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On the Wisdom of Solomon, Part 14: The Rewards of Wisdom
In these last few chapters of Wisdom, Solomon has explained that the wisdom of which he speaks is the wisdom which comes from God, and he related it explicitly to the commandments of God. Doing that he had also explained that such is the wisdom by which kings should justly rule, specifically speaking of the future kings of Israel who would be expected to have the commandments of God. Having characterized that wisdom as a woman, he then described her beauty, and now, proceeding with Wisdom chapter 8, he continues by describing her rewards.
Discussing his description of The Beauty of Wisdom, we left off with Wisdom chapter 8 at verse 9 where Solomon had written that on account of that beauty, “Therefore I purposed to take her to me to live with me, knowing that she would be a counsellor of good things, and a comfort in cares and grief.” However in Ecclesiastes chapter 1, Solomon seemed to have sought to justify his purposeful venture into folly by stating “18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” On the surface, one may suspect a conflict in the two statements, although it is evident that both statements are indeed true. In much wisdom there is much sorrow, as one perceives all of the evil around him. However in wisdom there is also comfort in spite of the grief which it causes, as Solomon had ended Ecclesiastes with an assurance that God will indeed judge men for their works.
Now we shall commence with Solomon’s estimation of the rewards of Wisdom, which he himself had certainly experienced:
Wisdom 8:10 For her sake I shall have estimation among the multitude, and honour with the elders, though I be young.
The word for multitude is actually plural, multitudes. We would translate the last clause to read “… and a youth honored alongside the elders.” As Solomon had said in chapter 4 of Wisdom, “9 But wisdom is the gray hair unto men, and an unspotted life is old age.” In other words, a man of such wisdom, even if he is still young, would command the same respect which is generally due an elder. A notable example is the life of the prophet Daniel, who was a very young man when he was taken to Babylon, and his wisdom earned him renown very early in his life.
11 I shall be found of a quick conceit in judgment, and shall be admired in the sight of great men.
Christians are told to be quick to listen in judgment, and slow to speak, so that they do not judge or act rashly. This we read in James chapter 1: “19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” There is similar advice from Solomon himself three times in the Proverbs, in chapters 14 through 16.
But here the phrase “quick conceit” is from the Greek word ὀξύς, which is literally sharp or keen, and according to Liddell & Scott, “of things that affect the sight, dazzling, [or] bright”, and that is the overall context of this passage. The word for sight is ὄψις, which is literally the face, but here sight is a fair translation. However the verb θαυμάζω is to wonder, marvel or to be astonished as well as to honor or admire. Therefore we would translate this verse to read:
Brilliant shall I be found in judgment [ὀξὺς εὑρεθήσομαι ἐν κρίσει], and in the face of rulers they shall marvel [καὶ ἐν ὄψει δυναστῶν θαυμασθήσομαι].
By the beauty of the wisdom of God men can be brilliant in judgment to a degree which may cause others to marvel. So we read in 1 Kings chapter 4: “30 And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about. 32 And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. 33 And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. 34 And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom.”
While we did not fully expound on a similar passage in chapter 7 of Wisdom when we had encountered it, there Solomon had written: “17 For he hath given me certain knowledge of the things that are, namely, to know how the world was made, and the operation of the elements: 18 The beginning, ending, and midst of the times: the alterations of the turning of the sun, and the change of seasons: 19 The circuits of years, and the positions of stars: 20 The natures of living creatures, and the furies of wild beasts: the violence of winds, and the reasonings of men: the diversities of plants and the virtues of roots: 21 And all such things as are either secret or manifest, them I know.” Thus we just read another but more concise testimony of that same thing in summary in 1 Kings 4:33: “And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.”
Now Solomon describes the effect which such wisdom has on other men as they marvel, so it is apparent that they may also recognize its value:
12 When I hold my tongue, they shall bide my leisure, and when I speak, they shall give good ear unto me: if I talk much, they shall lay their hands upon their mouth.
While the King James translation is fair, we would rather read the verse as literally as possible:
I am silent, they shall wait [σιγῶντά με περιμενοῦσιν]; then I shall speak, they shall give heed [καὶ φθεγγομένῳ προσέξουσιν]; and speaking even further [καὶ λαλοῦντος ἐπὶ πλεῖον] they shall place a hand upon their mouths [χεῖρα ἐπιθήσουσιν ἐπὶ στόμα αὐτῶν].
