Man since creation has been in search of wisdom. We all want to be wise. That was why Adam and Eve went after the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil because satan deceived them to think that it’d make them wise.
Solomon in his attempt to underline the importance of wisdom said that God created and possessed her from the beginning (Proverbs 8:22-31). That is, God didn’t start anything without wisdom; God wouldn’t have been God without wisdom because He wouldn’t have created anything without her. But then, we know that wisdom is a part of the components of God.
To make man function better in this created universe, God created mechanisms that whenever they are accessed help man understand the universe better and enjoy it more. Wisdom is definitely one of those elements that God has made available to the sons of men, that when accessed has the potential to transform a man’s life.
Every king wants to surround himself with wise men. Every nation wants men of wisdom to be in places of authority. However, it is possible for men to live several decades on this earth and die without acquiring wisdom, as seen in Job 4:21. And that would be rather unfortunate because the person would have missed out on several important things.
This article opens the series on wisdom. We believe God to help us explore the various aspects of wisdom in the coming weeks. Let’s go.
HEBREW WORDS FOR WISDOM IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
There are ten Hebrew words that were translated as wisdom in the Bible. Most of these words appeared in the books of Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. We’ll use Proverbs as references in this definition. In subsequent episodes of this series, we’ll go into more examples.
It was used 39 times in singular form in various passages of the Bible such as Proverbs 1:2-3,7; and 3 times in the plural in Proverbs 1:20;9:1;24:7.
The word ‘wisdom’ derives from the root word ‘wise’. The word wise is termed chakam in the Hebrew tongue. Chakam means “to be wise, act wisely, make wise, show oneself wise.” You can see Proverbs 23:15 and in Psalm 119:98.
In fact, Chakam was regarded as mastery or an art, signifying that to be wise was viewed as a process of attainment rather than an accomplishment. So, a chakam seeks after chokmah (a wise man seeks after wisdom).
Wisdom on the other hand comes from the Hebrew word chokmah (a noun) which means wisdom; experience; shrewdness. The Word occurs mostly in Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.
It can also refer to technical skills or special abilities to fashion things, as seen in the wise-hearted men, whom God filled with the spirit of wisdom to design Aaron’s garment. (Exodus 28:3). And just like Bezaleel, Aholiab and others, they were considered endowed with special abilities from God. (Exodus 35:31).
Another meaning of wisdom (Chokmah) is the knowledge and ability to make the right choices at the opportune time. In fact, the consistency of making the right choices is an indication of maturity and development.
discernment and discrimination. It is twice translated wisdom (Job 39:26 and Proverb 23:4). But in most cases, it means understanding or knowledge. Daniel 1:20.
Intelligence and by implication success. Translated as wisdom in 2 Chron. 22:12; Proverbs 12:8; 23:9. It is also translated as understanding, knowledge, sense, prudence and discretion.
Circumspect and hence intelligent. Translated wisdom in Job 34:35; Proverb 1:3. Sakal means to be prudent, act wisely, give attention to, ponder, prosper. Its first use is found in Genesis 3:6 shows an interesting paradox, that while the fruit from the forbidden tree seemed desirable for gaining wisdom, it was a very unwise thing to eat it. Inasmuch as it had the intrinsic ability to give wisdom, it is unwise to go against the command of God to eat it.
the heart. It was translated as wisdom in a number of places in the Bible. (Job 36:5; Proverbs 10:21; 11:12; 15:21; 19:8; Ecclesiastes 10:3). It’s also translated as mind, understanding, and midst.
Chokmowth or Chakmowth
is translated as wisdom like in Psalms 49:3; Proverbs 1:20; 9:1*; 24:7;
Intelligence. It means understanding, discretion, skillfulness or wisdom (Psalm 136:5). Although it means understanding, it is a wisdom term. So, it could be an act of wisdom (Job 26:12), the faculty of wisdom (Exodus 31:3), the object of wisdom (Proverbs 2:3), and the personification of wisdom (Proverbs 8:1).
As said earlier, it means to be wise, act wisely, make wise, show oneself wise. In one instance in Psalm 105:22, it is translated as wisdom.
trickery; or (in a good sense) discretion. Translated as wisdom (proverbs 8:5) but also as subtlety, guile and prudence.
Tuwsiyah or Tushiyah
that is translated wisdom seven times (Job 6:13; 12:16; Proverb 2:7; 3:21;8:14; 18:1; Micah 6:9 enterprise, substance.
GREEK WORDS FOR WISDOM IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
In the New Testament, there are three Greek words that are translated as wisdom.
which is translated as wisdom (higher or lower, worldly or spiritual). Sophia means broad and full of intelligence; it’s used for the knowledge of very diverse matters. There is human wisdom ( Luke 2:40, 52; Matthew 12:42; Acts 7:10; Revelation 13:18; 17:9; Acts 6:3; Col. 4:5; 1:28; 3:16; James 1:5; 3:13,17. And Sophia also means Supreme intelligence that belongs to God (Rom. 16:27; 11:33) and Christ (Jude 25)
insight, intellectual. It was translated wisdom once from Luke 2:40.
ARAMAIC WORD FOR WISDOM IN THE OLD TESTAMENT.
In Aramaic, we have Tem, which was translated once in Daniel 2:14 to mean wisdom
Dictionary Definitions of Wisdom
The American Heritage Dictionary defines wisdom as the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight. It is also common sense; good judgment. The sum of learning through the ages; knowledge. Wise teachings of the ancient sages. A wise outlook, plan, or course of action.
The Oxford Dictionary states that wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise. The fact of being based on sensible or wise thinking. The body of knowledge and experience that develops within a specified society or period.
Another important definition of wisdom is knowledge guided by understanding.
For the purpose of this series, most of the instances will be drawn from the Hebrew word for wisdom Chokmah and the Greek word for wisdom Sophia.
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READ ALSO: The Inestimable Value of Wisdom
*REFERENCES FROM STRONG’S CONCORDANCE AND DAKES ANNOTATED REFERENCE BIBLE.