1) Love righteousness, you who judge the earth;
think of the LORD in
and seek him in integrity
COMMENTARY: “Righteousness” means “applying
wisdom to moral conduct.” And the heart
and soul of wisdom in the Bible is to watch God with the deep attention of a
deer watching a lion, basing every move or stillness on whatever the lion does,
knowing that her life depends on this. Although
mistranslated as fear, the difference is that where the deer sees the lion as
the source of death, the wise man sees God as the source of life.
“You who judge the Earth” means anybody in power. The wisdom books use a popular literary conceit
of acting as though they write advice primarily to lofty personages, but common
people get to sneak a peak and so be bettered, giving them the satisfaction of “being
in the know”.
Which doesn’t take away
from the importance of this book for leaders!
While it seems obvious that a leader would do well to cultivate
righteousness, power tempts leaders towards corruption instead.
2) Because he is found by those who do not test him,
and manifests himself to
those who do not disbelieve him.
COMMENTARY: “Testing” God doesn’t mean
testing to see whether a message truly comes from God; in fact it’s dangerous
not to. Nor does it mean coming to God
with your doubts; I do that all the time, confident in my faith that He will
have some answer, even if I can only absorb a wisp of it.
Testing here means trying
to see how much one can get away with, testing whether God is too busy
elsewhere to trouble with one’s sins, or else too weak to do anything about it,
maybe even nonexistent. The people who
do this rarely get a direct and obvious swat from God, certainly nothing that
can’t be rationalized away. What they do
get is emptiness and an increase of troubles, for the greatest penalty that God
can inflict on us is to give us enough rope to hang ourselves. God doesn’t like to punish; He tries to
persuade us not to punish ourselves.
3) For perverse counsels separate people from God,
and his power, put to the
proof, rebukes the foolhardy;
COMMENTARY: “Perverse counsels” means
advice to follow corrupt self-interest rather than justice and mercy, to harm
others or neglect responsibilities for personal or factional gain. The nature of the “rebuke” is made evident in
the next verse.
4) Because into a
soul that plots evil wisdom does not enter,
nor does she dwell in a
body under debt of sin.
COMMENTARY: “A body under debt of sin”
means owing more and more of one’s success to sinful means. The penalty for this is drifting away from wisdom,
making increasingly stupid decisions. I
just read, in fact, a recent discovery that power—exercising the ability to
lord it over others—causes actual brain damage.
One loses emotional intelligence—the ability to read people—while
developing unrealistic overconfidence.
Bad decisions follow for lack of feedback on potential mistakes.
The spirit of “Wisdom” personified
in this way is the Holy Spirit—that aspect of God that can come into us and
dwell within our bodies. Notice that the
writer refers to Wisdom as “she”. Also
referred to, in Rabbinical literature, as the “Shekinah”, which translates as “The
Indwelling” and is called the feminine aspect of God. The Shekinah was the presence within the
tabernacle of the Temple, and is also considered present in any prayerful
gathering, as well as gatherings to study theology or to judge a case with
godly hearts seeking what is right. The
Shekinah of God also manifests in times of individual need (as in the Talmud,
where it says that “The Shekinah dwells over the headside of the sick man’s
bed.) And Shekinah is the holy fire that
dwells within a worthy marriage.
Shekinah is the source of prophecy and spiritual transformation.
5) For the holy spirit of discipline flees deceit
and withdraws from
and is rebuked when
COMMENTARY: “Discipline” is another
title for the Shekinah. Wisdom can make
one refrain from one’s impulses or push on against one’s resistance to do
something stronger than our inclinations might lead to otherwise.
It takes discipline to
stick to the truth no matter what. In
fact, a common medieval vow required of men about to be knighted pledged to
tell the truth even when it worked to one’s disadvantage. Thus deceit fails discipline and then (as
usually happens when we let a discipline slip) everything starts to
unravel. Covering up for lies demands
still more lying. Fear of discovery
limits who one can confide in, meaning that the decision-makers can’t all be on
the same page. The more the lies
accumulate, the worse the consequences of exposure become, the more vulnerable
one becomes to manipulation by those who glimpse one’s secrets. Who can make intelligent decisions under so
“Rebuked” doesn’t mean that Wisdom deserves censure, but the deceitful do censure
her (because Wisdom demands truth, and truth would expose them) and so they
drive her out with insults. And so
unrighteous counsels fail.
This doesn’t mean that one
can’t have secrets. But one can say, “that’s
none of your business”, or “That is on a need to know basis,” rather than
6) For wisdom is a kindly spirit,
yet she does not acquit
Because God is the witness
of the inmost self
and the sure observer of
and the listener to the
COMMENTARY: It is precisely because of
my faith in God being witness of my inmost self, and the sure observer of my
heart, that I have, in my life, sometimes uttered what some would call blasphemy. I know that He knows what I think and feel
already, and that keeping silent on it will do me no good. A wound can only receive healing if the
patient exposes it, so I expose my doubts.