The concise language of Wisdom in many passages is accounted for once it is recognized that the original work was written as poetry. Here Solomon is describing the natural result which one may achieve upon speaking and judging by the wisdom of God. But now he describes a greater result:
13 Moreover by the means of her I shall obtain immortality, and leave behind me an everlasting memorial to them that come after me.
The proof of the the truth of this is Solomon himself, as men to this very day cherish his words in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and in his other writings. In spite of his sins, he is admired in the historical chronicles of Scripture and he has been looked upon favorably by most Christians throughout history. However here Solomon was addressing all of the future kings of Israel, and unfortunately, very few kings actually ever followed his admonitions. Recalling the most memorable kings of Saxon England for further examples there are Alfred the Great and Edward the Confessor, both of whom were devout Christians. Of course there are other examples, but if there were more kings throughout history who had hearkened to Solomon’s words, not only would they have left an even more memorable legacy, but perhaps their kingdoms may have been even greater, as Solomon now professes:
14 I shall set the people in order, and the nations shall be subject unto me.
The first clause we would translate to read “I shall govern the people”, however the Greek verb διοικέω is more literally to manage a house. Paul of Tarsus had used a similar word in several of his epistles in relation to the function of his own ministry. So we read in Ephesians chapter 3: “1 For this cause I, Paul, captive of Christ Yahshua on behalf of you of the Nations, 2 if indeed you have heard of the management of the family [or house] of the favor of Yahweh which has been given to me in regard to you”, and then again a little further on: “8 To me, the least of all saints, has been given this favor, to announce the good message to the Nations - the unsearchable riches of the Anointed, 9 and to enlighten all concerning the management of the household [or family] of the mystery which was concealed from the ages by Yahweh, by whom all things are being established.”
Solomon, as did David his father, acknowledged that he sat on a throne which truly belonged to Yahweh God, and therefore he was ruling over the household of God as an agent of God. Yahweh Himself had announced to the children of Israel, in Deuteronomy chapter 14, “Ye are the children of the LORD your God…” While the children of Israel, apart from all other peoples, are considered the children of God in the words of the prophets, and while their rulers are often considered shepherds of the flock of God, words related to διοικέω and οἰκονομία, which we see in those passages of both Solomon and the epistles of Paul, do appear elsewhere in the Greek Scriptures in that same context.
For example, in Psalm 102:16, which is 101:16 in the Septuagint, we read: “For the Lord shall build up Sion, and shall appear in his glory.” In prophecy, Sion, or Zion, often refers prophetically to the collective children of Israel. The word translated as build up there is οἰκοδομέω, which is literally to build a house. Therefore when Paul wrote his epistles, he used the word οἰκονομία, which is the management of a household or family, in order to describe his ministry. The word οἰκονομία is to manage a house, and Paul described that house in Hebrews chapter 8 where he cited Jeremiah chapter 31 and professed that the New Covenant was intended for the house of Israel, using the word οἶκος, which is literally a house but is used to describe the family of the children of Israel in the Old Testament.
While the word οἶκος and all of the words related to it can refer to a physical, literal house, a house is primarily built for a family of people, and the inference is that the family unit itself is a house. Clear examples of this are replete throughout Scripture. For example, in Amos chapter 5 we read “25 Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?” There the word for house is οἶκος, and it is obvious that wandering in the desert forty years, the children of Israel had no house, no particular geographical domicile, no country, as the areas inhabited by distinct nations of people are generally reckoned, and therefore the word house in that context refers only to the collective family of the people. Then, speaking of the time when they went into captivity and were to be scattered among the countries of other tribes, we read in the Word of Yahweh in Amos chapter 9: “9 For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth.”
So even after Israel was scattered into many different places, they were still a single collective house, or family, and it is that house, or family, with whom the New Covenant was promised, and to whom Paul of Tarsus and the other apostles had brought the Gospel of Christ, as they themselves professed. Peter had no other house in mind where he wrote in chapter 4 of his first epistle: “17 For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” Peter had expected the scattered children of Israel to accept the Gospel of God, as he also heard Christ proclaim that “My sheep hear My voice”.
We illustrate these things here, and perhaps even belabor them, because this sense of the meaning of these words, which cannot be ignored, is so often lost in translations of the Scriptures in English or other languages. Yahweh God did not ever intend to build a church in the sense of an organization or an edifice. Rather, He purposed to build up a particular people, and His church, or congregation as the words of the original languages should be understood, is to manifest itself from among that particular people.
