The basic terms signifying wisdom are the Hebrew hhokh·mahʹ (verb, hha·khamʹ) and the Greek so·phiʹa, with their related forms. Also, there are the Hebrew tu·shi·yahʹ, which may be rendered as “effectual working” or “practical wisdom,” and the Greek phroʹni·mos and phroʹne·sis (from phren, the “mind”), relating to “sensibleness,” “discretion,” or “practical wisdom.”
For hhokh·mahʹ the Commentaries on the Old Testament by Keil and Delitzsch (The Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, p. 230) give the basic sense of “solidity, compactness,” and describe it as “solid knowledge of the true and the right.” The Biblical sense of wisdom, whether expressed by the Hebrew hhokh·mahʹ or the Greek so·phiʹa, lays emphasis on sound judgment, based on knowledge and understanding; the ability to use knowledge and understanding successfully to solve problems, avoid or avert dangers, attain certain goals or to counsel others in doing so. “Wisdom is proved righteous [“justified”] by all its children [or, its works].” (Luke 7:35; Matt. 11:19, Kingdom Interlinear Translation) It is the opposite of foolishness, stupidity and madness, with which it is often contrasted.—Deut. 32:6; Prov. 11:29; Eccl. 6:8.
Wisdom thus implies a breadth of knowledge, and a depth of understanding, these giving the soundness and clarity of judgment characteristic of wisdom. The wise man ‘treasures up knowledge,’ has a fund of it to draw upon. (Prov. 10:14) While “wisdom is the prime thing,” the counsel is that “with all that you acquire, acquire understanding.” (Prov. 4:5-7) Understanding (a broad term that frequently embraces discernment and insight) adds strength to wisdom, contributing greatly to discretion and foresight, also notable characteristics of wisdom. Discretion implies prudence, may be expressed in caution, self-control, moderation or restraint. The “discreet [phroʹni·mos] man” builds his house on a rock-mass, foreseeing the possibility of storm; the foolish man builds his on sand and suffers disaster.—Matt. 7:24-27.
Understanding fortifies wisdom in other ways. For example, a person may obey a certain command of God due to recognizing the rightness of such obedience, and this is wisdom on his part. But if he gets real understanding of the reason for that command, the good purpose it serves and the benefits accruing from it, his heart determination to continue in that wise course is greatly strengthened. (Prov. 14:33) Proverbs 21:11 says that “by one’s giving insight to a wise person he gets knowledge.” The wise person values insight (a facet of understanding) and is happy to get any information that will grant him a clearer view into the underlying circumstances, conditions and causes of problems. Thereby he “gets knowledge” as to what to do regarding the matter, knows what conclusions to draw, what is needed to solve the existing problem.—Compare Proverbs 9:9; Ecclesiastes 7:25; 8:1; Ezekiel 28:3.
Wisdom in the absolute sense is found in Jehovah God, who is “wise alone” in this sense. (Rom. 16:27; Rev. 7:12) Knowledge is acquaintance with fact, and, being the Creator, who is “from time indefinite to time indefinite” (Ps. 90:1, 2), God knows all there is to know about the universe, its composition and contents, its history till now. The physical laws, cycles, and standards upon which men rely in their research and invention, and without which they would be helpless, having nothing stable upon which to build, are all of His making. (Job 38:34-38; Ps. 104:24; Prov. 3:19; Jer. 10:12, 13) Logically, his moral standards are even more vital for stability, sound judgment and successful human living. (Deut. 32:4-6; see JEHOVAH [A God of moral standards].) There is nothing beyond his understanding. (Isa. 40:13, 14) Though he may allow things that are contrary to his righteous standards to develop and even temporarily prosper, the future ultimately rests with him and will conform precisely to his will, and the things spoken by him “will have certain success.”—Isa. 55:8-11; 46:9-11.
