House of Wisdom

House of Wisdom December 1, 2016

1 Chronicles 22 records a lengthy speech from David to his son Solomon. The very setup suggests an analogy with the book of Proverbs, in which Solomon gives instructions to his son the prince. For the Chronicler, Solomon learned to teach wisdom by receiving it from David.

That formal hint of the Wisdom literature is supported by the speech itself, which is full of wisdom terminology. David exhorts Solomon to be wise (sekel, used 8x in Proverbs) and to pursue understanding (biynah, 14x in Proverbs). Solomon achieves this, at least in the opinion of Huram of Tyre, who declares that David is blessed in having a wise and discerning son (2 Chronicles 2:13). The Hebrew biynah resonating punningly in the context. David address his son (Heb. ben) about building (banah) a house, a project that requires biynah. In building with wisdom, Solomon proves himself a true son of David.

David reminds Solomon that he, David, has done a lot of the work already, gathering 100,000 talents of gold and 1 million of silver (v. 14), along with bronze, iron, wood, and stone. He has assembled the workers, all of them “wise” (chakam, “skilful”; v. 15). This is the first and only use of this key word for wisdom in 1 Chronicles, but it’s used another 6x in 2 Chronicles (2:7 [2x], 12, 13, 14 [2x]). Like Solomon himself, the craftsmen who work on the temple must have wisdom, a sevenfold wisdom suitable to the new creation of Yahweh’s house. Together, king and craftsmen build a house of wisdom.

To say that the temple is a house of wisdom is not, however, to leave Torah and Moses behind. In very context where David exhorts Solomon to cultivate wisdom and understanding, he also urges him to guard the commandments and judgments that Yahweh delivered to Moses (v. 13). Solomon needs wisdom and understanding precisely to guard Torah (v. 12), and only then will be succeed. David exhorts Solomon to be strong, as Moses exhorted Joshua; Solomon’s temple will complete the conquest Joshua began, and peaceable building will require as much courage as war. Clearly in David’s mind there is no tension between law and wisdom.

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