Some Thoughts on the Wisdom of Solomon

learnWe’ve no idea who wrote the book The Wisdom of Solomon. Well, we know Solomon didn’t write it, but that’s about it. We’re also not sure when it was written; the best estimates say sometime around the first century B.C. The book isn’t a collection of random proverbial sayings; it has a sustained argument.

This book was part of the Greek translation of the Old Testament that Jesus, the apostles and the early church used. The earliest citation comes from the late 90’s A.D., in the epistle of 1 Clement. This book was never considered canonical by the Israelites, but was used and known by early Christians and Hellenistic Jews of the New Testament-era.

The so-called Old Testament apocrypha is a fascinating collection of books. I’m slowly making my way through them; Judith and Tobit are my favorites so far. Here, I’ll provide a fascinating, extended excerpt from The Wisdom of Solomon, with some brief commentary along the way (1:1 – 3:1):

Love righteousness, you rulers of the earth,
think of the Lord with uprightness,
and seek him with sincerity of heart;
because he is found by those who do not put him to the test,
and manifests himself to those who do not distrust him.

That’s good advice.

For perverse thoughts separate men from God,
and when his power is tested, it convicts the foolish;
because wisdom will not enter a deceitful soul,
nor dwell in a body enslaved to sin.

This is why Jesus came, to rescue us from ourselves. True wisdom only comes from a spiritual rebirth, which comes from repentance from sins and faith in Jesus Christ. AS we are, our “perverse thoughts” separate us from God. Just because a book isn’t canonical, doesn’t mean it still doesn’t say a whole lot of true things!

For a holy and disciplined spirit will flee from deceit,
and will rise and depart from foolish thoughts,
and will be ashamed at the approach of unrighteousness.

Yes, a true believer will always react this way. He may stumble and fall short in the heat of the moment. But, afterwards, when the moment has passed, a true believer will always feel the crushing shame of failure, and a disappointment that comes from knowing he’s let His Savior down. It’s the shame of a child who’s disappointed his loving father. This is the heart of a true believer.

For wisdom is a kindly spirit and
will not free a blasphemer from the guilt of his words;
because God is witness of his inmost feelings,
and a true observer of his heart, and a hearer of his tongue.

God hears and sees everything. No man should think he can escape His gaze.

Because the Spirit of the Lord has filled the world,
and that which holds all things together knows what is said;
therefore no one who utters unrighteous things will escape notice,
and justice, when it punishes, will not pass him by.

This should terrify us all. Even worse, the Bible tells us there’s nothing we can do in our own power to set things right (see Romans 3). Nothing at all. In order to save us from ourselves, God had to intervene on our behalf, for us. He did that by sending His eternal Son, Jesus, to be perfect for us, die in our place, and rise again for us, too.

For inquiry will be made into the counsels of an ungodly man,
and a report of his words will come to the Lord,
to convict him of his lawless deeds;
because a jealous ear hears all things,
and the sound of murmurings does not go unheard.

They say Santa keep a list, and checks it twice. Nonsense. That’s God’s job. But, all isn’t lost. This isn’t a balance sheet of credits and debits. There is forgiveness; perfect forgiveness. As the psalmist wrote, “If thou, O LORD, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared,” (Ps 130:3-4).

Beware then of useless murmuring,
and keep your tongue from slander;
because no secret word is without result,
and a lying mouth destroys the soul.

If we actually believed God exists, He keeps account, and we’ll each have to answer to Him someday, how would we live? Christians claim to “get” all this, but it’s often theoretical, abstract. It shouldn’t be.

Do not invite death by the error of your life,
nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands;
because God did not make death,
and he does not delight in the death of the living.

Thanks God for that.

For he created all things that they might exist,
and the generative forces of the world are wholesome,
and there is no destructive poison in them;
and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.
For righteousness is immortal.

Now consider the long description of wicked people which comes next:

But ungodly men by their words and deeds summoned death;
considering him a friend, they pined away,
and they made a covenant with him,
because they are fit to belong to his party.

The noted philosopher, the T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgment Day, said at one point during the movie, “It’s in your nature to destroy yourselves …” I think Arnold was right. We’re bent on destroying ourselves, and we take pleasure in doing it. With gleeful abandon, individually and collectively, we take pride in tearing down all moral barriers and restraints on our own evil, and plunging off cliffs. Consider how our society has changed in the past 10 years!

