Proverbs 21.22

Wisdom is Greater than Strength

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

The City of the Mighty

A. What it represents

1. The city of the mighty speaks of a strong, fortified city.

2. It would be a walled city with high walls that protect the city against invaders.

3. The walls would have high towers on them too—for watchmen to stand watch and warn the city of anything threatening that was approaching.

4. The walls might also be equipped with powerful catapults to fire rocks and other artillery against the enemy.

5. Babylon actually had a two walled system. Invaders who made it over the first wall would then be sitting ducks for those posted on the first wall. It was considered to be doubly safe.

6. The city of the mighty would also have strong fortresses (forts) built at strategic locations around the city.

7. In addition, such cities (city/states) would also have a mighty army, complete with powerful weapons, armor, chariots, spears, shields, and thousands of young, trained soldiers.

8. Thus, those who dwelt in that city (especially within the walls) felt safe and secure.

B. Its strength

1. Mighty: Strong; powerful; pertaining to physical strength.

a. Prov. 30:30 – The lion is said to be the “strongest” (mightiest).

b. Gen. 10:8, 9 – It was used of Nimrod. He was a “mighty” hunter. He was a physically powerful leader and hunter (of men?).

c. It was often used of soldiers (mighty men of war).

d. However, the term ascribes strength and might; it does not imply anything other than physical strength.

e. Nimrod was mighty, but not spiritual.

f. Lions may be the strongest, but not necessarily the wisest beast.

g. The average soldier may have been strong in battle, but not necessarily skilled in military strategy.

2. This term speaks of raw physical might, power, and strength.

a. The mighty city had stone walls; brass shields; stockpiles of ammunition; a trained army; stone fortresses; towers; etc.

b. And certainly from a human perspective, (all other things being equal), a mighty city is far better than a weak city.

c. A strong army is better than a weak army.

d. A walled city is better than an unwalled city.

e. A city protected by a fort is safer than a city without a fort.

C. Its confidence

1. Confidence: A state of trust; reliance or confidence; object of trust, what one believes in or has confidence in.

a. Ezek. 29:14-16 – Egypt had become the “confidence” of Israel. They trusted in Egypt to protect them against invaders instead of the Lord. They put their faith and trust in Egypt. It became their confidence.

b. Thus, the term is used of anything or anyone which serves as the object of trust… faith… confidence. It speaks of what man is relying upon.

2. In this proverb, Solomon speaks of the MIGHT of a city as their “confidence.”

a. In other words, the inhabitants of the city had placed their confidence and trust in their military might, the city walls, fortresses, and catapults to keep them safe.

b. Their physical might IS their confidence… the source of their security.

c. This thought is captured well in the NASV: “A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.”

d. Because of the high walls and towers, they believe that their city is impregnable.

3. Strong, fortified cities put their confidence (faith) in their strength (walls, fortresses) for their protection and safety. They TRUST in their walls and forts to keep them safe and secure.

a. And humanly speaking, this is quite sensible and logical.

The Wise Man

A. The wise man scales the city

1. Wisdom is not afraid of strength. The wise man goes for the jugular!

2. The wise man SCALES the city of the mighty.

a. He uses a clever tactic to overcome his lack of physical strength.

b. Scaling the city speaks of finding a way in. Perhaps he actually climbed the city walls at night and opened the gate, undetected.

c. Perhaps he snuck in some other way.

d. The exact tactic is not the point.

e. The point is that by employing wisdom, he overpowered the powerful!

B. The wise man casts down its strength

1. Mental strength is stronger than physical strength.

2. The weaker man who sharpens his ax can cut wood faster than a stronger man who has a dull ax… even though the force of the strong man’s blow is much greater.

3. Thus, Solomon states here that although a city might be strong and powerful, yet it CAN be cast down through something even MORE powerful: wisdom.

4. There are examples in the Bible of wisdom defeating strength.

a. David defeating Goliath.

b. Petra felt impregnable, but it is uninhabited today.

