CONSTANTIN C. ȘTEFAN
Vasile Balș Lodge No.370, NGLR
The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;
To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding;
To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity;
To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
A wise man will hear, and will increase learning;
and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:
To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.
Honored by the invitation of brother Claudiu Ionescu to offer some thoughts on the occasion of this jubilee issue of the Masonic Forum Magazine, I considered that it would be useful to us to turn back in history and each of us toward himself, by evoking the personality of the King Solomon, in light of his book called Proverbs, a source for the moral health and the good fruition of our spirits, the purpose of book being to teach mankind about the practical wisdom of life.
King Solomon was the son of king David and succeeded him to the throne. He, king Solomon, was considered the wisest man of his age.
This great leader, Solomon, had a very brilliant reign (1 Kings 2:12) under the auspices of the wisdom and the power of God:
In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, Ask what I shall give thee.
And Solomon said, Thou hast shewed unto thy servant David my father great mercy, according as he walked before thee in truth, and in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart with thee; and thou hast kept for him this great kindness, that thou hast given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. And now, O Lord my God, thou hast made thy servant king instead of David my father: and I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in. And thy servant is in the midst of thy people which thou hast chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered nor counted for multitude. Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days.
And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days. (1 Kings 3:5-14)
King Solomon is the author of the first 29 of the 31 chapters of the Book of Proverbs. The collection of the proverbs of Solomon was made under the reign of the king Hezekiah, by wise men at his court (721-687 B.C.) and kept by the chancellor of the state. (Proverbs 25: 1)
The characteristic of the Proverbs of Solomon is the Law of the Chosen People, with its religious and moral truths, developed through the godly rule of the people, through the godly taking care – providence. The Book of the Proverbs of Solomon displays, supports and argues the fact that the Mosaic Law being the guide in all circumstances of life, man must set right his deeds and his thoughts only by the will of God. The general background of these truths is constituted by wisdom, which culminates in respect for God. This respect bears the generic name of awe of God.
The divine inspiration of this house was and is recognized by the synagogue as well as the by Christian churches. The Patriarchs of the Christian Church considered the contents of the book of Proverbs and they named it ‘The wisdom concerning the whole of virtue’. Thus put, wisdom is a superior capacity of understanding and judging things. As it is presented to us in the book of Proverbs, it constitutes the basis of virtue. It is a special, firm inclination toward a certain kind of occupations or actions which are morally beautiful. It is a trait of character which aims constantly the ethical ideal, the good. Perpetual action toward understanding, the steady inclination on the path of the good require the utilization of force and moral energy. The supreme force is God. The creator of time, matter, space uses force wisely in His works:
The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens. By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew. (Proverbs 3:19-20)
The wisdom, the force and the beauty, attributes of God, are reflected in the three constitutive parts of man’s soul: reason, will and feeling, but also in faith, hope and charity, the three virtues named by the Apostle, which help man in his life to become better when he is good and at the end of life help him to return home, to his Creator.
The Wisdom of King Solomon generated and supported his force as ruler, the power that every man obtains if he comes near to the light of knowledge and to the understanding of the meaning of the world, of life. God protects and strengthens the one who seeks wisdom:
And the Lord said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually. And if thou wilt walk before me, as David thy father walked, in integrity of heart, and in uprightness, to do according to all that I have commanded thee, and wilt keep my statutes and my judgments: Then I will establish the throne of thy kingdom upon Israel for ever, as I promised to David thy father, saying, There shall not fail thee a man upon the throne of Israel. (1 Kings 9:3-5)
The lack of wisdom in man’s life, because of the lack of interest in self-knowledge, in coming to know one’s fellowmen and God, leads to powerlessness, to the noticeable diminishment of the life force and, finally, to disaster:
Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me: For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. (Proverbs 1:23-30)
The Book Proverbs of Solomon presents in an antithetical manner both ideas and judgments: it juxtaposes wisdom and folly; faith and unbelief; justice and injustice; piety and pride; wealth and poverty; diligence and sloth.
It treats of the relationship between God and man, between parents and their children, between the authorities and their subjects, between man and woman, between master and servant, between friend and enemy.
The Proverbs chastise moral weakness as a trait of character whose persistency transforms into vice and they recommend the practice of virtue as the only possibility for regeneration and for the maintenance of the necessary force for a decent and fruitful existence. The insufficient work of the good, of the virtues, leads to the appearance and the development of thoughts and deeds bereft of moral density.
The strength of character, the acquisition and the maintenance of the right way of life for the good man, these must have among their components wisdom, good judgment, foresight, right thinking, science, justice, understanding. (Proverbs 2:2-11)
The Book of the Proverbs of Solomon, one of the most significant literary monuments of the poetry of those times, a sliver of divinity, through the content inspired by God, is for all men, whether they will know it or not, the most tempestuous and the most constructive plea for knowledge.
Wisdom belongs only to the conquerors… (Proverbs 1:7-9)