My Understanding of the Book of Wisdom

This Book of Wisdom is like Proverbs in poetic style. The Book of Wisdom, or The Book of Wisdom of Solomon, is not one of the books of the Hebrew Bible.  Thus, since the 16th century English King James version of the Bible, that was based on the Hebrew bible, many Protestant Christian denominations consider it as deuero-canonical or apocrypha. However, the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church consider it to be canonical. As the Greeks say, ἀναγιγνωσκόμενον, meaning that it is to be read. The main reason for it canonical status is that it was translated by Jerome in the 5th century as part of the Latin Vulgate that dominated Western Christianity for a millennium. He, of course, was relying on the Greek Sepuagint as his main source. Thus for the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic Church this is part of the wisdom literature with Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Song, and Sirach.

This Book of Wisdom should not be confused with the Wisdom of Sirach, a work from the 2nd century BCE that is the next book that I will consider. This Book of Wisdom was originally written in Greek, but in a style patterned on Hebrew. Although the author’s name is nowhere in the text, the writer was traditionally believed to be King Solomon because of the title.  This traditional attribution of The Book of Wisdom to Solomon has been soundly rejected in modern times, since this book was most likely composed centuries after the death of King Solomon. At best, it may have been patterned after the poetic works or sayings of King Solomon.  This Book of Wisdom represents the most literary post-classical Greek language in the Septuagint, probably written during the Jewish Hellenistic period in the 2nd or 1st century BCE. This author was well versed in the popular philosophical, religious, and ethical writings in Hellenistic Alexandria. probably by an Alexandrian Jew, writing during the time of the Roman rule.

The Book of Wisdom was an encouragement to help refute any compromise with idolatry with a strong condemnation of false idols. The later part of this book portrays and reflects on the Israelites and their arguments and disputes with the Egyptians. The power of God or the Lord is shown throughout this work. However, the philosophical influences on the Book of Wisdom may include those of Middle-Platonism and Stoicism. The Christian Gospel of Matthew may contain allusions to this book of Wisdom.

The first part of this book is about wisdom and human destiny. Once again the beginning of wisdom comes from seeking God. The Spirit of God will give you immortality. The impious have false reasoning since they enjoy life with their wicked actions. The righteous ones can be annoying sometimes. They have to be put to the test also. However, you cannot forget the errors of the impious. The immortality of the blessed just one is juxtaposed against the punishment of the unjust. Virtue has its place. The fate of the children of the adulterers and the ungodly was not good. Old age is a gift, while the premature death of the righteous does not mean that they are unjust. However, the death of the unjust will bring judgment to them. The righteous ones stand tall in response to the unjust ones, who will have no trace of their life. There is no hope for the ungodly, while the righteous live forever.  The Lord prepares for the battle as the battle rages on.

Next there is a consideration of the origin, nature, and action of wisdom. How are you to acquire it? This author wants the kings and judges to listen to the judgment of God. He has some words for the kings. He talked about the beauty and the desire for wisdom. You should honor wisdom.

Thus this author gives a history of wisdom from the time of Solomon. Solomon esteemed wisdom since he saw it as a great gift of God that meant that he had great knowledge. Then there are the qualities of wisdom with an ode to wisdom. The personification of wisdom takes place. Wisdom is on earth as a great lover. Assuming the role of Solomon, this author says that wisdom is greater than any good and lives with him. There are the effects of this indispensable wisdom as a blissful rest. There is continual demand for wisdom, with a prayer to obtain wisdom.  Solomon was the chosen king who built the Temple. He had wisdom because it was the will of God.

Next this author showed the role of wisdom and God in Israelite history. Wisdom was the father of the world before fratricide, the flood, and the Tower of Babel. Wisdom was there with Abraham, Lot, and the righteous Jacob and his son Joseph.

Wisdom also helped with Moses, the holy prophet, and the Exodus from Egypt. There was a consideration of the ambiguity of water as Israel was put to the test. There was divine punishment towards Egypt as God showed his power. Wisdom was an immortal spirit that showed God’s attitude towards Canaan and the Canaanites. You cannot question the judgment of God and his righteous power. You can learn from the lessons from divine judgment because God is rigorous.

Next there was a long exposition about idol or false worship of natural forces. There is only one creator. These false worshipers were seeking the worship of idols. A carpenter makes false idols and then prays to it. Ships have wooden idols to protect them with an indication of the historical importance of the ark of Noah.

There was a long presentation about the origin of this accursed false idol worship, as if to remind the Israelites of its useless practice. It began with the false worship of the dead and then the false worship of kings. There are evil consequences to this worship of false idols, which in fact is the cause of all evil. There will be a punishment for the unrighteous. However, there is a merciful God even for these evil idols. However, there is folly and guilt for the artistic idol maker.

Next there was a consideration of the folly of the Egyptian idols. First, there were the animal worshipers, as we see the difference between Egypt and Israel.  There were the serpents, the locusts, and the flies. The serpents brought death. However, for the Israelites, there was the power of fire and the food of angels as they prayed to God. The Egyptians were in darkness as their wicked Egyptian magicians failed to help them. They had a great fear of the power of natural forces.

The pillar of fire was for the holy ones, while the extermination of the first-born Egyptians brought further darkness to them. They reacted to the death of their first born children by the powerful word of God, as they dreamed of death.   However, there were also plagues on the righteous in the desert. Nevertheless, they escaped from Egypt with the marvelous Red Sea experience. They had strange food on their journey.

Egypt was more culpable than Sodom because of their lack of hospitality. Thus we see the upside down state of nature. The Israelites prayed to God so that they were saved at all times and in every place because they were God’s people, his children.



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