Proverbs 8:12

Proverbs 8:12 "I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions."
Christian Church Western New York
All throughout chapter eight, Solomon contrasts Wisdom, personified as a safe woman, with the dangerous woman of chapter seven.  In chapter seven, the “strange woman” told the young man that she was alone.  Here in chapter eight, Wisdom tells the “sons of men” that she is not alone.  In chapter seven, the “strange woman” enticed the young man to go with her because her husband was not at home.  Here in chapter eight, Wisdom invites young men to come to her because she had a companion with her.  The “strange woman” wanted to isolate the young man from everyone because that would leave him vulnerable and without accountability.  Wisdom seeks to introduce the “sons of men” to other virtues because that brings them security and accountability.  While the “strange woman” wants you to all yourself, Wisdom wants to share you with other virtues.

Prudence dwells in the home of Wisdom.  Prudence never leaves that home.  She doesn’t take business trips.  She doesn’t get angry and leave the home for days or weeks at a time. She doesn’t get weary and take vacations.  When you go with Wisdom, you go to a home full of virtue.  When you choose Wisdom, you get Prudence.  Prudence is that virtue that helps you identify danger without painful experience. Prudence is that virtue that helps you see danger from a distance.  It is that virtue that helps you see the wolf’s paw under the sheep’s clothing.  Prudence is that virtue that teaches you to look for the paw where there should be a hoof.  It is that virtue that helps you identify trickery with binoculars.  Wisdom and Prudence are a dynamic duo.  Prudence is the faithful sidekick of Wisdom.  Wisdom doesn’t go anywhere without her.  Wisdom can’t live without her.

Aided by Prudence, Wisdom “finds out knowledge of witty inventions.”  When new things are introduced into society, Wisdom discerns them.  When inventions are introduced into our world, it is Wisdom that takes them in a lab and figures out how they work and why they were invented.

When the Bible speaks of INVENTIONS, it is not speaking of mechanical inventions alone.  An invention is anything new.  It can be a new idea, a new type of clothing, a new mechanical device, a new medical procedure, etc.  An invention is different than a discovery.  A discovery is finding something that already existed while an invention is creating something new that did not exist.  An airplane is an invention where finding unmapped islands with an airplane is a discovery.  Because of human curiosity, we love to discover things.  But because we are also easily discontented, we love to invent things.  The human race has always longed for more.  Because everything “under the sun” is vanity (Ecclesiastes 4:7) or unsatisfying, the human heart is always looking for something to fulfill it. For this reason, mankind invents new ideas, new products, new activities, new devices and new experiences. This phenomenon is what Solomon was referring to when he said, “Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out MANY INVENTIONS (Ecclesiastes 7:29).

An invention isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  An invention certainly isn’t bad simply because it is new.  There have been countless inventions that have saved lives and helped society.  The seatbelt and the airbag are both examples of great inventions that have helped society.  Inventions can be purely good and they can be entirely bad. Inventions can be both good and bad depending on who is using it and for what they are using it.  The Bible refers to a number of inventions in the Old Testament and when it does, it highlights the dangers in them.  For example, Psalm 99 refers to Aaron’s idolatrous golden calf as an invention.  In Psalm 106, the psalmist refers to Israeli inventions that provoked a plague while in the wilderness.  These inventions aren’t listed by name in Psalm 106 but Numbers 25 tells the story of these inventions.  These inventions weren’t inventions of technology, transportation or of medicine.  These inventions weren’t new devices or new machinery.  These inventions were new ideas regarding romance and religion.  The Israelites committed fornication with Moabite women and then committed idolatry with their gods.  Someone came up with a new idea regarding sexuality.  Someone came up with a new societal idea.  Someone invented new spiritual ideology.  Given all that the Jewish people saw in Egypt and at Mount Sinai regarding their God and His Law for them, someone came up with a “WITTY” idea.  Someone was able to convince the Jewish people that it made sense to commit fornication with the Moabites. Someone was able to convince the Jewish people that it was harmless to be romantic with the Moabites.  It was a “witty invention” that provoked God to wrath.  

“Witty Inventions” are new things that are introduced into our society that appear good and helpful.  “Witty Inventions” are new ideas and new devices that are introduced into our society that seem harmless.  Some of them will be harmless and some of them will be harmful.  Some of them will be fundamentally good and some of them will be fundamentally evil.  Some of them will be good and some of them will be evil based entirely on how they are utilized.  Some of them will be harmless and some of them will be harmful based entirely on how they are applied.  Guns are a good example of the nature of “witty inventions.”  There are all kinds of firearms that bring both the potential of help as well as the potential of harm.  Guns can be used to protect innocent people and they can be used to murder innocent people.  The internet is perhaps the best example of a “witty invention.” It can be used to share useful information with the right person and it can also be used to share terrible information with the wrong person.  It can be used to connect people for good reasons (e.g. church live streaming) and it can be used to connect people for bad reasons (e.g. dating site scams).

With the aid of Prudence, Wisdom sees through the appealing exterior of inventions and discerns their intention.  It is Wisdom that gives us the insight necessary to know if a new idea is helpful or hurtful.  It is Wisdom that gives us the insight necessary to know if a new product is darkness packaged in light or if it is indeed light.  It is important to note that Wisdom highlights the help of Prudence in her discernment of inventions.  She did not say, “I Wisdom dwell with fear” in verse twelve.  Wisdom is not fear.  Prudence is not panic.  Prudence is not pessimism either.  For Prudence, “new” does not mean bad.  For Prudence, “invention” does not automatically mean evil intention.  Wisdom FINDS OUT knowledge of witty invention” – she does not “assume evil intention of witty invention.”  Fear assumes evil intentions in everything new.  Fear assigns evil intention for every new invention.  Wisdom in the Old Testament is the “spirit of a sound mind” in the New Testament.  She is the enemy of the “spirit of fear” in the New Testament.  According to Paul the Apostle, God doesn’t give us the spirit of fear but He does give us the “spirit of a sound mind” and with that spirit comes the “spirit of power” (2 Timothy 1:7).

This statement in Proverbs 8:12 is intended to teach us that Wisdom and Prudence are never apart – they “dwell” together.  Prudence without Wisdom is caution with little to no action.  Wisdom without Prudence is knowledge with little to no caution.  Together, there is sound action based on knowledge and caution.  We need to know the intentions of inventions.  We need to “find out the knowledge of witty inventions.”  We need to see beyond the trends and beyond the crazes.  We need to see beyond the packaging.  Because she dwells with prudence, Wisdom will see any danger if it exists.  But because Wisdom is more than Prudence, she will see any good if it exists.  Because Wisdom is more than Prudence, she will see if and how an invention can be used for the glory of God. She will see if and how an invention can be used for the good of others.  Prudence points out the potential danger in a new idea or product and Wisdom takes that knowledge and chooses the right action. 
If you’re without wisdom, you’ll be without prudence.  When “witty inventions” are introduced into your life, you will be without the virtues necessary to know what to do with them.  If you’re given to fear, you’ll reject anything new under the assumption that all new ideas, suggestions and products are designed to hurt you.  If you’re given to foolishness, you’ll accept everything new under the assumption that all new ideas, suggestions and products are harmless.  Without prudence, you’ll believe every good thing you hear.  Without wisdom, you won’t know what to believe.  Wisdom is that virtue that consults with other virtues before it gives you the direction you should take when confronted with one of the many “witty inventions” of life.    

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