For all these reasons it is evident that “the fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom.” (Prov. 9:10) “Who should not fear you, O King of the nations, for to you it is fitting; because among all the wise ones of the nations and among all their kingships there is in no way anyone like you.” (Jer. 10:7) “He is wise in heart and strong in power. Who can show stubbornness to him and come off uninjured?” (Job 9:4; Prov. 14:16) In his mightiness he can intervene at will in human affairs, maneuvering rulers or eliminating them, making his prophetic revelations prove infallible. (Dan. 2:20-23) Biblical history recounts the futile efforts of powerful kings with their astute counselors to pit their wisdom against Him and the way God has triumphantly vindicated his servants who loyally proclaimed his message.—Isa. 31:2; 44:25-28; compare Job 12:12, 13.
“God’s wisdom in a sacred secret”
The rebellion that broke out in Eden presented a challenge to God’s wisdom. His wise means for ending that rebellion, wiping out its effects and restoring peace, harmony and right order in his universal family formed “a sacred secret, the hidden wisdom, which God foreordained before the systems of things,” that is, those systems that have developed during man’s history outside Eden. (1 Cor. 2:7) Its outlines were contained in God’s dealings with, and promises to, his faithful servants during many centuries; it was foreshadowed and symbolized in the Law covenant with Israel, including its priesthood and sacrifices, and was pointed to in innumerable prophecies and visions.
Finally, after more than four thousand years, the wisdom of that sacred secret was revealed in Jesus Christ (Col. 1:26-28), through whom God has purposed “an administration at the full limit of the appointed times, namely, to gather all things together again in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth.” (Eph. 1:8-11) God’s provision of the ransom for the salvation of obedient mankind and his purpose for a Kingdom government headed by his Son and able to end all wickedness were revealed. Since God’s grand purpose is founded on and centered in his Son, Christ Jesus “has become to us [Christians] wisdom from God.” (1 Cor. 1:30) “Carefully concealed in him are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.” (Col. 2:3) Only through him and by faith in him, God’s “Chief Agent of life,” can salvation and life be attained. (Acts 3:15; John 14:6; 2 Tim. 3:15) There is, therefore, no true wisdom that fails to consider Jesus Christ, that does not base its judgment and decisions solidly on God’s purpose as revealed in him.—See JESUS CHRIST (His Vital Place in God’s Purpose).
HUMAN WISDOM—BROAD OR LIMITED, FLESHLY OR SPIRITUAL
Wisdom is personalized in the book of Proverbs, depicted there as a woman inviting persons to receive what she has to offer. These accounts and related texts show that wisdom is indeed a blend of many things: knowledge, understanding (including insight and discernment), thinking ability, experience, diligence, shrewdness (the opposite of being gullible or naive [Prov. 14:15, 18]), and right judgment. But since true wisdom begins with the fear of Jehovah God (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10), this superior wisdom goes beyond ordinary wisdom and includes holding to high standards, manifesting uprightness, righteousness, adherence to truth. (Prov. 1:2, 3, 20-22; 2:2-11; 6:6; 8:1, 5-12) Not all wisdom measures up to that superior wisdom.
Human wisdom is never absolute, but is relative. Wisdom on a limited scale is attainable by man through his own efforts, though he must in any case use the intelligence with which God (who even gave the animals certain instinctive wisdom [Job 35:11; Prov. 30:24-28]) initially endowed man. Man learns from observation of, and working with, the materials of God’s creation. Such wisdom may vary in type and extent. The Greek word so·phiʹa is often applied to skill in a certain trade or craft; to skill and sound administrative judgment in governmental and business fields; or to extensive knowledge in some particular field of human science or research. Similarly, the Hebrew hhokh·mahʹ and hha·khamʹ are used to describe the ‘skillfulness’ of sailors and ship caulkers (Ezek. 27:8, 9; compare Psalm 107:23, 27) and of workers in stone and wood (1 Chron. 22:15), and the wisdom and skill of other craftsmen, some having great talent in a wide variety of crafts. (1 Ki. 7:14; 2 Chron. 2:7, 13, 14) Even the skilled image carver or idol maker is described by such terms. (Isa. 40:20; Jer. 10:3-9) The shrewd practice of the business world is a form of wisdom.—Ezek. 28:4, 5.
All such wisdom may be had even though the possessors lack the spiritual wisdom the Scriptures particularly advocate. Nevertheless, God’s spirit may enhance some of these types of wisdom where they are useful in accomplishing his purpose. His spirit activated those constructing the tabernacle and its equipment and weaving the priestly garments, both men and women, filling them with both ‘wisdom and understanding.’ Thereby they not only understood what was desired and the means for accomplishing the work but also displayed the talent, artistry, vision and judgment necessary to design and produce superb works.—Ex. 28:3; 31:3-6; 35:10, 25, 26, 31, 35; 36:1, 2, 4, 8.
Ancient wise men
Men noted for their wisdom and counsel were anciently prized by kings and others, even as in modern times. Egypt, Persia, Chaldea, Edom and other nations had their bodies of “wise men.” (Ex. 7:11, Esther 1:13; Jer. 10:7; 50:35; Obad. 8) Such bodies evidently included the priests and government officials but were not restricted to such, probably including all those ‘elders’ of the nations who were particularly known for their wisdom and who resided near the capital so as to be available for counseling. (Compare Genesis 41:8; Psalm 105:17-22; Isaiah 19:11, 12; Jeremiah 51:57.) The monarchs of Persia had a privy council of seven wise men for quick consultation (Esther 1:13-15), and lesser Persian officials might have their own staff of wise men.—Esther 6:13.
Joseph, by the help of God’s spirit, displayed such discretion and wisdom that Egypt’s ruling Pharaoh made him his prime minister. (Gen. 41:38-41; Acts 7-9, 10) “Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” and was “mighty in his words and deeds” even prior to God’s making him his spokesman. But this human wisdom and ability did not qualify Moses for God’s purpose. After his first attempt (at the age of about forty) to bring relief to his Israelite brothers, Moses had to wait another forty years before God sent him forth, a spiritually wise man, to lead Israel out of Egypt.—Acts 7:22-36; compare Deuteronomy 34:9.
Solomon was already a wise man before entering into full kingship (1 Ki. 2:1, 6, 9) yet humbly acknowledged himself “but a little boy” in prayer to Jehovah, seeking his aid in judging God’s people and being rewarded with “a wise and understanding heart” unequaled among Judah’s kings. (1 Ki. 3:7-12) His wisdom surpassed the famed wisdom of the Orientals and of Egypt, making Jerusalem a place to which monarchs or their representatives traveled to learn from the Judean king. (1 Ki. 4:29-34; 10:1-9, 23-25) Certain women of ancient times were also noted for their wisdom.—2 Sam. 14:1-20; 20:16-22; compare Judges 5:28, 29.
Not always used for good
Human wisdom can be used for good or for bad. In the latter case it definitely betrays itself as only fleshly wisdom, not spiritual, not from God. Jehonadab was “a very wise man,” but his counsel to David’s son Amnon was based on shrewd strategy and manipulation of people by deceit, bringing dubious success and disastrous consequences. (2 Sam. 13:1-31) Absalom cunningly campaigned to unseat his royal father David (2 Sam. 14:28-33; 15:1-6) and, upon occupying Jerusalem, solicited the advice of two of his father’s counselors, Ahithophel and Hushai, as to further steps to take. Ahithophel’s wise advice was consistently of such accuracy as to make it appear that it came from God. Nevertheless, he had become a traitor to God’s anointed, and Jehovah caused his wise battle plan to be rejected in favor of faithful Hushai’s plan, which skillfully played on Absalom’s vanity and human weaknesses to bring about his downfall. (2 Sam. 16:15-23; 17:1-14) As Paul wrote of God: “‘He catches the wise in their own cunning.’ And again: ‘Jehovah knows that the reasonings of the wise men are futile.’”—1 Cor. 3:19, 20; compare Exodus 1:9, 10, 20, 21; Luke 20:19-26.
Apostate priests, prophets and wise men of the Israelite nation in time led the people to oppose God’s counsel and command as spoken by his loyal servants (Jer. 18:18), and Jehovah caused ‘the wisdom of their wise men to perish, and the understanding of their discreet men to conceal itself’ (Isa. 29:13, 14; Jer. 8:8, 9), bringing the five-hundred-year-old kingdom to ruin (as he later did to Jerusalem’s proud destroyer, Babylon, and to the boastful Tyrian dynasty). (Isa. 47:10-15; Ezek. 28:2-17) They rejected spiritual wisdom in favor of fleshly wisdom.
