Three kinds of Biblical wisdom

August 2, 2019

 

Biblical Wisdom

 

Ex 31:1-6

1     Then the LORD said to Moses,

2     See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah,

3     and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and

      knowledge in all kinds of crafts — 

4     to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze,

5     to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of

       craftsmanship.

6     Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to

        help him.

 

According to Exodus 31:3, Bezalel was endowed “with wisdom (skill), ability (intelligence) and knowledge.” In the original Hebrew, these are three distinct mental qualities.

 

A man of wisdom

 

In the original Hebrew, these are three distinct mental qualities. The first term, “ability” or ‘wisdom’ is chochma חָכְמָה in Hebrew. This is much more than merely possessing facts. Chochma is wisdom, the ability to speak sagely, beyond merely uttering “windy words” (Job 16:3). The biblical paradigm of this “wisdom” is King Solomon, who was known throughout the world for his ingenious ability to judge difficult cases (1 Kgs. 4:34). 
 

A Man of Understanding

 

The second quality given to Bezalel, is “intelligence,” tevunah תְבוּנָה in Hebrew. This word which comes from the root B.I.N, refers to the ability to discern.

 

This is a “man of understanding” (Prov. 15:21), a person who can assess a complex situation, take a step back and distinguish right from wrong without losing their cool. This is crucial in times of crisis. It is a person who can work productively while remaining emotionally uninvolved, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding” (Prov. 14:33).

 

A man of knowledge

 

The third quality, “knowledge,” is da’at דַּעַת in Hebrew. Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat from the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” This refers to factual knowledge of what is morally right from wrong. Originally, this quality belonged to God alone, and when Adam and Eve ate the fruit and gained this knowledge they were expelled.

 

Only by exploring these three words in the original Hebrew, we get to the heart of what the Bible really means. 

 

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