Wisdom biblical: What Does the Bible Say about Wisdom?
What Does the Bible Say about Wisdom?
A world of information, expert advice, and a plethora of tools all sit at our fingertips. With abundant sources readily available, we should have plenty of answers to our questions. Yet, most of us agree that although some may be helpful, much information lacks real wisdom or truth. Wisdom lies much deeper than our quick keystroke answers. To find it, we must ask, first of all, what does the Bible say about wisdom?
Where Does the Bible Mention Wisdom?
The Bible says many things which pertain to wisdom and mentions it often. In fact, every book of the Bible proclaims God’s wisdom because every book points to an All Wise God.
The Bible mentions wisdom at least 141 times. It occurs in the wisdom book of Proverbs alone about 41 times. Often contrasted with foolishness or folly, wisdom derives from more than just intellectual knowledge but also refers to character and the ability to live a godly life.
Although some books of the Bible speak more directly than others about wisdom, from creation in Genesis and on through to Revelation, the last book of the Bible, the wisdom of God cannot be mistaken. His character and very nature define wisdom, inviting us to follow its paths and walk its ways set before us through His Word.
Five Old Testament books specifically address many of life’s fundamental questions. Known as wisdom literature, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon ground the reader in God’s answers to big questions. They address many of the perplexing, paradoxical issues of life, drawing the reader beyond the “why” and turning the focus onto God as the answer.
The Bible’s abundance of wisdom for daily living and times of trial and need fill these five books. But what does the Bible say about wisdom in other books of the Bible?
Moses, in Deuteronomy 4:6, proclaims to Israel that obeying God’s commandments give wisdom to the nation and people of Israel. Daniel and Isaiah spoke of the great wisdom of God high and far above human comprehension. In 2 Timothy 3:15, the Apostle Paul tells Timothy that God’s Word gives wisdom for salvation. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote what wisdom looks like in action, and the Apostle Paul put flesh on wisdom as he pointed to Jesus as the wisdom of God.
How Does the Bible Define Wisdom?
The book of Proverbs most often uses the Hebrew word chokmah to define wisdom. Filled with wise sayings, Proverbs defines wisdom as the ability to judge correctly and apply the best course of action based on knowledge and understanding. Another way to describe wisdom is the moral skill for living revealed through God’s Word, which instructs us about how to act as He desires.
The world’s definition of wisdom contrasts with what the Bible says about wisdom. A foolish person sees the world through a lens colored by their self. A wise person sees things as God does through the lens of His Word. Here are four ways the Bible helps us define true wisdom.
1. The Bible defines wisdom as deriving from a relationship with God Himself. Wisdom originates from reverential awe and submission to the Lord. It comes through a relationship with God, redemptively yielding self in will, heart, and mind to Him. Fear of God is a prerequisite to wisdom.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Proverbs 9:10 ESV)
Psalm 111:10 repeats the foundation of wisdom being fear of the Lord but adds that practicing godly wisdom also shows good understanding.
2. The Bible defines God as the source of all wisdom. Through God’s Word, we understand that we learn from the source of wisdom to become wise.
“For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6 ESV)
After losing everything he had, Job asked, “where wisdom comes from? Where does understanding dwell?” (Job 28:20). In verse 28, he answers his three friends and himself.
“The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28 NKJV)
3. The Bible defines wisdom by its fruits. Jesus said to his followers that deeds prove wisdom in Matthew 11:19. Other passages from the Bible connect wisdom with humility (Proverbs 11:2). The book of James reaffirms good conduct, and deeds show true wisdom.
“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.” (James 3:13 NASB)
James goes on to divide wisdom into very separate ways. James 3:13-18 calls out counterfeit wisdom, which is earthly, sensual, and demonic. It breeds envy, selfish ambition, evil, and confusion.
However, James contrasts this with wisdom from above, and we see in James 3:17 how very different earthly wisdom is from God’s wisdom. James describes godly wisdom as pure, peace-loving, considerate, reasonable, merciful, full of good fruits, impartial, and sincere.
4. The Bible defines wisdom as being rooted in God’s Word.
Psalm 119, the longest chapter in the Bible, describes over and over the value of God’s Word in daily decision-making and godly living. The Psalm knits together knowledge of God’s words with living wisely and demonstrating it through obedience. It defines wisdom as coming from knowing and doing what He says in His Word. Scripture reveals our inward nature, sin, and selfish thoughts. It guides us away from wrong and teaches us righteousness.
The Psalmist praises the blessings of the wisdom the Word brings. It lights our path, gives joy, and provides protection over us.
How Is Wisdom Different from Knowledge?
The question, “what does the Bible say about wisdom?” begs a similar question. Is wisdom different from knowledge, and if so, how? While there are similarities, and we often use wisdom and knowledge interchangeably, they are not the same.
Knowledge deals with information and intellect. Reasoning and experience add to what we know. Wisdom enables us to take that knowledge and make proper judgments and decisions. Skillful application of knowledge demonstrates wisdom.
To know or have knowledge in the Biblical context also includes a relational aspect. Proverbs 1:7 tells us knowledge, like wisdom, begins with the fear of the Lord. Growing in knowledge of God fosters a relationship of love and obedience to Him, which in turn nurtures wisdom.
It’s possible to be knowledgeable about fire yet not apply that knowledge correctly and get burnt. Knowledge understands a bee stings, but wisdom does not disturb the hive. Knowledge knows the speed limit; wisdom applies that knowledge to how fast one drives.
We can gain knowledge about different things through various means, but without true wisdom to apply what we know, we fail to be wise with that knowledge. Proverbs 2:6 tells us both knowledge and understanding come from the mouth of the Lord. Wisdom uses knowledge correctly. It equips us to live according to God’s design and desires.
How Does the Bible Say We Gain Wisdom?
In examining what the Bible says about wisdom, we then wonder how we can gain wisdom. We’ve seen that wisdom belongs to God, so we must first know God to acquire and grow in wisdom.
The Apostle Paul calls Christ the power and wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24). This powerful statement means we get wisdom by acknowledging Jesus as God. When we accept Jesus as Savior and claim Him as Lord, we begin our wisdom growth. Scripture says without Christ, we are lost, and sin blocks the pathway to wisdom. Wisdom then begins with the reverential fear of and submission to Christ.
The Bible tells us to pray for wisdom. James 1:5 says if we need wisdom, we should ask God, who will give it generously.
The Bible tells us to pursue wisdom. Proverbs 4:7 tells us to get wisdom. Solomon, credited with these words and considered the wisest man who ever lived, said to seek wisdom like silver and search for it like a hidden treasure (Proverbs 2:4). This spurs us to look for wisdom in all the right places and to scorn the idea that the world offers it. Only God can.
The Bible tells us to value wisdom. Proverbs 16:16 elevates it above riches. Many of us shift focus far too readily to the wisdom of what social media, friends, and experts say. When we look for answers in all the wrong places, we demonstrate the value we place on God’s wisdom.
The Bible tells us to increase in wisdom. Spending time with God, in His Word, prayer, worship, and with His people helps us to grow more like Him. We gain wisdom in His presence.
The magnitude of God’s wisdom cannot be fathomed. The mere idea He gifts wisdom and knowledge to His children boggles the mind.
Jesus told a story about a wise and foolish man. They both built houses. The wise man built on a rock. The foolish man built on sand. When the winds came, the house on the sand fell, but the house on the rock stood strong. Building on the right foundation matters.
We make decisions every day about who to trust and where to go for the answers to our life’s questions. God’s wisdom provides what we truly need. Like the wise one who built on a Rock, with God’s wisdom, we stand strong in our storms of life.
Photo Credit: GettyImages/RomoloTavani
Sylvia Schroeder loves connecting God’s Word with real life and writing about it. She is a contributing writer for a variety of magazines and online sites. Sylvia is co-author of a devotional book and her writing is included in several book compilations. Mom to four, grandma to 14, and wife to her one and only love, Sylvia enjoys writing about all of them.
Her love for pasta and all things Italian stems from years of ministry abroad. She’d love to tell you about it over a steaming cup of cappuccino. Connect with Sylvia on her blog, When the House is Quiet, her Facebook page, or Twitter.
This article is part of our Bible resource for understanding the significance and meaning of biblical phrases and ideas. Here are our most popular Bible articles to grow in your knowledge of God’s Word:
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Top 10 Bible Stories for Kids
“Iron Sharpens Iron” in Proverbs 27:17
“Fearfully and Wonderfully Made” in Psalm 139
“Be Still and Know That I am God” in Psalm 46:10
“No Weapon Formed Against Me Shall Prosper” – Isaiah 54:17
Listen to our podcast The Bible Never Said That. All of our episodes are available at LifeAudio.com.