The vanity of much of human wisdom
Investigating the “calamitous occupation” that sin and imperfection have brought mankind, King Solomon weighed the value of the wisdom that men in general develop and attain and found it to be “a striving after wind.” The disorder, perversion and deficiencies in imperfect human society were so far beyond man’s ability to straighten out or compensate for, that those ‘getting an abundance of wisdom’ experienced increased frustration and irritation, evidently due to becoming acutely conscious of how little they could personally do to improve matters.—Eccl. 1:13-18; 7:29; compare Romans 8:19-22, where the apostle shows God’s provision for ending mankind’s enslavement to corruption and subjection to futility.
Solomon also found that, while such human wisdom produced varied pleasures and proficiency that brought material wealth, it could not bring true happiness or lasting satisfaction. The wise man died along with the stupid, not knowing what would become of his possessions, and his human wisdom ceased in the grave. (Eccl. 2:3-11, 16, 18-21; 4:4; 9:10; compare Psalm 49:10.) Even in life, “time and unforeseen occurrence” might bring sudden calamity, leaving the wise without even such basic needs as food. (Eccl. 9:11, 12) By his own wisdom man could never find out “the work of the true God,” never gain solid knowledge of how to solve man’s highest problems.—Eccl. 8:16, 17; compare Job chapter 28.
Solomon does not say human wisdom is utterly without value. Compared with mere foolishness, which he also investigated, the advantage of wisdom over folly is like that of ‘light over darkness.’ For the wise man’s eyes “are in his head,” serving his intellectual powers that in turn feed the heart, whereas the stupid man’s eyes do not see with thoughtful discernment. (Eccl. 2:12-14; compare Proverbs 17:24; Matthew 6:22, 23.) Wisdom is a protection of greater value than money. (Eccl. 7:11, 12) But Solomon showed that its worth was all relative, entirely dependent on its conformity to God’s wisdom and purpose. (Eccl. 2:24; 3:11-15, 17; 8:12, 13; 9:1) One can be excessive in striving to manifest wisdom, pushing himself beyond the limits of his imperfect ability in a self-destructive course. (Eccl. 7:16; compare 12:12.) But by obediently serving his Creator and being content with food, drink and the good that his hard work brings him, God will give him the needed “wisdom and knowledge and rejoicing.”—Eccl. 2:24-26; 12:13.
“The wisdom of the world” versus
the wisdom of God’s sacred secret
The world of mankind has developed a fund of wisdom over the centuries, much of which is taught through its schools and by other means of instruction, other types of wisdom being acquired by individuals through personal association with others or by experience. For the Christian there is need to know the right attitude to adopt toward such wisdom. In an illustration of an unrighteous steward who manipulated his master’s accounts with certain creditors so as to gain a secure future, Jesus described the steward as ‘acting with practical wisdom [phroʹni·mos, ‘discreetly’].’ This shrewd foresight, however, was the practical wisdom of “the sons of this system of things,” not that of “the sons of the light.” (Luke 16:1-8, Kingdom Interlinear Translation) Earlier, Jesus praised his heavenly Father for hiding certain truths from the “wise and intellectual ones” while revealing them to his disciples, who were by comparison like “babes.” (Luke 10:21-24) The scribes and Pharisees, educated at rabbinical schools, were among such wise and intellectual ones.—Compare Matthew 13:54-57; John 7:15.
