This is an invitation write-up on WISE MEN AND WISDOM by Knol writer Prof. KVSS Narayana Rao. To read more on this subject please visit the link given in the text.
If we look at the long list of history’s wise men, Solomon the king of Israel will be seen at the top of the list. No doubt Solomon stands apart from all other wise men of this world. He is considered as the wise man ever lived on earth. There is none like him who obtained the wisdom in the whole earth. His wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. His wisdom is not obtained from people or from a school or a college but he obtained this from the God of Israel. He spoke 3,000 Proverbs and his songs were 1,005. These ascribed wise sayings are recorded in the Holy Bible in 3 separate books called Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.
Solomon the son of King David born of Bathsheba, though not in line for the succession yet he was chosen by David and approved of God to be David’s successor. Solomon loved the Lord and walked in the statues of his father David and he did what is pleasing in the sight of God. One day as he was at Gibeon the great high place to offer burnt offerings to God, by night, Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Ask! What shall I give you?” Solomon asked for an understanding heart to judge your people that I may discern between good and evil” this desire pleased the Lord and He said, ”Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice; “Behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. “And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days. So “if you walk in my ways, to keep my statues and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.”(1 Kings 3: 3-14)
He was the third king of Israel and he ruled from about 965 B.C. Though David conquered many neighboring states Solomon ruled extensively without using much military force. Under his rule many public works including Temple, palace and many magnificent structures established.
He spoke of men, women, trees, animals, creeping things and birds. People from different destinations visited him knowing about his great wisdom. A detailed life history of Solomon is given in the Bible—first Kings Chapter one to eleven.
Three books of Old Testament, Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are distinctively considered as wisdom books in the Bible. Out of these, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes are ascribed to King Solomon.
Solomon in his young age giving more emphasize to love and related issues wrote ‘Song of Solomon’. In his middle age he gave more importance to the practical aspects of moral rules of life and wrote ‘Proverbs’. At the fag end of his life from his life experience and lessons like a preacher he wrote ‘Ecclesiastes’.
Proverbs chapter 1 verse 1 and 12 indicates that he is the author of this book. Proverbs the twentieth book of the Bible speaks about wisdom and its different aspects. The purpose of this book is to explain how to live wisely, skillfully and purposefully. This is very visible from its first chapter itself, especially first seven verses gives an intro to real way of life. It says as follows:
The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instructions; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtly to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise councils: to understand 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. (Proverbs 1: 1-7)
Here is an outline of the book of proverbs:
1. The Purpose of Proverbs Chapter 1:1-7
2. Proverbs of the Youth 1:8—9:18
a. Obey Parent 1:8 &9
b. Avoid Bad Company 1:10-19
c. Seek Wisdom 1:20—2:22
d. Benefits of Wisdom 3:1-26
e. Be Kind to Others 3:27-35
f. Father Says Get Wisdom 4:1-13
g. Avoid the Wicked 4:14-22
h. Keep Your Heart 4:23-27
i. Do Not Commit Adultery 5:1-14
j. Do Be Faithful Your Spouse 5:15-23
k. Avoid Surety 6:1-5
l. Do Not Be Lazy 6:6-19
m. About Adultery 6:20—7:27
n. Praise of Wisdom 8:1—9:12
o. Foolish Women 9:13-18
3. Proverbs of Solomon 10:1—24-34
a. Proverb contrasting the Godly and the Wicked 10:1—15:33
b. Proverbs Encouraging Godly Lives 16:1—22:16
c. Proverbs Concerning Various Situations 22:17—24:34
4. Proverbs of Solomon Copied by Hezekiah’s Men 25:1—29:27
A. Proverbs Regulating Relationships with Others 25:1—29:27
1. Relationship with Kings 25:1-7
2. Relationship with Neighbors 25:8-20
3. Relationship with Enemies 25:21-24
4. Relationship with Yourself 25:25-28
5. Relationship With Fools 26:1-12
6. Relationship with Sluggards 26:13-16
7. Relationship with Gossip 26:17-28
B. Proverbs Regulating Various Activities 27:1—29:27
5. The Words of Agur 30:1-30
6. The Works of King Lemuel 31:1-31
a. Wisdom of Leaders 31:1-9
b. Wise Women 31:10-31
(This outline is adapted from the Open Bible)
Proverbs can also be called ‘a book of practical ethics’.
Solomon’s intellectual attainments become famous that kings and queen came from different parts of the world to hear his wisdom. He was the most powerful and famous king in Israel. He was noted for his wisdom, riches and literary works.
Hearing the Wisdom of Solomon Queen Sheba came to test him with hard questions. He answered all her questions with much ease. She was much delighted at Solomon’s wisdom and praised him and gave one hundred and twenty talents of gold, spices in great abundance, and precious stones. There never again came such abundance of spices as the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon. (1 Kings 10:12).
He talked like a learned scientist and handled subjects like Botany and Zoology with much ease. He ruled like a well experienced leader. He took the decision quickly and wisely, his verdict in the case of two harlots and the child is well known. (1 Kings 3: 16-27)
He was a successful businessman with different enterprises under his control. Under his rule the country progressed tremendously in the business field. Business transactions are done through land and sea. Archeological surveys’ reveals that he had business dealings with Arabian countries. He owned and governed the business area between Arabia and Mesopotamia and between red sea and pameer. “The weight of gold that came to Solomon yearly was six hundred and sixty-six talents of gold, (an approximate of $ 3,836,160,000), besides that from the traveling merchants, from the income of traders, from all the kings of Arabia, and from the governors of the country”. (1 Kings 10:14-15)
He was s poet moralist and a preacher. Read book of first Kings Chapter 4 and 9.
