The Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Wisdom (noun): the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgement; the quality of being wise.
- The Oxford Dictionary
“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.”
- Thomas Edward Lawrence - British Army officer.
Prayer for Spiritual Growth (Colossians 1:9-14)
“Dear God in heaven, we ask that You may fill us with the knowledge of Your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, so that we may walk worthy of You, fully pleasing to You, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of You, Father God.
“May we be strengthened with all power, according to Your glorious might, for all endurance and patience, with joy giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled us to share in the saints’ inheritance in the light.
“Father God All Mighty, You have rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of Christ Jesus, the Son You love. We have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, in Him.
“We pray these things in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
• Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith without doubting. For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.
- James 1:5-6
In this the information age, we practically live on the information super highway. With the click of a few buttons, or a touch of a screen, we can find out almost anything about everything. But with all that information at our fingertips, are we truly any wiser than our predecessors? Does having degrees and doctorates actually turn all our decisions into good ones?
God instructs us to gain wisdom (Proverbs 2:1-7; 4:5-7; 4:10-13; 16:16). Not earthly wisdom (Proverbs 3:5), but Godly wisdom (Proverbs 1:7). He highly values it (Proverbs 16:16), and wisdom provides protection and preservation of life (Ecclesiastes 7:12; Proverbs 11:2). He tells us how, by asking Him in faith (James 1:5-6), and warns us to test our sources of wisdom (1 John 4:1) to ensure they are from God. But what is wisdom? Not the dictionary definition, because that relates to worldly wisdom and we are addressing Godly wisdom here.
Dr Charles Stanley defines Godly wisdom as “The capacity to see things from God's viewpoint and respond according to the principles of scripture.” So let us look at wisdom from God's viewpoint. The bible breaks wisdom down into seven elements.
• Wisdom versus Foolishness
Wisdom has built her house; she has carved out her seven pillars.
- Proverbs 9:1
Proverbs 9:1 says that “Wisdom has built her house; she has carved out her seven pillars.” We see here the reference to seven specific fundamental elements to wisdom. It is only through the understanding of all these elements that we can truly understand the nature of Godly wisdom. If we look forward through verses 1 to 18 we do not find seven clear fundamentals. However, as the title (depending on your bible version) states, we find an illustrative look at, and comparison between wisdom and foolishness. These verses teach us of the nature of these two foes, and the benefits or pitfalls we can expect depending upon which we chose.
So, back to Proverbs 9:1, the verse says that “Wisdom HAS built her house” leaving a clue that the seven pillars are not in the following text, but rather in the preceding text.
At the beginning of Proverbs 8:12 we find “I wisdom dwell with...”, a reference to Wisdom's house. What follows in Proverbs 8:12-14 are seven attributes or ‘pillars’ of wisdom:
3 Fear of the Lord,
5 Sound wisdom,
6 Understanding, and
• I wisdom dwell with prudence H6195, and find out knowledge H1847 of witty inventions. The fear H3374 of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the forward mouth, do I hate. Counsel H6098 is mine, and sound wisdom H8454: I am understanding H998; I have strength H1369.
Proverbs 8:12-14 (KJV)
Note: Because the KJV Old Testament is a transliteration of the original Hebrew, I have used the KJV version for most of this writing, noted with (KJV), all other scriptures are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (not noted). The numbers used above are the Strong's Hebrew Lexicon number. This is the reference back to each pillar's original Hebrew word and meaning.
THE SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM
Intelligence is not the same as wisdom. What, then separates these two qualities? Let me tell you a story to illustrate: I was taking a trip on a small prop plane once. There was the pilot, myself, a genius mathematician guy, and a boy scout in full uniform. So we are flying over the Nullarbor when we heard engine problems.
All of a sudden the pilot came out of the cockpit, told us we are going down and there were only three parachutes. He added, “I should have one of the parachutes because I have a wife and three small children.” So he took a pack and jumped.
The genius said, “I should have one of the parachutes because I am the smartest man in the world and everyone needs me.” So he took a pack and jumped.
