Sofia and Prudence
The Old Testament is full of passages that are anticipatory of the coming Messiah. Some are obvious and overt–Psalm 22, 69, and Isaiah 53–others are more subtle and nuanced. Proverbs 8 is the latter. Using the style of its poetic genre, Solomon personifies wisdom to give it character. He attributes to an abstract concept, specific and personal characteristics. 'Doth not Wisdom cry?' (8:1, KJV) asks Solomon, 'At the entrance of the doors, she cries out' (8:3, NASB) he continues.
His use of the feminine pronoun, a prosaic style often utilised when personalising abstract nouns, should not put us off discerning who he has in mind, for this becomes clear as the passage progresses: 'I was set up from everlasting (8:23, KJV)...then I was by Him...and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him’ (8:30, KJV). Solomon is speaking of Christ.
Wisdom carries the idea of 'discernment' or 'sound judgment' and is thus distinguished from understanding. Many are understanding but don't have wisdom; wisdom is applied understanding. In verse 12, he uses another noun, prudence, to complement his use of wisdom. Prudence is different to both wisdom and understanding. It means 'shrewdness' or 'intent', and thus it is the glue that connects the two. How do we turn our understanding into wisdom? By exercising shrewdness in our circumstances. In this passage, we are told that Wisdom dwells with prudence. Like twin sisters, they are often found together.
It should be of no surprise then that the Lord Jesus was marked by both. It goes without saying that He understood. He is the omniscient God of eternity, so there is nothing that is outside His capacity to understand, even within humanity. But His understanding was always perfectly applied. There was never a situation that caught Him off-guard. There was never a question that left Him dumbfounded. 'Let Him cast the first stone' He was heard to reply on one occasion, and 'bring me a penny' on another. Why? Because within Him, Wisdom dwelt with prudence. He demonstrated His wisdom in the way he shrewdly applied His understanding.
Paul says to the Ephesians; 'we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence' (Eph. 1:7-8, KJV). Praise God that the same wisdom and prudence has been demonstrated towards us. In forgiving us our sins and redeeming us, He has abounded towards us in Wisdom (Sofia) and Prudence. Praise God for these twin sisters: Sofia and Prudence.