The blasphemy that I believe this refers to, in the context of the righteous
versus the unrighteous leader, is what the Catholic Church calls “scandal”—the sin
of leading others astray. One can
profit, in this life at least, from telling people, “Please me rather than God,
because I will reward my friends and punish my enemies, but God won’t notice
what you do. Maybe He’s not even there.” This is the blasphemy of making oneself or
one’s aspirations god instead of the Creator.
7) For the spirit of the LORD fills the world,
is all-embracing, and knows
whatever is said.
COMMENTARY: Then as now back room deals were
a thing. But no back room can seal God
8) Therefore those who utter wicked things will not go
nor will chastising
condemnation pass them by.
9) For the devices of the wicked shall be scrutinized,
and the sound of their
words shall reach the LORD,
for the chastisement of
COMMENTARY: Interesting that the writer
specifies “chastising” condemnation. To
chastise someone not only means to scold them, but to do so with the intention
of bettering them. God doesn’t act out
of mere mortal pride and prickliness, but out of concern to save us from what
would hurt us.
Because the flip side of convincing ourselves
and others that God won’t be there to stop us from doing as we please is
despair that God won’t be there to aid or console us in our hour of need. In that frame of mind we easily overlook aid
extended and shut our hearts to consolation.
In WWII a pilot, shot
down, crashed on a small deserted island.
By the time help arrived he had already starved to death. They found his corpse lying in a great field
of edible plants that he didn’t know enough to eat. The soul walled off from God perishes like
that man, not knowing what lies easily in reach for his succor.
Because a jealous ear hearkens to
and discordant grumblings
are not secret.
COMMENTARY: We often interchange “jealousy”
and “envy” but they are not synonyms.
Jealousy means anger at any perceived threat to what one sees as one’s
own exclusive property, usually applied to another human being. No human being, however, has a right to
jealousy, because we are not and can never truly be each other’s property. We can feel hurt and betrayed when another
violates an agreement of exclusivity that we had agreed upon between us, we can
even demand some sort of answer for this dishonesty, but even then we don’t own
the person with which we shared this bond.
We belong only to our Creator.
11) Therefore guard against profitless grumbling,
and from calumny withhold
For a stealthy utterance
will not go unpunished,
and a lying mouth destroys
COMMENTARY: Here we see more clearly
that we’re not talking about honest questioning and doubts, but deliberate
lying and slander. Notice also that such
lying doesn’t hurt God, but destroys the soul of the liar. Sooner or later liars lose track of reality,
and ultimately wind up lying to themselves—the most destructive deceit of all,
and the hardest to repair.
12) Do not court death by your erring way of life,
nor draw to yourselves
destruction by the works of your hands.
COMMENTARY: The Bible scholars say that
this refers to death of the soul, but it doesn’t have to mean only that. Dishonesty leads by many different paths to
self-destruction on every level.
13) Because God did not make death,
nor does he rejoice in the
destruction of the living.
COMMENTARY: Okay, here we’re plainly
talking about soul-death. And yet this,
too, seems to me to support my personal theory that the Fall of Man account in
Genesis refers to the departure from the Paleolithic paradise to the misery of
Neolithic society. Most diseases that
plague us today evolved in the squalor of humanity’s first pre-sanitation
settlements, and Neolithic man died much sooner than his Paleolithic
ancestors. This wasn’t part of God’s
plan, but when we obsessed on holding property, starting with land and soon
moving to enslaving people, we created our own destruction. We moved out of Eden and into our own
homemade giant petri-dish.
14) For he fashioned all things that they might have
and the creatures of the
world are wholesome;
There is not a destructive
drug among them
nor any domain of Hades on
COMMENTARY: The writer makes a subtle
point by claiming that there are no “destructive drugs” in nature. Everyone listening to this would know about
poisonous herbs like deadly nightshade and hemlock, as well as snake venom and
scorpion stings. But physicians among
them would also know that every poison, in the proper dose, can heal. Since, at this point, Jewish doctors were
famous throughout the known world, even those who weren’t doctors would have
heard something about this. The
destruction, therefore, lies in how we use something—our own free will choice
in what to do with it.
15) For righteousness is undying.
COMMENTARY: Many Jews believe that only
one’s virtues survive after bodily death, that the fires of regret burn all
else away. If you want immortality,
then, see that you make your character mostly of righteousness.
16) It was the wicked who with hands and words invited
considered it a friend,
and pined for it,
and made a covenant with
Because they deserve to be
allied with it.
Because wickedness consists of many little murders. One murders truth, self-respect and respect
for others, then murdering someone else’s happiness, trust, or rights, and all
of these little murders pile up and escalate over time, sometimes even reaching
the point where one becomes jaded to causing human death. Finally this lifestyle of death murders one’s