Wise - Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old Testament Words
Usage Number: 1
Part Of Speech: Adjective
Strong's Number: H2450
Original Word: h?akam
Usage Notes: "wise; skillful; practical." This word plus the noun h?okmâ and the verb "to be wise" signify an important element of the Old Testament religious point of view. Religious experience was not a routine, a ritual, or faith experience. It was viewed as a mastery of the art of living in accordance with God's expectations. In their definition, the words "mastery" and "art" signify that wisdom was a process of attainment and not an accomplishment. The secular usage bears out the importance of these observations.
H?akam appears 132 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. It occurs most frequently in Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, for which reason these books are known as "wisdom literature". The first occurrence of h?akam is in Gen. 41:8: "And it came to pass in the morning that his spirit was troubled; and he sent and called for all the magicians of Egypt, and all the wise men thereof: and Pharaoh told them his dream; but there was none that could interpret them unto Pharaoh."
The h?akam in secular usage signified a man who was a "skillful" craftsman. The manufacturers of the objects belonging to the tabernacle were known to be wise, or experienced in their crafts (Exod. 36:4). Even the man who was skillful in making idols was recognized as a craftsman (Isa. 40:20; cf. Jer. 10:9). The reason for this is to be found in the man's skill, craftsmanship, and not in the object which was being manufactured. Those who were experienced in life were known as "wise," but their wisdom is not to be confused with the religious usage. Cleverness and shrewdness characterized this type of wisdom. Amnon consulted Jonadab, who was known as a shrewd man (2 Sam. 13:3), and followed his plan of seducing his sister Tamar. Joab hired a "wise" woman to make David change his mind about Absalom (2 Sam. 14:2). Based on the characterization of wisdom as a skill, a class of counselors known as "wise men" arose. They were to be found in Egypt (Gen. 41:8), in Babylon (Jer. 50:35), in Tyre (Ezek. 27:9), in Edom (Obad. 8), and in Israel. In pagan cultures the "wise" man practiced magic and divination: "Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments" (Exod. 7:11); and "… that frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish" (Isa. 44:25). The religious sense of h?akam excludes delusion, craftiness, shrewdness, and magic.
God is the source of wisdom, as He is "wise": "Yet he also is wise, and will bring evil, and will not call back his words: but will arise against the house of the evildoers, and against the help of them that work iniquity" (Isa. 31:2). The man or woman who, fearing God, lives in accordance with what God expects and what is expected of him in a God-fearing society is viewed as an integrated person. He is "wise" in that his manner of life projects the fear of God and the blessing of God rests upon him. Even as the craftsman is said to be skillful in his trade, the Old Testament h?akam was learning and applying wisdom to every situation in life, and the degree in which he succeeded was a barometer of his progress on the road of wisdom. The opposite of the h?akam is the "fool" or wicked person, who stubbornly refuses counsel and depends on his own understanding: "For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them" (Prov. 1:32; cf. Deut. 32:5-6; Prov. 3:35).
Usage Number: 2
Part Of Speech: Noun
Strong's Number: H2451
Original Word: h?okmâ
Usage Notes: "wisdom; experience; shrewdness." This word appears 141 times in the Old Testament. Like h?akam, most occurrence of this word are in Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes.
The h?akam seeks after h?okmâ, "wisdom." Like h?akam, the word h?okmâ can refer to technical skills or special abilities in fashioning something. The first occurrence of h?okmâ is in Exod. 28:3: "And thou shalt speak unto all that are wise-hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron's garments to consecrate him, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office." This first occurrence of the word in the Hebrew Bible bears this out as well as the description of the workers on the tabernacle. The artisan was considered to be endowed with special abilities given to him by God: "And he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship" (Exod. 35:31).
H?okmâ is the knowledge and the ability to make the right choices at the opportune time. The consistency of making the right choice is an indication of maturity and development. The prerequisite for "wisdom" is the fear of the Lord: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Prov. 1:7). "Wisdom" is viewed as crying out for disciples who will do everything to pursue her (Prov. 1:20). The person who seeks h?okmâ diligently will receive understanding: "For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding" (Prov. 2:6); he will benefit in his life by walking with God: "That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous" (Prov. 2:20).
The advantages of "wisdom" are many: "For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about the neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: so shalt thou find favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man" (Prov. 3:2-4). The prerequisite is a desire to follow and imitate God as He has revealed Himself in Jesus Christ, without self-reliance and especially not in a spirit of pride: "A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Prov. 1:5-7). The fruits of h?okmâ are many, and the Book of Proverbs describes the characters of the h?akam and h?okmâ. In New Testament terms the fruits of "wisdom" are the same as the fruits of the Holy Spirit; cf. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (Gal. 5:22-23); "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace" (James 3:17-18).
The importance of "wisdom" explains why books were written about it. Songs were composed in celebration of "wisdom" (Job 28). Even "wisdom" is personified in Proverbs. H?okmâ as a person stands for that divine perfection of "wisdom" which is manifest in God's creative acts. As a divine perfection it is visible in God's creative acts: "Doth not wisdom cry: and understanding put forth her voice?…I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions….The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old….Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him….Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways" (Prov. 8:1, 12, 22, 30, 32).
The Septuagint translations are: sophos ("clever; skillful; experienced; wise; learned"); phronimos ("sensible; thoughtful; prudent; wise"); and synetos ("intelligent; sagacious; wise"). The kjv gives these translations: "wise; wise man; cunning."
Usage Number: 3
Part Of Speech: Verb
Strong's Number: H2449
Original Word: h?akam
Usage Notes: "to be wise, act wisely, make wise, show oneself wise." This root, which occurs 20 times in the Old Testament, appears in other Semitic languages, such as in the Akkadian word hakamu. The word means "to be wise" in Prov. 23:15: "My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine." In Psa. 119:98 h?akam means "to make wise": "Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me."