|King Solomon’s wisdom on display:
Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, 1726-29
1. The wise life benefits us. When we pursue biblical wisdom, our lives become focused, vibrant, and life-giving (Prov 8:12-21; 32-36). Wisdom does not solve all of our problems, but it does equip us to confront and reflect on those problems in an faithful and effective manner. N.B. Most of biblical wisdom pertains to developing and nurturing healthy personal relationships.
4. The wise life brings glory to God. Living wisely means living out the “fear of the Lord” (Prov 1:7) in a worshipful way. Wisdom is not a coldly calculated system engineered to bring about a desired result, but rather it is living in harmony with the Creator and the creation he has woven together according to his own wisdom. When we pursue wisdom, we honor our wise king Jesus, we proclaim the wisdom he displayed on the cross (1 Cor 1:18-31), and we glorify the wisdom of the Creator.
The Literature: which books in the Bible are wisdom books?
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job and certain Psalms, though wisdom teachings appear in a variety of Old and New Testament writings.
The greatest author of Old Testament wisdom literature known in the Bible is King Solomon. He was, after all, gifted with the divine wisdom by God himself (1 Kings 4:29). Many of the proverbs are attributed to Solomon, and the book of Ecclesiastes is attributed to an author who seems to be similar to, if not identified with, Solomon.
There are also other sages who are credited with writing some of the Bible Wisdom literature. Agur is one such sage (Proverbs 30), and another passage is credited to King Lemuel’s mother (Proverbs 31). Sages were thought to have gained wisdom through the teaching of traditional wisdom schools as well as through the observance of the world around them. As we mentioned above, wisdom was thought to be interwoven into the fabric of creation, so it was through studying creation that wisdom teaching was uncovered.
The teaching of the sages was passed through the generations of Israelites, teacher to student, father and mother to son and daughter. This was a family exercise, which is why several teaching sections begin, “hear my son” or “listen to the words of your father and mother.”
While wisdom may have been taught in schools, it was also apparently the responsibility of the parent to teach wisdom to the children. The older taught the younger and so the wisdom tradition was passed down through the generations. The wisdom books that we read now are collections of the teachings of the sages.
There is a good bit of emphasis on the steady hearing and reciting of the wisdom teachings. The students were encouraged to write wisdom on their hearts (Prov 3:3; 7:3). This meant that they were supposed to desire wisdom, to want it in their lives, to value it more than worldly things like wealth or power. The way that they would do this was by memorizing the sayings of the wise. The proverbs are written in a way that makes them easy to memorize, especially if you read them in the Hebrew. They employ similar sounds, many of them rhyme, and they follow a somewhat predictable structure of comparing and contrasting two or more things in order to make a point about the wise life.