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The Wisdom of Solomon: Chapter 7

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1

I also am mortal, like everyone else, a descendant of the first‐formed child of earth; and in the womb of a mother I was molded into flesh, 2 within the period of ten months, compacted with blood, from the seed of a man and the pleasure of marriage. 3 And when I was born, I began to breathe the common air, and fell upon the kindred earth; my first sound was a cry, as is true of all. 4 I was nursed with care in swaddling cloths. 5 For no king has had a different beginning of existence; 6 there is for all one entrance into life, and one way out. 7 Therefore I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. 8 I preferred her to scepters and thrones, and I accounted wealth as nothing in comparison with her. 9 Neither did I liken to her any priceless gem, because all gold is but a little sand in her sight, and silver will be accounted as clay before her. 10 I loved her more than health and beauty, and I chose to have her rather than light, because her radiance never ceases. 11 All good things came to me along with her, and in her hands uncounted wealth. 12 I rejoiced in them all, because wisdom leads them; but I did not know that she was their mother. 13 I learned without guile and I impart without grudging; I do not hide her wealth, 14 for it is an unfailing treasure for mortals; those who get it obtain friendship with God, commended for the gifts that come from instruction.

15

May God grant me to speak with judgment, and to have thoughts worthy of what I have received; for he is the guide even of wisdom and the corrector of the wise. 16 For both we and our words are in his hand, as are all understanding and skill in crafts. 17 For it is he who gave me unerring knowledge of what exists, to know the structure of the world and the activity of the elements; 18 the beginning and end and middle of times, the alternations of the solstices and the changes of the seasons, 19 the cycles of the year and the constellations of the stars, 20 the natures of animals and the tempers of wild animals, the powers of spirits a Gk of weddings and the thoughts of human beings, the varieties of plants and the virtues of roots; 21 I learned both what is secret and what is manifest, 22 for wisdom, the fashioner of all things, taught me.

There is in her a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, 23beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all‐powerful, overseeing all, and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent, pure, and altogether subtle. 24 For wisdom is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all things. 25 For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her. 26 For she is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness. 27 Although she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets; 28 for God loves nothing so much as the person who lives with wisdom. 29 She is more beautiful than the sun, and excels every constellation of the stars. Compared with the light she is found to be superior, 30 for it is succeeded by the night, but against wisdom evil does not prevail.

Notes:

a Gk of weddings

Text Commentary view alone

7.1–10.21 : King Solomon and the quest for wisdom.

The presentation of wisdom in the preceding passage segues to a largely autobiographical section in which the author, in the guise of Solomon, extols the power of divine Sophia (wisdom) and shows how to acquire her.

7.1–8.20 : Solomon's speech

concentrates on wisdom's many attributes and benefits, describing her as mortals’ greatest desire.

7.1–6

King Solomon does not claim divinity (as many ancient monarchs did), but begins his pursuit of wisdom like everyone else. Insofar as the goal of Jewish religion is to live wisely and to rule with God (see 3.8–9; 4.16; 5.16; 6.20; 9.3; 10.2 ), Solomon is a model for the readers to emulate, the ideal sage and ruler.

1–2

This description is based on ancient assumptions about pregnancy (cf. Job 10.9–11; Ps 139.13–16 ).

1

Child of earth, see Gen 2.7; Sir 17.1; 1 Cor 15.47 .

2

Ten months, i.e., lunar months of four weeks, for a total of forty weeks of gestation.

6

Cf. Sir 40.1 .

7–14

Solomon desires wisdom above all else since she is the source of all good things.

7, 11

Cf. 1 Kings 3.5–15 .

8–9

Cf. Job 28.15–19; Prov. 2.4; 3.14–16 .

11–12

Wisdom is further personified as the mother of all external goods (see 6.12–16n.; 7.22; 8.5–6 ).

14

Abraham in particular was known for his friendship with God (2 Chr 20.7; Isa 41.8; Jas 2.23); see also 7.27; 8.18; Job 29.4; Ps 25.14; Jer 3.4 .

15–22a

Divine wisdom is presented in scientific and philosophical terms; this sort of encyclopedic knowledge was a common interest of ancient wisdom literature.

17

The elements, see 19.18; Col 2.8,20 .

18–19

Compare Job 38.31–33 .

20

see 1 Kings 4.33 .

7.22b–8.1

The divine essence and activity of wisdom.

22b–23

As Philo observes (Allegorical Interpretation 1.43 ), wisdom has many names and appellations. Most of the twenty‐one (the product of three and seven, numbers signifying completeness and perfection) epithets here have parallels in Greek philosophy (cf. Pseudo‐Aristotle, On the Cosmos 400B–401B); a similar litany of attributes, glorifying the deity, is used in the Apocalypse of Abraham 17.8–15 .

25–26

The description of wisdom as a pure emanation or effluence of God reflects the influence of philosophical concepts (e.g., Cicero, The Nature of the Gods 2.79; cf. Sir 1.9; 24.23–33 ).

25

Breath, see 11.20; Sir 24.3 .

26

Mirror, cf. 2 Cor 3.18; Philo, Questions on Genesis 1.57. Heb 1.3 similarly uses the image of Christ as the reflection of God's glory.

30

Succeeded by the night, cf. Isa 60.19–21 .

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