It deals with the especially to convey emphasizing righteousness and fear of God. It gives guidance to, how to relate God, parent, children, neighbors, rulers etc.
He covered numerous subjects connected with practical aspects of day to day life. It gives guidance to how to relate God, parent children neighbors rulers etc. also wrote on subjects like, Knowledge of God, fear of God, Wisdom, righteousness, knowledge, morality, chastity, diligence, tithes, concern towards poor, right usage of wealth, mercy towards enemies, selection of life partner, business, honesty, control of tongue, instruction of children, truthfulness, laziness, idleness, kindness, happiness, and common sense.
Solomon’s wisdom and knowledge made him an example to all the world of the wisdom of God’s ideas. Proverbs is considered as one of the “Best Guide Books to success that a young man can follow”.
Though Solomon considered as a wise king and had everything in his life, but his end days shows that he was not a happy person with all those wealth and welfare he had.
In the book Ecclesiastes Solomon the preacher looks at life under the sun from the human perspective and says, “Everything under the sun is vanity, money, power, popularity, prestige, pleasure nothing can fill the emptiness created by God but only God can. When everything looks from God’s perspective will come in line with a meaningful and purposeful life.
Vanity is the main theme of this book; the author provides a way out to this problem, he explains how to live a best life in such world. King David struggled a lot to build a kingdom, whereas Solomon could sit on the throne very peacefully where his father had built with all riches. A man who enjoyed everything in life in its full extend repeatedly said; everything under the sun is vain. This book is the creation of his old age and it gives us a clear picture that with all splendor and glory he was having was not sufficient to keep him happy, instead he says everything is vanity. Thirty seven times this word “vanity” is repeated in this book.
But very interestingly he concluded the whole affairs in these words, “Fear God and keep His commandments: for this is the whole duty of man, for God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it be evil (Ch. 12: 13-14)
He ends the book with an alert; “Good Life” is only attained by holding God in the highest regard. He says, “Remember thy creator in the days of thy youth while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them (12:1). He exhorts the youth to use life well. Youth is too short and live well in the fullness of each day before God and acknowledge Him in early days of your youth.
This book can be analysis with following words:
1. The Experience of the preacher 1:1-4:16
2. The Estimation of the preacher experience 5:1-10:20
3. The Evaluation of the preacher 11:1-10
4. The Exhortation for the preacher 12:1-14
SONGS OF SONGS
This book of Solomon is considered as one of the most controversial book in the Bible. A Rabbinic writer called this book as one of God’s greatest gifts to Israel and from all the holy writing of the Old Testament has singled it out as the holy of holies. At the same time some regarded it as highly erotic and lustful. A careful study of this book will show that it guards itself delicately against any profamation of love either by eroticism or severity. Instead it is a beautiful and candid picture of the transparency of intimate love within the union of marriage.
The Bible Scholar James Hastings said, “The popular poetry of Israel would be a blank had there not been handed down to us the beautiful poem, springing out of the very life and Old Testament literature would have been incomplete without this poem of human love”.
Song of Songs the twenty second book in the Bible is a love song abounding in different descriptions and oriental imagery. The most common approach today treats the Song as a narrative in which Solomon is the groom, Shulamite the bride, and daughters of Jerusalem the chorus are the main characters in this love story. In 1 Kings 4:32 there is a note about Solomon’s 1005 songs. Out of those songs this stands apart as Song of Songs. Because of its typical description style below 30 years old were not permitted to read these songs.
A better approach is to treat the song is an acknowledgment of the joys of a married life. The purpose of the book is to portray the actual relationship between Solomon and the Shulamite maiden. Their relationship reveals the real love in the marriage. We may find in this the loving relationship between God and Israel as husband and wife and Christ and the Church as Bridegroom and Bride (Hosea 2: 19-20; Ephesians 5: 25-33).
It can be somewhat analyzed like this:
- The Bride and bridegroom’s conversation Chapter 1—3:6
- The Bride’s decision to accept the Bridegroom’s invitation 3:7—5:1
- The Bride’s dream about the bridegroom’s departure 5:2—6:3
- The Bride and Bridegroom’s delight in their love. 6:4—8:14
This book skillfully portrays the love of a married couple.
Though Solomon was a wise person there were some notable sins in his life. Here below are given a list of those sins:
1. He set his mind to know madness and folly. Ecc. 1:17
2. He spent time to pleasure and enjoyments. Ecc. 2:1
3. He fully entrusted his life to wine and amusements. Ecc. 2:3
4. He set his heart to fetch folly. 2:3
5. He mingled his mind and body to procure wealth (gold, silver
and other treasures), musicians (men and women) and pleasures
of men (women, concubines) of this world. 2:8
6. Without any limit he mingled in the pleasures of the body. 2:10
7. He accepted many wives (he had 700 wives and 300 concubines)
1 Kings 11:3
8. He worshiped the god of other nations. 1 Kings. 11:4
A. Holy Bible, (King James Version, New King James Version, New International Version)
B. Sathyavedhapusthakam (Malayalam)
C Daniel Bible (Malayalam)
D. Bible Sabdasagaram (Malayalam) by Dr. G. Suseelan, GLS Publications.
E. Open Bible NKJV
F. New International Bible commentary- General Editor F F Bruce (Zondervan Publishing House).
G World book Encyclopedia Inc. (a Scott Fetzer Company).
H Pocket Bible Handbook
I Prof. KVSS Naryana Rao,