Another example of the meanings of these words being lost in translation is found in Isaiah chapter 22, in verse 21 where we read a prophecy of Eliakim the son of Hilkiah and it reads in part, from Brenton’s Septugint: “and I will give thy stewardship into his hands: and he shall be as a father to them that dwell in Jerusalem, and to them that dwell in Juda.” The word for stewardship is οἰκονομία, and the man who would be granted that position, which is the management of a house, is likened to a father, as the head of a house. Where the Septuagint has “to them that dwell in Juda”, the corresponding Hebrew passage has “to the house of Judah”, using the hebrew word bayith, or in English beth, for house. Houses are built for families, but the family itself is the house. When we fall into the error of thinking that the domicile is the house, much like a building by itself is often thought to be a church, which is also an error, then anyone who gains entry into the domicile may be mistakenly thought to be a member of the family, which is not true. Paul used the term “house of Israel” in Hebrews chapter 8 to describe the same entity which Yahweh had intended to describe in Jeremiah chapter 31 with the promise of a New Covenant. Paul was certainly not corrupting the Word of God as he cited it, by assigning different meanings to the words which he quoted.
Now, while he is still addressing future kings, Solomon describes the effect which kings ruling by the wisdom of God may have upon men who would be tyrants:
15 Horrible tyrants shall be afraid, when they do but hear of me; I shall be found good among the multitude, and valiant in war.
But Solomon did not describe tyrants who merely hear of him, but those who hear his words. This verse may be more literally translated:
Hearing me, horrible tyrants shall be stricken with fear [φοβηθήσονταί με ἀκούσαντες τύραννοι φρικτοί]. Among the multitude I shall appear to be good [ἐν πλήθει φανοῦμαι ἀγαθὸς], and manly in war [καὶ ἐν πολέμῳ ἀνδρεῖος].
We had discussed the word ἀνδρεῖος in our last presentation, in regard to verse 7 of chapter 8, and explained that it described what is masculine, or manly, however it was also used to describe courageous or manly deeds. So wisdom is not found in cowardice or capitulation, and exhibitions of those traits do not come from wisdom. In Luke chapter 1 we read, where it is speaking of John the Baptist: “17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” The prophet Elijah was never a coward in the face of overwhelming odds, but he overcame a king, a queen, and openly challenged all of the pagan priests and servants of Baal. Likewise, John the Baptist, although he was imprisoned and slain, had similar courage in the face of Herod Antipas, who in turn had feared him.
This leads me to a digression, as there are other striking similarities between the experience of Elijah and that of John the Baptist. When Ahab saw the things which Elijah had done, he feared him and in 1 Kings chapter 18 had even obeyed what things Elijah had told him. But his woman, Jezebel, did not fear him, ostensibly because she did not fear God, and therefore we read in 1 Kings 19: “1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.” So Ahab feared his woman more than God, and he came to his end in shame for that reason. So was it manly of Ahab, that he submitted to the desires of his wife? Rather, Ahab was also a feminist. Herod feared John the Baptist, yet had him beheaded on account of his wife and daughter. So we see that weak kings, kings who are not manly, reject the wisdom of God and even end up seeking to destroy those who have it. But Nebuchadnezzar, the pagan king of Babylon, was much more pious and manly than either Ahab the king of Israel or Herod Antipas, who was the son of an Edomite interloper.
This entire passage of Wisdom evokes the words of the prophet Daniel to Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, from Daniel chapter 2: “20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding: 22 He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him.” Nebuchadnezzar understood that Daniel’s wisdom came from Yahweh his God, and when Daniel spoke, Nebuchadnezzar was quiet and listened, just as Solomon describes here. Then Nebuchadnezzar rewarded Daniel with a high position within his kingdom, ostensibly so that the entire kingdom would also have some benefit from the wisdom which was found in Daniel. If the kings of Judah had also had the wisdom of Daniel, perhaps the kingdom would never have been destroyed.
Continuing to depict Wisdom as a beautiful woman, Solomon describes his pursuit of her by imagining that it would be successful, but of course it was not yet quite fulfilled:
16 After I am come into mine house, I will repose myself with her: for her conversation hath no bitterness; and to live with her hath no sorrow, but mirth and joy.
