Eternal, Uncreated Wisdom
by Rev Martyn McGeown
In Proverbs 8:22-36, and really for much of Proverbs 1-9, Solomon personifies wisdom. Personification is a literary device where a writer gives personal characteristics to a non-personal entity, such as in this case to an abstract noun. Wisdom is an abstract noun personified as a woman because the Hebrew word for wisdom is feminine.
In this section of Holy Writ we learn that wisdom is eternal. The eternity of wisdom is expressed in different ways. First, wisdom is distinguished from the creation, which is temporal. Wisdom is “before [Jehovah’s] works of old” (v. 22). Wisdom was set up “from the beginning, or ever the world was” (v. 23). Wisdom was brought forth “when there were no depths… when there were no fountains abounding with water” (v. 24). Wisdom was there “before the mountains were settled, before the hills” (v. 25). Second, wisdom is “from everlasting” (v. 23) and before the mountains. In the Bible especially the mountains are viewed as being ancient and immovable, existing before countless generations. If something is before the mountains, therefore, it is viewed as eternal or everlasting: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth or the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God” (Ps. 90:2).
Solomon, by expressing that wisdom is before the creation, distinguishes wisdom from the creation. In other words, wisdom is not a creature. Wisdom is the attribute of Jehovah God, by which he rules, decrees, and forms his eternal counsel. Jehovah can no more be separated from his wisdom, than he can be deprived of his power or his omnipresence. Therefore, it is false to suggest that Jehovah’s wisdom came into being in an act of his creative power, as if God could be for a time without his wisdom. Indeed, Solomon does not use the standard Hebrew verbs for creating, making, or forming when he describes wisdom. In verse 25 the mountains are “settled,” where the verb means “sunk down” or “planted.” In verse 26 the earth was “made.” No such thing is said of wisdom. Three verbs are used of wisdom. First, “the Lord possessed me” (v. 22), where “possess” has a wide range of meanings. The basic meaning of “possess” is to get, acquire, and even to purchase or buy. One can possess by various ways: by purchasing, by obtaining, by adopting, by redeeming, or by begetting. For example, about Cain Eve exclaims “I have gotten a man from the Lord” (Gen. 4:1). The New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses renders the verb as “produced.” However, the verb does not mean “to create” or “to produce.” Second, “I was set up from everlasting” (v. 23). The idea is to install into a position of power. Psalm 2:6 contains this verb: “Yet have I set my King upon my holy hill of Zion.” Again, the idea is not creation. Third, “I was brought forth” (vv. 24, 25). The idea of this verb is to twist or writhe, and thus to bring forth as in childbirth. This fits with the truth that the Son, who is Jesus Christ and the wisdom of God, was begotten, not made.
The eternity of wisdom, and the truth that wisdom is not a creature, is important. It lends authority to wisdom’s voice speaking in the chapter. The wisdom of Proverbs 8 is not a creature, nor a human philosophy or opinion, but eternal, uncreated wisdom. Ignore wisdom at your peril!
Wisdom has a definite relationship to Jehovah: “The LORD possessed me” (v. 22); “when he prepared the heavens, I was there” (v. 27); “when he appointed the foundations of the earth, then I was by him” (vv. 29-30). Wisdom was “by” him: the preposition describes close proximity, even intimacy. Wisdom is by Jehovah’s side, not under him, or prostrate before him, but “by him.” We might even say that wisdom is in Jehovah’s bosom (John 1:18). In that relationship eternal, uncreated wisdom is “one brought up with him” (v. 30). That phrase “as one brought up with him” is one word in Hebrew. The word is difficult to translate with two possible meanings. The first meaning is a master craftsman or a cunning artificer. If that is the correct translation, wisdom participated in the creation, not as a creature, not as an observer, but as the Creator. There is no biblical category for a creature brought forth by Jehovah, who then creates the universe. That is an invention of the Jehovah’s Witnesses cult. Rather, the categories of Creator and creature are distinct. If the Son of God is the Creator, he cannot at the same time be a creature; if he is a creature, he cannot at the same time be the Creator. The second meaning is a child, a nursling, or a tender and dear one. If that is the correct translation, it depicts wisdom as Jehovah’s delight, as his only begotten, well beloved Son. Day by day Jehovah delights in eternal, uncreated wisdom; and in turn eternal, uncreated wisdom delights in Jehovah: “I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him” (v. 30). As Jehovah brought forth his creation, wisdom was there, by him, in his bosom, watching, participating, delighting, and rejoicing. This, too, is important. Do not despise wisdom, for if you do, you despise him in whom Jehovah supremely delights.
Finally, wisdom took great delight in Jehovah’s creation, which was “very good.” But there was one aspect of creation in which wisdom, which is the eternal Son, Christ Jesus, took particular pleasure. It was not so much in the stretching forth of the heavens, or in the establishing of the bounds of the seas, or in the settling of the mountains, but his rejoicing was “in the habitable part of his earth” and “[his] delights were with the sons of men” (v. 31). Wisdom delighted in the creation especially as it is the dwelling place of man. Wisdom’s pleasure was with man, with us, the sons of men. Eternally wisdom loved the sons of men, the elect whom Jehovah had eternally determined to save and to bless. Remember what this meant for wisdom, for the eternal Son, Jesus. Wisdom would become a man, clothed in human flesh, with its frailty, yet without sin. Wisdom would enter the habitable parts of the earth because he would spend some thirty-three years there. Wisdom would suffer on a cross, dying for the sins of the sons of men, for our sins. Eternally, before the foundation of the world, wisdom planned to save us, wisdom delighted in us, and in our salvation. The conclusion is clear: hearken to wisdom, for in wisdom—eternal, uncreated wisdom—there is blessedness.
Rev. Martyn McGeown
Pastorates: Missionary-pastor in Limerick, Ireland for the Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Northern Ireland - 2010.Website: www.limerickreformed.com/
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