A Poetic Personification of Wisdom

By Mark D. Roberts

April 30, 2024

The Gift of Wisdom

Scripture — Proverbs 8:22-23, 27, 30-31 (NRSV)

The LORD created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When he established the heavens, I was there;
when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
then I was beside him, like a master worker,
and I was daily his delight,
playing before him always,
playing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the human race.


In the Old Testament, wisdom isn’t just a human ability that we desire. Wisdom is sometimes personified. Wisdom is poetically portrayed as a woman created by, working with, and in partnership with God. This doesn’t mean Wisdom is separate from God. But it does mean that divine Wisdom is active, working in creation and teaching those who faithfully seek her. But Wisdom isn’t just sitting there waiting for us to find her. Rather, she calls out, inviting us to receive her as a gift from God.

Today’s devotion is part of the series The Gift of Wisdom.


As you may know, wisdom shows up often in the Old Testament, most of all in the book of Proverbs. Many verses speak about wisdom in an unsurprising way, such as: “Happy are those who find wisdom, and those who get understanding” (Proverbs 3:13). Wisdom is an ability or capacity that we can “find” and embrace in our thinking and living.

But some passages in Proverbs speak about wisdom in a curiously different way. In Chapter 8, for example, Wisdom is pictured as a person who calls out to human beings, inviting them to receive her instruction. (The Hebrew word for wisdom, chokhma, is feminine in form. Thus, Wisdom’s pronouns are “she/her.”) Wisdom says that she was created by the Lord “at the beginning of his work” (8:22). When God created the universe, Wisdom was “beside him like a master worker” (8:30). Moreover, she was “daily his delight, rejoicing before him always” (8:30).

This personification of Wisdom has led some people to speak of Wisdom, often using the Greek word Sophia, as if Wisdom were a female being almost separate from God. But such an interpretation misses the point of the Hebrew poetry in Proverbs 8. Wisdom, portrayed as a female person, is still God’s wisdom, an attribute of the one true God. When Wisdom calls or creates, this is still an act of God, not an act of some other divine being who hangs out with God.

The poetic personification of Wisdom in Proverbs makes it clear that wisdom is not merely a human ability. Rather, true wisdom is part of God. Wisdom belongs to God, is treasured by God, and is given by God. Whether we receive the gift of wisdom from experience, from other people, from cultural traditions, or from Scripture, true wisdom always has its origin in God.

Yet divine Wisdom doesn’t just sit there quietly waiting for us to find her if we’re lucky. Rather, God’s Wisdom calls out to us, inviting us to receive her many gifts: “Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? . . . “To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it. . . . And now, my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 8:32-35).

As you hear Wisdom calling, you may well be thinking, “Wait a minute! That sounds an awful lot like Jesus. What is the relationship between Old Testament Wisdom and Jesus?” Excellent question, one I’ll address later in this series. There is indeed a very close relationship between Wisdom and Jesus.

For now, I simply want to point out the biblical association of Wisdom and God. Wisdom isn’t just a human ability we can develop through our personal efforts. Rather, Wisdom is an attribute of God. Wisdom can be personified as a woman who embodies divine understanding. Wisdom isn’t just something to be sought after, but someone who calls to us, inviting us to receive the gift of God’s wisdom. Thus, as we seek to become wise, we aren’t just on a quest for wisdom. Rather, we’re on a quest for God.


Have you ever sensed that God’s wisdom was somehow calling to you? If so, when and how?

If you understand that wisdom isn’t just some human attribute, but rather a part of God, how does this affect your effort to become wise?

Can you think of a time when you felt certain that God was giving you wisdom? What happened? What was the result?


Set aside time in prayer to be open to hearing God’s call to wisdom.


Gracious God, thank you for your wisdom. Thank you for all the ways your wisdom has been at work in history, in the church, and in my life.

Lord, I want to hear the call of your wisdom so that I might respond to it. May I be ready to say “Yes” when you call.

May your wisdom guide me in all that I do, whether I’m at work or home, whether as an employee or a boss, a parent or a child. Amen.

Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the High Calling archive, hosted by the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Reflection on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: The Way of the Wise: A Biblical Interpretation of Firm Strategy & Orientation.

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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