by Mike Ford (1955-2021)
CGG Weekly, November 16, 2018
"Knowledge speaks but wisdom listens."
In the previous essay, we noted the difference between knowledge (having information, knowing facts, possessing skills acquired through experience or education) and wisdom (knowledge of what is true or right coupled with proper judgment as to action). We found that Solomon uses the Hebrew word for "wisdom," ?okmāh, in the sense of "skill in living and in relationships with others." However, we also found that people who should be displaying wisdom—the aged, the expert, the influential—too often show little evidence of having any.
Solomon writes in Proverbs 7:1, "My son, keep my words, and treasure my commands within you." This word "treasure," the Hebrew şā??n (Strong's #6845), is a verb meaning "to hide, to conceal, to secrete, to store up, to treasure." God's Word, His law, is to be a special treasure that we keep close to us, a most special possession!
The English verb "treasure" is similar—"to keep a valuable or valued item carefully; cherish, hold dear, prize or value greatly." Some things mean a great deal to us, certainly our spouses, kids, and other family members, but consider something we more often think of as "treasure." Usually, a treasure is something physical, maybe one's wedding ring, 1960s muscle car, or classic Fender Stratocaster. Whatever it is, it is something we keep close and do not want to lose.
How we deal with such treasured items is how we are to deal with God's commands. I have seen my wife take her wedding ring off when she is cleaning or doing something rough with her hands. She sets it to the side so she will know where it is and can keep an eye on it. She would be heartbroken to lose it. God, through Solomon, says "Treasure my commands within you." Notice Proverbs 2:1-5:
My son, if you receive my words, and treasure [şā??n] my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom [?okmāh], and apply your heart to understanding; yes if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God."
Within the first four verses are four sets of parallel couplets with four sets of significant words: receive/treasure; incline/apply; cry out/lift up; and seek/search.
My son, if you receive [follow, accept, learn, seize] my words,
And treasure [hide, lay up, never forget] my commands within you,
So that you incline [listen, be attentive, tune in, focus] your ear to wisdom,
And apply [work to understand, think on, meditate, pray, study] your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding ["Yes, beg for knowledge; plead for insight" (Good News Translation[*]); "Beg as loud as you can for good common sense" (Contemporary English Version[†])],
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures [we must look for wisdom every bit as hard as we would search for buried treasure!];
"Then," verse 5, "you will understand the fear of the LORD," which is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7) and a building block toward wisdom.
Solomon writes something similar in Proverbs 8:17-21, another passage in which wisdom is personified as a woman:
I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently will find me [we seek wisdom, a metaphor here for God, through prayer, Bible study, meditation, fasting, obedience, etc.]. Riches and honor are with me, enduring riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yes, than fine gold, and my revenue [income] than choice silver. I traverse [walk] the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice, that I may cause those who love me to inherit wealth, that I may fill their treasuries.
The Good News Translation translates verse 21 as "giving wealth to those who love me, filling their houses with treasures." That great wealth, those riches, God's fruit, is His knowledge (verse 10), which leads to wisdom—and nothing compares to wisdom: "For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her" (verse 11).
The so-called wise of this world may be found in academia, spending their lives writing scholarly papers or books on a small area of study. Maybe they are in government (this is doubtful) or entertainment (also doubtful). The wise of this world do not realize how foolish they are.
Some people seek fame and fortune with every waking hour. They are also foolish because their priorities are wrong. What they are looking for has no value beyond the grave.
God has given us far more than them all, but we must guard it. We must be vigilant, not resting on yesterday's efforts, but each day building on our knowledge gained from living this way of life. And from that, if we are diligent, comes wisdom.
In Part Three, we will consider those who seek for "hidden treasures."
[*] Good News Translation® (Today's English Version, Second Edition) Copyright © 1992 American Bible Society. All rights reserved.
[†] Contemporary English Version® Copyright © 1995 American Bible Society. All rights reserved.