Q/A: Knowledge vs. Wisdom

Question: In the Bible, King Solomon is seen as a very wise man. But some translations say he was very wise while others say he had much knowledge. Is there a difference between the two? If so, what is it? Where does the concept of “understanding” come into play?

Answer: The short answer to your question is that knowledge has to do with information while wisdom has to do with the best application and conduct in life. When the scientific method was being developed, many men began to study objects in great detail. One English man observed a turtle all day long and noted everything possible. Francis Bacon remarked that such a study was useless because it had no purpose. Thus, knowledge and wisdom are complementary: wisdom orients study and the knowledge acquired by study supports wisdom.

In regard to Solomon, it is best to begin by reading the narrative about him (full of intrigue and other evidence of the corruption of human nature) in the Old Testament.  You can find it in 2 Samuel 12 through 1 Kings 11.  Next, read other passages that speak of Solomon (a concordance, such as Young’s makes this easy).  Lastly, read what Solomon wrote: Psalm 90, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. I suspect that Ecclesiastes is Solomon’s apology for losing his way due to vast wealth and Song of Solomon is his apology for losing his way due to the love (actually, lust) of many foreign women, both of which God warned Solomon about.

Young’s Concordance also allows you to study words according to Hebrew and Greek, even if you don’t know those languages. For example, Paul says that knowledge puffs up but love builds up. There are three Greek words in the New Testament that are translated as “knowledge” in English. “Wisdom” occurs often and throughout the Bible (example: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”). The proper, rational fear of God holds a person in honesty about dependence, which makes us alert to know what God wants to reveal and live a life ordered accordingly, which is wisdom. Other aspects of wisdom include insight, discernment, perception, vision (seeing both short and long-term concerns), and practicality (vs. utilitarianism) to name a few.  Wisdom is the best of all possible thinking, speech, and conduct in this world.

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