C. The wise man casts down its confidence

1. When a wise man casts down the strength of a city (knocks down its walls; invades the city; destroys its fortresses; captures its army) he has cast down its CONFIDENCE, i.e., that in which the inhabitants of the city trusted and placed their confidence in.

Wisdom is Superior to Physical Strength

A. True Wisdom

1. True wisdom is the fear of the Lord.

2. True wisdom is God-fearing, godly character.

3. True wisdom is trust and confidence in the Lord.

4. When this kind of wisdom is employed, it is greater than mere brute force. Wisdom is superior.

B. Similar Proverbs in English

1. We have a similar proverb: “The pen is mightier than the sword.”

a. A truly wise man can win the hearts and minds of the people without a sword. He can conquer them (so to speak) by strength of reason and the logic of his arguments.

b. Good diplomacy (wise words spoken) to a mighty city (a powerful enemy) can sometimes deter a war… and prove more powerful than the military.

2. Here is another similar proverb: “Right is better than might.”

a. A right argument (a wise argument that is upright and true) can be more powerful way of winning the hearts of men than a mighty, invading army.)

3. There is yet another proverb with similar meaning: “Brains are better than brawns.”

a. This is a point not missed through the ages.

b. There have been countless examples of it in both Biblical and secular history.

C. The Superiority of Wisdom

1. “Wisdom is better than strength.”

a. Ecc. 7:19 – Solomon’s point here is that wisdom “strengthens” a man in one sense. Not physically, but it enables him to overcome physical strength. In fact, it is 10 times better!

b. Ecc. 9:13-18 – Evidently Solomon KNEW of a particular example of this truth.
• Vs. 13 – Solomon marveled at the value of wisdom here.
• Vs. 14 – The situation: a little (weak) city besieged by a GREAT (mighty; powerful) king who built bulwarks around it. This little city didn’t stand a chance—humanly speaking.
• Vs. 15 – But this little city had something within its walls that was MORE powerful than the great king with his mighty army.
• This little city had an old, poor, wise man. This poor, wise man with his wisdom delivered the little city.
• His wisdom proved mightier than the strength of the great king and his army.

2. Prov. 24:5 – Wisdom has a strength all of its own.

a. A wise man IS strong. Maybe not physically, but what he has is more powerful than physical brute force.

b. Brains are better than brawn.

c. Brains are better than brawn, but WISDOM is better than them both.

d. It is possible to have brains, (great intellect; high IQ) but not possess true wisdom.

e. Having brains does not necessarily mean that he has the wisdom to implement his intellect in the proper manner… to use that information in a right way.

f. Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord.

g. Note that Solomon says the WISE man is strong—not necessarily the smart man.

h. Smart men CAN be foolish.

i. Smart men can be as foolish with their intellect as a mighty man is with his might.

j. “Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me…” – Jer. 9:23–24

k. As paradoxical as it may sound, the real strength of wisdom is acknowledging how WEAK we are—both physically, intellectually, and spiritually. In that is our true spiritual strength. That is TRUE wisdom. (As Paul said, “For when I am weak, then am I strong.)

3. Prov. 22:19 – God wants our trust (same word as confidence in Prov. 21:22) to be in HIM. (Not in OUR might or even OUR wisdom or intellect.)

4. In fighting spiritual battles, we should be aware that our enemy is much more powerful than we are.

a. However, we have the wisdom of God on our side.

b. We have the WORD of God on our side… but to implement the Word and experience the benefit of it, we must KNOW the word.

c. We have the Spirit of God on our side.

d. We have the armor of God on our side.

e. Wisdom teaches us to TRUST in what God has provided for us.

f. It is our wisdom NOT to rely on human strength or might, but to rely upon the Lord and HIS wisdom and strength.

g. By God’s wisdom we can experience victory over our enemies who are much more intelligent, more numerous, and more powerful than we are.

h. II Cor. 10:4 – Our weapons are not carnal, but are mighty THROUGH GOD.

i. As we walk with God, trusting in Him along the way, we can “scale the city of the mighty” and experience victory over our enemies day by day.