Desirability of wisdom in the Old Testament
During Great Lent, the Eastern Orthodox Church reads the books of Isaiah, Genesis and Proverbs. Why those books? I think the daily readings on March 4 and 5 suggest an answer (Isa 2:3-11; Gen 1:24-2:3; Prov 2:1-22; Isa 3:1-15; Gen 2:20-3:20; Prov 3:19-34). The three books are trying to illustrate God’s relationship to His people from three different perspectives. Genesis narrates the creation of God’s people. Conversely, Isaiah describes the destruction of God’s city because of her disobedience. Proverbs serves as a commentary on both the creation and destruction stories by arguing that seeking after wisdom is the saving grace of God’s people, that wisdom preserves God’s city. While Jerusalem has grown rich with silver, gold, and other material treasures (Isa 2:7), it has neglected the true silver and spiritual treasures of wisdom (Prov 2:4-5).
So if wisdom is to be desired above all else (according to Proverbs) and lack of wisdom caused Jerusalem’s downfall (according to Isaiah), then wisdom looks like a pretty good thing according to the Bible. Why, then, does the account of the Fall of Adam and Eve describe the desire for wisdom as evil? “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate” (Gen 3:6; emphasis added). Why is desiring wisdom considered evil before the Fall but the highest good after it?