The word of the day is “holy.” Most think that Proverbs is a book of practical wisdom that teaches us how to get along in this world. But what is the difference between the pragmatic advice of teachers of this world and the counsel of the wise sage of Proverbs? In today’s reading of Proverbs 8:32-9:11, we find that the wisdom of Proverbs is grounded in what is holy, not in what is earthly. The sage writes, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (NKJV vs. 9:10). Today we discover the understanding and actions that are necessary to us to acquire the heavenly wisdom whose source is God.
Ordinary insight depends on human reason and good sense alone. In Proverbs, we find many examples of the folk wisdom of maxims and axioms that astute observers of life in this world discover and teach. For instance, the sage writes, “Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning (NKJV 9:8-9). One needs no special access to the truth to discover and accept this adage.
However, the counsel of Proverbs goes beyond such mundane perception. The premise of Proverbs is that “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding, He established the heavens “(NKJV Proverbs 3:19). By His divine reason and purpose, God the Creator established and ordered all that exists. Thus, the Psalmist declares, “O Lord, how manifold are Your works! In wisdom, You have made them all (Psalms 104:24).
Two Kinds of Wisdom
Hence, there are two kinds of wisdom. One is the insight that comes from human rationality. This kind of reasoning is limited to reaching conclusions about the things of creation. Yet another kind of wisdom is capable of knowing the thoughts and purposes of the Creator. This way of understanding has its source in God. Accordingly, if this understanding is to be known, then God must give it. Solomon writes, “For the Lord gives wisdom and from His face comes knowledge and understanding” (OSB Proverbs 2:6).
Therefore, the beginning of the wisdom that comes from above is the “fear of God” (NKJV 9:10). When people disrespect God and disregard His ways, they have no idea of this heavenly knowledge. To acquire it, we must cease our search for the wisdom of this world. We must seek to understand the will and ways of God.
In this vein, the poet of Proverbs writes, “… the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (NKJV 9:10). The prevalent translation that is found in the New King James Version and others refers to the “knowledge of the Holy One,” that is, the Almighty God (NKJV 9:10). Other translations, however, refer to the “knowledge of the holy” (KJV 9:10) or “knowing holiness” (NIV 9:10). Then too, the Septuagint (LXX) refers to the “counsel of the saints [which] is understanding” (OSB 9:10).
What is the “knowledge of God,” of the “holy,” or the counsel of the “saints,” the “holy ones? What does the “knowledge of” mean? Does it know God, the holy, or the saints? Or is it the knowledge that either God, the holy, or the saints have, the understanding that they give to us. In the Septuagint reading, the answer is clear. The verse does not mean knowing the “saints” but knowing their “counsel.”
The Knowledge that God Gives
With that in mind, we can clarify that the “knowledge of God” refers to the understanding that God grants to those who fear Him. Thus, the sage writes that the Lord gives wisdom” (OSB Proverbs 2:6). In our reading, Wisdom personified prepares a banquet and invites the simple to the feast (NKJV 9:1-5). This metaphor suggests that Wisdom freely offers the teachings whose source is God. Verse 8:32 confirms this interpretation when Wisdom says, “Now, therefore, listen to me, my children, for blessed are those who keep my ways” (NKJV 8:32).
What, then, is that wisdom that God the Creator gives? It is embedded in His commandments. The Psalmist writes, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (NKJV Psalm 111:10). Again, in the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses declares, “Surely I taught you ordinances and judgments as the Lord commanded me that you should act accordingly… Therefore be careful to observe them, for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the Gentiles” (OSB Deuteronomy 4:5-6).
In conclusion, if we would get wisdom and understanding, we should set aside our worldly attitudes and perspectives. We should give due worship to the Almighty and proper reverence to the Creator. Then with hearts that are emptied of worldly concerns and ambitions, we should pay heed to the Word of God and become acquainted with His will and ways. We should follow His teaching and obey His commandments. Then we will acquire the wisdom that God gives to those who devote themselves to learning from Him .