Old Testament Survey - Lesson 37

Biblical Wisdom

This lesson on biblical wisdom reveals the concept of wisdom in the Hebrew Bible, primarily focusing on the term "chokmah." Wisdom is explained as encompassing various levels of understanding, from practical skill to moral insight and theological understanding. The fear of Yahweh is emphasized as the foundation of wisdom, signifying a trusting awe in God. Hebrew wisdom is contrasted with other forms of knowledge, emphasizing its basis in recognizing God's order in the universe. The lesson explores the role of priests, prophets, and sages in imparting wisdom, as well as the themes and forms of wisdom literature found in the Bible.

Daniel Block
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 37
Watching Now
Biblical Wisdom

I. Introduction to Biblical Wisdom

A. Definition of Wisdom in Scripture

1. Chokmah: Skill and Intelligence

2. Good Sense and Moral Understanding

3. Understanding Profound Issues of Life

II. Distinctive Features of Hebrew Wisdom

A. Assumptions of the Sage

1. Ordered Universe

2. Learnable and Teachable Order

3. Source of Order in God

B. Operation of the Wise Person

1. Secular Appearance

2. Reliance on General Revelation

III. The Fear of the Lord

A. Meanings of "Fear" in the Bible

1. Terror, Frightened, Anxious

2. Secular and Reverent Awe

3. Submission and Allegiance

4. Trusting Awe

B. Importance and Application

1. Basis of Wisdom

2. Attitude toward God

IV. Types and Themes of Wisdom

A. Types of Israelite Wisdom

1. Simple Sayings (Proverbs)

2. Numerical Sayings

3. Long Didactic Poems

4. Beatitudinal Poems

B. Recurring Themes

1. Divine Order of the Universe

2. Ambiguity of Events and Life's Meaning

3. Correlation between Behavior and Consequences

4. Value and Reliability of Wisdom

5. Personification of Wisdom and Folly

  • Learning about the First Testament's language, geographical, and cultural contexts, and how these factors contribute to its frequent misinterpretation and underappreciation in modern times.
  • Gain insights into the literary and cosmic foundations of grace and glory in the Torah, understanding its role as more than law.
  • Learn that to be made in God's image entails embodying divine qualities and functioning as His representative on Earth, which extends a universal dignity upon all humans and shapes a theological ethic that influences how you treat others.
  • Genesis 1-3 frames human response to divine creation, emphasizing human dignity, work's moral role, free will's consequences, and the persistent grace amid sin.
  • This lesson reviews the Israelite covenant, understanding its stages, implications, and its role in God's redemptive plan.
  • Gain insights into Abraham's covenant with God, exploring his faith and God's promises.
  • Learn how the Exodus from Egypt marked Israel's transformation from a family to a nation under Yahweh.
  • Understand how the covenant at Sinai transforms Israel from slaves into a treasured nation destined for a divine mission, fulfilling God's ancient promises.
  • This lesson covers the covenantal expectations at Sinai. The covenantal agreement provided a constitutional and ethical framework for societal living, focusing on community rights and responsibilities.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into how the tabernacle was both a physical manifestation of God's presence and a profound symbol of His grace, emphasizing the holiness and detailed guidance He provided to the Israelites for worship and daily life.
  • Gain insights into Deuteronomy, recognizing its focus on teaching rather than legislation, and understanding Moses' role as an instructor of Yahweh's will.
  • In this lesson, you explore how to interpret the First Testament's historiographic writings, emphasizing the divine inspiration and literary artistry that guide the selective storytelling and theological themes.
  • Learn how the books of Joshua and Judges illustrate the fulfillment and failure of Israel's covenant with Yahweh, highlighting divine promise, cultural assimilation, and the cyclical nature of faith and apostasy.
  • The Book of Ruth, highlights divine providence, social justice, and personal righteousness while exploring the role of Boaz as a pivotal figure in maintaining the lineage of King David.
  • Samuel had a significant yet complex role in Israel's history; judge, priest, prophet, and crucial figure in establishing monarchy.
  • Learn of David's central role in the Bible, understanding his unique portrayal and the extensive attention he receives compared to other figures.
  • Learn about the Davidic covenant's role in shaping biblical history and theology, emphasizing its eternal impact on Israel and beyond.
  • The books of Kings and Chronicles use historical events to underline theological themes, highlighting the role of scribes in documenting Israel’s history.
  • In this lesson on 1 and 2 Kings, review the downfall of Israel through kings' forgetfulness of God's covenants.
  • Learn about Solomon's temple's historical and theological significance, its divine design and purpose, and its role in Israelite worship and communal life.
  • Gain insights into the transformation and resilience of the Judean people during their exile in Babylon from 586-539 BC, exploring their struggles and adaptations in a new socio-political and religious context.
  • Learn about Daniel's exemplary life in Babylon, his integrity, and his prophetic visions, which highlight divine sovereignty and the vindication of the faithful amidst calamities.
  • Review the Persian period's impact on the Jewish diaspora, analyze the Book of Esther's literary and theological significance, and reflect on divine providence and cultural identity.
  • Explore the crucial roles of Ezra and Nehemiah in reconstructing the Jewish community and faith post-exile, understanding their historical significance, source materials, and theological insights.
  • Gain insight into the roles and significance of prophets in ancient Israel, learning about their historical context, and their critical function in guiding and correcting the nation through direct communication from Yahweh.
  • Learn about the lives and ministries of prophets Amos and Hosea, their calls for justice and return to divine covenant amidst Israel's political and spiritual turmoil, through prophetic books that blend personal biography with national prophecy.
  • This lesson reviews Jonah's struggle with divine grace and Micah's advocacy for justice and the messianic hope.
  • In this lesson, you learn how Isaiah's vision portrays the Messiah as king, servant, and conqueror, emphasizing his divine roles and global mission.
  • Learn of the political and social contexts of Jeremiah and Ezekiel's exile, including Babylon's rise, Jerusalem's fall, and the crisis of faith portrayed in Lamentations, emphasizing hope amid despair through God's faithfulness.
  • Learn about Jeremiah's life and prophetic ministry, navigating challenges with kings, themes in the Book of Jeremiah, and profound passages on true religion and a future covenant, offering lessons on prophetic burdens, God's faithfulness, and spiritual transformation.
  • Explore Ezekiel's life as a priest in exile, his bizarre actions, and profound messages revealing Yahweh's passion and eternal promises of judgment and restoration.
  • Learn about Nahum and Joel's prophecies on judgment, hope, and Yahweh's character. Explore the day of the Lord and the expansion of the covenant community.
  • Explore Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah's prophecies. Discover themes of judgment, faith, and restoration in God's plan.
  • Gain insight into Haggai's role in motivating temple rebuilding during the Persian rule. His brief yet impactful ministry fosters hope and action amid community disillusionment, recoginizing God's presence and reign.
  • Gain deep insight into Hebrew poetry: its forms, parallelism, acrostics, and emotional depth. Explore its celebration and lamentation of Yahweh's glory.
  • Gain insight into Psalms which reflect diverse emotions and experiences. Structured into five divisions, attributed to various authors, their interpretation involves understanding Torah context, literary devices, and applying timeless principles to life.
  • Explore biblical wisdom's depth: from practical skill to moral insight, rooted in the fear of Yahweh. It contrasts with secular knowledge, emphasizing God's order and universal application.
  • Engage with Proverbs to unravel its diverse wisdom, from aphorisms to discourses. Understand its practical guidance for righteous living and leadership.
  • Discover the Song of Songs, a rich exploration of love's nature. From its allegorical interpretations to its celebration of covenantal love, it examines human relationships with wisdom and depth.
  • The book of Job offers insights into faith and suffering, exploring theological themes and character dynamics. It emphasizes trust in God amid life's most difficult trials.
  • Uncover Ecclesiastes' profound journey from despair to hope. Koheleth's existential ponderings contrast with the narrator's faith, urging a shift from worldly pursuits to finding fulfillment in God's sovereignty.

This Old Testament Survey course offers a deep exploration of the Old Testament's literary structure, divine covenants, and historical context. Lessons cover the Pentateuch, emphasizing its narrative over legalistic interpretations, and extend through key biblical figures like Abraham and Moses. Topics such as the covenant at Sinai, the concept of imago Dei, and the tabernacle rituals highlight the continuity of God's grace and the ethical implications of divine laws. The course critically addresses common misconceptions, the role of the Torah as instruction, and the portrayal of God’s plan, underscoring the relevance and complexity of these ancient texts.

Dr. Daniel Block 
Old Testament Survey
Biblical Wisdom
Lesson Transcript


Responding Personally to the Grace and the Glory of God with Godly Fear and Righteous Living. This lesson is an introduction to biblical wisdom. This discussion has to start with a consideration of the term for wisdom in Scripture in the Hebrew Bible.

The most important Hebrew word for wisdom is chokmah. It displays a wide range of meaning. At its root, the word wisdom, chokmah, means skill of an artisan in a craft.

