This fourth discourse can be said to be a continuation of the third. It has two sections, verses 1-12 contain exhortations from the teacher to his students to hold onto wisdom, and vv. 13-18 discuss the blessings of wisdom.
The exhortations are made up of a series of two verse couplets, beginning with vv. 1-2 which discuss obedience to God. The second couplet (vv. 3-4) tells the student to remember him, the third (vv. 5-6) tells the student to trust God, the fourth (vv. 7-8) to reverence God, the fifth (vv. 9-10) to honor God, and finally, the sixth (vv. 11-12) to submit to God. The student who does these things will gain wisdom, and wisdom has many blessings.
The blessings of wisdom are set forth for the student. In the 13-14, we see that wisdom is better than silver or gold, for wisdom has a yield much greater than both of them. In 15-16, wisdom is shown to be better than rubies, then wisdom is said to bring about long life, and more wealth than by any other means. Then the section concludes by telling the student that wisdom brings about a pleasant and peaceful life of many years, and much happiness.
It’s interesting that Solomon uses this device to appeal to his students to prefer wisdom over anything else, for in doing so, he has set up a contrast between wisdom and other things in this life under the sun that most people would like to get their hands on; silver and gold, for instance… or can we just say money here? Most anyone you talk to would tell you they would like to have more money, for with money they can buy the things they need, like food and shelter, but also because money can provide a person with the desires of their heart. They can have fancy things, luxury things, or they can have a better education or better opportunities for whatever they want to do. By contrast, wisdom delivers a superior return on investment, for investing in wisdom can bring a longer life, because wisdom will guide a person to be prudent in their actions, avoiding situation that can cut life short or imperil their health. Wisdom can also bring peace and happiness that money cannot buy and jewels cannot provide, by enabling a person to get along better in their community, make better personal and business decisions and choices that come from better priorities.
In short, of all the things a person can strive for under the sun, wisdom is the one thing that outshines all the rest. Solomon has now set up the fifth and sixth discourses, in which he will take a subtle shift in his thinking…