The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

My Notes on Wisdom 1:1-7

Posted by Dim Bulb on November 6, 2011

The Book of Wisdom is generally divided into three major sections (see the Introduction to the Book of Wisdom in the NAB). Today’s reading is taken from the first major section (1:1-6:21) which can be divided into five parts written in the form of a reverse parallel (technically known as a chiamus).

A1) An Exhortation to practice righteousness and a warning for those who refuse (1:1-15).

B1) The words of the wicked against the just man and a condemnation of their thoughts by the author (1:16:2:24).

C) Triumph of the just, punishment of the wicked (3:1-5:1).

B2) The words of the wicked acknowledging their foolishness in opposing the just man followed by a confirmation of their thoughts by the author (5:2-23).

A2) Closing exhortation to seek wisdom, and a warning to those who refuse (6:1-21).

TEXT AND NOTES:

Wis 1:1  Love justice, you that are the judges of the earth. Think of the Lord in goodness, and seek him in simplicity of heart:

These words are addressed either to the rulers (judges) of the earth or, to the rulers of the Hebrew people. The word here translated as “earth” can simply mean “the land” (i.e., the land of Israel). To me, the second possibility is the far more likely.

Love justiceLoving justice manifests itself in how one relates to both God an man (see Matt 22:34-40).

Think of the Lord in goodness. I think this is to be understood in relation to verses 2; he sheweth himself to them that have faith in him.

And seek him in simplicity of heart. The sort of single-mindedness the Lord speaks of in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:13-34), though in that passage the primary emphasis is dependency on God as opposed to riches. Here the opposition is with evil in general (i.e., testing God, faithlessness, etc. Summed up in verse 5 as “iniquity” [“injustice” in the NAB]). Love is opposed to duplicity of heart, it seeketh not her own (1 Cor 13:5).

Wis 1:2  For he is found by them that tempt him not: and he sheweth himself to them that have faith in him.

For. This conjunctive gives the reason for the exhortation of verse 1.

He is found by them that tempt him not. Those who  “seek” to find God must love him “in simplicity of heart” (vs 1) if they hope to find him: I love them that love me: and they that in the morning early watch for me, shall find me (Prov 8:17). Tempting God is soundly forbidden and condemned in both Testaments (Num 14:22Deut 6:16; Ps 95:7-11; 1 Cor 10:9-12Matt 4:7; Acts 5:9; Heb 3:7-18). Tempting God implies a a lack of trust and patience in God who will answer those who wait for him (Philippians 4:19; Lam 3:25-26).

Wis 1:3  For perverse thoughts separate from God: and his power, when it is tried, reproveth the unwise:

For shows that this verse continues to build upon the initial exhortation to “love justice”.  It also gives the reasons why the negation in verse two are to be avoided: “For he is found by them that tempt him not”; but perverse thoughts separate from God.  “He sheweth himself to them that have faith in him;” but his power, when tried, reproveth the unwise (concerning faithlessness and its reproof see Isa 7:10-25 ).

Wis 1:4  For wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins.

Again, note the use of the word for, as the author continues to build on the initial exhortation to “love justice.” Haydock Bible Commentary: “Soul and body are intimately connected, so that the actions of one defile the other, and banish wisdom.” See Sirach 15:7-10.

St Thomas Aquinas on Whether  Wisdom Can Be Without Grace, And With Mortal Sin?: On the contrary It is written (Wis 1:4): “Wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins.”

I answer that The wisdom which is a gift of the Holy Ghost, as stated above (Article 1), enables us to judge aright of Divine things, or of other things according to Divine rules, by reason of a certain connaturalness or union with Divine things, which is the effect of charity, as stated above (Article [2]; Question [23], Article [5]). Hence the wisdom of which we are speaking presupposes charity. Now charity is incompatible with mortal sin, as shown above (Question [24], Article [12]). Therefore it follows that the wisdom of which we are speaking cannot be together with mortal sin (St II-II 45, 4).

