pillars of wisdom

Proverbs’ Seven Pillars of Wisdom, Part 1

10 May 2021

3.6 MINS

In my role as the Chairman of the National Alliance of Christian Leaders (NACL), I recently shared about the seven pillars of wisdom mentioned at the beginning of Proverbs 9:

Wisdom has built her house;
she has set up its seven pillars.
— Proverbs 9:1

At that time, I suggested that the seven pillars of wisdom are:

  1. Prudence
  2. Discernment
  3. Knowledge
  4. Discretion
  5. Judgement
  6. Understanding
  7. Counsel

Since that time, I have been asked to expand on wisdom’s seven pillars. The timing could not be more relevant. Our nation, our media, and our political and education systems certainly need wisdom at this crucial time in our history. Just as Solomon prayed for wisdom and discernment, we must pray that our leaders will do likewise.

If there is a single message in the book of Proverbs, it is this: wisdom is supreme, so get wisdom! In the book of James, sometimes referred to as the “Proverbs of the New Testament”, we read:

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
— James 1:5

Likewise, the author of Ecclesiastes explains his journey towards finding wisdom:

So I turned my mind to understand,
to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things
and to understand the stupidity of wickedness
and the madness of folly.
— Ecclesiastes 7:25

Reading Proverbs 1-9 and Job 28 also provide us with an excellent backdrop as we consider the seven pillars of wisdom. Consider this highlight from Proverbs chapter 4:

Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or turn away from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.
Cherish her, and she will exalt you;
embrace her, and she will honour you.
She will give you a garland to grace your head
and present you with a glorious crown.”
Listen, my son, accept what I say,
and the years of your life will be many.
I instruct you in the way of wisdom
and lead you along straight paths.
When you walk, your steps will not be hampered;
when you run, you will not stumble.
Hold on to instruction, do not let it go;
guard it well, for it is your life.
Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of evildoers.
Avoid it, do not travel on it;
turn from it and go on your way.
— Proverbs 4:5-15

It is imperative that we apply the seven pillars of wisdom to our lives. They show us how to grow our character and produce the fruits of the Holy Spirit — love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5)

There is not much we can take from this life into eternity, but our character is one of those things. It is therefore very important for us to develop a godly character, including traits such as perseverance, attentiveness, integrity, decisiveness, boldness, initiative, obedience, thoroughness, diligence, truthfulness, alertness and self-control. Other character traits we must pursue include responsibility, resourcefulness, benevolence, availability and meekness.

When it comes to employment, it is striking to realise that most people are hired on the basis of skills — but if they are dismissed, it is due to a lack of character. In other words, character matters far more than we often realise.

So what is a “pillar of wisdom”? We know that pillars are an essential part of many built structures. They are a foundational element of a building, without which the structure will collapse.

Noah Webster’s American Dictionary, written in 1828, contains over 140 biblical references to pillars. A descendant of the Pilgrim Governor William Bradford, Webster wrote his dictionary at a time when the home, church and school were founded on biblical principles in America. Wrote Webster,

In my view, the Christian religion is the most important and one of the first things in which all children, under a free government ought to be instructed… No truth is more evident to my mind than that the Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.

Defining the word pillar, Webster referred to Numbers 14:14, where we read of “a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of cloud by night” by which God led His people. Webster explains that, in this light, a pillar speaks of leadership, guidance and safety.

That Proverbs 9:1 speaks of seven pillars is significant, given that the number seven means completeness and perfection, both physically and spiritually. To possess these seven pillars, then, is to possess complete and perfect wisdom.

The Scriptures teach us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10; see also Psalm 111:10)

Truly, it would take a lifetime to comprehend the depths of wisdom and have it penetrate out soul, body and spirit. Until we experience divine revelation, we cannot see things clearly. It is as though we are squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.

But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We will see it all then, just as clearly as God sees us — knowing Him directly just as He knows us. “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face,” we read in 1 Corinthians 13:12. “Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

In the next instalment in this series, we will look at the first three of the seven pillars of wisdom: prudence, discernment, and knowledge.

[Photo by Jay Chaudhary on Unsplash]

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One Comment

  1. Moses 28 February 2024 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    I’m studying the seven pillars of wisdom..It seems to me the Lord gave me another interpretation of this scripture. It seems like it was directed more along the lines of civilization, the upholding of the world the His wisdom?

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