Wisdom and incarnation (Bar 3:35-3:37)

“This is our God!

No other can be

Compared to him!

He found the whole way

To knowledge.

He gave her

To his servant

Jacob.

He gave her

To Israel

Whom he loved.

Afterward she appeared

On earth.

She lived

With humans.”

This section of Baruch indicates that wisdom became human in some sense, like an incarnation. Surely God, and not Yahweh, was the creator of the world. Thus no other god or person could compare with him. He had full knowledge of everything. He was omniscient. Thus he gave wisdom to his servant Jacob. He also gave wisdom to Israel, whom he loved. The use of both Jacob and Israel is interesting, since it implies that Jacob was a person and Israel was a name of all his descendants. Then there is the final intriguing comment about how she, wisdom, appeared on earth and lived with humans. Some Christians see this as a hint about the incarnation of Jesus. However, it should be noted that the reference is to a she, a female. Wisdom was generally seen as feminine, not masculine like Jesus. Finally, she has already appeared, so that this is not a future aspirational comment. Wisdom is already living among humans. You just have to find this personification of wisdom here on earth.

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The weeping city (Lam 1:2-1:2)

Beth

“She weeps bitterly

In the night,

With tears

On her cheeks.

Among all her lovers

She has no one

To comfort her.

All her friends

Have dealt

Treacherously

With her.

They have become

Her enemies.”

Jerusalem is feminine. She weeps bitterly with tears on her checks. Her lovers have abandoned her, so that there is no one to comfort her. They have treated her badly and become her enemies. This was an obvious allusion to her former neighboring allies. This verse starts with the Hebrew consonant letter Beth. Each verse after this will use the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet in this acrostic poem.

Wonderful Moab (Jer 48:11-48:11)

“Moab is at ease

From his youth.

He has settled

Like wine,

On its dregs.

He has not been emptied

From vessel to vessel.

He has not gone

Into exile.

Therefore his flavor

Has remained.

His aroma is unspoiled.”

Moab is masculine instead of feminine as in the preceding verses. He has been at ease since his youth. He has settled like good wine. However, there are dregs that have not been emptied or moved from barrel to barrel. Moab has never gone into exile. Thus his flavor and aroma have remained unspoiled. In other words, things have been pretty good for the Moabites up until now.

Fear of the Lord and wisdom (Sir 15:1-15:8)

“Whoever fears the Lord

Will do this.

Whoever holds to the law

Will obtain wisdom.

Wisdom will come to meet him

Like a mother.

She will be

Like a young bride.

She will welcome him.

She will feed him

With the bread of learning.

She will give him

The water of wisdom to drink.

He will lean on her.

He will not fall.

He will rely on her.

He will not be put to shame.

She will exalt him

Above his neighbors.

She will open his mouth

In the midst of the assembly.

He will find gladness.

He will find a crown of rejoicing.

He will inherit an everlasting name.

The foolish will not obtain her.

Sinners will not see her.

She is far from arrogance.

Liars will never think of her.”

Anyone who fears the Lord will have a chance at wisdom. They must hold firmly and follow the law in order to get wisdom. Then wisdom will come to meet them like a mother or a young bride. Clearly wisdom is feminine as a mother or wife. The food and drink of the wise person will be the bread of learning and the water of wisdom. These people can lean on wisdom so that they will not fall or be put to shame. They will be exalted above their neighbors because they will open their mouths in the assembly of the elders. They will find gladness with a rejoicing crown and an everlasting name. The foolish and the sinners cannot obtain or see wisdom. Wisdom stays away from arrogance. Liars never think about wisdom, since she is reserved for those who fear the Lord.

Accept the discipline (Sir 6:23-6:31)

“Listen!

My child!

Accept my judgment!

Do not reject my counsel!

Put your feet into her fetters!

Put your neck into her collar!

Bend your shoulder!

Carry her!

Do not fret under her bonds!

Come to her with all your soul!

Keep her ways with all your might!

Search out!

Seek her!

She will become known to you.

When you get hold of her,

Do not let her go.

For at last,

You will find the rest she gives.

She will be changed into joy for you.

Then her fetters will become for you a strong defense.

Her collar will be a golden ornament.

Her bonds will be a purple cord.

You will wear her like a glorious robe.

You will put her on like a splendid crown.”

Sirach wants the children to listen to him and accept his judgment. They should receive the chains of wisdom around their necks and on their feet in order to accept wisdom. They should carry her, this feminine wisdom, and let her come into their souls. They should seek and search her out. She will become known to them. They should never let her go. Their lives will be changed into joy as the chains will be a defense. They will have golden ornaments around their necks, purple cords, and a splendid crown. Just listen to what he and wisdom are telling them. This almost sounds like a masochistic love for this female wisdom.

The beauty of wisdom (Wis 6:12-6:16)

“Wisdom is radiant.

Wisdom is unfading.

She is easily discerned

By those who love her.

She is found

By those who seek her.

She hastens to make herself known

To those who desire her.

Whoever rises early to seek her

Will have no difficulty.

She will be found

Sitting at the gate.

To fix one’s thought on her

Is perfect understanding.

Whoever is vigilant

On her account

Will soon be free from care.

Because she goes about seeking

Those worthy of her.

She graciously appears to them

In their paths.

She meets them in every thought.”

The feminine wisdom (ἡ σοφία) is radiant and does not fade away. Wisdom is clearly portrayed as a beautiful desirable woman. If you love, seek, and desire her, you will find her as she makes herself known. If you get up early and go to the gates of the city, you will find her. If you think about her, you will understand her. If you are vigilant, you will be free from all cares. She goes about seeking those who are worthy of her as she appears in their paths.

The good wife (Prov 31:10-31:12)

Aleph

“A good wife,

Who can find her?

She is far more precious

Than jewels.

Bet

The heart of her husband

Trusts in her.

He will have no lack of gain.

Gimel

She does him good.

She does not bring harm,

All the days of her life.”

The Book of Proverbs ends with this Hebrew acrostic or alphabet tribute to the perfect wife. Each verse starts with a different letter of the Hebrew alphabet like some of the Psalms. Finding the perfect wife was like finding wisdom. This has led some to see wisdom as female, so that the Spirit of wisdom is feminine. A good capable wife is hard to find. She, like wisdom, is far more precious than jewels. Her husband can trust her. He will be successful because of her. She brings him good and not harm all the days of her life.