The Old Testament Lesson for this Trinity Sunday is written in the book of Proverbs. The text is Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 and encompasses much of what is referred to as the “second poem concerning wisdom” (Proverbs 8:1-36). There is a great deal of information and important theology imparted in these verses and a proper translation is essential to avoid the dangerous ditches. In fact, improper translations can and have been used throughout the Church’s history to support such heresies as Arianism.
The first thing to establish is the identity of “Wisdom.” These verses make this a fairly easy task. Wisdom is definitely the Christ, the Son of God. It is also important to note the message. The words from Wisdom are intended for all people, all of the children of mankind. These are not exclusive words for Israel, but for all the people of the Lord God’s creation.
The second part of the pericope can be divided as it lays out two topics, important topics, concerning Wisdom. Verses 22-26 specifically deal with Wisdom’s divinity and pre-existence and verses 27-31 with Wisdom’s role in creation as a “Master Craftsman.” We will speak more of this as we move into the text.
Because this is the chosen pericope for Trinity Sunday, it is useful to consider why. Andrew Steinmann writes: “An abundance of synonyms and temporal phrases are used in Proverbs 8:22-26 to clarify that Solomon is referring unambiguously to the preexistence of divine Wisdom, a hypostasis of the eternal Trinity” (Proverbs: Concordia Commentary Series, Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, MO, 2010, 210). Steinmann provides a wealth of information in his Proverbs commentary and my thanks go out to him. We will discuss the use of these verses and their relationship to Trinitarian doctrine a bit more as we move along.
The words from Wisdom are intended for all people, all of the children of mankind.
8:1 חָכְמָה (choch-mah) “Wisdom”
Due to the identity of Wisdom with the Son of God, it should be capitalized. Also, the same for “Understanding.”
וּתְבוּנָה (u-te-vu-Nah) “Understanding”
8:2 רֹאשׁ-מְרֹמִים עֲלֵי-דָרֶךְ (be-rosh me-ro-Mim a-lei Da-rech) “on the heads/tops of the heights over/beside the road,” “on the hills above the roads”
עֲלֵי (a-lei) A poetic form of the preposition l[; (al)
נְתִיבוֹת (ne-ti-Vot) “crossroads; path; the paths [meet]”
נִצָּבָה (nitz-Tza-vah) : “to be positioned; to stand; to station oneself” Only occurrence of this form in Proverbs.
8:3 קָרֶת (Ka-ret) “city; town”
מְבוֹא (me-Vo) “entrance”
תָּרֹנָּה (ta-Ron-nah): “to call loudly; cry aloud”
8:4 אִישִׁים (i-Shim) Rare form for “people.” Note how Wisdom calls to everyone... all the children of man.
8:22 קָנָנִי (Ka-na-ni): “to acquire; to possess”
Following the LXX, some have argued this can be translated “create.” This is a dangerous translation which supports the Arian controversy that the Son is a created being. The rest of the text makes it clear Wisdom is preexistent and Wisdom is NOT a created being. This theology is made quite clear in both the Nicene Creed (begotten not made...) and the Athanasian Creed (the Son is neither made nor created, but begotten...). Christ does not have a beginning or an end—alpha/omega.
רֵאשִׁית (re-Shit) “beginning”
מִפְעָלָיו (mif-a-Lav) “deed; work; way”
8:23 נִסַּכְתִּי (nis-Sach-ti): “to be woven; to be appointed; to be installed; to be established” Also, Psalm 2:2.
מֵרֹאשׁ (me-Rosh) “beginning; primeval times”
The language in this verse indicates the “no beginning, no ending.” Wisdom is from
8:24 תְּהֹמוֹת. (te-ho-Mot) “deep waters; primeval flood”
חוֹלָלְתִּי (cho-Lal-ti): “to be brought forth; also twirl, dance or writhe”
מַעְיָנוֹת (ma’ya-Not) “source; headwaters; spring; fountain”
נִכְבַּדֵּי (nich-bad-dei), participle: “to be heavy”
8:25 בְּטֶרֶם (be-Te-rem) “before”
הָטְבָּעוּ (ha-te-Ba-‘u): “to be settled”
8:26 תֵּבֵל (te-Vel) “mainland; world”
8:27 בְּחֻקוֹ (be-Chu-kov) : “to inscribe; to make a mark; to mark out”
חוּג (Chug) “horizon; vault”
תְהוֹם (te-Hom) “deep; flood; primeval ocean”
This section, verses 27-31, deals with another role of Wisdom—creation. As we look at it one cannot help but think of John 1:1ff. It is likely John was considering Proverbs as he penned his Gospel.
8:28 בְּאַמְּצוֹ (be-am-me-Tzo): “to make firm; to strengthen; to be stout”
בַּעֲזוֹז (ba-a-Zoz): “to grow strong; to show oneself strong”
8:29 מוֹסְדֵי (Mos-dei) “foundation”
8:30 אָמוֹן (a-Mon) “master craftsman; architect; master workman”
שַׁעֲשׁוּעִים (a-shu-im) “joy; object of delight; object of pleasure; [His] delight”
מְשַׂחֶקֶת (me-sa-Che-ket): “to dance; play; rejoicing; to laugh”
8:31 בְּתֵבֵל (be-te-Vel) “mainland; world; inhabited”
The challenge of preaching on Trinity Sunday is no small one. It is far too easy to turn one’s sermon into a systematic lecture on the Triune God. This is best left for the Bible Class! Perhaps, instead of focusing on the how and why of the Trinity’s role in Creation, one could focus on the joy God has within the Godhead for His creation. There is great love for the things which bring one joy, love for the Son/Wisdom, and love poured out in the creating and upon the creation.
Concordia Theology- Various helps from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO to assist you in preaching Proverbs 8:1–4, 22–31.
Text Week-A treasury of resources from various traditions to help you preach Proverbs 8:1–4, 22–31.