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Answering The Atheist
July 7, 2002 / Volume 2, Issue 27

Proverbs 3:13-15 speaks of the joy of wisdom, but Ecclesiastes 1:18 says wisdom brings misery. Is there a contradiction?

Let us look at the two passages in question:

Proverbs 3:13-15
"Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gains understanding; for her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies, and all the things you may desire cannot compare with her."

Ecclesiates 1:18
"For in much wisdom is much grief, And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow."

As was pointed out in last week's Answering The Atheist, there are two different kinds of wisdom mentioned in the Bible; that which is earthly (James 3:14-16), and that which is from above (James 3:17-18). From the context of Proverbs 3, it is evident that Solomon is commanding his son to find the wisdom which comes from above (Proverbs 3:19, 21-22, 35).

In reading Ecclesiates, one must understand the purpose of Solomon. He sought to find the meaning of life, what we are to do while on this earth. In his search, he tested many things, coming time and again to the conclusion that "...all is vanity and grasping for the wind." It is indeed as Solomon said, that with increase in wisdom and knowledge, so increase grief and sorrow. With greater knowledge and wisdom, one becomes more and more aware of the sorry state of the world, of one's own sins, of the vanity which resides under the sun (see 1:13-17). This wisdom and knowledge are bitter sweet, for one is then able to act upon such, and live acceptably before the Lord. However, the sad state of this world is ever before the one with wisdom and knowledge.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible