Feast upon the Word Blog

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Where (or what) is Wisdom?

Posted by robf on August 13, 2009

In reading the garden account in Genesis this morning, I was struck by Gen 3:6

And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

The word translated here as “wise” is the Hebrew sakal, which seems to have a connotation of thinking, pondering, comprehending…in other words something like working it out in your own head.

I’m not a Hebrew scholar, so I’m wondering if there is a significant difference between this word and the other more common word for wisdom in the Old Testament, chokmah?

I guess I’m wondering, is there a difference between the kind of “wisdom” (sakal) that Adam and Eve got (learned from Satan? note that Eve seems to be reasoning things out before she even takes the fruit) in the garden and the kind of “wisdom” (chokmah) that may be more of a gift from God, one of the gifts of the Spirit?

If they are indeed separate, what is the relationship between them? And how should we be in relationship to these two types of “wisdom”?

14 Responses to “Where (or what) is Wisdom?”

  1. Jeremy said

    The two words probably have some differences, but I would be careful about making too much of it. They are used in a parallel in Psalm 111.10.

  2. BrianJ said

    Are there any verses that use both words?

  3. RobF said

    Here’s a (non-LDS) discussion of different kinds of “wisdom” in the Old Testament:
    http://www.eaglevision.com.my/mc3rivers.htm

  4. RobF said

    And another set of sermon notes on different forms of Hebrew wisdome here:
    http://www.campusbiblechurch.com/sermonnotes/072207MiningForHeavenlyWisdomPt1.pdf

  5. Robert C. said

    I don’t have time to read these links RobF has posted, but I’d love to hear a summary of the main points if someone else does. Thanks in advance to anyone who might take up this request.

  6. Bruce Johns said

    Wisdom…
    The ability to discern and/or convey proper perspective…it is acquired through the combination of experience and knowledge.

  7. RobF said

    Just reading 1 Nephi 11 again, and noting the contrast between the Tree of Life (a symbol of Wisdom) and the Great and Spacious Building and its relationship to the pride and wisdom of the world. Still think there is something here related to different types of wisdom.

  8. RobF said

    Still puzzling over this as I read along in the Book of Mormon. Now thinking about how this relates to “wisdom’s paths”–a phrase that only seems to occur in Mosiah 2:36 and Hel 12:5. What is “wisdom’s paths”? They seem to be the paths that you are guided in by the Spirit of the Lord. So this wisdom isn’t something like good old common sense (that you can attain through a judicious knowledge of good and evil), but something more like a chokmah type of spiritual guidance.

  9. BrianJ said

    I don’t see why “wisdom’s paths” can’t at least include common sense and/or judiciousness. The scriptures you cite, especially Mosiah 2:36, suggest that the Spirit will assist us not by giving us wisdom, but by helping us navigate “wisdom’s paths”—meaning, that the Spirit might act as a wisdom filter of sorts instead of (only) as a provider of wisdom.

  10. RobF said

    BrianJ, is there a difference between the “wisdom” that Satan gives us through the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and the “wisdom” that the Spirit directs us in?

  11. BrianJ said

    That is an excellent question. I don’t know how to answer, and I’m not even sure it’s accurate to say that Satan gives us wisdom through the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil—I mean, does he endow the fruit with that power, or does/did he just point the direction to the tree?

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