In that first century, the Greeks were especially renowned for their culture and accumulated knowledge, their schools and philosophic groups. Probably for that reason Paul paralleled ‘Greeks and Barbarians’ with ‘wise and senseless ones.’ (Rom. 1:14) Paul strongly emphasized to the Christians at Corinth, Greece, that Christianity is not reliant on nor characterized by “the wisdom [so·phiʹan] of the world,” that is, the world of mankind alienated from God. (See WORLD [The world alienated from God].) Not that among the multiple facets of the world’s wisdom there was nothing useful or beneficial, for Paul sometimes made use of skill learned in the tentmaking trade and also quoted on occasion from literary works of worldly authors to illustrate certain points of truth. (Acts 18:2, 3; 17:28, 29; Titus 1:12) But the overall outlook, methods, standards and goals of the world—its philosophy—were not in harmony with the truth, were contrary to ‘God’s wisdom in the sacred secret.’
So the world in its wisdom rejected God’s provision through Christ as foolishness; its rulers, though they may have been able and judicious administrators, even “impaled the glorious Lord.” (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:7, 8) But God, in turn, was now proving the wisdom of the worldly-wise to be foolishness, putting their wise men to shame by using what they considered “a foolish thing of God,” as well as persons they deemed ‘foolish, weak and ignoble,’ to accomplish His invincible purpose. (1 Cor. 1:19-28) Paul reminded the Corinthian Christians that “the wisdom of this system of things [and] that of the rulers of this system of things” would come to nothing; hence such wisdom was not part of the apostle’s spiritual message. (1 Cor. 2:6, 13) He warned Christians in Colossae against being ensnared by “the philosophy [phi·lo·so·phiʹas, literally “love of wisdom”] and empty deception according to the tradition of men.”—Col. 2:8; compare verses 20-23.
Despite its temporary benefits and successes, the world’s wisdom was doomed to produce failure. But the Christian congregation of God’s anointed had spiritual wisdom that led to “the unfathomable riches of the Christ.” Since that congregation formed part of God’s sacred secret, by his dealings with it and his purposes fulfilled in it “the greatly diversified wisdom of God” was made known or revealed “through the congregation” even to “the governments and the authorities in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 3:8-11; 1:17, 18; compare 1 Peter 1:12.) Its members, having “the mind of Christ” (compare Philippians 2:5-8), had knowledge and understanding vastly superior to that of the world, hence could speak, “not with words taught by human wisdom, but with those taught by the spirit,” with “a mouth and wisdom” opposers could not refute, though such Christians might be looked down upon as “unlettered and ordinary” by worldly standards.—1 Cor. 2:11-16; Luke 21:15; Acts 4:13; 6:9, 10.
Waging spiritual warfare
The apostle Paul relied on godly wisdom in waging a spiritual warfare against any who threatened to pervert Christian congregations, such as that at Corinth. (1 Cor. 5:6, 7, 13; 2 Cor. 10:3-6; compare 6:7.) He knew that “wisdom is better than implements for fighting, and merely one sinner can destroy much good.” (Eccl. 9:18; 7:19) His reference to “overturning strongly entrenched things” (2 Cor. 10:4) corresponds in idea to the Greek Septuagint rendering of part of Proverbs 21:22. Paul knew the human tendency to give prime attention to those having impressive manner, obvious talent or powerful personality and speech; he knew that the ‘quiet speech of a wise man of little material wealth’ is often ignored in favor of those giving greater appearance of mightiness. (Compare Ecclesiastes 9:13-17.) Even Jesus, who did not have the earthly wealth and position Solomon possessed but who had vastly superior wisdom, was shown little respect and attention by the rulers and people.—Compare Matthew 12:42; 13:54-58; Isaiah 52:13-15; 53:1-3.
To some who boasted in fleshly abilities (contrast Jeremiah 9:23, 24) rather than in the heart, Paul’s personal appearance was viewed as “weak and his speech contemptible.” (2 Cor. 5:12; 10:10) Yet he avoided any extravagance of speech or display of human wisdom and its power to persuade, so that his hearers’ faith would be built up through God’s spirit and power and be founded on Christ rather than on “men’s wisdom.” (1 Cor. 1:17; 2:1-5; 2 Cor. 5:12) With spiritual foresight, Paul was a “wise director of works,” not of material construction but of spiritual construction, working with God in the building up of the spiritual temple.—1 Cor. 3:9-16.