Why is wisdom referred to as a she in Proverbs?
HomeContent IndexBooks of the BibleProverbs Wisdom a she in Proverbs
In Proverbs 1:20–33 and Proverbs 8:1—9:12, wisdom is personified as a woman who has much to offer—including “enduring wealth and prosperity” and “life”—to anyone who would heed her words (Proverbs 8:18, 35).
We will look at Proverbs 8 in particular, since it seems to be a jumping-off point for some creative “proof-texting” by cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses to arrive at conclusions with no textual warrant. We will cover the three subjects that are often disregarded when considering these verses—figure of speech, genre, and grammatical gender—to focus on the question, why is Wisdom a she?
Let’s start with figures of speech. These, by definition, should not be taken literally. For example, “And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground’” (Genesis 4:10). Did Abel’s blood actually cry out, audibly, from the ground? No. The Lord was using a figure of speech called personification, or prosopopoeia, to help Cain understand the inescapable nature of sin. We realize that Abel’s blood was inanimate, non-articulate, and in no way capable of speech—its “cry” is just a literary figure. We cannot formulate a doctrine that says blood actually speaks after a person dies. This may sound like common sense, but people can and do invent such teachings! We must be alert to figures of speech, because in figure, God’s exact words will not equal His exact meaning.
In Proverbs 9:2 wisdom is not literally a woman who prepares a banquet. Wisdom is an intangible quality, but Solomon describes it as if it were an actual person—personification, again. But why is Wisdom a “she” and not a “he”? As we answer that, let’s consider genre.
Proverbs 8 is poetry—one of the many genres found in the Bible. This is important to consider, for, if we do not know what we are reading, we will not know how we should read it. A reader will always make some sense of the words, but if genre is not considered, the reader will likely miss the author’s intent. For example, if we’re reading Treasure Island, it’s important to understand it as a novel, that is, a work of fiction. This understanding will prevent our seeking out the family history of Jim Hawkins as if he were a real person. When reading the Bible, if we do not understand an author’s intent, then we will not understand God’s intent—which, of course, is what matters when it comes to interpreting His Word.
Proverbs 8 is a specific type of poem called an encomium—a poem of praise. Other encomia in Scripture are found in 1 Corinthians 13 (in praise of love), Hebrews 11 (in praise of faith), and Proverbs 31:10–31 (in praise of the virtuous wife). We cannot interpret the Bible’s poetry in the same way we do its historical narratives, its prophecies, its apocalyptic passages, etc. For instance, we cannot treat “Love is patient, love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4) in the same way as “When anyone has a swelling or a rash or a shiny spot on their skin that may be a defiling skin disease, they must be brought to Aaron the priest” (Leviticus 13:2). The first passage is effusive, the latter exacting. These are just two examples of types of writings that must be read with sensitivity to their genre, purpose, and context. So, when we read that Wisdom is a “she,” understand that Proverbs is heavily artistic; therefore, we are not reading a technical definition of wisdom.
Finally, let’s talk about gender in language. Except for some personal pronouns, English does not use grammatical gender (classifying words as masculine, feminine, or neuter). However, the Hebrew language (in which Proverbs was written) does use grammatical gender, much like Spanish, French, and many other languages do. Herein is our problem. “She,” as we understand it, is not necessarily “she” as it was intended in Hebrew.
Native English speakers are ambivalent concerning grammatical gender. We naturally think of the noun girl as feminine and the noun boy as masculine, so, when assigning pronouns to these words, we use she/her/hers for girl and he/him/his for boy. When we speak of a ship, which has no actual gender, we use neuter pronouns (it/its). However, these ships are often named after men (such as the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan). The name of the ship does not affect its gender. To compound matters, mariners usually refer to a ship in feminine terms: she is a fine ship, head her into port, etc. Gender is somewhat arbitrary in English usage, but this is not the case in many other languages.
In many languages (including Hebrew) most nouns have a strong gender component—but the gender assignment is grammatical and does not necessarily indicate the physical gender of the object. In Spanish, a guitar (la guitarra) is feminine, and a car (el coche) is masculine. This has nothing to do with literal gender. In fact, the Spanish word masculinidad, which means “masculinity,” is a feminine noun! Therefore, when translating from Hebrew into English, we must distinguish grammatical gender from our notions of sexual gender.
