1) Hear, therefore, kings, and understand;
learn, you magistrates of
the earth’s expanse!
Give ear, you who have power over
and lord it over throngs
COMMENTARY: Remember how the first
chapter started by addressing judges and urging them to rule wisely? We’ve come full circle here, back to
addressing leaders, except the tone has changed—more grand and yet more
3) Because authority was given you by the Lord
and sovereignty by the
who shall probe your works
and scrutinize your counsels!
COMMENTARY: We hear a lot these days
about God giving authority to leaders, from a faction who didn’t say peep about
it when someone not from their party held office, some people even going so far
as to claim that saying anything against the current administration will incur
the wrath of God. This ignores the fact
that practically every prophet in the Bible called out their leaders on every
infraction, on orders from the same God who let said leaders hold office in the
first place. Because the flip side of
receiving power is being held to a higher standard of behavior.
4) Because, though you were ministers of his kingdom, you
did not judge rightly,
and did not keep the law,
nor walk according to the
will of God,
COMMENTARY: The law of God, as brought
down by Moses.
5) Terribly and swiftly he shall come against you,
because severe judgment
awaits the exalted—
COMMENTARY: The down side of power that
nobody likes to think about when they’ve got their eyes fixed on glory.
6) For the lowly may be pardoned out of mercy
but the mighty shall be
mightily put to the test.
COMMENTARY: God has compassion for those
who have less power over their fate, and who face the temptations of
desperation. But how can He give
lenience to those who boast of having their way in everything they want? How, then, can they say they felt trapped? And how much more patiently would he regard
those who sin out of want or crushing misery, than he would on those who sin
for their own self-indulgence, not driven to it but seeking it as an
entertainment? People who sin because
they can get away with it, flaunting their impunity before men, forget that
they have no impunity before God.
7) For the Ruler of all shows no partiality,
nor does he fear
Because he himself made
the great as well as the small,
and provides for all
8) but for those in power a rigorous scrutiny impends.
COMMENTARY: One might think that verse 8
contradicts verse 7, that God does show partiality to the lowly, but in fact He
acts in justice—because justice examines and allows for mitigating circumstances. Those with fewer mitigating circumstances
honestly deserve a harsher fate for their transgressions.
As for providing for all alike, my first thought was, “If that’s true, then how
come we even have “rich” and “poor” people?
Yet examining doubts, instead of trying to suppress them, leads to
greater faith and understanding. In this
case it leads to the thought, “God indeed provides for all alike—in resources. It is human beings who mess it up for each
other. “God rains on the just and the
unjust” alike, but that doesn’t stop the strong from stealing water from those
more vulnerable. God didn’t create
9) To you, therefore, O princes, are my words addressed
that you may learn wisdom
and that you may not fall away.
COMMENTARY: Anyone might be princely
sometime in their lives. For don’t we
all, however briefly, wield power now and then?
The power to wound with our words or to heal with them, the power to
bully or protect, the power to avenge or forgive, to curse or bless. We all have need of wisdom in how we use our
talents and opportunities.
10) For those who keep the holy precepts hallowed will be
and those learned in them
will have ready a response.
COMMENTARY: Response to those who judge
our fate, that is, up to and especially God.
11) Desire therefore my words;
long for them and you will
COMMENTARY: It is not enough to
grudgingly yield to wisdom as a last resort, when all else fails. One must long for her, seek her out—woo her.
12) Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom,
and she is readily perceived
by those who love her,
and found by those who
COMMENTARY: Unlike much else that we
might desire, wisdom doesn’t wither with time.
And of course you find whatever you look for, and often miss what you
13) She hastens to make herself known to those who desire
COMMENTARY: Because the very act of
seeking wisdom, of realizing how desirable it is, is the first stage in
14) one who watches for her at dawn will not be
for she will be found
sitting at the gate.