Hence, no matter how much of the world’s wisdom one might have by virtue of skill in trades, shrewdness in commerce, administrative ability, or scientific or philosophic learning, the rule was: “If anyone among you thinks he is wise in this system of things, let him become a fool, that he may become wise.” (1 Cor. 3:18) He should be proud only of ‘having insight and knowledge of Jehovah, the One exercising loving-kindness, justice and righteousness in the earth,’ for in this Jehovah takes delight.—Jer. 9:23, 24; 1 Cor. 1:31; 3:19-23.
As wisdom personified states: “I have counsel and practical wisdom. I—understanding; I have mightiness. By me kings themselves keep reigning, and high officials themselves keep decreeing righteousness. By me princes themselves keep ruling as princes, and nobles are all judging in righteousness. Those loving me I myself love, and those looking for me are the ones that find me.” (Prov. 8:12, 14-17) The Messianic King displays such superior wisdom from God. (Isa. 11:1-5; compare Revelation 5:12.) This surpasses the ability men may have or develop naturally, making one wise in the principles of God’s law and, with the aid of his spirit, making it possible to render judicial decisions that are right and free from partiality. (Ezra 7:25; 1 Ki. 3:28; Prov. 24:23; compare Deuteronomy 16:18, 19; James 2:1-9.) Such wisdom is not apathetic toward wickedness, but wars against it.—Prov. 20:26.
Men selected for responsibility within the Christian congregation qualified, not on the basis of worldly success, fleshly wisdom or abilities, but because of being “full of spirit and [godly] wisdom.” (Acts 6:1-5; compare 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9.) Such ones were among the “prophets and wise men and public instructors” Jesus had promised to send out, and they could also serve as judges and counselors within the congregation, even as fleshly Israel had had its wise men who served in similar ways. (Matt. 23:34; 1 Cor. 6:5) They recognized the value of consulting together.—Prov. 13:10; 24:5, 6; compare Acts 15:1-22.
ACQUIRING TRUE WISDOM
The proverb counsels: “Buy truth itself and do not sell it—wisdom and discipline and understanding.” (Prov. 23:23) Jehovah, the Source of true wisdom, grants it generously to those who sincerely seek it, ask for it in faith, showing a wholesome, reverential fear of him. (Prov. 2:1-7; Jas. 1:5-8) But the seeker must spend time in study of God’s Word, learn His commands, laws, reminders and counsel, consider the history of God’s acts and doings, then apply these in his life. (Deut. 4:5, 6; Ps. 19:7; 107:43; 119:98-101; Prov. 10:8; compare 2 Timothy 3:15-17.) He wisely buys out the opportune time, not acting unreasonably in a wicked time but “perceiving what the will of Jehovah is.” (Eph. 5:15-20; Col. 4:5, 6) He must develop firm faith and unshakable conviction that God’s power is invincible, his will is certain of success, and his ability and promise to reward faithfulness are sure.—Heb. 11:1, 6; 1 Cor. 15:13, 14, 19.
Only in this way can the person make right decisions as to his life course and not be swayed by fear, greed, immoral desire and other damaging emotions. (Prov. 2:6-16; 3:21-26; Isa. 33:2, 6) As wisdom personified says: “Happy is the man that is listening to me by keeping awake at my doors day by day, by watching at the posts of my entrances. For the one finding me will certainly find life, and gets good will from Jehovah. But the one missing me is doing violence to his soul; all those intensely hating me are the ones that do love death.”—Prov. 8:34-36; 13:14; 24:13, 14.
The heart more important than the mind
Intelligence is obviously a major factor in wisdom, yet the heart, which prominently relates to motivation and affection, is clearly a more important factor in gaining true wisdom. (Ps. 49:3, 4; Prov. 14:33) God’s servant wants to get “sheer wisdom” in his “secret self,” have wise motivation in planning his life course. (Compare Psalm 51:6, 10; 90:12.) “The heart of the wise is at his right hand [that is, ready to help and protect him at critical moments (compare Psalm 16:8; 109:31)], but the heart of the stupid [is] at his left hand [failing to give him the needed motivation].” (Eccl. 10:2, 3; compare Proverbs 17:16; Romans 1:21, 22.) The truly wise person has trained and disciplined his heart to give the proper motivation (Prov. 23:15, 16, 19; 28:26); it is as though he had written righteous commandments and law ‘upon the tablet of his heart.’—Prov. 7:1-3; 2:2, 10.