I turned to the Boy Scout and said, “You are young and I know Jesus has a seat for me at his table in heaven, so you take the last parachute, and I’ll go down with the plane.” I know what you’re thinking: ‘What a guy!’ What can I say, I'm just that type of man!
Anyway, the Boy Scout said, “Relax, the smartest man in the world just picked up my backpack and jumped out!”
The word ‘prudence’ in Proverbs 8:12 is a transliteration of the Hebrew word `ormah, defined in the Strong's Hebrew Lexicon as “1) Shrewdness, craftiness, prudence.” It is mentioned five times in the OT.
• A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself: but the simple pass on, and are punished.
- Proverbs 22:3 (KJV)
It is not surprising that prudence is the first pillar referred to in verse 12. It is the defining factor between pure knowledge (genius) and actual wisdom. We all know that having head knowledge does not necessarily make you wise. Prudence is the clever, appropriate application of that knowledge.
Knowledge alone will jump in with the answer minus any thought towards application or consequence. Prudence is patient; it takes time to consider all the factors including prior experience, all the ramifications, and tactical advantages.
“Genius always gives its best at first; prudence, at last.”
- Lucius Annaeus Seneca - Philosopher.
• The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge.
- Proverbs 18:15 (KJV)
The word ‘knowledge’ in Proverbs 8:12 is a transliteration of the Hebrew word da`ath, defined in the Strong's Hebrew Lexicon as “1) Knowledge:
a) knowledge, perception, skill, and
b) discernment, understanding, wisdom.” It is mentioned a not-so-supprisingly 93 times in the OT.
We have discussed the importance of prudence in relation to knowledge, but knowledge is also a key factor to wisdom; intelligent application of information is difficult with little, no or faulty information. Even just knowing that you have little or no information on a particular issue can, with prudence, empower you to act wisely.
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance.”
- Confucius - Philosopher
3 FEAR OF THE LORD
• The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7 (KJV)
The word ‘fear’ in verse 13 is a transliteration of the Hebrew word yir'ah, defined in the Strong's Hebrew Lexicon as “1) fear, terror, fearing:
a) fear, terror,
b) awesome or terrifying thing (object causing fear),
c) fear (of God), respect, reverence, piety, and
d) revered.” It is mentioned 45 times in the OT.
I’ve heard many times that when the Bible says “Fear” of the Lord, it is not referring to terror but rather reverence. Rubbish! Clearly, looking at the Hebrew definition, both meanings are incorporated. What differs is the reader’s perspective. If you are coming from a place of sin, back sliding, or an insincere heart, then approaching God with terror is a healthy way to go. After all, He is the ultimate judge and has hell’s doors at His feet, and a good healthy dose of terror might inspire one to repent. On the other hand, if the reader is coming from a place of righteousness or a sincere effort to understand God’s message, then respect and piety abound.
Whichever definition is appropriate for you, approaching the Word, or praying to God, from a ‘Fear of the Lord’ point of view is a humbling perspective that allows you to accept the teachings and gifts that God may bring.
With fear of the Lord comes the hatred of all things evil. Of particular mention in Proverbs 8:13 are pride and arrogance. These qualities are personality traits that prevent a person from learning; pride from learning from others as this requires recognising someone as higher than oneself, and arrogance from learning from one’s own mistakes as this requires the humility to acknowledge that one has made a mistake in the first place.
“When men don't fear God, they give themselves to evil.”
- Raymond Marshall “Ray” Comfort - Minister.
• Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.
- Proverbs 19:20 (KJV)
The word ‘counsel’ in verse 14 is a transliteration of the Hebrew word `etsah, defined in the Strong's Hebrew Lexicon as “1) counsel, advice, purpose.” It is mentioned 88 times in the OT.
The purpose of counsel is to gain understanding (Deuteronomy 32:28), which is also a pillar. There is reference to counsel from many sources in the Bible with good and bad results, including counsel with God (e.g. Judges 18:5), with the old and the young (e.g. 1 Kings 12:8), with servants (e.g. 2 Kings 6:8), the wicked (e.g. Job 21:16), and together (e.g. Psalm 55:14). So from whom do we seek counsel?
Our primary counsel is with God (Proverbs 1:7), referring back to the third pillar. This is done through prayer (Colossians 1:9), and reading the Word (2 Timothy 3:16). Jeremiah 18:18 hints at three other sources;
1. “the teaching of the law by the priest” - our church elders and ministers who counsel through the written word of God,
2. “counsel from the wise” - anyone qualified and experienced, this can include courses and books by wise trainers and authors respectively, and
3. “word from the prophets” - those with prophetic gifting who don’t speak through their own knowledge but through knowledge given to them through the Holy Spirit.
“No man is so foolish but he may sometimes give another good counsel, and no man so wise that he may not easily err if he takes no other counsel than his own. He that is taught only by himself has a fool for a master.”
- Hunter Stockton Thompson - Journalist.
5 SOUND WISDOM
I was sitting under a tree one-day thinking: “God, look at this huge pine tree. It’s got all these little pinecones on it. Yet, consider the huge pumpkin carried by such a puny vine. Now, if I were You, I’d have created the pine tree to carry the pumpkins and the pumpkin vine to carry the pinecone.”
While I was reflecting on the awesomeness of my own wisdom, a pinecone fell and hit me on the head. “Thank God that wasn’t a pumpkin!” I thought.
It seems redundant that sound-wisdom would be a pillar of wisdom, but this is where the Strong's Hebrew Lexicon comes into its own. At this point we have three references to wisdom and if we look at the Hebrew, though the same English word is used, we see that the original words are all different.
Firstly, the word wisdom in Proverbs 9:1, the verse from which the term “seven pillars” is coined, is chokmowth (H2454) meaning ‘wisdom’. There are no specific connotations attributed to this meaning; it is a noun simply representing wisdom as a generic whole.
Secondly, the wisdom referred in Proverbs 8:12, which is personified (“I wisdom dwell”), is chokmah (H2451) meaning 1) wisdom: a) skill (in war), b) wisdom (in administration), c) shrewdness, wisdom, d) wisdom, prudence (in religious affairs), and e) wisdom (ethical and religious). This is wisdom applied, a verb if you like.
Thirdly, and finally, the sound-wisdom referred to in Proverbs 8:14 is the Hebrew word tuwshiyah (H8454) defined as 1) wisdom, sound knowledge, success, sound or efficient wisdom, abiding success: a) sound or efficient wisdom, and b) abiding success (of the effect of sound wisdom). This refers to wisdom having been applied and succeeded, or if you like ‘tried and tested wisdom’. Out of interest, this wisdom is referred to 12 times in the OT.
To put this all together, the Bible is saying in these verses that there is a house called “Wisdom (noun)”, in this house “Applicable Wisdom (verb)” resides, and this house is built on seven principles, one of which is “All Proven Wisdom (essentially the Word of God)”.
Sound-wisdom is different to common sense because common sense is a process of deductive reasoning whereas sound wisdom are principles that have been proven true through experience.
“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”
- James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix - Singer/Musician
The US standard railroad gauge – that is the distance between rails – is 4 feet, 8-1/2 inches. Why such an odd number? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and American railroads were built by British expatriates – that is, people who used to live in Britain.
Well, why did the English use that particular gauge? Because the people who built the pre-railroad tramways used that gauge. They in turn were locked into that gauge because the people who built tramways used the same standards and tools they had used for building wagons, which were on a gauge of 4 feet, 8-1/2 inches.
Why were wagons built to that scale? Because with any other size the wheels did not match the old wheel ruts on the roads. So who built these old rutted roads? The first long distance highways in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions. The roads have been used ever since. The ruts were first made by Roman war chariots. Four feet, 8-1/2 inches was the width a chariot needed to be to accommodate the two rear ends of warhorses.
Thus the US standard railroad gauge for modern trains is four feet, 8-1/2 inches, in order to accommodate the rear ends of two Roman warhorses.
