Chapter 1

Wisdom 1:

1) Love righteousness, you who judge the earth;

think of the LORD in goodness,

and seek him in integrity of heart;

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 senseless counsels

and is rebuked when unrighteousness occurs.

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 much pressure?

“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 lying.



6) For wisdom is a kindly spirit,

yet she does not acquit blasphemous lips;

Because God is the witness of the inmost self

and the sure observer of the heart

and the listener to the tongue.

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 out.



8) Therefore those who utter wicked things will not go unnoticed,

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 their transgressions;

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.



10) Because a jealous ear hearkens to everything,

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 your tongues;

For a stealthy utterance will not go unpunished,

and a lying mouth destroys the soul.

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 being,

and the creatures of the world are wholesome;

There is not a destructive drug among them

nor any domain of Hades on earth,

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 death,

considered it a friend, and pined for it,

and made a covenant with it,

Because they deserve to be allied with it.


COMMENTARY:  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 own soul.

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