This is used of Bezalel, who designed and made the decoration for the tabernacle in Exodus 35.10. The Lord gave him the gift of wisdom, and as a result, he was able to work with jewels and special threads and all kinds of materials to create the beautiful palace, portable palace, for God. So, skill in a craft. That's at the base level.

At the second level, it means intelligence, shrewdness, smarts. Solomon, I Kings 4.29, he's observing the world all around him, and he writes dozens and thousands, actually, of proverbs. In this sense, Solomon may well have been the wisest man of his day, if not the wisest man in history.

If it's a matter of smarts, IQ, he had that. At the third level, however, usually wisdom is not just about being bright. It means, and this is probably the most common usage, good sense, moral understanding, prudence, knowledge that works, that brings success to an enterprise, whether in short-range or long-range terms.

This is life controlled by the application of wise principles, Proverbs 2.2. And then at the fourth level, and this is the deepest, or should we say, the most esoteric level, the word chokmah is used of understanding the profound issues of life and death. When we read the book of Job, this is clearly a wisdom text. At this level, we recognize that the essence of wisdom is actually theological, and I would argue in the Hebrew Bible, in our First Testament, it is actually covenantal.

This wisdom is characterized by the fear of Yahweh, which means that it recognizes the Lord as the source and the goal of wisdom. Look at Job 28. It means also that we recognize the nature and purposes of difficulties in life.

Read, for instance, the book of Job where he is struggling for understanding his fate and his fortune, but this has to do with that higher level of wisdom. And third, it has to do with recognizing the reason for existence. As we will see when we look at the book of Ecclesiastes, that book is preoccupied with profit yet thrown.

But a wise person understands profit by its divine definition, not just by its material accumulation of stuff. Wisdom at this fourth level is the highest level. Now, of course, when we see those levels, we can understand how far Solomon got.

He started out his reign as a supremely wise man, but unfortunately, he ended his reign as the ultimate, shall we say, paragonic fool because he forgot the covenantal basis of wisdom. We need to talk now about the distinctive features of Hebrew wisdom. What makes this part of life different from other means of knowledge, of awareness of our environment? Well, to answer this question, we need to notice first the assumptions of the sage in the Bible, that is, the wise man, the person who is recognized as a wise man, a counselor, whatever.

The wise sage in the Bible assumes, one, the universe is ordered and life proceeds according to a fixed order. Two, that order is learnable and it is teachable. Three, by learning the order in the universe, the individual is handed an instrument with which to determine and secure his or her way through life.

And four, the source and foundation of the order in the universe is God himself, which means that if you start with a secular foundation, you will land up a fool. The fear of the Lord is the first principle of wisdom. How does the wise person operate? Well, in contrast to the Torah and the prophetic writings, many find the wisdom literature to feel remarkably secular.

Admittedly, there is no appeal here to special divine revelation. In Proverbs, we never hear, the word of the Lord came to me saying. There are no explicit calls for covenant fidelity.

The source of the wise person's information appears to be general revelation, the world of nature and the world of personal experience. God-talk as a whole is often missing, and it's generally restricted to general adherence to the divine order built into the universe. The wise person stands back and observes and listens to life as it unfolds around them, both in human experience and in the phenomena of nature.

Go to the ant, sluggard, consider her ways and be wise. Watch what's happening there. Learn the lesson.

Based on their observations, wise people draw conclusions about the order in life. The wise recognize that order, and they arrange their lives accordingly. Because they order their lives this way, they prosper.

They succeed in the tasks to which they set their minds at their hands. Fools, on the other hand, are unconcerned about that order, and so they have no interest in modifying their lives in accordance with that order. Their lives, therefore, may be characterized as chaotic and futile, unsatisfying and unfulfilling.

But we need to talk particularly about the first principle of wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. By fear, now, we mean trusting awe in Yahweh.

Now, on first sight, the wisdom writings, as I mentioned, sound secular in tone. However, it would be a mistake to view Hebrew wisdom as atheistic or even simply deistic. The belief that the order in the universe derives from God is fundamental, and the agenda becomes getting in step with the order that God has built into it.

Israelite and ancient non-Israelite alike viewed all of life from a theological perspective. Since God is concerned with all of life, all of life must reflect a concern for God. This perspective is reflected in the model of Hebrew wisdom.

The fear of Yahweh is the first principle of wisdom. Fools despise wisdom and discipline. Variations of this theme occur several times, Job 28:28, Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, 9, 10, and 15:33.

This model contains, in a nutshell, Israelite theory of knowledge. Faith to the Israelite, the believing Israelite, faith does not hinder or block knowledge. Faith liberates it.

Faith enables one to come to the point and indicates its proper place in life. Wisdom stands or falls according to the right attitude of a person to God. One who is wise recognizes that tradition, experience, and observation can lead to erroneous conclusions if a mistake is made at the beginning, namely the first principle.

If we come at life without this trusting awe in God, we will land up in the wrong place. Now this doesn't mean that apart from the fear of Yahweh, it's impossible to arrive at any correct conclusions. Humans are rational.

The universe is ordered. Some of that order is recognizable even apart from the fear of Yahweh by God's common grace, but it is the recognition of God in life that lends authority to the sage. All the lessons of experience and nature are passed through the filter of Yahwistic faith.

In short, the wise person proceeds on the basis of a sanctified common sense, Proverbs 16, 2 and 9, Proverbs 19, 21, 20, 24, and 21, 2. But we need to ask ourselves, what is this fear of the Lord? What is the meaning of this word in the Bible? Well, it's remarkable that the word yare, which is the common word used in this, the fear of the Lord, yirath Yahweh, is capable of a wide range of meanings. It can mean terror, as we see on this spectrum on the screen. It can mean terror.

When the people of Israel at Mount Sinai heard the Lord talking to them and revealing to them the 10 words, the Decalogue, they were frightened, and they went to Moses and said, stop, stop, if the Lord continues to speak like this, we're dead. They thought they were going to die. And what does Moses say? Fear not, don't be frightened, for the Lord has come to you and spoken to you that you might fear him.

Really? The same word in one sentence, but it obviously has two different meanings. This word can mean terror, I'm going to die. It can mean simply frightened, to be frightened, not necessarily you're going to die, but you get shocked.

It can mean to be anxious, don't worry, don't fear. It can mean secular awe. You don't need to have faith to be in awe of somebody.

But then, moving farther to the right on this spectrum, it can mean reverent awe, that gives it a religious dimension. Then, in some instances, it means submission with awe, or simply allegiance. We talked about Jonah the other day in another lesson.

Jonah, when the Phoenician sailors asked him, who are you and what's your business? He says, I am a Hebrew, and I fear Yahweh. Really? Then what are you doing? Run away from his charge. He told you to go to Nineveh and preach to them, and you're off on vacation to Spain.

There's something wrong here. To Jonah, it is simply a badge, a card. He pulls out, this is who I am.

It means nothing other than that, an identity. But in the final analysis, at the highest level, it means trusting awe, or awed, not O-D-D, but A-W-E-D, awed trust. Remember Abraham.

The Lord tested Abraham, saying, take now your son, your only son, whom you love, and offer him as a whole burnt offering. What's he testing? Well, in the previous chapter, after these things, that's how the chapter 22 begins, after these things, after the Lord had told Abraham, in Isaac, the promise will carry on, not in Ishmael, then he says, take your son Isaac, whom you love, and go offer him. Really? He is testing Abraham's faith.

But when Abraham faithfully does as he is told, and just as he's about to stab his life, the angel of the Lord grabs his hand and says, stop, stop, stop. Now I know that you fear me. He uses a different word.

In Genesis 15, 6, and 7, the narrator says, Abraham believed God, trusted in God, and God counted that for righteousness. That's a different word. He could have used that here, but instead he used it, yare, to fear.

In this context, it clearly means trusting awe. You have confidence in me that you're willing to do anything to demonstrate that trust. Well, there's another place we can look for this, and that again, of course, is to the Torah.

In the Deuteronomic formula for life that we find in 31, 9 to 15, Moses writes down all the words of this Torah, and then he tells the Levitical priests at the Festival of Booths every seven years, read this Torah that they may hear, that they may learn, that they may fear, that they may keep my covenant, my obeying, that they may live. Notice the fear here. In this instance, Moses is not to teach the Torah, or the Levites are not to read the Torah to scare the people into obedience.

Oh, there are several instances in Deuteronomy where the Lord says, if people perform this and this crime, then this will be the consequences that the people may hear and fear. Yes, there are times when it does mean you're afraid of the consequences if you do something, but in this sequence, read that they may hear, that they may learn, that they may fear, that they may obey, that they may live, the fearing here means trusting awe. Read the Torah and hear the Gospel, and hearing the Gospel over and over again, you fear the Lord, knowing him as your God, and you gratefully obey, and he rewards you with life.