COMMENTARY: Elders who could no longer
work sat by the gates of cities, talking among themselves, ripe with experience. The most inquisitive children also came to
the gates to see the coming and going of merchants and novelties. Inevitably the children wound up asking
questions of the elders and of travelers, and learning a great deal. Possibly from this a tradition evolved in
Jewish society to judge disputes by the gates, to make public declarations
there, and to gather for major community decisions.
But there might be more to this verse than that. This might refer to the Golden Gate of
Jerusalem, the one directly facing the Temple Mound, now bricked up and a point
of much controversy. By some reckoning
it was part of the Temple structure itself.
If this is the Gate of Mercy (Sha’ar Harahamim in Hebrew, Bab al-Rahma
in Arabic) as some believe, then Jewish tradition says that the Shekinah (The
Divine Presence, or the feminine aspect of God) would enter here, and so would
the Messiah. Either a causeway or a
cedar plank walkway held up by marble pillars extended from the temple, over
the Kidron Valley and out to the Mount of Olives through this gate—a passage
reserved for the High Priest and his entourage, and only for taking out the
sacrifice or the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement. However, since mention crops up of others and
coming and going this way, presumably they had a lower walkway for regular use.
Christian folklore makes
this the gate where Mary’s parents, Joachim and Anne, met, and where Jesus
entered on Palm Sunday riding on a donkey.
Some consider it the “Beautiful Gate” mentioned in Acts 3, next to which
a lame man sat and begged from those going to the Temple, a man whom Peter
Muslims also know it as Bab al Zahabi, meaning “Gate of Eternal Life”. This structure has two arched openings side
by side, So according to Islamic folklore some divide this into the southern “Gate
of Mercy” and northern “Gate of Repentance”.
It also had importance in early Islam associated with “The end of time”
but the details have been lost to us.
However, this particular structure wasn’t actually built till the 6th
century or the 8th century A.D., depending on which archaeologist
you talk to. Whoever built it, though, did
so on the ruins of an earlier gate. Some
in fact have argued that it’s a Christian structure entirely, as it’s rather
awkwardly placed in relation to the ruins of the Temple, but lines up well,
from the opposite approach, to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. But then nothing ancient quite lines up the
way it originally did; structures have shifted dramatically with repairs over
centuries, which is why the streets of Alexandria, once ideally lined up to
channel breezes from the sea, have become stagnant and stifling.
Throughout history Christians, Muslims, and Jews have taken turns declaring The
Golden Gate off limits to each other, which makes it hard for archaeologists
and historians to investigate it as thoroughly as they’d wish. Interfaith violence has broken out there repeatedly
over the centuries, and continues occasionally to this day.
An archaeologist did
recently fall into a hole before it and landed in a mass grave (probably used
within a hundred years, as some of the skeletons still had ligaments holding
the bones together) And down there he
also saw the remains of an older arch.
However, when he came back to investigate the next day, he found the
hole filled up in record time.
Perhaps we are not as open
to visits from Wisdom as we were of old.
15) For setting your heart on her is the perfection of
and whoever keeps vigil
for her is quickly free from care;
COMMENTARY: The simple fact of wanting
to learn increases one’s skill in navigating life every time one indulges this
desire, which removes many a cause for anxiety.
16) Because she makes her rounds, seeking those worthy of
and graciously appears to
them on the way,
and goes to meet them with
COMMENTARY: God meets us more than
halfway, like the father of the prodigal son in the parable, running at the
sight of his return. And yes, even
though the writer refers to the wisdom of God as “She”, it’s still the same,
This feminine aspect of God is the Shekinah, which we have discussed before. A number of Middle-Eastern cultures consider
emotion a masculine quality and logic a feminine one, opposite to how European
and American culture reckon it. (Sadly,
this has often led, in cultures who see it this way, to the glorification of
men reacting emotionally, while belittling women as ploddingly pragmatic, in
much the same way that tapestry-weaving is an esteemed skill in cultures where
men mainly do it, and an unimportant pastime wherever it’s left to women.) Therefore God becomes feminine when
This adds to my suspicion of a female author, that the feminine side of God
would get so much emphasis. But I haven’t
read of any scholars putting forth this view.
