Proverbs 21:22

A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof.

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Might does not make right, and neither does it guarantee success. In fact, it is not very important at all when compared to wisdom. A wise man is superior to a foolish man, no matter how strong, and no matter how confident in his strength, that foolish man might be. The lesson here is that wisdom is better than power or strength (Eccl 7:19; 9:13-18).

In a foolish and pleasure-mad generation, those with strength are honored and promoted more than those with wisdom. Those with real wisdom – knowing God’s will for any situation – are ignored or ridiculed. Instead of making such wise men their stars, the world glorifies athletes, actresses, and performing artists. What a disservice to wisdom or intelligence to publish the views of these persons over any other junior school graduate!

Wisdom is very useful. It can leverage your abilities. It can profitably direct your energy and efforts more efficiently than others may think possible. A lack of education, intelligence, experience, or popularity, among other apparent disadvantages, does not need to discourage or defeat you. Consider carefully Solomon’s excellent example of a weaker man sharpening his ax to outperform a stronger man with a dull ax (Eccl 10:10).

God’s wisdom can be very practical, as much of this book of Proverbs teaches. For example, it promotes capital investment to leverage labor by recommending oxen over a manual farm without oxen (Pr 14:4). Solomon also taught how to end disputes (Pr 15:1; 25:15), buy honestly (Pr 20:14), overcome discrimination (Pr 17:2), the value of good counselors (Pr 15:22), avoiding contingent liabilities (Pr 22:26), and many other things.

No matter how strong or secure an adversary or situation might appear, wisdom can help you overcome the efforts to oppress or resist you. Though men might bluster on and on in arrogant confidence, which makes them even worse than a fool (Pr 26:12), you can by wisdom discover their errors and weaknesses to overthrow them (Pr 18:17; 28:11).

The city of Babylon in 457 B.C. was impregnable and a wonder of the world. King Nebuchadnezzar had ruled with absolute power during his life, and now his capital city was under siege by the Medes and Persians. His grandson Belshazzar was so confident in the city’s strength that he feasted with his lords late into the night (Dan 5:1-4).

How strong was Babylon? Ten miles a side, it covered 100 square miles. The Euphrates flowed through the city for water, and the Hanging Gardens supplied food. Massive brass gates with iron bars protected the city from assault from the river. There were double walls surrounding the city, which were 75 feet high and 30 feet wide, with space between them. Outside the outer wall was a deep and broad moat supplied by the Euphrates.

The city and its enemies considered it impregnable to traditional siege or assault. Inside the walls were gardens and orchards to provide the city with its own food. With water from the Euphrates River, they could withstand a siege for twenty years. The Babylonians inside the city had no regard for the Medes and Persians outside. Belshazzar and his lords feasted into the night in great confidence of the strength of their city.

But the Persians had a king named Cyrus, whom God had chosen and blessed with wisdom (Is 45:1-4). His engineers diverted the Euphrates into an area used for water runoff during times of flooding. Cyrus then marched his army into the city by way of the riverbed. Due to arrogant confidence in their city, the Babylonians had left the gates from the river into the city open. Belshazzar was killed that night and the city taken easily.

What are the lessons? Wisdom is better than strength, and those who are confident in strength only are fools. Wisdom makes prudent and creative decisions, and God gave Cyrus special wisdom to devise a strategy to easily take the mighty city of Babylon.

God called Cyrus by name and foretold the taking of Babylon 150 years before Cyrus was even born (Isaiah 13:1-22; 44:21-28; 45:1-4; 47:7-9; Jer 51:30). Your problems might seem great, and your enemies might be arrogant with confidence, but the wisdom of God in the Bible can defeat both of them (Pr 22:17-21; Ps 19:7-11; II Tim 3:16-17).