Not so much an intellectual gift in the OT as a technical skill (Exod. 36: 8) or ability to live satisfactorily (Prov. 1: 5–12) in accordance with an organized moral order. Above all wisdom is a quality or attribute of God, who created the world (Prov. 8: 22–31) and gave Israel the Law (Ecclus. [= Sir.] 24: 1, 23). The noun hokma in Hebrew is feminine, and wisdom is often personified as a woman or a ‘sister’ (Prov. 7: 4), active with God in creation (Job 28: 25–7). The latter concept is veering dangerously near the apostasy condemned by Jeremiah (44: 17) which provided Yahweh with a female consort.

Wisdom literature in the OT consists of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, together with Ecclesiasticus, the Wisdom of Solomon, and several of the Psalms (e.g. 37). The teaching of these books is restrained and reasonable, based on human experience rather than the early history of Israel—though the book of Wisdom (10–12) alludes to events from Adam to Sinai. Because Solomon had achieved a reputation for wisdom (1 Kgs. 4: 29–34) the books of Prov., Eccles., and Wisd. came to be ascribed to his authorship. These books, however, were compiled by groups trained in traditional wisdom-culture, such as existed also in Egypt and other countries in the Near East. There are parallels between the Egyptian Wisdom of Amenemope and the OT Prov., and also between other Egyptian literature and several of the Pss. All over the Near East divisions between the powerful and the disadvantaged were remarked, and the sages who wrote the books of wisdom made their pithy observations about the reasons for such injustices. Nevertheless much of the literature was probably instruction for the sons of the wealthy given by scholars. The books of Job and Eccles. have a stronger theological content than the other books. These may well have been produced to fill a theological vacuum when the old structures of cult, court, and Temple had broken down at the time of the Exile. The Wisdom literature has a kind of universal relevance and practical role, going beyond that of Israel's Torah. There is a moral order in the whole world which derives from its character as created. Moreover the personification of Wisdom (a feminine noun in both Hebrew and Greek) in Prov. where Wisdom is closely associated with God in creation (Prov. 8: 22–31) in due course offered theological ideas to writers of the NT and afterwards. They had to grapple with a doctrine of Christ which did justice both to their monotheism and to their worship of Jesus. So Wisdom thinking lies behind Matt. 11: 27, but the parallels which might be cited (e.g. Wisd. 2: 13, 16) are with the disciple of Wisdom, as the ‘Son of God’ not with Wisdom herself. But in Matt. 11: 28–30 and 23: 34–6 Jesus himself is presented as Wisdom who speaks. Paul (1 Cor. 1: 24) asserts that Christ is the Wisdom of God, and the OT personification of Wisdom is the background of the language about Christ in John 1: 1–18; Eph. 3: 8–10, and Col. 1: 15–20.