And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, 30 so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. 32 He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. 33 He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. 34 And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.
— 1 Kings 4:29–34 —
In Finding Favour in the Sight of God: A Theology of Wisdom Literature, Richard Belcher introduces the reader to the world of biblical wisdom (ch. 1). The majority of his book examines the literary and theological aspects of Proverbs (chs. 2–4), Job (chs. 5–7), and Ecclesiastes (chs. 8–10). And he finishes by showing the relationship between Wisdom and Jesus Christ (ch. 11). In all, his book provides a rich resource for studying Old Testament Wisdom.
Still, one of the most helpful parts of his book is explaining the development of wisdom in the first chapter. Contrasting critical approaches which identify wisdom literature with other ancient Near Eastern religions, Belcher connects wisdom literature in the Bible with Solomon, who was granted such wisdom when he boldly asked for the Lord’s help to rule Israel (1 Kings 3).
In his discussion of wisdom’s development, Belcher draws an important connection between Solomon and his royal wisdom and Adam and his royal priestly calling. Here’s what he says, “The account of Solomon in 1 Kings makes allusions to Adam in the garden so that Solomon functions as a second Adam.” He goes on to explain why this is the case,
- Solomon is acclaimed king at Gihon (1 Kgs 1:33, 38, 45), a water source on the slope below Jerusalem that bears the same name as one of the primeval rivers of Genesis 2:13.
- Solomon is urged to become a ‘man’ (‘îš) and “keep’ (samar) the charge of Yahweh (1 Kgs 2:2—3) just as the first one to be called a ‘man’ is charged with keeping the garden (Gen. 2:15).
- Solomon exercises dominion over God’s creation by his understanding of animals and plants (1 Kgs 4:33), just as Adam did in the garden (Gen. 2:19–20).
- What is different for Solomon is that God gave Solomon great wisdom in order to administer justice in the kingdom (1 Kgs 3:9, 28).
- Also, the prospect of life is held out to Solomon, conditional on his obedience to the divine command (1 Kgs 9:1—9) just as it was to Adam (Gen. 2:16–17).
From these connections, Belcher observes,
Solomon’s kingdom was only a partial restoration of dominion lost at the fall because it failed to restore order in God’s creation. He was only a precursor of the coming king, the Second Adam, who would destroy the power of the curse of sin and restore creation by freeing it from corruption (Rom. 8:19—23). The powers of the age to come have broken into history in the kingdom of Christ, but the fullness of deliverance and restoration awaits his second coming. Until then, wisdom literature helps God’s people successfully navigate the pitfalls of life. (pp. 13–14, bullet formatting mine)
Indeed, wisdom literature is not just given to the kings of Israel, as it might first appear in Proverbs 1–9 and elsewhere. Wisdom is given to all sons of God, men and women (see Gal. 3:26) who are heirs of God’s kingdom (Rom. 8:16–17) and priests in God’s household (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). Indeed, just as Solomon’s rule recovers the role of Adam, and Christ repeats and exceeds the rule of Solomon (see Matt. 12:42), so all those in Christ become royal priests who learn from the Spirit of Christ how to be true Adams.
In other words, the wisdom of the Bible is given so that men and women led by the Spirit might walk in wisdom that exceeds that of Solomon. Truly, this is what Christ did as the Second Adam, and now he gives us his wisdom as we pray for wisdom, much like Solomon did.
In the end, God’s gift of wisdom is what helps Christians recover what true humanity looks like. For as Adam was commissioned to serve as a royal priest and learn wisdom by obedience to God’s one command—do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17); and as Solomon learned wisdom from the Lord and wrote thousands of proverbs (1 Kgs. 4:32–33); and as Christ embodied the fulness of wisdom (Col. 2:3); so now Christians are called to walk in wisdom, such that they might grow not only in Christ-likeness, but in true humanity—which is to say almost the same thing.
For Christ was the only true human, perfect in will and wisdom. And now as God’s Spirit works in Christians, he is transforming us according to God’s wisdom. As a result, this means we should give ourselves to the wisdom literature (Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, etc.), not just because it gives us life tips, but because growth in wisdom make us more like Christ, and becoming more like Christ makes more like the humanity God created Adam and Eve to be.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds