it is used in the book of Proverbs.
But wisdom in middle of Proverbs seems take on person-hood: “she” stands and calls out” (8.2-3); “I” raise my voice (8.4); “I, wisdom, dwell” (8.12); “I walk” (8.20) and so many more. The classification of wisdom as the female gender, has nothing to do with with the person-hood of wisdom. In the same way that the greek word for wisdom, sophia, is feminine in person, the Hebrew word, chokmah, is a feminine word as are many abstract words in the Hebrew language.
The real identity of Wisdom is hazy until verse 22 of Proverbs 8. I want to focus on four aspects and identifiers of Wisdom throughout the remaining There Solomon writes:
“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be.” (Proverbs 8.22-23)
Three things about Wisdom in this first section. First, when the Lord “brought him forth”, the initial thought was that Wisdom was a created entity. The hebrew word qanah can be used of creation, however, much more common is the meaning “to aquire” or “to buy”. Proverbs 4.5-7 uses the word 4 times in 3 verses and not once does it even hint at creation. The word qanah (to acquire) and its homophone (to create) and the confusion between the two, would provide the interpretation that gave rise to the heretical movement of Arianism and its teaching that Jesus was a created being, not to be equated with God. The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ would follow this teaching as well.
The second issue raised is the “formation” of Wisdom. Theses verse fall into Hebrew poetry structure of parallelism. There are three ways that Hebrew poetry is structured: 1) parallelism, where the second line repeats the idea of the previous; (2) antithetic, where the second line argues against the first; (3) synthetic, where the second line completes or builds upon the first. Verse 23 is in parallel to verse 22. It is conveying the same idea. Wisdom was appointed, the most recent NIV translation says “formed”, from eternity. The hebrew word, nasak, “appoint/formed” is also used in Psalm 2.6 speaking of a king being “installed” in his kingdom.
Finally, verses 24 and 25 says that Wisdom was “given birth” prior to the hills and and the oceans. Once again, was Wisdom a created being or eternal? “To give birth” would argue a beginning of Wisdom; but this is a complex word. The word is chil. The most common use of the word is used to mean “tremble”, “wound”, or “writhe” (that would be the Qal stem in Hebrew). This usage in 24 and 25 is the Pual stem. It means an intensive action. Simply put, the qal stem is intensified. Instead of “he killed” the same word becomes “he slaughtered.” As it pertains to our discussion, chil becomes “give birth”. Speaking from ignorance, I hear that giving birth is way worse than a paper cut. The word is used 7 times in this sense. Twice it is used in abstract: “The Lord twists the oaks” (Ps. 29.9) and “north wind brings rain” (Proverbs 25.23). It is doubtful that would be the intention here. Elsewhere, God has brought forth the Israelite’s (Dt. 32.18) and the world (Psalm 90.2). The metaphor is vital to our doctrine of God. He does not literally give birth, but he can act as a father. Which brings us to the final usage which means literally “to give birth” like the doe and fawn (Job 39.1) and Sarah giving birth. (Isaiah 51.2) Abraham was the father, but Sarah gave birth. God didn’t literally give birth to Wisdom, did not give rise to it, but he was connected to it. The father-son relationship is the intention of the Hebrew verb here. God relationship to Wisdom is fatherhood.
So according to Proverbs 8.22-26, Wisdom was acquired from God, installed from eternity, and in a intimate relationship with Him.
The second section to look at, verses 27-29, describes Wisdom’s presence at creation. Wisdom was there when God caused “the heavens to be set in place”. (8.27) Wisdom was present when the waters of the ocean were laid out, when the clouds were established, and when the deeps were dug out. Wisdom didn’t come about during creation; Wisdom was there in creation. Wisdom wasn’t a by product of creation; Wisdom produced creation. Wisdom had its working gloves on during the creation event. The knowledge of God in action.
So Wisdom was with God during creation.
To be continued…