“Happy Is the Man That Has Found Wisdom”
HE WAS a poet, an architect, a king. With an annual income of over 200 million dollars, he was wealthier than any other king on earth. The man was also renowned for his wisdom. So impressed was a visiting queen that she exclaimed: “Look! I had not been told the half. You have surpassed in wisdom and prosperity the things heard to which I listened.” (1 Kings 10:4-9) Such was the position of King Solomon of ancient Israel.
Solomon had both riches and wisdom. And that uniquely qualified him to decide which of the two was truly indispensable. He wrote: “Happy is the man that has found wisdom, and the man that gets discernment, for having it as gain is better than having silver as gain and having it as produce than gold itself. It is more precious than corals, and all other delights of yours cannot be made equal to it.”—Proverbs 3:13-15.
Where, though, can wisdom be found? Why is it more valuable than riches? What are its attractive features? The 8th chapter of the Bible book of Proverbs, written by Solomon, answers these questions in a fascinating way. There wisdom is personified, as though able to speak and act. And wisdom personally reveals its appeal as well as its value.
“It Keeps Crying Loudly”
Chapter 8 of Proverbs begins with a rhetorical question: “Does not wisdom keep calling out, and discernment keep giving forth its voice?”a Yes, wisdom and discernment keep calling out, but quite unlike the immoral woman who lurks in dark places and whispers seductive words in the ears of a solitary and inexperienced youth. (Proverbs 7:12) “On top of the heights, by the way, at the crossing of the roadways it has stationed itself. At the side of the gates, at the mouth of the town, at the going in of the entrances it keeps crying loudly.” (Proverbs 8:1-3) The strong and bold voice of wisdom is heard loud and clear in public places—at the gates, at the crossroads, at the entrances of a city. People can easily hear that voice and respond.
Who can deny that godly wisdom recorded in the inspired Word of God, the Bible, is available to nearly everyone on earth who desires to gain it? “The Bible is the most widely read book in history,” says The World Book Encyclopedia. It adds: “More copies have been distributed of the Bible than of any other book. The Bible has also been translated more times, and into more languages, than any other book.” With the complete Bible or portions of it available in more than 2,100 languages and dialects, over 90 percent of the human family have access to at least part of God’s Word in their own language.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are publicly declaring the message of the Bible everywhere. In 235 lands, they are actively preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom and teaching people the truths found in God’s Word. Their Bible-based journals The Watchtower, published in 140 languages, and Awake!, printed in 83 languages, have a circulation of more than 20 million each. Wisdom certainly keeps crying loudly in public places!
“My Voice Is to the Sons of Men”
Personified wisdom begins to speak, saying: “To you, O men, I am calling, and my voice is to the sons of men. O inexperienced ones, understand shrewdness; and you stupid ones, understand heart.”—Proverbs 8:4, 5.
The call of wisdom is universal. It extends its invitation to all mankind. Even inexperienced ones are invited to gain shrewdness, or prudence, and foolish ones, understanding. Indeed, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Bible is a book for all people and endeavor impartially to encourage everyone they meet to peer into it to find the words of wisdom it contains.
‘My Palate Utters Truth’
Extending its appeal, wisdom continues: “Listen, for it is about the foremost things that I speak, and the opening of my lips is about uprightness. For my palate in low tones utters truth itself; and wickedness is something detestable to my lips. All the sayings of my mouth are in righteousness. Among them there is nothing twisted or crooked.” Yes, wisdom’s teachings are excellent and upright, truthful and righteous. There is nothing devious or crooked in them. “All of them are straight to the discerning one, and upright to the ones finding knowledge.”—Proverbs 8:6-9.
Fittingly, wisdom urges: “Take my discipline and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold.” This plea is sensible, “for wisdom is better than corals, and all other delights themselves cannot be made equal to it.” (Proverbs 8:10, 11) But why? What makes wisdom more precious than riches?
“My Fruitage Is Better Than Gold”
The gifts that wisdom bestows upon its listener are more precious than gold, silver, or corals. Stating what these gifts are, wisdom says: “I, wisdom, I have resided with shrewdness and I find even the knowledge of thinking abilities. The fear of Jehovah means the hating of bad. Self-exaltation and pride and the bad way and the perverse mouth I have hated.”—Proverbs 8:12, 13.
Wisdom gives shrewdness and thinking abilities to its possessor. The man having godly wisdom also has reverence and awe for God, since “the fear of Jehovah is the start of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10) Hence, he hates what Jehovah hates. Haughtiness, arrogance, immoral behavior, and perverse speech are far removed from him. His hatred for what is bad shields him from the corruptive effect of power. How important it is that those in responsible positions in the Christian congregation, as well as family heads, seek wisdom!
“I have counsel and practical wisdom,” continues 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.” (Proverbs 8:14-16) The fruitage of wisdom includes insight, understanding, and mightiness—factors very much needed by rulers, high officials, and nobles. Wisdom is indispensable to those who are in a position of power and those who counsel others.
True wisdom is readily available to all, but not all find it. Some reject it or avoid it, even when it is at their doorstep. “Those loving me I myself love,” says wisdom, “and those looking for me are the ones that find me.” (Proverbs 8:17) Wisdom is accessible only to those who seek it in earnest.
The ways of wisdom are just and righteous. It rewards its seekers. Wisdom says: “Riches and glory are with me, hereditary values and righteousness. My fruitage is better than gold, even than refined gold, and my produce than choice silver. In the path of righteousness I walk, in the middle of the roadways of judgment, to cause those loving me to take possession of substance; and their storehouses I keep filled.”—Proverbs 8:18-21.
Along with such excellent qualities and traits as prudence, thinking ability, humility, insight, practical wisdom, and understanding, wisdom’s gifts include riches and honor. A wise person may well gain wealth by righteous means, and he will prosper spiritually. (3 John 2) Wisdom also brings a person honor. Moreover, he gains satisfaction from what he acquires, and he has peace of mind and a clean conscience toward God. Yes, happy is the man that has found wisdom. The fruitage of wisdom is indeed better than refined gold and choice silver.
How timely this advice is for us, since we live in a materialistic world where the emphasis is on gaining wealth by any means and at any cost! May we never lose sight of how valuable wisdom is or resort to unrighteous means for gaining wealth. Let us never neglect the very provisions that impart wisdom—our Christian meetings and our personal study of the Bible and the publications provided by “the faithful and discreet slave”—simply for the sake of gaining riches.—Matthew 24:45-47.
“From Time Indefinite I Was Installed”
The personification of wisdom found in the 8th chapter of Proverbs is not merely a device to explain the characteristics of an abstract quality. It also symbolically refers to Jehovah’s most important creation. Wisdom goes on to say: “Jehovah himself produced me as the beginning of his way, the earliest of his achievements of long ago. From time indefinite I was installed, from the start, from times earlier than the earth. When there were no watery deeps I was brought forth as with labor pains, when there were no springs heavily charged with water. Before the mountains themselves had been settled down, ahead of the hills, I was brought forth as with labor pains, when as yet he had not made the earth and the open spaces and the first part of the dust masses of the productive land.”—Proverbs 8:22-26.
How well the foregoing description of wisdom personified matches what is stated concerning “the Word” in the Scriptures! “In the beginning the Word was,” wrote the apostle John, “and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” (John 1:1) Personified wisdom figuratively represents God’s Son, Jesus Christ, in his prehuman existence.b
Jesus Christ is “the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible.” (Colossians 1:15, 16) “When he [Jehovah] prepared the heavens I was there,” continues wisdom personified, “when he decreed a circle upon the face of the watery deep, when he made firm the cloud masses above, when he caused the fountains of the watery deep to be strong, when he set for the sea his decree that the waters themselves should not pass beyond his order, when he decreed the foundations of the earth, then I came to be beside him as a master worker, and I came to be the one he was specially fond of day by day, I being glad before him all the time, being glad at the productive land of his earth, and the things I was fond of were with the sons of men.” (Proverbs 8:27-31) Jehovah’s firstborn Son was there beside his Father, actively working with him—the peerless Creator of the heavens and the earth. When Jehovah God created the first human, His Son was associated with him in the project as Master Worker. (Genesis 1:26) No wonder God’s Son is very much interested in, even fond of, mankind!
“Happy Is the Man That Is Listening to Me”
As wisdom personified, the Son of God says: “Now, O sons, listen to me; yes, happy are the ones that keep my very ways. Listen to discipline and become wise, and do not show any neglect. 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 goodwill 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.”—Proverbs 8:32-36.
Jesus Christ is the very embodiment of God’s wisdom. “Carefully concealed in him are all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3) Let us, then, listen to him without neglect and follow his steps closely. (1 Peter 2:21) To reject him is to do violence to our own soul and to love death, for “there is no salvation in anyone else.” (Acts 4:12) Indeed, let us accept Jesus as the one whom God has provided for our salvation. (Matthew 20:28; John 3:16) Thus we will experience the happiness that comes from ‘finding life and getting Jehovah’s goodwill.’
a The Hebrew word for “wisdom” is in the feminine gender. Hence, some translations use feminine pronouns when referring to wisdom.
b The fact that the Hebrew word for “wisdom” is always in the feminine gender does not conflict with the use of wisdom to represent God’s Son. The Greek word for “love” in the expression “God is love” is also in the feminine gender. (1 John 4:8) Yet, it is used to refer to God.
[Pictures on page 26]
Wisdom is indispensable to those in responsible positions
[Pictures on page 27]
Do not neglect the provisions that impart wisdom