Maybe “that’s the way it’s always been” is not the good reason some people believe it is. (From a sermon by Clark Cothern)
The word ‘understanding’ in Proverbs 8:14 is a transliteration of the Hebrew word biynah, defined in the Strong's Hebrew Lexicon as “1) understanding, discernment.” It is mentioned 38 times in the OT.
To put ‘understanding’ into perspective, we need to look at three of the pillars together. The first pillar, Prudence, is the wise application of knowledge or the ‘how’, the second pillar, Knowledge is information itself or the ‘what’, and the sixth pillar is ‘understanding’, this is the ‘why’. Without the ‘why’, the proper application, the ‘how’ of the ‘what’ is unlikely.
Understanding brings about the ability to predict outcomes from various courses of action, and foresee the effects of possible variables on outcomes. This gives us the ability to pick a wise course of action as opposed the most obvious course (Proverbs 27:12).
“My mother said I must always be intolerant of ignorance but understanding of illiteracy. That some people, unable to go to school, were more educated and more intelligent than college professors.”
- Maya Angelou - Author.
• Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.
- Ecclesiastes 7:19 (KJV)
The 10-year old student
Sometimes your biggest weakness can become your biggest strength. Take, for example, the story of one 10-year-old boy who decided to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in a devastating car accident. The boy began lessons with an old Japanese judo master. The boy was doing well, so he couldn't understand why, after three months of training the master had taught him only one move.
“Master,” the boy finally said, “Shouldn't I be learning more moves?”
“This is the only move you know, but this is the only move you'll ever need to know,” the master replied.
Not quite understanding, but believing in his teacher, the boy kept training. Several months later, the master took the boy to his first tournament. Surprising himself, the boy easily won his first two matches. The third match proved to be more difficult, but after some time, his opponent became impatient and charged; the boy deftly used his one move to win the match. Still amazed by his success, the boy was now in the finals.
This time, his opponent was bigger, stronger, and more experienced. For a while, the boy appeared to be outmatched. Concerned that the boy might get hurt, the referee called a time-out. He was about to stop the match when the master intervened. “No,” the master insisted, “Let him continue.”
Soon after the match resumed, his opponent made a critical mistake: he dropped his guard. Instantly, the boy used his move to pin him. The boy had won the match and the tournament. He was the champion. On the way home, the boy and master reviewed every move in each and every match. Then the boy summoned the courage to ask what was really on his mind, “Master, how did I win the tournament with only one move?”
“You won for two reasons,” the master answered. “First, you've almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all of judo. And second, the only known defence for that move is for your opponent to grip your left arm.”
The word ‘strength’ in Proverbs 8:14 is a transliteration of the Hebrew word gebuwrah, defined in the Strong's Hebrew Lexicon as “1) strength, might:
b) might, valour, bravery, and
c) might, mighty deeds (of God).” It is mentioned 61 times in the OT.
Here again, similar in nature to sound wisdom, we have strength but not by its simple English definition: this is strength of heart, strength of character in mighty deed. It is not brute force strength but rather the quality of noble strength or the righteous application of that strength. What one might expect from a wise person of God.
“There are five levels of strength:
(a) our spiritual ceiling;
(b) our emotional ceiling;
(c) our mental ceiling;
(d) our social ceiling;
(e) our physical ceiling. You will rise to the level of your lowest ceiling.”
- Kong Hee - Pastor.
So here we have our seven elements of wisdom:
1 Prudence (Proverbs 8:12; Proverbs 22:3),
2 Knowledge (Proverbs 8:12),
3 Fear of the Lord (Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7; 3:7; 8:13; 9:10; Psalm 111:10),
4 Counsel (Proverbs 11:14; 8:14; 19:20),
5 Sound wisdom (Proverbs 8:14),
6 Understanding (Proverbs 8:14), and
7 Strength (Proverbs 8:14).
The Wisdometer (patent pending)
Here is a fun little test you might like to try. It is an exercise in self-evaluation and may help you to identify areas you can improve on. Think of a particular area of your life and then look at each pillar and circle the number from one to five that you think best quantifies your abilities for that pillar. One being low, three being average and five being very good.