Earlier here in Wisdom chapter 8 we read where it speaks of Wisdom: “9 Therefore I purposed to take her to me to live with me, knowing that she would be a counsellor of good things, and a comfort in cares and grief.” In Ecclesiastes chapter 1, Solomon wrote “18 For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.” That statement in Ecclesiastes, which we have already discussed here earlier, does not necessarily imply that wisdom is the actual source of such grief.
Rather, we read in the 119th Psalm, in the words of David, “155 Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not thy statutes. 156 Great are thy tender mercies, O LORD: quicken me according to thy judgments. 157 Many are my persecutors and mine enemies; yet do I not decline from thy testimonies. 158 I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not thy word. 159 Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O LORD, according to thy lovingkindness. 160 Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.” David also had the wisdom of God, and here we learn that he was grieved by observing and being confronted with the actions of men who did not keep the Word of God. This experience of David is very similar to the grief which Elijah had later stood up to as it is recorded in 1 Kings chapter 18: “22 Then said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain a prophet of the LORD; but Baal's prophets are four hundred and fifty men.” Today, men who seek to please Yahweh God find themselves in very much the same predicament.
But having the wisdom of God they should have mirth and joy in spite of the worldly challenges. So we read in the words of Paul of Tarsus, in 2 Corinthians chapter 7: “4 Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my glorying of you: I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.” For that same reason, Peter also warned his readers in chapter 4 of his first epistle: “12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” Many years before, as it is recorded in Acts chapter 5, Peter and John were brought to trial and beaten for their faith, as we read that “41… they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” So we must know that through the wisdom of God we have the knowledge that leads us to rejoice in the face of all the trials we may suffer on account of His enemies. As we face such trials, in spite of grief we accumulate experiences which only serve to strengthen our convictions that God is true. So now Solomon alludes to the true life, which Christians should also anticipate as a reward for such Wisdom:
17 Now when I considered these things in myself, and pondered them in my heart, how that to be allied unto wisdom is immortality;
Yahshua Christ, the Light come into the world, is the physical embodiment of the essence and wisdom of God. So He told His adversaries, as it is recorded in John chapter 5: “37 And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me [that witness was in the great works He was gifted to perform]. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape. 38 And ye have not his word abiding in you: for whom he hath sent, him ye believe not. 39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. 40 And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. 41 I receive not honour from men. 42 But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you.”
While Solomon did not necessarily make this illustration in relation to Christ Himself, he nevertheless understood that to love the Wisdom of God prepares one for friendship with God, as he declared in chapter 7 of Wisdom, as we would translate verse 14: “For she is an unfailing treasure to men, which they having acquired are prepared for friendship with God, being engaged with the gifts of education.” Likewise this same theme was stated again in chapter 6 of Wisdom where Solomon wrote speaking of Wisdom saying: “18 And love is the keeping of her laws; and the giving heed unto her laws is the assurance of incorruption; 19 And incorruption maketh us near unto God.”
But as Solomon had said in Wisdom chapter 2: “23 For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity”, what we see here in chapter 8 does not conflict with those words, nor do they conflict with the words of Christ found in John chapter 15 where He told His disciples that “14 Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” The Scripture has said that “all Israel shall be saved”, and Yahweh had promised in Isaiah chapter 45 that “23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear… 25 In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.”
Paul of Tarsus cited that passage from Isaiah in Romans chapter 14, and later, writing his epistle to the Philippians, he said in chapter 2: “10 that in the name of Yahshua every knee would bow, of those in heavenly places and of those upon the earth and of those beneath the earth, 11 and every tongue would fully acknowledge that Yahshua Christ is Prince, in honor of Yahweh the Father.” Therefore it is apparent that if all Israel shall be saved, that ultimately all Israel shall indeed keep the commandments of Christ and live by that education which is found in the Wisdom of God. By keeping His commandments, men make themselves allies of Wisdom and it prepares them to be friends of God. Now Solomon describes that as a friendship, and some of the aspects of such a friendship:
18 And great pleasure it is to have her friendship; and in the works of her hands are infinite riches; and in the exercise of conference with her, prudence; and in talking with her, a good report; I went about seeking how to take her to me.
The word great in “great pleasure” is ἀγαθός, which is literally good. The word for infinite is ἀνεκλιπής, which is literally unfailing. Solomon used that same term in the same context in chapter 7 where he described Wisdom as a “a treasure unto men that never faileth.” The phrase translated as “exercise of conference” is literally exercise together in association, so we see an archaic use of the word conference in the King James translation. The phrase “in talking with her” is a concise translation of the phrase ἐν κοινωνίᾳ λόγων αὐτῆς, which is literally in fellowship of her words. Notice that it is not a mutual conversation, but a fellowship of the words of God, whose words are wisdom. Notably, the use of the Greek word περιειμι, which in this case is properly translated as “I went about”, is evidently an uncommon use of the word, according to Liddell & Scott.
Solomon now alludes to his youth, which also once again elucidates the fact that he was a very young man, or perhaps even still just a boy, when he first sought to be a friend of Wisdom:
19 For I was a witty child, and had a good spirit.
While in so many places the King James translation cannot be criticized, every so often its renderings are puzzling. This is one of those places. We would translate this verse to read:
For I was a child [παῖς δὲ ἤμην] of good natural disposition [εὐφυὴς] of spirit [ψυχῆς, or of life] and [τε] I obtained [ἔλαχον, or possessed] good [ἀγαθῆς].
The final clause of the King James translation, “and had a good spirit”, completely ignores the use of the verb λαγχάνω, which, according to Liddell & Scott when it is used with a word of the Genitive case, means “to get one's share of, become possessed of” a thing. But its primary meaning with words in the Accusative case cannot be ignored, however, as it nevertheless implies that something was obtained “by lot, by fate, [or[ by the will of the gods”, or in Scripture, by the will of God. So Solomon obtained, or possessed good, on account of his good natural disposition.
Additionally, the word ἀγαθῆς in the second clause, which is an adjective, does not modify the noun ψυχῆς which precedes the conjunction τε, or and. Rather, as we have seen, while verbs commonly have a noun of the Accusative case as their object, the verb λαγχάνω can take a noun of the Genitive case as an object, so in this instance we would rather interpret the adjective ἀγαθῆς as a Substantive, treating it as a noun.
Furthermore, in reference to the first clause, according to Liddell & Scott, εὐφυής is literally well-grown, shapely, goodly, and then of good natural disposition [as we have translated it here], or naturally suited or adapted. It was also used to describe something of good natural parts, [or] clever, but that is a secondary use of the word, and it is not the context here. But the New English Translation of the Septuagint only partly agrees with our translation of this verse, as it reads it to say “I was a naturally clever child, and I obtained a good soul as my lot”. However perhaps Solomon himself defines what is meant by the use of the word εὐφυής in verse 20, which is a parallelism:
20 Yea rather, being good, I came into a body undefiled.
In Wisdom chapter 3 the undefiled body is explained where Solomon defines what is defiled: “10 But the ungodly shall be punished according to their own imaginations, which have neglected the righteous, and forsaken the Lord. 11 For whoso despiseth wisdom and nurture, he is miserable, and their hope is vain, their labours unfruitful, and their works unprofitable: 12 Their wives are foolish, and their children wicked: 13 Their offspring is cursed. Wherefore blessed is the barren that is undefiled, which hath not known the sinful bed: she shall have fruit in the visitation of souls.”
In Solomon’s time, as he himself had done in his folly which is described both in the historical records of Scripture and in Ecclesiastes, the foolish and those who neglect the righteous did so by committing fornication with the Canaanites and other alien women who were unworthy of such communion with the children of Israel. The acceptable bounds of marriage were defined in both Genesis and in the laws in Deuteronomy. The sinful bed is the bed of fornication, which is race-mixing, and for that reason the children of such beds are wicked, because they are bastards.
But this is how Solomon can assert that he is good, that he was a child εὐφυής, of a good natural disposition. The word εὐφυής is formed from a prefix which means good and the noun φυή, which when used of animals and plants referred to the original form of a thing, and is sometimes even translated into English as race. The related verb φύω, when speaking of men, is to beget, engender, or generate, referring to sexual reproduction. The related noun φύος is a poetic form of φύτευμα and describes that which is planted, [a] plant. So these meanngs of the related words cannot be ignored or discarded when considering the meaning of εὐφυής in clear connection with the assertion of being “good” and the profession that he “came into a body undefiled.”
Solomon, describing himself as a child of good natural disposition and professing that he “came into a body undefiled” is asserting that he is an example of what Yahweh God had originally planted in Genesis where we read in chapter 1: “26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Then a little further on we read: “31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”
But then in Genesis chapter 6 we see the so-called giants, the Nephilim or fallen ones, appear, and they were never described as having been a part of that creation of Genesis chapter 1, which was good. So they must have a different origin, and their presence and their character, or nature, was not necessarily “good”. Aside from the Kenites, the descendants of Cain who evidently joined with them in the land of Nod, these Nephilim had been race-mixing with the daughters of Adam, and even after the flood of Noah their descendants remained as giants, Nephilim, Rephaim, Anakim, Zuzim and others, who in turn were found race-mixing with the Canaanites. So Solomon is professing that he is a true child of Adam, and not one of these other, spurious races of men.
A soul, or life, is not good because it does good. So Christ Himself said to the young man who approached him in Galilee, as it is recorded in Matthew chapter 19: “17… Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” Rather, a life is good when it is a life which was created in accordance with those commandments, as Yahweh God had created man in the first place. But not all humans exist in that accord, as the Nephilim and their children are still with us today, and they were in and around Israel in the days of Solomon. That is why, in Scripture, there were laws against fornication, which the apostle Jude described as the going after of strange, or different, flesh, and he related that directly to those very same Nephilim, whom he called “the angels which left their first estate”.
So Solomon asserted that he was good not on the basis of his works, but on the basis of the fact that he was indeed a specimen of the true Adamic creation of Yahweh God which God Himself had called good. But even with that profession, which is honest even if it is not perceived as being humble, Solomon expressed his humility in an acknowledgement that he had no entitlement, that he still could not receive wisdom without the blessing of God:
21 Nevertheless, when I perceived that I could not otherwise obtain her, except God gave her me; and that was a point of wisdom also to know whose gift she was; I prayed unto the Lord, and besought him, and with my whole heart I said…
The word her is not found here in the Greek texts, but on two occasions it is added by the translators, and that is also the case in other translations, such as the New English Translation of the Septuagint. We would rather not add the word if it is not absolutely necessary, and therefore we would translate this verse to read quite differently:
But I knew [γνοὺς δὲ] that not in any other manner [ὅτι οὐκ ἄλλως] shall I be [ἔσομαι] self-controlled [ἐγκρατής, temperate] if not that God would give it [ἐὰν μὴ ὁ θεὸς δῷ]. This also [τοῦτο καὶ] was but an thought [δ᾽ ἦν φρονήσεως, or insight] by which to know [τὸ εἰδέναι] what is the favor [τίνος ἡ χάρις] I would attain with the Lord [ἐνέτυχον τῷ κυρίῳ] and I begged Him [καὶ ἐδεήθην αὐτοῦ] and I said from my whole heart [καὶ εἶπον ἐξ ὅλης τῆς καρδίας μου]…
The sentence is cut off, because what Solomon begged of Yahweh God is found in the next verse, at the start of chapter 9.
Even though Solomon asserted that he was a true creation of God, and for that reason he was good, he nevertheless admitted that he did not have wisdom on his own, and that he did not have any entitlement to wisdom, in spite of the fact that he was a king in Israel. He could only beg God for wisdom, and with that, he knew that he must have self-control, or temperance, in order to have the favor of God in his request, and he admits that he can only attain that self-control by the grace of God. Many kings since Solomon have not had wisdom, and many who did not have it most likely never thought to ask for it. Speaking to Christians of the “twelve tribes scattered abroad”, the apostle James wrote in the opening chapter of his first epistle “5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering [self-control]. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.” Saying that, James also understood that there was no entitlement to wisdom.
Here we also see that Solomon associated his search for wisdom with an acknowledgement that it is necessary to have self-control. Likewise, Paul of Tarsus had made exhortations for self-control in his epistles, for example in sexual relations in 1 Corinthians chapter 7, and more generally in striving for the incorruptible prize which Christians anticipate in 1 Corinthians chapter 9, where he said “25 And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate [has self-control] in all things…” That word temperate is from a verb form of the adjective which we translated here as self-controlled, which is ἐγκρατής. Peter used the noun form in the opening chapter of his second epistle: “4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” So the rewards of wisdom are wonderful, but wisdom is fruitless if we do not have self-control, and self-control must be prerequistie.
We shall return with chapter 9 and Solomon’s prayer for wisdom when we commence with our commentary on the Wisdom of Solomon in the near future.