God’s Wisdom Before Creation
“The Lord possessed me [Wisdom] at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. When he established the heavens, I was there.” (Proverbs 8:22-27)
We laugh when our teens and young people suddenly realize that we older folks may know something about life. The saying is that the older they get, the wiser we become. Now, it is true that we grow wiser with age, but the point here is that young people don’t seek our particular brand of wisdom until they face certain challenges, such as working, making a budget, owning a car, buying a home, getting married, or having children. The wisdom they seek in us has always been there, but their need seems to “bring it out” of us. In the same way, God’s wisdom is an essential part of his being and character. It is not separate from him; “The wise plan of God precedes his action.” (1) We may think of this as being similar (but certainly not the same) as the way our prayers for our children precede our actions. In God’s case, it is all his wisdom, his preparation, and his acts that shaped the mountains, hills, fields, and dust. God’s wise plan and word established the heavens.
We may note that wisdom was “before” the mountains, hills, and earth; wisdom was the first of God’s acts. (v. 22) This poetic language has influenced many commentators to interpret this as a revelation of the pre-existence of Jesus Christ, who has always reigned as the supreme second person of the Godhead. John Gill writes, “Now Christ, as the Son of God, as the only begotten of the Father, existed before his human nature did, or before he was the Son of man. When he prepared the heavens, I was there,…. Made, beautified, and adorned them; when he gave them their form, figure, magnitude, and motion; when he garnished them with the sun, moon, and stars; then was Christ present, not as a mere spectator, but as a co-worker.” (2) I don’t think any of us will dispute the truth of John Gill’s statement, but is it the meaning in Proverbs 8:26-27? Most commentators, including Gill, say that the Hebrew actually would translate as “the Lord ‘fathered’ me at the beginning of his “way.” The Reformation Study Bible comments that “’brought forth’ is poetic language, not an indication that wisdom is another being.” (3)
Sometimes we think of wisdom as something to attain, separate from God, like an asset or possession. However, this passage calls us to remember that God and his wisdom cannot be separated. I give you 1 Corinthians 1:22-24: “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Proverbs 8 may or may not be a revelation of Jesus Christ but the New Testament indeed is, and it is thought that Paul was perhaps inspired by Proverbs 8 when he penned his letter to the Corinthians. (4)
As we seek to be wise today, let’s remember that God—specifically Jesus Christ and his gospel–is the highest wisdom we can share with anyone. He is immutable and perfect, so his wisdom is reliable and trustworthy. We will be wise if the gospel informs our prayers, words, and actions. We will be wise if God comes first today.
(1) The Reformation Study Bible, Proverbs 8:22-24, Reformation Trust Publishing(Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
(2) John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible, Proverbs 8:26-27, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/proverbs-8.html
(3) The Reformation Study Bible, Proverbs 8:22-24, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
(4) ESV Study Bible Notes, “Introduction to Proverbs, The Personification of Christ in Proverbs 8”, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.