Prudence 1 2 3 4 5
Knowledge 1 2 3 4 5
Fear of the Lord 1 2 3 4 5
Counsel 1 2 3 4 5
Sound wisdom 1 2 3 4 5
Understanding 1 2 3 4 5
Strength 1 2 3 4 5
Now total your point score. Between seven and 16 is low and means you need to seek wisdom and instruction in this area of your life. 17 to 25 is average, you may like to pick one of the lower scoring pillars and work on that (e.g. if understanding was low you could study a related course or book). 26 to 35 is high, congratulations, you are wise beyond your years.
I hope this article has given you a fuller understanding of wisdom, and a deeper appreciation for God’s desire for us to grow. He loves us as we are, but loves us enough to want us to become all that we can be. True wisdom starts and ends with God and our conduit to God is Jesus. If you don not personally know Jesus, maybe you have been inspired, then you might like to tap into this endless resource of wisdom. If this is you and you would like to take the next step, I would like to encourage you. Please, pray this prayer we me…
“Dear God in heaven, I come to you in the name of Jesus. I acknowledge to You that I am a sinner, and I am sorry for my sins and the life that I have lived; I need your forgiveness.
“I believe that your only begotten Son Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross at Calvary and died for my sins, and I am now willing to turn from my sin.
“You said in Your Holy Word, Romans 10:9 that if we confess the Lord is God and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead, we shall be saved.
“Right now I confess Jesus as the Lord of my soul. With my heart, I believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. This very moment I accept Jesus Christ as my own personal Saviour and according to His Word right now I am saved.
“Thank you Jesus for your unlimited grace which has saved me from my sins. I thank you Jesus that your grace never leads to license, but rather it always leads to repentance.
“Therefore Lord Jesus transform my life so that I may bring glory and honour to you alone and not to myself.
“Thank you Jesus for dying for me and giving me eternal life.
Now have a look on the net for a bible based church near you and give them a call or drop them an email. Do not be shy, I know they would love to meet you.
• If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
- Romans 10:9
“Blue Letter Bible” http://www.blueletterbible.org (c) 1996-2013
“Holman Christian Standard Bible” (HCSB), Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers, Nashville Tennessee. All rights reserved.
“King James Version Bible” (KJV), public domain.
“The Oxford Dictionary”, Copyright©2013 Oxford University Press. All rights reserved
Confucius (550BC-470BC) was a Chinese teacher, editor, politician, and philosopher of the Spring and Autumn period of Chinese history.
Hunter Stockton Thompson (1937-2005) was an American journalist and author.
James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix (1942-1970) was an American musician, singer and songwriter.
Kong Hee (Born 1964) is the founder, honorary and volunteer senior pastor of City Harvest Church in Singapore. He is married to Sun Ho, an aspiring pop music singer.
Lucius Annaeus Seneca (4BC-65AD) was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature. He was tutor and later advisor to emperor Nero.
Maya Angelou (Born 1928) is an American author and poet. She has published seven autobiographies, five books of essays, and several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years.
Raymond Marshall “Ray” Comfort (Born 1949) is a New Zealand-born Christian minister and evangelist. Comfort started Living Waters Publications and The Way of the Master in Bellflower, California and has written a number of books.
Thomas Edward Lawrence, CB, DSO, quote from “Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph”, known professionally as T. E. Lawrence (1888-1935), was a British Army officer renowned especially for his liaison role during the Sinai and Palestine Campaign and the Arab Revolt against Ottoman Turkish rule of 1916–18.
“Acquiring Wisdom”, a sermon by Dr Charles Stanley
“Leadership”, a sermon by Clark Cothern, 1998
“The 10-year old student” http://success.org/stories/3.shtml Martial Arts Master Bill FitzPatrick
“Salvation Prayer”, http://www.salvationprayer.info/prayer.html
Written by Simon Geddes © 2013
Published at www.faithwriters.com on the 14th August 2013
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