That's the meaning of fear. Deuteronomy recognizes the source of true fear, trusting awe, comes in hearing the Word of God, and the key to attaining this disposition and this attribute. Well, of course, we hear this elsewhere.

Psalm 40, verse 3, he put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God, many will see and fear and put their trust in Yahweh. There it is. Or Psalm 115, 11, you who fear Yahweh, trust in Yahweh.

He is their help and their shield. Let me give a summary statement of how this works. In Jeremiah 18, 18, we have the Hebrew writer, the prophet, giving us the distinctions among three types of officials.

The text reads, ESV, Then they said, Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah. For the Torah, that's my reading at modification, the Torah shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him on the tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words.

Notice, priests teach Torah, the wise give counsel, the prophet gives a word. The differences in the sources of knowledge we may see in a chart like this, based on Jeremiah 18, 18. The second column gives us how the priest operates, and then the prophet, and then the sage, the teacher, the counselor, the wise person.

The basis of authority for the priest is inherited in Yahweh's covenant with Levi and the Torah they are supposed to teach. For a prophet, the basis of a prophet's authority is a personal and direct call of God. Priests inherited their positions, not so the prophet.

They were called directly. But the sage, what's the sage's basis of authority? Oh, it's popular thinking. People officially recognize their common sense, their practical wisdom, and that deserves listening, deserves a hearing.

And so, of course, the assumption here is still the fear of the Lord is the first principle of wisdom, but these are people who look at life and with eyes of faith draw the right conclusions. The source of information for the priest, it's the Torah of Moses. For the prophet, it's direct revelation from God, along with the Torah.

And for the sage, the source of information is the world out there. The heavens declare the glory of God. This is natural revelation.

So it's the world out there. Observation, experience, tradition. Get smart.

Learn the lessons from life out there. What's the scope of their influence? Well, the priests. Their target audience is Israel.

This is an ethnocentric world that priests work in. We don't find Israelite priests going outside the community of Israel to do their work. They're within Israel.

What about the prophets? Well, their scope of ministry is primarily Israel. It's quite ethnocentric. There are exceptions.

Jonah went to Nineveh. Ezekiel went to Babylon, but in Babylon, his audience was the Jewish exiles. But what's the audience for the sage? It's the world.

It's universal wisdom. What's applicable to us is common wisdom for all. How about addressee? The addressee of the priest is Israel, the covenant community.

For the prophets, usually Israel the nation or its leaders. But the sage talks to the individual. My son, listen to the instruction of your mother.

The word is Torah. And heed the teaching of your father. But it's the individual and the message.

What do they teach? The priest teaches that his instruction is in the Torah of Moses. The prophet proclaims the Word of God and appeals to people to live, listen to, and live by the Torah of Moses. But the sage, he's offering counsel on prudent living.

You see, it has a different feel to it. The wise person in the Bible never says, the Word of the Lord came to me saying, this is what you should do. You have that in the wisdom texts in the Bible.

What are the themes that keep coming up to the top, gurgle to the top? Well, I've already touched on some of these. It may be helpful here to review key motifs that keep recurring in wisdom writings. First, the divinely ordained order and nature of the universe.

This notion is reflected in the creation odes in Proverbs 8 22 to 31. It provides the basis for the first principle of wisdom, the fear of Yahweh. Second, the theme is, one of the themes is the ambiguity of events and the meaning of life.

While one may recognize in principle the order of the universe or in the universe, it's not always easy to see that order played out in human experience. Stuff goes wrong, and sometimes there is tension between the fear of God and the knowledge of God. And if what's happening in your own experience conflicts with what you're known to be true of God, then we have these tensions.

Life is often ambiguous, and its significance is not always clear. The wisdom texts deal with that. Third, the correlation between human behavior on the one hand and punishment and reward on the other.

Well, this is true of covenantal ethics as well. In the Torah, you have Moses reminding the people that if you want to enjoy life, live faithfully to Him, it's conditional. On the other hand, if you disregard the covenant and you disregard God, know that the curses will come.

Well, this kind of bifurcation of life happens also in the wisdom world. The theological principle that obedience yields blessing and disobedience results in a curse underlies the emphasis on retribution found in many wisdom texts. If you want to make it in life, behave yourself, or people will not be promoting you.

It's often presented in pragmatic and secular terms. Fourth, a theme, the supreme value of life. Life in the Bible is often defined as long existence characterized by good health, many friends, children, a good reputation, possessions, and wisdom.

This is presupposed in texts like Proverbs 3, 9 to 18. It's presupposed in the book of Job. He has a perfect family, seven kids.