17) For the first step toward Wisdom is an earnest desire
then, care for discipline is love
love means the keeping of
To observe her laws is the
basis for incorruptibility;
and incorruptibility makes one
close to God;
COMMENTARY: This is a “sorites” a
rhetoric technique “Where the predicate of each part becomes the subject of the
next”. So let’s follow this logic-chain, shall we?
We’ve already remarked that the first step in wisdom is the desire to learn
it. To seek education is to impose a
discipline upon oneself, studying without anyone telling you to do so, and listening
to one’s elders of one’s own volition.
This in turn shows love for the Shekinah, to which she responds
radiantly. When you love someone, you
delight in doing what pleases her and dislike doing what doesn’t, so if you
love the Wisdom of God, it gives you a motive to keep God’s laws. To observe them faithfully leaves no room for
corruption. Incorruptibility further
endears one to God.
20) thus the desire for Wisdom leads to a kingdom.
COMMENTARY: Obviously, not everybody who
desires wisdom winds up king of anything.
However, Jesus might have had this verse in mind when He said, “The
Kingdom of God is upon you,” meaning something not near so obvious. As He also said, His kingdom is not of this “world”. Sadly, the European mindset that literalizes
and simplifies everything, and believes in only one reality at a time, assumed
that, since they saw “the world” as meaning “everything”, and since the devil
is the prince of this world, that Earth, the foundation upon which humanity
builds, must not be of God, which is ridiculous since nature comes from
God. But if there is only one world,
then how could Jesus have a kingdom in another world?
Yaqui philosophy, though, has this covered.
There are multiple worlds. There’s
the human world, the wild world, the mystical world, the magical world, and the
dream world. From this one could deduce
that the Kingdom of God is not a man-made thing with walls and castles and armies
and a crown, not of the human world which is fallen, but can be found in
everything else, everything real.
21) If, then, you find pleasure in throne and scepter, you
princes of peoples,
honor Wisdom, that you may
reign as kings forever.
COMMENTARY: Keep in mind that the Book
of Wisdom came into being after the Davidic line of Kings had long lost their
throne, and only very recently been replaced by the Hasmodean Dynasty, who in
turn had probably either fallen or teetered in danger of falling to Rome at the
time of this writing. So, the author says to the Hasmodeans either, “Wise up
and don’t blow it this time,” or “You brought about your own downfall”, but
since we can’t precisely date the penning of this line, we don’t know which.
22) Now what wisdom is, and how she came to be I shall
and I shall conceal no
secrets from you,
But from the very
beginning I shall search out
and bring to light
knowledge of her;
I shall not diverge from
COMMENTARY: I can relate to this! For I’m searching out knowledge, myself, even
as I post these studies, barely a half-step ahead. And I try to be as honest as possible, even
with my doubts. Did this writer feel as nervous about doing this as I do now?
23) Neither shall I admit consuming jealousy to my
because that can have no
fellowship with Wisdom.
COMMENTARY: What does jealousy have to
do with it? There are always some who
want to hoard information, occulting it to all but a few initiates, so that
they can have power over the ignorant.
This has nothing to do with real wisdom.
This is not the same as keeping some things away from people for their own well-being. You don’t teach surgery to one who has never
learned asepsis, nor advanced martial arts to one who hasn’t first mastered her
temper, nor the medicine ceremonies of one culture to someone in another
culture without enough common ground to make it safe and useful. The difference is whether you withhold
information out of love or contempt.
24) A multitude of the wise is the safety of the world,
and a prudent king, the
stability of the people;
COMMENTARY: The more wise people you
have the safer the world becomes, because they have the tools to solve their
problems and resolve their differences nonviolently and thoroughly. And if a leader is individually wise, he or
she will create the conditions for more to become wise, thus increasing the
stability of peace.
25) so take instruction from my words, to your profit.
The chapter concludes with an invitation to better one’s life through