written by Dr. Jim Nutter
Since late March, our Steadfast class (one of GCR’s Discipleship Communities) has been doing an in depth Bible study of the sayings of Solomon; each week we’ve been reading two chapters of Proverbs, and we’ll finish with Ecclesiastes in September. Solomon is known for many things, including his wisdom, his knowledge, his warnings about foolishness and folly, and, of course, his 700 wives and 300 concubines (I Kings 11:3).
Of course, the book of Proverbs might be best known for what many pastors and Bible teachers refer to as the “Proverbs 31 woman.” And for most of my 40 plus years as a Christian, I mistakenly assumed that this Proverbs 31 woman was one of Solomon’s spouses, but it wasn’t until this recent Bible study (spoiler alert!) that I discovered that Solomon didn’t write that last chapter of Proverbs; instead, King Lemuel wrote about this “wife of noble character” (verses 10-31).
Solomon did write about a wife, but this particular chapter is not the subject of many sermons. The “Proverbs 21 woman” is certainly not a role model: “Better to live on the corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife” (vs. 9) and “Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife” (vs. 19).
Thus, to paraphrase Charles Dickens, when it comes to marriages, the book of Proverbs gives us the “best of times” (ch. 31) and the “worst of times” (ch. 21). Maybe Socrates had Solomon in mind when he gave his infamous marital advice: “By all means, marry. If you get a good wife, you’ll become happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.”
But equally as important, what does Solomon say about wisdom and knowledge? In Proverbs and Ecclesiastes combined, Solomon addresses knowledge a total of 45 times. Today, we generally consider knowledge as something positive to be attained, but at least in the beginning of Ecclesiastes, Solomon warns that wisdom and knowledge come with a price: “For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief” (1:18).
Proverbs, however, presents a much more positive view of knowledge. Even in the first chapter, Proverbs connects knowledge with our relationship with the Almighty: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (vs. 7). And those who “hate knowledge” are referred to as “fools” (1:22).
If godly knowledge is acquired, two other benefits come with it. According to Proverbs 2:6, “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” To understand how knowledge and wisdom work in tandem, Charles Spurgeon explains, “Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. To know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”
As we begin our summer vacations, and some even go to the beach, may we pack the Good Book with us and devote part of our time to acknowledging our Creator and seeking knowledge, wisdom, and understanding from God.