The Vanity of Wisdom
Solomon was given wisdom by the Lord in answer to his prayer. Solomon acknowledged that he has more wisdom than all that have ben before him in Jerusalem. I would say that he was the smartest man who ever lived. His wisdom is beyond compare. However, Solomon concluded that wisdom is also vanity. But to make things clear, what Solomon is telling here is human wisdom not the God given wisdom.
A. Definition: The right use or exercise of knowledge; the choice of laudable ends, and of the best means to accomplish them. This is wisdom in act, effect, or practice. If wisdom is to be considered as a faculty of the mind, it is the faculty of discerning or judging what is most just, proper and useful, and if it is to be considered as an acquirement, it is the knowledge and use of what is best, most just, most proper, most conducive to prosperity or happiness. Wisdom in the first sense, or practical
wisdom, is nearly synonymous with discretion. It differs somewhat from prudence, in this respect; prudence is the exercise of sound judgment in avoiding evils; wisdom is the exercise of sound judgment either in avoiding evils or attempting good. Prudence then is a species, of which wisdom is the genus. (Webster)
B. Scripturally, wisdom is the knowledge and fear of the Lord which results in a hatred of sin and a love for truth and righteousness (Job 28:28; Ps. 111:10; Prov. 1:7; 2:10- 13; 9:10; 15:33).
C. Wisdom is the principal thing in life and more valuable than all precious
commodities (Job 28:12-19; Prov. 4:7; 8:11; 16:16).
D. Those who reject God’s Word have no wisdom in them (Jer. 8:9).
E. The wisdom of God is the gospel of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:20-24).
F. All treasures of wisdom are hid in Jesus Christ (Col. 2:3).
G. True wisdom will show itself in meekness and holiness (James 3:13-17).
Illustration Who were the Wise Men in the long ago?
Not Herod, fearful lest he lose his throne; Not Pharisees, too proud to claim their own;
Not priests and scribes whose province was to know;
Not money changers running to and fro;
But three who travelled, weary and alone,
With dauntless faith, because before them shone
The star that led them to a manger low.
Who are the Wise Men now, when all is told?
Not men of science; not the great and strong;
Not those who wear a kingly diadem;
Not those whose eager hands pile high the gold;
But those amid the tumult and the throng
Who follow still the star of Bethlehem. (Illustrations Unlimited)
II. The Wisdom of Solomon (1 Kings 4:29)
A. As the sand that is on the sea shore (1 Kings 4:29).one cannot count the number of the sands of the sea, so neither could one comprehend the extent or the depth of his wisdom: or, as the sands of the sea are innumerable, so the vast capacity of his genius could comprehend innumerable different objects without confusion and disorder. We may take largeness of heart for grandeur of soul, magnanimity, generosity, liberality. As the land upon the sea-shore incloses a great body of waters, so Solomon’s mind contained an ocean of knowledge. (Coke’s Commentary)
B. Excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. (1 Kings 4:30). East of Israel which includes Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Egypt, were known for their wisdom. The “wisdom of Egypt” was of a different kind. It included magic Gen. 41:8; Ex. 7:11, geometry, medicine, astronomy, architecture, and a dreamy mystic philosophy, of which metempsychosis was the main principle. I would assume that Solomon was like Moses who is deeply versed in Egyptian science only that he is much more better.
C. For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about. (1 Kings 4:31). He was wiser than all men – He was wiser than any of those who were most celebrated in his time, among whom were the four after mentioned. Some suppose that sons of Mahol should be rendered masters of dancing or music, as Mahol signifies not only a dance or choir, but also an instrument of music of the pipe kind. Perhaps a reference is here made to Solomon’s skill in music and poetry, as he is compared to persons who appear to have been eminent poets and musicians.
D. And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. (1 Kings 4:32). Of the former, less than one-third are preserved in the Book of Proverbs; the rest are lost to us. The Book of Ecclesiastes, even if the composition of Solomon, can hardly be described as proverbs. Of his songs all have perished, except the Song of Solomon, and possibly Ps 72; 127.
E. 1 Kings 4:33 And he spoke of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springe out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. He spake of trees – beasts – fowl – creeping things, and of fishes – This is a complete system of natural history, as far as relates to the animal and vegetable kingdoms, and the first intimation we have of any thing of the kind:
Solomon was probably the first natural historian in the world.
F. 1 Kings 4:34 And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom. Solomon became so popular and have built a good reputation that visitors from other countries came to see and learn from him.
III. The vanity of wisdom (human wisdom which is based on philosophy and rational thoughts).
A. He perceived that such wisdom was like grasping for wind, it did not provide the answer to his problem – Eccl. 1:17b
B. He also saw that such wisdom and knowledge provide much grief and sorrow – Eccl. 1:18
1. As we might say today, it provides “information overload”
2. One becomes burdened as they learn of many things in life
a. Things they have no control over
b. Yet things they often worry over
C. The pursuit of wisdom yields grief and is thus vanity (1:18).
D. Wisdom is vanity because its advantages are seen in this life only (2:15).
E. Wisdom doesn’t guarantee success since its advantage can be vitiated by various
means. It is thus vanity (10:10).
F. Wisdom’s advantage can be thwarted by unpredicted misfortune (9:11).
G. Wisdom’s advantage can be thwarted by sin and folly (9:18, 10:5-7).
H. Wisdom’s advantage can be thwarted by improper timing (10:8-11).
IV. Advantages of wisdom in this life (God given wisdom)
A. Wisdom is superior to folly since it illumines a man (2:14, cf. 8:1).
B. Wisdom is superior to strength in that it can bring victory even against seemingly impossible odds (9:16, 18).
C. Wisdom is superior to fame because fame is so fleeting (4:10-14).
D. Wisdom has an advantage in averting calamity (9:14-18, 8:1-9).
E. Wisdom has an advantage as a protection and in preserving life (7:12).
Solomon may have been the smartest man who ever lived but he did not apply into his life the things that he knew. In many ways we are also like him. We know so many things and things that are sinful but still we do it. For those who want wisdom, come to Christ and you will find wisdom for in Him are hid all treasures of wisdom. Will you come to Christ?