For they reasoned unsoundly, saying to themselves,
“Short and sorrowful is our life,
and there is no remedy when a man comes to his end,
and no one has been known to return from Hades.

This is the philosophical worldview of naturalism. Nothing matters, we’re all gonna die anyway, so let’s party. Some people mistakenly believe Solomon (the real Solomon, that is) advocates the same approach in the book of Ecclesiastes. That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Because we were born by mere chance,
and hereafter we shall be as though we had never been;
because the breath in our nostrils is smoke,
and reason is a spark kindled by the beating of our hearts.
When it is extinguished, the body will turn to ashes,
and the spirit will dissolve like empty air.

Atheistic naturalists are rarely this honest with themselves. But, it’s the logical end-game of their worldview. Some things never change. The guy who wrote this book, about 2100 years ago, saw the same presuppositional dead-end in his theological opponents, too.

Our name will be forgotten in time
and no one will remember our works;
our life will pass away like the traces of a cloud,
and be scattered like mist
that is chased by the rays of the sun
and overcome by its heat.

This is what Solomon saw in Ecclesiastes, but he urged people to turn to God, not to a fatalism marked by debauchery.

For our allotted time is the passing of a shadow,
and there is no return from our death,
because it is sealed up and no one turns back.

William L. Crag, in his classic book Reasonable Faith,paints a bleak picture of the logical outworking of a naturalistic worldview. This section reminds me of it.

Come, therefore, let us enjoy the good things that exist,
and make use of the creation to the full as in youth.
Let us take our fill of costly wine and perfumes,
and let no flower of spring pass by us.
Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds before they wither.
Let none of us fail to share in our revelry,
everywhere let us leave signs of enjoyment,
because this is our portion, and this our lot.

Yes, party and forget the consequences! That always turns out well, doesn’t it? Hedonism and debauchery never get you anything in the end. You’ll eventually destroy yourself. Solomon realized that. He’d been there, done that, and had two or three t-shirts. He begged his readers to turn back to God, and not repeat his mistakes. More people should read Ecclesiastes. 

Let us oppress the righteous poor man;
let us not spare the widow
nor regard the gray hairs of the aged.
But let our might be our law of right,
for what is weak proves itself to be useless.

This is great insight. These theoretical opponents o Godly wisdom understand it; they just hate it and don’t want it. They set out to do the exact opposite. Things are the same today. “Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them,” (Rom 1:32).

Let us lie in wait for the righteous man,
because he is inconvenient to us and opposes our actions;
he reproaches us for sins against the law,
and accuses us of sins against our training.

This reminds me of Herod’s reaction to John the Baptist (Mk 6:14-29).

He professes to have knowledge of God,
and calls himself a child of the Lord.
He became to us a reproof of our thoughts; the very sight of him is a burden to us,
because his manner of life is unlike that of others,
and his ways are strange.

Their consciences hate to see Godly people in their midst. It reminds me of how the kings of Israel and Judah so hated to hear from honest prophets.

We are considered by him as something base,
and he avoids our ways as unclean;
he calls the last end of the righteous happy,
and boasts that God is his father.

Oh, how the antinomians today would hate to read these words!

Let us see if his words are true,
and let us test what will happen at the end of his life;
for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him,
and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.

Let us test him with insult and torture,
that we may find out how gentle he is,
and make trial of his forbearance.
Let us condemn him to a shameful death,
for, according to what he says, he will be protected.

This reminds me of the two wicked thieves who were crucified with Jesus, and the Jewish leaders who sanctioned the execution. “So also the chief priests mocked him to one another with the scribes, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.’ Those who were crucified with him also reviled him,” (Mk 15:21-32).

Thus they reasoned, but they were led astray,
for their wickedness blinded them,
and they did not know the secret purposes of God,
nor hope for the wages of holiness,
nor discern the prize for blameless souls;
for God created man for incorruption,
and made him in the image of his own eternity,
but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,
and those who belong to his party experience it.

What sad words. They’re all true.

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,
and no torment will ever touch them.

Amen to that.