Essentially, insight is the ability to see into a situation. To act with insight is to act with prudence, discretion. According to Wilson’s Old Testament Word Studies, the Hebrew verb sa·khalʹ means “to look at; to be prudent, circumspect; to act prudently, to be intelligent.” (1978, p. 461) Thus, sa·khalʹ is rendered ‘have insight’ (Ps 14:2), ‘act with discretion’ (Pr 10:19), “act prudently” (1Sa 18:5), ‘have success’ (Pr 17:8), ‘cause to show insight’ (Pr 16:23). The noun seʹkhel is translated “insight” (Ps 111:10) and “discretion.”—1Sa 25:3.
Insight is closely related to understanding, but there is a fine distinction between the two terms. Says the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament: “While bin [understanding] indicates ‘distinguishing between,’ [sa·khalʹ] relates to an intelligent knowledge of the reason. There is the process of thinking through a complex arrangement of thoughts resulting in a wise dealing and use of good practical common sense. Another end result is the emphasis upon being successful.”—Edited by R. L. Harris, 1980, Vol. 2, p. 877; see UNDERSTANDING.
In the Greek Scriptures, the verb sy·niʹe·mi is translated ‘has insight’ at Romans 3:11, where the apostle Paul quotes from Psalm 14:2. Sy·niʹe·mi is also rendered “get the sense of” (Mt 13:13-15), ‘grasp’ (Mt 16:12), “understand” (Ac 28:26), and ‘perceive’ (Eph 5:17).
Jehovah God gives insight to his servants by providing them with counsel and advice that they can use to direct their steps and control their actions. (Ps 32:8; compare Da 9:22.) He provides such wise guidance by means of his Word. To gain insight, though, a person must do more than read the Bible. He must appreciate it so as to be motivated to do all that God directs. (Jos 1:7, 8; 1Ki 2:3) Needed also is the help of God’s spirit. (Ne 9:20; compare 1Ch 28:12, 19.) Once acquired, insight must be safeguarded. One can lose it by turning from God’s ways.—Ps 36:1-3; Pr 21:16.
Insight can be displayed in various ways, resulting in blessings both to the one who has it and to others. The psalmist pronounces happy the one “acting with consideration [with insight] toward the lowly one.” (Ps 41:1) A wife who is “discreet” (showing insight) is described as a blessing from Jehovah. (Pr 19:14) Insight, looking beyond the obvious, enables one to guard his mouth (Pr 10:19; 16:23) and to know when to keep silent. (Am 5:13) It also helps one to avoid anger and overlook transgression. (Pr 19:11) One who has insight accepts correction. (Ps 2:10) According to Proverbs 21:11, when a wise person obtains insight—that is, when he carefully considers available information and as a result acquires a clearer picture of a matter—he “gets knowledge,” that is, he knows what to do regarding the matter, what conclusions to draw, what counsel to give.