“Indeed, she reaches from end to end mightily and governs all things well.”
Wisdom is a powerful figure, the throne partner of God, and without her people fall into folly. This picture of the Wisdom of God painted for us as a woman comes to us in the book of Wisdom. Woman Wisdom is a spirit of grace and goodness who permeates the universe, both transcendent and with men and women. That this image has been compelling for many over the centuries is quite understandable. Woman Wisdom is not separate from God, but the embodiment of the wisdom of the Creator, and therefore is one of the rare feminine images of God.
Perhaps a feminine image of the God of Jewish tradition was needed in the culture and time the book was written. Scholarship points to the author as being a Jewish teacher in Alexandria close to the beginning of the Roman emperor Augustus’ reign in 28 B.C. The Jewish community in Alexandria at that time was extensive and no doubt faced the perils of any faith group living within the larger social context of a different religion. The author of Wisdom is an apologist for his faith, showing his readers that their tradition is the right one and their God the only god it is wise to follow. This author is a product of his multicultural setting; he uses Greek structures and arguments as well as the forms of Hebrew poetry, and he borrows from regional traditions, including those from the cult of Isis, which was very popular in that area at that time.
The author names himself as King Solomon, which is common for writings in the wisdom literature. The Catholic and Orthodox Bibles contain the book while Protestant traditions do not. The tone of the book, although similar in some ways, is more optimistic than Ecclesiastes, with the universe making more sense and the gift of wisdom being a saving factor of grace. As in Lamentations, God is spoken of as one who does not wish harm on human beings. However, by following false idols and turning away from God and his wisdom, people fall into folly and therefore receive punishment. The book contains a list of human errors, such as the making of clay idols and the worship of animals. This vice list is a form used in the Greek literature of the time to point out the problems of straying from the right God and the practice of monotheism, thereby showing an integration of Greek and Hebrew influences.
According to the author, wisdom is not merely the product of human inquiry, as the Greeks would have it, but a divine gift from a loving God. That God is loving and merciful, as well as wise and just, is an argument for sticking with this God in the face of other traditions. In modern settings Wisdom has the same effect. In an often secular and confusing society, it makes sense to turn to the God who forgives sins so that people can repent, and who loves all things that are (Wisdom 11:23-24).