In English, the word wisdom is grammatically neuter, but not so in Hebrew. The Hebrew word is chokmoth, and it is grammatically feminine. In Hebrew, it would have been natural to speak of wisdom as a “she.”
As previously mentioned, Solomon used the literary tool of personification to extol the inanimate and abstract idea of wisdom as if it were a real person. By doing so, Solomon communicated a vivid illustration of the blessings of being wise. In personifying wisdom, it was necessary to use the appropriate pronouns. Since a person is not referred to as an “it,” Wisdom as an antecedent requires feminine personal pronouns. The grammatical construction is an artifact of the process of personification. In other words, since the word wisdom is feminine (in Hebrew grammar), Wisdom personified becomes a “she” to satisfy the demands of diction—not to add information to its object.
There may be a couple other reasons why Solomon portrayed Wisdom as a “she.” In the broader context, Solomon is drawing a careful contrast between wise and foolish choices. Immediately before and after presenting Wisdom as an elegant lady offering riches and satisfaction, Solomon presents a picture of Folly, pictured as a prostitute who promises pleasure but who delivers death (Proverbs 6:24—7:27; 9:13–18). So, the foolishness of immorality is contrasted with the wisdom of virtue. Two parallel illustrations are used, and both involve a virtual woman.
Also, Proverbs shows us Wisdom personified performing activities that are usually associated with a woman (such as preparing a meal, Proverbs 9:2, 5). This description transcends the technical grammar and further necessitates the feminine pronouns applied to Wisdom.
Solomon was not saying that women are intrinsically wiser than men—that would be reading too much into the use of grammar. And he was definitely not referring to some type of goddess named “Wisdom” or “Sophia.”
It is impossible to tell whether or not Solomon intended a feminine portrayal of wisdom from the outset. Perhaps the feminine underpinnings of the word wisdom influenced his choice, or perhaps he just found himself awash in the feminine grammar and ran with it. Either way, the use of she was not necessarily driven by any intrinsic femininity of wisdom. As such, men should not be insulted nor women puffed up at its reading.
Questions about Proverbs
Why is wisdom referred to as a she in Proverbs?
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Lukanskaya K. A., BSU, Historical
Among the monuments of world culture
a special place belongs to the holy book
Christians – Bibles. Title “Bible”
comes from the Greek word for “books”.
The Bible consists of seventy-seven books,
written at different times, different
authors, different genres, styles, even
languages. But they are all perceived as
a single and indivisible book
solid text that recreates life
experience and moral standards. The Bible is not only
holy book of believing Christians, but
and the oldest universal collection
worldly wisdom. Aphorisms and expressions,
taken from the Bible, so firmly entered our
speech that have become an integral part of it.
Biblical expressions are widely used
in fiction, journalism,
in live colloquial and everyday speech. In European
biblical expressions ascend
to the “Vulgate” – Latin translation
Bible by Jerome. Meanwhile, biblical
expressions are the golden fund of the world
and any national culture. For
for centuries, the Bible has been a great
influence on spiritual and cultural development
and the formation of the mentality of people. Bible
is one of the popular sources
citations not only in the religious sphere,
but also secular.
I must say that in Latin
and in the native language the number of proverbs,
proverbs and other phraseological units that have
biblical origin, huge; Majority
of them have lost their religious
coloring, and over time archaic
most of the Bibleisms have been erased, and they
have long been proverbs.
Scientists “aphorists-biblical scholars”
there are several in Latin
hundreds of proverbs of biblical origin.
And that’s just those who are more or less
faithfully reproduce the biblical text.
And if “announce the entire list”, then the score
goes to thousands.
There are two uses
Biblicalisms: close to the source,
with a claim for a quote; and completely transformed
lost its archaic appearance, sounded
in a modern way. For example, such expressions:
“He who treats the wise will
wise, but whoever befriends a fool will pervert,
this quote is taken from the texts of Solomon,
has long been transformed into a well-known
view: “With whom you will lead from that and you will be typed. ”
“Everything hidden becomes clear”
sounds in the modern version as “Shila
you can’t hide it in a bag.” Who is not with us
he is against us “unfortunately, frequent
use of this expression
distorted its original meaning. A
in the original source – the Bible says “Who
not with me, he is against me; and who does not collect
with me, he squanders” (Matt. 12:30). These
words Jesus Christ emphasizes that
in the spiritual world there are only two
kingdoms: good and evil, God and Satan. Third
not given. Folk wisdom says this
account: “I lagged behind God – I stuck to Satan.”
