Hebrew Word For Wisdom: Chokhma

by | Feb 20, 2024 | Blog | 0 comments

Have you ever heard of the phrase the older you get, the wiser you become? When you think of your grandparents, do you truly believe they are wise? For most people, wisdom comes with age, and we often assume older people are wise. After all, they have tons of experience and have gained knowledge throughout their lives. While often wisdom comes with age, it’s not always the case. Nonetheless, the Bible teaches that wisdom comes from God – not old age as we may assume.

So what’s the Hebrew word for wisdom?

The Hebrew word for wisdom is “chokhma”. It appears approximately 200 times in the Old Testament. Three books focus heavily on wisdom: Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, and Psalms. Just from these three books, we learn that wisdom is more valuable than precious metals. It brings numerous blessings, including a long life, riches, honor, peace, and protection from evil. 

Unraveling the Hebrew Word For Wisdom

The most commonly used word for wisdom in the Hebrew Bible is chokhma. It refers to both divine and human wisdom. Chokhma also means skillful. An example in the Bible where we see this word is:

“Tell all the skilled workers to whom I have given wisdom in such matters that they are to make garments for Aaron, for his consecration so that he may serve me as a priest” (Exodus 28:3).

The original Hebrew word picture of wisdom (chokhma) is Tav, Mem, Kaf, and Chet.

  • Tav- truth, sign, mark, perfection, completeness, or doing things with a goal in mind
  • Mem- waters, liquid, living waters, mighty, knowledge, or wisdom
  • Kaf- a palm of a hand, covers, access, or anoint.
  • Chet- fence, boundary, protection, sanctuary, or separate

The meaning we get from these four pictographs is that wisdom is something perfect but hidden and can be accessed through the living water or true knowledge of God.

Where is Chokhma Found in the Old Testament?

Wisdom (chokhma) is one of the most important words within the Tanakh, and it has roots back to the beginning of creation when the Bible says

“By wisdom, the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding He set the heavens in place; by His knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew” (Proverbs 3:19-20). The books of Jeremiah and Psalms also reiterate a similar message (Jeremiah 10:12; 51:15; Psalm 104:24).

The whole creation process is evidence of God’s wisdom. The Bible also makes it clear that the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge and rejecting wisdom is rejecting YHWH (Proverbs 1:29; 2:6). So the foundation of wisdom is the fear of God (Proverbs 9:10, 15:33). In the rest of the Old Testament three books that have focused heavily on wisdom are: Proverbs, Psalms, and Job.

The first chapter of Proverbs begins with these crucial words that point it’s a book about wisdom: “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair” (Proverbs 1:1-3).

Solomon also refers to proverbs as “the sayings and riddles of the wise” and calls those who despise wisdom fools (verses 6-7). Wisdom is also an example of a divine trait people are urged to acquire and grow (Proverbs 3:13–15).

The 150 Psalms are examples of wisdom literature because they deal with life’s difficult problems and provide solutions. On the other hand, the book of Job deals with the “problem of evil” and God’s justice.

The Hebrew Word For Wisdom, “Chokhma” is Feminine

While God is portrayed as relationally male in the Bible, wisdom is personified as a woman (Proverbs 1:20–33; 8).

In Hebrew languages, most nouns have a strong gender component. The word wisdom in English is neutral, i.e., it’s not assigned to a specific gender, but that’s not the case in Hebrew. The Hebrew word for wisdom, chokhma, is grammatically feminine. So, in the Hebrew Bible, it would have been natural to speak of wisdom as a “she.” But this has nothing to do with literal gender.

Are Older People Wiser?

When we look at wisdom as an accumulation of life experience and knowledge gained over time, it does come with age. The book of Job reminds us that older adults can have wisdom (Job 12:12; 32:7-8). Solomon once sought the expertise of elders to help him make important decisions about the kingdom of Israel (1 Kings 8-14).

King Rehoboam also followed Solomon’s lead by asking his elders, “How would you advise me to answer these people?” (1 Kings 12:6-8). Nonetheless, those who are wise are reminded to lean not on their own understanding but in all ways to acknowledge God (Proverbs 3:1-6).

Wisdom Of The Youth: Elihu

Wisdom is insightful knowledge and involves speaking from the heart. Jesus was filled with wisdom from His youth (Luke 2:40). God the Son always spoke wisely. “It is in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). His wisdom was so great that the crowds came from afar to hear what He had to say, and the guards even exclaimed “No one ever spoke the way this man does” (John 7:46).

An example of a young man in the Old Testament who had wisdom was Elihu, son of Barakel the Buzite. Elihu was one of Job’s friends, but not one of the three Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar rebuked by God (Job 42:7-8). Job’s friends explained that he must have done something sinful, so God punished him. Job maintained that he had not sinned and that God was treating him unfairly. While this conversation was going on, Elihu was listening quietly.

Elihu was the youngest on the scene, and as it’s common, he wanted to hear what his elders had to say: “I am young, but you are elderly; that is why I was fearful and afraid to explain to you what I know” (Job 32:6). To show respect to elders, Elihu had also waited before speaking.

He knew that older people were more likely to have wisdom. That is why he says, “Age should speak, advanced years should teach wisdom” (verse 7). But he also points out, “It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right” (Verse 9) to prove that wisdom comes from God.

Elihu spoke with great wisdom and defended God’s actions. This encounter between Elihu and his friends shows that older adults can lack wisdom.

Wisdom is More Precious Than Gold

The rewards of wisdom are indeed great. The Bible compares wisdom to gold and a tree that produces fruit and further explains that those who are wise will have riches, honor, and a peaceful life. In fact, everyone who uses it will be protected from evil and remain happy (Proverbs 2:10-12; 3:13–15; 16:16).

When we seek godly wisdom we gain knowledge that helps us to differentiate between right and wrong, good and evil. That type of knowledge leads to eternal life. Since wisdom is more valuable than gold, the Bible often urges us to seek it above all things (Proverbs 4:7). And If we lack wisdom, we should ask God who gives generously to all without reproach (James 1:5).

Solomon is a good example of the benefits that come with asking for wisdom. When he sought godly wisdom, he not only gained a discerning heart but he was also bestowed with vast wealth, honor, and a long life.


The Bible is full of insight and the Hebrew word chokhma helps us to understand that the foundation for acquiring wisdom is the fear of God. Scripture also encourages us to seek knowledge because it brings abundant blessings and helps to protect us from evil.

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About: Ronie

Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.
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Ronnie Amaya has been actively involved in ministry since his high school and university days where he served as a Christian union leader. After graduation, he worked as an itinerary minister preaching in Schools, Universities, Street Evangelizations, and Churches. In 2018, he led a team in planting a new church in Nairobi, Kenya where he is currently serving as the lead pastor.

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