This is a perfect family. Five, the reliability of wisdom. While wisdom is difficult to acquire or find, read Job 28, who can find wisdom? You can find metals in the ground, but who can find wisdom? Its acquisition is not only open to all, but when it is found, it provides a sure guide for life.

Six, the personification of wisdom and folly. Another theme in wisdom is its personification. In the scriptures in the wisdom text, we have several passages in which wisdom is personified as a woman, and so is folly.

Now, the reason why they are personified as women rather than men has nothing to do with the actual gender, but this is how languages work. In many languages, even inanimate objects, the word has gender, but it doesn't mean it is actually sexualized. This theme begins, the personification of wisdom begins in a small way in Proverbs 1, 20 to 33, 3, 13 to 18, 3, 19 to 20, 8, 1 to 36, and 9, 1 to 18.

These are all fascinating texts. My son, listen to dame wisdom, and don't listen to dame folly. That will get you in trouble.

You have many of these in the early chapters of the book of Proverbs. In Hebrew, a word like wisdom, chokmah, the ah ending signifies a feminine gender of this noun. It doesn't make it sexual, it's just that that's the way the language works.

And so, to personify wisdom as a male would have been deemed absurd and ridiculous. This personification of wisdom comes to full bloom in the pseudepigraphic writing, The Wisdom of Solomon. By the time that book was written, it pervaded almost all of wisdom thinking.

How do wisdom writings show themselves? What are the types of Israelite wisdom? It comes in many forms. First, simple sayings like Proverbs. The proverb represents Hebrew wisdom at the basic level.

A proverb may be defined as a short, pithy statement in common use. Proverbs are often colorful, word pictures designed to teach lessons. One-liners, proverbial material, appears often in the first testament outside of writing.

Let not the person who puts on the armor boast like one who takes it off. You have that in the context of David's battles. Well, hundreds of these short proverbs are gathered in Proverbs 22 to 29.

We have them in our own culture. People are forever making up proverbs in our family systems. When we have a family gathering of my family as opposed to my wife's family, we have different proverbs that we understand than they do in that family.

But this happens in all of life. It's the simplest form of wisdom, learning little lessons in life. One of which lessons we've learned that as adults, when you're reflecting on your past, we choose the baggage we want to carry.

That's a common proverb in our family, and it's a helpful one. We find the source of this type of short wisdom statement in every experiences of life, both among common folk and royal courtiers. Second, there are numerical sayings.

These represent a counting or listing of items that reflect a combination of the sage's concern for order and interest in nature. Sometimes the wise person doesn't get why nature works that way, and he can't actually explain it, but he tries to make sense out of, for instance, one mystery by putting it alongside other mysteries. Here's one from Proverbs 30, 24 to 28.

Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise. And when you've got counting things like this, it's always the fourth one that's especially important. The ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in summer.

The rock badgers, hyrax, are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs. The locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank. And the lizard, actually the word here means gecko.

You can hold it in your hand, on your finger, yet he finds himself in king's palaces. How does that work? This is a proverb on the, shall we say, the obscurities and the mysteries of life. There's something in this picture that's out of place.

I don't understand why a gecko would like to be in the king's palace, but he lands up there, and that's sometimes how our lives are. That's how I feel about my life. I feel like a gecko in the king's palace, just a little creature in a foreign world far bigger than I know anything about.

Sometimes in wisdom, we have third, long didactic poems. These are often introduced in proverbs with, my son, or let me tell you, and then they are cast as second-person commands. Their aim is to persuade the young like a teacher teaching a student, teach the young to adopt a certain style of life.

In this case, the wise man, the teacher, is portrayed as a father exhorting his son, the pupil, to pay heed to the speech that follows. There are 10 of these lectures in Proverbs 1 to 9. Sometimes wisdom is cast in what we call beatitudinal poems. Some wisdom texts begin with, how privileged, how blessed is the person.

We had an example already of this in Psalm 1, how blessed, how privileged is the one who does not walk in the ways of the ungodly or sit in the seat of the scornful, but their delight is in the Torah of the Lord, and they meditate in it day and night. That is a wisdom tactic. And of course, when you get to the New Testament, you find that Jesus is the model teacher, and he begins the Sermon on the Mount with a wisdom text, a whole bunch of beatitudes, blessed are the poor in spirit, and a whole list of them.

That's how he begins. Jesus is a teacher teaching his disciples on the nature of covenant living in the light of his appearance. This is the supreme, he is the supreme embodiment of wisdom.