Again, St Thomas Aquinas: God so prepares and endows those, whom He chooses for some particular office, that they are rendered capable of fulfilling it, according to 2 Cor 3:6: “(Who) hath made us fit ministers of the New Testament.” Now the Blessed Virgin was chosen by God to be His Mother. Therefore there can be no doubt that God, by His grace, made her worthy of that office, according to the words spoken to her by the angel (Luke 1:30-31): “Thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive,” etc. But she would not have been worthy to be the Mother of God, if she had ever sinned. First, because the honor of the parents reflects on the child, according to Prov 17:6: “The glory of children are their fathers”: and consequently, on the other hand, the Mother’s shame would have reflected on her Son. Secondly, because of the singular affinity between her and Christ, who took flesh from her: and it is written (2 Cor 6:15): “What concord hath Christ with Belial?” Thirdly, because of the singular manner in which the Son of God, who is the “Divine Wisdom” (1 Cor 1:24) dwelt in her, not only in her soul but in her womb. And it is written (Wis 1:4): “Wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins.”We must therefore confess simply that the Blessed Virgin committed no actual sin, neither mortal nor venial; so that what is written (Song 4:7) is fulfilled: “Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee,” etc (ST III 27, 3).

Wis 1:5  For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful, and will withdraw himself from thoughts that are without understanding, and he shall not abide when iniquity cometh in.

For the Holy Spirit of discipline will flee from the deceitful. Calmet translates for the Holy Spirit of instruction will flee &c,. The word discipline is related to the word disciple, i.e., one who is instructed.

Pope St Gregory the Great:  Let the insincere hear what is written, (He that walketh in simplicity walketh surely (Prov 10:9). For indeed simplicity of conduct is an assurance of great security. Let them hear what is said by the mouth of the wise man, The holy spirit of discipline will flee deceit (Wis 1:5). Let them hear what is again affirmed by the witness of Scripture, His communing is with the simple (Prov 3:32). For God’s communing is His revealing of secrets to human minds by the illumination of His presence. He is therefore said to commune with the simple, because He illuminates with the ray of His visitation concerning supernal mysteries the minds of those whom no shade of duplicity obscures. But it is a special evil of the double-minded, that, while they deceive others by their crooked and double conduct, they glory as though they were surpassingly prudent beyond others; and, since they consider not the strictness of retribution, they exult, miserable men that they are, in their own losses. But let them hear how the prophet Zephaniah holds out over them the power of divine rebuke, saying, Behold the dayof the Lord cometh, great and horrible, the day of wrath, that day; a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of cloud and whirlwind, a day of trumpet and clangour, upon all fenced cities,and upon all lofty corners (Zeph 1:15-16).For what is expressed by fenced cities but minds suspected, and surrounded ever with a fallacious defence; minds which, as often as their fault is attacked, suffer not the darts of truth to reach them? And what is signified by lofty corners (a wall being always double in corners) but insincere hearts; which, while they shun the simplicity of truth, are in a manner doubled back upon themselves in the crookedness of duplicity, and, what is worse, from their very fault of insincerity lift themselves in their thoughts with the pride of prudence? Therefore the day of the Lord comes full of vengeance and rebuke upon fenced cities and upon lofty corners, because the wrath of the last judgment both destroys human hearts that have been closed by defences against the truth, and unfolds such as have been folded up in duplicities. For then the fenced cities fall, because souls which God has not penetrated will be damned. Then the lofty corners tumble, because hearts which erect themselves in the prudence of insincerity are prostrated by the sentence of righteousness (The Pastoral Rule, Part 3, chapter 11).

St John Chrysostom: Wherefore we must cast out all wickedness from our souls, and never more contrive any deceit; for, saith one, “To the perverse God sendeth crooked paths” (Prov 21:8 LXX).; and, “The holy spirit of discipline will flee deceit, and remove from thoughts that are without understanding.” (Wis 1:5). For nothing maketh men so foolish as wickedness; since when a man is treacherous, unfair,  ungrateful, (these are different forms of wickedness,) when without having been wronged he grieves another, when he weaves deceits, how shall he not exhibit an example of excessive folly? Again, nothing maketh men so wise as virtue; it rendereth them thankful and fair-minded, merciful, mild, gentle, and candid; it is wont to be the mother of all other blessings. And what is more understanding than one so disposed? for virtue is the very spring and root of prudence, just as all wickedness hath its beginning in folly. For, the insolent man and the angry become the prey of their respective passions from lack of wisdom; on which account the prophet said, “There l is no soundness in my flesh: my wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness” (Ps 38:3-4): showing that all sin hath its beginning in folly: and so the virtuous man who hath the fear of God is more understanding than any; wherefore a wise man hath said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Prov 1:7). If then to fear God is to have wisdom, and the wicked man hath not that fear, he is deprived of that which is wisdom indeed;—and deprived of that which is wisdom indeed, he is more foolish than any. And yet many admire the wicked as being able to do injustice and harm, not knowing that they ought to deem them wretched above all men, who thinking to injure others thrust the sword against themselves;—an act of extremest folly, that a man should strike himself and not even know that he doth so, but should think that he is injuring another while he is killing himself. Wherefore Paul, knowing that we slay ourselves when we smite others, saith, “Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” (1 Cor 6:7). For the not suffering wrong consists in doing none, as also the not being ill-used in not using others ill; though this assertion may seem a riddle to the many, and to those who will not learn true wisdom. Knowing this, let us not call wretched or lament for those who suffer injury or insult, but for such who inflict these things; these are they who have been most injured, who have made God to be at war with them, and have opened the mouths of ten thousand accusers, who are getting an evil reputation in the present life, and drawing down on themselves severe punishment in the life to come. While those who have been wronged by them, and have nobly borne it all, have God favorable to them, and all to condone with, and praise, and entertain them. Such as these in the present life, shall enjoy an exceeding good report, as affording the strongest example of true wisdom, and in the life to come shall share the good things everlasting; to which may we all attain through the grace and lovingkindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, with whom to the Father and the Holy Ghost be glory, now and ever, and world without end. Amen.

Wis 1:6  For the spirit of wisdom is benevolent, and will not acquit the evil speaker from his lips: for God is witness of his reins, and he is a true searcher of his heart, and a hearer of his tongue.

For the spirit of wisdom is benevolent, and will not acquit the evil speaker from his lips. How very different is the modern “spirit of benevolence” which does just that! If, when I say to the wicked, Thou shalt surely die: thou declare it not to him, nor speak to him, that he may be converted from his wicked way, and live: the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at thy hand (Ezek 3:18).

For God is a witness of his reins.   NAB: Of his inmost self. RSV: Of his inmost feelings. These can serve to correct and instruct: I will bless the Lord, who hath given me understanding: moreover, my reins also have corrected me even till night (Ps 16:7). The word is sometimes translated as “heart” in modern bibles (see the NAB and RSV translation of Ps 16:7). In fact, the phrase  God is a witness of his reins should be seen as parallel to he is a true searcher of his heart.

And a hearer of his tongue. The tongue often reveals what is in man, his feelings (reins) and his heart.  For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man (Mark 7:21-23).

According to St James, the tongue is a most powerful weapon of evil and malice: If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man. He is able also with a bridle to lead about the whole body. For if we put bits into the mouths of horses, that they may obey us: and we turn about their whole body. Behold also ships, whereas they are great and are driven by strong winds, yet are they turned about with a small helm, whithersoever the force of the governor willeth. Even so the tongue is indeed a little member and boasteth great things. Behold how small a fire kindleth a great wood. And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is placed among our members, which defileth the whole body and inflameth the wheel of our nativity, being set on fire by hell. For every nature of beasts and of birds and of serpents and of the rest is tamed and hath been tamed, by the nature of man. But the tongue no man can tame, an unquiet evil, full of deadly poison. By it we bless God and the Father: and by it we curse men who are made after the likeness of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth, out of the same hole, sweet and bitter water? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear grapes? Or the vine, figs? So neither can the salt water yield sweet. Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge, among you? Let him shew, by a good contestation, his work in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter zeal, and there be contention in your hearts: glory not and be not liars against the truth. For this is not wisdom, descending from above: but earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and contention is: there is inconstancy and every evil work (see James, chapter 3).

Wis 1:7  For the Spirit of the Lord hath filled the whole world: and that which containeth all things, hath knowledge of the voice.

God is universally present and knows all, the present and the future, man’s reign and his heart: Am I, think ye, a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off?  Shall a man be hid in secret places, and I not see him, saith the Lord? do not I fill heaven and earth, saith the Lord? (Jer 23:23-24). See the footnote to this passage of Jeremiah in the NAB.

And that which containeth all things (i.e., God’s spirit) hath knowledge of the voice. The NAB translates “containeth” as “all-embracing.” The Spirit which embraces all things can certainly hear and know a man’s voice (tongue), i.e., what is spoken by a man, or thought. See Psalm 139.

2 Responses to “My Notes on Wisdom 1:1-7”

  1. […] My Notes on Today’s First Reading (Wisdom 1:1-7). […]

  2. […] (1:1-6:21) as concentrically arranged(concerning which, see the outline here at the beginning of my post on Wisdom 1:1-7 here). He likewise sees part of the second subsection (6:22-11:1) as concentrically arranged. That part […]

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