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What the Bible says about Wisdom as a Practical Skill
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Proverbs 4:7

Among the characteristics of God that we are to strive for, wisdom has an extremely high value, as this verse attests. Pay attention to the word “principal” here. Spelled in this manner—ending in p-a-l, not p-l-e—the term, according to The American Heritage College Dictionary, means “first, highest, foremost in importance, rank, worth or degree; chief.” It does not mean “a broad general rule” but “a quality or characteristic of the highest order.” The verse is saying, then, that wisdom is of the highest rank among those qualities under consideration, “therefore get wisdom.” The New International Version (NIV) translates this phrase, “Wisdom is supreme.”

Further study on this verse reveals that it is in reality an expansion on verse 5: “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of My mouth.” Thus, verse 7 exhorts the reader to make every effort in life to pursue and obtain wisdom. It is as though there is nothing more important in life.

Whereas the world associates wisdom with a rather abstract, philosophical dimension of life, the Bible's wisdom consists of a package of spiritual attributes that are deliberately shaped into a practical skill in living God's way.

The use of the phrase “deliberately shaped” is purposeful. Wisdom does not just magically appear. It is thoughtfully developed and used in the practical circumstances of everyday life. Its elements consist of such qualities as knowledge of God, understanding, discernment, judgment, prudence, equity, the fear of God, and more. As these elements are blended, shaped, and used, they become a spiritual sagacity combined with practical, useful skills in applying the teachings of God's way of life as exemplified by Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Nine): Wisdom as a Defense

Ecclesiastes 8:1

The Old Testament is divided into three sections: the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. The Writings are sometimes called the Wisdom Books. Within the Wisdom Books, including Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, seeking wisdom is emphasized as a major guide to a well-lived life. Proverbs 4:7 advises, “Wisdom is the principle thing; therefore get wisdom.” As we proceed through Ecclesiastes 8 and 9, we are learning that, as important as wisdom is, it is not the answer to each of life's problems. Even wisdom has its limitations, and there are reasons for this.

Ecclesiastes 8 continues the subject of the importance of wisdom in dealing with the relationship problems that invariably arise during the course of life. The chapter begins by stating that wisdom is a valuable virtue in transforming an individual for good. Its goodness is illustrated with the statement that “it makes the face shine.” “Shine” appears to imply a person smiling in pleasure at what is accomplished using wisdom.

It is easy to recall a specific time we received a great deal of pleasure in solving a difficult problem by using a singular bit of wisdom. But the context of Solomon's statement suggests a much broader application, a more general sense of well-being welling up from within due to consistent use of wisdom in daily life.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Fifteen): Deference


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