This process is called “folklorization”.
However, in everyday speech, there are
and untransformed sayings that
are direct quotations from the Bible.
- “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” (Mat. 5:8).
- “Judge not, lest you be judged” (Mat. 7:1).
- “Do not make yourself an idol” (Exodus,
- “There is a time to scatter stones,
there is a time to gather stones” (Ecclesiastes 3:5).
- “Vanity of vanities” (Eccl. 1:2).
- “Keep as the apple of an eye” (Deut. 32:10).
- Bury the talent in the ground (Mat. 25:15).
- “In the sweat of the brow” (Genesis 3:15) – in
Bible it is connected with the event when
God drives out the guilty Adam from
Paradise and after him says: “In the sweat of your face
you will eat bread until you return
into the ground from which you were taken.” Expression
this means that only with great difficulty
you can get food, and everything you need for
The most amazing thing is that
that these biblical aphorisms written
even at that distant time, it seems to us quite
modern. When we read the Bible
then our minds are reflected on its pages
and hearts, our pride and prejudice,
our own failures and humiliations,
our sins and worries.
Truth is beyond time. True
in one century does not differ from the truth
at other times, it does not depend on the people,
no geographic location. Differ
one from one can only human
ideas, only customs, moral
charters of people, but great, surpassing
truths are eternal for all time. In Latin
more than a hundred stable
expressions, one way or another related to the text
Bible. Especially a lot of phraseological units
from the New Testament, especially from the Gospel.
In addition to the two types of biblical
aphorisms (i.e. transformed and non-transformed
) there are situational phraseological
expressions or biblical expressions that arose
based on biblical stories such as:
Penitent Magdalene. Solomon’s solution.
Belshazzar’s feast. Tower of Babel. Babylonian
pandemonium. Valaam’s donkey. Prodigal
son. Bele, like Lazarus.
decision (The Third Book of the Kingdom, ch.3,
Art. 16-28) – a witty decision, a clever way out
from a difficult or delicate situation.
This expression is based on the biblical
the parable of the wise king Solomon. One day
two women came to see him. They lived
in the same house, and each had a baby.
During the night, the baby of one of the women died and
she put it on another woman, and
took it alive. The women began to argue
about which of them belongs to the living
child. After listening to them, Solomon ordered:
“give me the sword…. Dissect a living child
in two and give half to one and half
another”. One of the women exclaimed, “Oh,
my lord! Give her this baby alive
and do not kill him.” The other, on the contrary,
says: “Let there be neither me nor
cut you.” Then Solomon said, “Give
this living child, and do not kill him:
she is his mother.”
Climb to Golgotha. (Gospel of Matthew, 27:33-37)
– moral and physical suffering,
suffering, asceticism. Calvary is called
hilly area in the northwest
Jerusalem (now located in
city limits), where he was crucified on the cross
Biblical wisdom selectively
contains secular and religious wisdom.
The Bible Writers Call Us to Meditate
about the wisdom of Scripture until the Word
God’s will not become a window through which we
Let’s start seeing everything else.
The Bible is the greatest literary
memo translated into many languages
peace. This is not a work of art
literature. The Bible is majestic
and philosophical doctrine about the world, about people,
about eternal moral and spiritual values
Connecting selectively the worldly
and religious insight in the canon
inspired authority, bible
provides grounds for asserting the principles that
correspond to such truths as:
“Man’s life does not depend
on the size of his property;
“How a person thinks about himself
in his heart, such is he”;
The Bible is an inexhaustible
life textbook. As from any difficult situation
there is a way out, so for every question anxious
souls, there is an answer in scripture.
Even if the question has not matured in the mind, open
Great Book and receive wise advice.
1. Aphorisms. Interesting Thoughts
about everything in the world. [Electronic resource].
– Access mode: http://xaroktet.wordpress.com/
2. Biblical wisdom. [Electronic
resource] – Access mode: http://www.yugzone.ru/
3. Bible: Winged words from
Bible. [Electronic resource] – Access mode:
http://www.adventist.kz/bible phrases.htm – Access date:
4. Goncharova N.A., Antonyuk
M.G., “Biblical Aphoristics: Culturological
aspect (from the experience of working on the educational
Russian-Belarusian Biblical Dictionary)”/
Linguistic and cultural education in the system
university training of specialists. – 2012.
Book “Bible wisdom in folk proverbs”
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