22 “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of old.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth,
26 before he had made the earth with its fields,
or the first of the dust of the world.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there;
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the children of man.
32 “And now, O sons, listen to me:
blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Hear instruction and be wise,
and do not neglect it.
34 Blessed is the one who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting beside my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favor from the Lord,
36 but he who fails to find me injures himself;
all who hate me love death.” – Proverbs 8:22-36 ESV
Wisdom has an impressive pedigree, and it isn’t shy when it comes to talking about it. According to verse 22, Wisdom is literally older than dirt. It has been around since the beginning of time.
The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. – Proverbs 8:22 DRB
The Hebrew word, qānâ, can be translated as either “created” or “possessed,” and various Bible translations use one or the other to describe Wisdom’s relationship with God at the point of creation.
The LORD created me as His first course, before His works of old. – Berean Study Bible
“The LORD formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else.” – New Living Translation
“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old.” – New American Standard Version
“Jehovah possessed me in the beginning of his way, Before his works of old.” – American Standard Version
But if God created Wisdom, then that would suggest there was a point in time when it did not exist. Like the rest of creation, it was formed out of nothing. But that would infer that Wisdom exists independently of God. Like the sun, moon, stars, plants, and animals, it owes its existence to God’s divine power. But that would seem to contradict the idea that Wisdom is an attribute of God Himself. So, given the context established in Proverbs 8, it makes much more sense to translate the word qānâ as “possessed.”
“As Creator, God counted wisdom most important. Wisdom is older than the universe, and it was essential in its creation. Nothing came into existence without wisdom. Wisdom leads to joy because creation produces joy (vv. 30-31) both for the Creator and for the creature. God made and did nothing without wisdom. Therefore it is very important that we obtain it. That is the point.” – Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Genesis
Wisdom boldly claims to have been “set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth” (Proverbs 8:23 ESV). Again, understanding the meaning of this passage is dependent upon a proper translation of the Hebrew word, nāsaḵ. It carries the meaning “to pour out,” as in the pouring out of a libation or in the anointing of a king. God poured forth His Wisdom in the process of forming the universe, anointing all it contained with His unsurpassed intelligence, skill, and creative prowess. Nothing was left to chance. Everything God made reflects intelligent design and symmetry of order.
Before God made the oceans, seas, rivers, and streams, Wisdom was already in existence. Long before there were mountains and hills and the dirt and rocks from which they consist, Wisdom was there. The sun, moon, stars, heavens, clouds, and atmosphere surrounding the earth were all made according to God’s infinite and incomparable wisdom. And the apostle John explains how this Wisdom manifested itself.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. – John 1:1-3 ESV
In his first letter to the Corinthians church, the apostle Paul declares that Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24 ESV). In other words, He is the wisdom of God personified. Just a few verses later, Paul asserts that Christ and Wisdom are synonymous and inseparable.
For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. – 1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT
And the prophet Isaiah, writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit, predicted that the Messiah would be the greatest expression of God’s infinite wisdom.
And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. – Isaiah 11:2 NLT
Paul firmly believed that Jesus Christ was the wisdom of God in human flesh. And his greatest desire was for all believers to “have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself” (Colossians 2:2 NLT), because “In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3 NLT).
So, when Wisdom boldly claims, “I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man” (Proverbs 8:30-31 ESV), you can hear the voice of Jesus speaking. Because of his knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures, Solomon would have had some idea of the promised Messiah of Israel. But much of the Messiah’s mission and role would have remained a mystery to even the all-wise King of Israel.
But after the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the apostles were able to put together all the pieces of the puzzle and form a more cohesive and cogent explanation of Jesus’ divine role as the wisdom of God made manifest.
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together. – Colossians 1:15-17 NLT
Solomon may not have had a comprehensive grasp of Jesus as the embodied wisdom of God, but he fully understood that Wisdom was indispensable and vital to living a life that brought glory to God. That’s why he spent so much time pleading with his sons to make the pursuit of godly wisdom a high priority in their lives. He even portrayed Wisdom as a human being, calling to his young sons and begging them to avail themselves of her gift.
“And so, my children, listen to me,
for all who follow my ways are joyful.
Listen to my instruction and be wise.
Don’t ignore it.
Joyful are those who listen to me,
watching for me daily at my gates,
waiting for me outside my home!
For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from the Lord.” – Proverbs 8:32-35 NLT
The words of Wisdom are reminiscent of those spoken by Jesus centuries later.
“My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” – Matthew 11:27-30 NLT
Jesus offers all those who are worn out from trying to earn their way into God’s good graces, the gift of peace. Peace with God. He alone can provide sinful men and women restored access to God’s presence. Through faith in His sacrificial death on the cross, fools can receive “wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30 NIV). By accepting Christ as our Savior, we receive all that He is, including His eternal wisdom and spotless righteousness, as our very own.
But Wisdom has one final word of warning that should leave us shaking in our boots.
“But those who miss me injure themselves.
All who hate me love death.” – Proverbs 8:36 NLT
And the apostle Paul described a similar fate for all those who turn their back on God’s Wisdom. They suffer serious consequences for refusing to embrace the gift that God has made available.
…they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.
So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. – Romans 1:21-26 NLT
And all those who refuse to accept Jesus, “who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV), will suffer a similar fate.
English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.