1) Indeed, she spans the world from end to end
and governs all things
COMMENTARY: You can find wisdom anywhere
in the world, and wherever she’s heeded, those who heed her govern well. Alternatively, wisdom’s insights apply all
over the world, and everything on Earth is well-balanced by God’s wisdom.
2) Her I loved and sought after from my youth;
I sought to take her for
and was enamored of her
COMMENTARY: One should pursue wisdom as
passionately as a lover, not as some dry kind of drudgery, but as a
relationship, with tenderness and excitement for the wealth of discoveries
3) She adds to nobility the splendor of companionship
even the Ruler of all
COMMENTARY: This personal relationship
with Wisdom leads to a personal relationship with God.
4) For she leads into the understanding of God,
and chooses his works.
COMMENTARY: The more you understand the
workings of wisdom, the more you understand God, who decides what to do based
on whatever is the wisest course, which God can see in its fullness.
5) If riches are desirable in life,
what is richer than
Wisdom, who produces all things?
COMMENTARY: Just as it’s better to own a
cow than a jug of milk, it’s better to go to the source of riches than to
settle for a handful of wealth by itself.
For just as one drinks up milk and it’s gone, or spill it and it’s lost,
so one can quickly spend wealth, or lose it to a thief. But if one has the source, one never runs out
6) And if prudence is at work,
who in the world is a
better artisan than she?
COMMENTARY: Wisdom doesn’t merely lead
to things, but to processes and deeds.
You can get a lot more accomplished when working with wisdom.
7) Or if one loves righteousness,
whose works are virtues,
She teaches moderation and
and nothing in life is
more useful than these.
COMMENTARY: Moderation, prudence,
righteousness and fortitude are the four Platonic virtues of the Greek
world. This shows the strong Greek
influence on the Jews to whom the writer addresses this book. The Bible, in contrast, lists seven cardinal
virtues: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and
8) Or again, if one yearns for wide experience,
she knows the things of
old, and infers the things to come.
She understands the turns
of phrases and the solutions of riddles;
signs and wonders she
knows in advance
and the outcome of times
COMMENTARY: Wisdom is the greatest
adventure. J.R.R. Tolkien once
speculated that, for those of a scientific bent, Heaven would be eternally
learning more and more about God and how He put together and ran the universe.
9) So I determined to take her to live with me,
knowing that she would be
my counselor while all was well,
and my comfort in care and
COMMENTARY: A colleague once asked Socrates if he should marry. “By all
means!” Socrates replied. “If you marry
a good wife you will be happy, and if you marry a bad wife you will become a
philosopher!” (Needless to say, Socrates
and his wife, Xanthippe, didn’t have the happiest of unions.) The point is, wisdom can not only help you make
the most of good fortune, but also help you endure bad fortune.
10) Because of her I have glory among the multitudes,
and esteem from the
elders, though I am but a youth.
COMMENTARY: Solomon originally prayed
for wisdom because he had inherited the throne while still a minor.
11) I shall become keen in judgment,
and shall be a marvel
COMMENTARY: The future tense in this
matters. The truly wise always realize
that they could be wiser, and they strive to continually improve. Self-made
morons tend to assume that they’ve already reached a pinnacle and stop growing.
12) They will wait while I am silent and listen when I
and when I shall speak the
they will put their hands
upon their mouths.
COMMENTARY: I’m giggling because this
sounds a bit like an adolescent fantasy about someday attaining wisdom.
13) Because of her I shall have immortality
and leave to those after
me an everlasting memory.
COMMENTARY: Not physical immortality,
but immortality in the sense of never being forgotten. And indeed Solomon has become proverbial for
wisdom, which is why this author speaks through his voice. The original Solomon didn’t know about an
afterlife; his Ecclesiastes is one big existential crisis.
14) I shall govern peoples, and nations will be my
COMMENTARY: Solomon ruled at the height
of Israel’s power and influence. After
him his son, Rehoboam, was as foolish as his father was wise, and caused the
secession of most of the country.
15) tyrannical princes, hearing of me, will be afraid;
in the assembly I shall
appear noble, and in war courageous.
COMMENTARY: The wise know better than to
oppress those on whom they depend for their throne (Rehoboam’s big mistake was
to try and look like a tough guy and demand too much, only to discover that
most of his people would simply abandon him.)
Courage and nobility aren’t about being the biggest bully in the
room. But wisdom can teach you courage
because it makes you face what you fear in order to understand it, and courage
in turn lends you nobility.
16) Entering my house, I shall take my repose beside her;
For association with her
involves no bitterness
and living with her no
but rather joy and
COMMENTARY: This continues the metaphor
of Wisdom as a wife who brings nothing but happiness, unlike flesh and blood spouses
who can sometimes quarrel. And there’s
an irony here, for Solomon was said, in the end of his life, to fall into folly
because his mortal wives tempted him to abandon God.
17) Reflecting on these things,
and considering in my
That immortality lies in
kinship with Wisdom,
great delight in love of her,
and unfailing riches in
the works of her hands;
And that in associating
with her there is prudence,
and fair renown in sharing
I went about seeking to
take her for my own.
COMMENTARY: This basically sums up what
has been said before.
19) Now, I was a well-favored child,
and I came by a noble
COMMENTARY: The Greeks regarded beauty
and nobility as going hand in hand, and how you were born determined your
20) or rather, being noble, I attained an unblemished
COMMENTARY: ...However, the writer
corrects this by reversing the order, to say that Solomon’s noble soul led to
his good looks, presumably because it inspired him to healthy habits.
One can argue that one can’t help some physical defects that one is born with,
but I have seen people born deformed who radiated beauty in their smile, the
glint of their eyes, their kindly attentiveness, indeed in everything they said
or did, and people felt it even if they didn’t immediately understand why
someone so outwardly misshapen could be so attractive. In contrast, I have seen people born with
good bone structure, fine skin and excellent proportions become ugly over time
with their surly expressions, contempt for others, or excesses.
21) And knowing that I could not otherwise possess her
unless God gave it—
and this, too, was
prudence, to know whose gift she is—
I went to the LORD and
and said with all my
Continuing the metaphor, in those days of arranged marriage it was best
to know who had the power of doing the arranging and petitioning for what you
wanted (and contrary to popular misconceptions, marriage-arrangers often
listened to their children in making choices.)
But this verse also solidifies the Jewish position that Wisdom is not a
separate goddess, but emanates from a singular God, or shows one facet—the feminine
side—of the Divine.