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Wisdom at Creation
Proverbs 8:22 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
22 “Jehovah created me at the beginning of his way,
the first of his acts of old.
Jehovah created me at the beginning of his way: Here almost all translations replace God the Father’s personal name with the title “Lord” in all capital letters, “LORD.” The personal name of the Father Jehovah: (Heb. יְהֹוָה) the Tetragrammaton, יְהֹוָה (JHVH), is found in the Hebrew Old Testament 6,828 times. The Hebrew term rendered create (קָנָה qanah) means to bring forth with the figurative extension of giving birth here. Qanah has caused many debates as to how it should be rendered here. Like any word, it has different meanings, with the context being the determining factor of what the author meant.
In Proverbs alone, qanah is used to get or acquire guidance, insight, or wisdom. (1:5; 4:5, 7) It is also used in Proverbs 20:14 in reference to a buyer who buys something (qoneh). In Genesis 4:1, Eve says of her giving birth to Cain, “I have gotten [qaniti, given birth to] a man with the help of Jehovah,” which is a wordplay on Cain’s name, ‘something produced.’ Elsewhere in Deut. 32:6 and Psalm 139:13, qanah means to create. Here in Proverbs 8:22, the Septuagint and a few other ancient versions as well as the RSV, the TEV, and the NRSV say create, while the ESV, LEB, NASB say “possessed,” and the CSB says “acquired.”
We must remember that we are dealing with poetical language here, which is highly figurative. In other words, this does not mean that Jehovah literally gave birth to Wisdom or that the Father acquired, obtained, or produced Wisdom, who was already in existence before the creation of everything else and was actually the master workman (8:30) in the creation of everything. Nevertheless, the literal translation created is preferable, leaving the interpretation to the reader to ascertain what the author meant here by his use of qanah. It should be noted that many commentators believe verses 22-31 refer to Jesus Christ. More on this after verse 26.
The beginning of his way is the literal rendering. What is meant by way (דֶּרֶךְ derek)? It has the sense of the acts, the workings of God, and what he is doing. When interpreting the beginning, we can note what the author does not say to understand what he does say. He does not say at the beginning or in the beginning. The Hebrew (רֵאשִׁית reshith) beginning is tied to me, Wisdom, as it is explaining me as the beginning or first of his works, that is, before the creation of everything. Before the creation of the heavens, the earth, and man, Wisdom was already there.
The first of his acts of old: Here again, we gave first (קֶדֶם qedem), which is also tied to me, Wisdom, in the first line and has the same sense as beginning. The Hebrew word rendered acts (מִפְעָל miphal or מִפְעָלָה miphalah) is equivalent to way (Heb. derek), and it too has the sense of the acts, the workings of God, what he is doing. Of old (מֵאָז meaz) refers to a time before the oldest of God’s works.
Verse 22 is the beginning of five verses that will stress that Wisdom was there from a time before the creation of everything. She was the first or earliest of his works, in existence for time itself. Again, Wisdom never was “produced.” It never began to exist because God the Father has always existed, and Wisdom has always been with him. We return to the words of Proverbs 3:31, “Happy is a man who finds wisdom.”