Experience and right association
Experience contributes measurably to wisdom. Even Jesus grew in wisdom as he passed through childhood. (Luke 2:52) Moses assigned as chieftains men who were “wise and discreet and experienced.” (Deut. 1:13-15) While one learns a measure of wisdom from suffering punishment or observing others receive it (Prov. 21:11), a superior and timesaving way to wisdom is profiting by and learning from the experience of those already wise, preferring their company to that of “inexperienced ones.” (Prov. 9:1-6; 13:20; 22:17, 18; compare 2 Chronicles 9:7.) Older persons are more likely to have such wisdom, particularly those who manifest God’s spirit. (Job 32:7-9) This was illustrated notably at the time of Rehoboam’s kingship. (1 Ki. 12:5-16) However, “better is a needy but wise child [relatively speaking] than an old but stupid king, who has not come to know enough to be warned any longer.”—Eccl. 4:13-15.
The city gates (often having adjacent public squares) were places where older men gave wise counsel and judicial decisions. (Compare Proverbs 1:20, 21; 8:1-3.) The voice of foolish persons usually was not heard in such an atmosphere (either in soliciting wisdom or offering it), their chatter being elsewhere. (Prov. 24:7) Though association with wise ones brings discipline and occasional rebuke, this is far better than the song and laughter of the stupid. (Eccl. 7:5, 6) The person who isolates himself, pursuing his own narrow, restricted view of life and his own selfish desires, eventually goes off on a tangent contrary to all practical wisdom.—Prov. 18:1.
Revealed in personal conduct and speech
Proverbs 11:2 states that “wisdom is with the modest ones”; James speaks of the “meekness that belongs to wisdom.” (Jas. 3:13) Jealousy and contention, bragging and stubbornness, expose one as lacking true wisdom, as being guided rather by wisdom that is “earthly, animal, demonic.” True wisdom is “peaceable, reasonable, ready to obey.” (Jas. 3:13-18) “The rod of haughtiness is in the mouth of the foolish one, but the very lips of the wise ones will guard them.” They wisely hold back from presumptuous, harsh or precipitous speech. (Prov. 14:3; 17:27, 28; Eccl. 10:12-14) From the tongue and lips of the wise comes well-thought-out, healing, pleasant, beneficial speech (Prov. 12:18; 16:21; Eccl. 12:9-11; Col. 3:15, 16), and instead of stirring up trouble they seek to bring calm and to ‘win souls’ by wise persuasion.—Prov. 11:30; 15:1-7; 16:21-23; 29:8.
Those who become ‘wise in their own eyes,’ elevating themselves above others (even above God), are worse off than the person who is stupid but does not pretend to be otherwise. (Prov. 26:5, 12; 12:15) Such self-assuming persons are too proud to accept correction. (Prov. 3:7; 15:12; Isa. 5:20, 21) Paradoxically, both the lazy man and the man who gains riches tend toward this attitude. (Prov. 26:16; 28:11; compare 1 Timothy 6:17.) But “an earring of gold, and an ornament of special gold, is a wise reprover upon the hearing ear” (Prov. 25:12); yes, “give a reproof to a wise person and he will love you.”—Prov. 9:8; 15:31-33.
Wisdom in the family
Wisdom builds up a household, not just a building, but the family and its successful life as a unit (Prov. 24:3, 4; compare Proverbs 3:19, 20; Psalm 104:5-24.) Wise parents do not hold back the rod and reproof, but by discipline and counsel protect their children against delinquency. (Prov. 29:15) The wise wife contributes greatly to the success and happiness of the family. (Prov. 14:1; 31:26) Children who wisely submit to parental discipline bring joy and honor to the family, upholding its reputation against slander or accusation, and give proof to others of their fathers’ wisdom and training.—Prov. 10:1; 13:1; 15:20; 23:24, 25; 27:11.