Wisdom Literature in the Hebrew Bible
Wisdom literature in the Hebrew Bible teaches us that ‘Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall’ (Proverbs 16:18).
Pride is listed as one of the seven deadly sins, and is usually accompanied by a negative connotation and is not a quality to be sought after in a person. We don’t usually describe someone as full of pride and mean it as a good thing.
In a recent study of Daniel I looked at the Vision of Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 2.
There, Daniel explains both the dream and the interpretation of the King of Babylon’s vision. An image of multiple metals with the Head of Gold (being Nebuchadnezzar and his kingdom) proceeding to lesser quality elements of Silver, Bronze, Iron and Iron mixed with Clay. Each metal being a Kingdom replacing the previous Kingdom. Finally an unmade stone destroys the last remaining Kingdom and grows to fill the earth. Despite clearly hearing the correct interpretation and future, Nebuchadnezzar proceeds to build a large image made solely out of Gold. Not just the head of Gold like in his dream, but the whole body. This shows his pride and arrogance in the face of the God of Heaven.
"Pride" In Hebrew
Pride is גֵּוָה ‘Gevah’ in Hebrew.
The Rabbis note that Man was made last in Creation, in order that if he became too proud he could be reminded that even a mosquito preceded Adam. Which is humbling when you think about it. Adam was also made from dust. Which interestingly can be read in multiple ways, on one level it is humbling to be reminded that we are made from dust, as is everything else.
So we are no better than anything else for we all come from the same stuff. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. However on the other hand (you have to read the Bible with two hands), from the earth comes everything for life, all food, our shelter and clothing, plus every material of beauty. Which makes the Earth itself very special. And we can be reminded that we come from such a necessary and important material.
As the Word of God says, ‘When G-d saw that He had made the world He called it Good’.
The Pride of Lucifer
It was pride deep in the heart of the Morning Star (הֵילֵל), Lucifer in Latin and also known as Satan (Isaiah 14:12) that fermented a rebellion in Heaven, leaving Heaven corrupt to the stain of sin.
Accordingly in Jewish thought, Heaven itself is no longer perfect. Sin had started there and left its mark. Revelation reminds us that there is a War in Heaven. Michael and his angels fight the Dragon and his angels (Rev 12). Thus when praying for peace on Earth, Jewish people also pray for peace in Heaven. Finally God in the end of time will renew both Heaven and Earth. If Heaven was already perfect and without corruption, then there would be no need to make a new one.
Pride often has the opposite affect to the intention of the person with the Pride. For example, Nimrod builds Babel. Nimrod becomes the father of rebellion. He knows God flooded the world last time there was abundant evil so he seeks to build a tower tall enough to be above the potential food waters. Also he seeks to build a tower so that man is in one place and not scattered, yet in the end that is exactly what happens, the people are indeed scattered across the face of the Earth, the opposite to Nimrod’s intentions. Subsequently Babel becomes a symbol and word of confusion.
Yet Pride Is One Of G-d's Characteristics
Yet for all the negative connotations of the word Pride in Man, Pride is a characteristic of God Himself. Psalm 93 declares that ‘The Lord is King, He is robed with Majesty ..’ (Psalm 93: 1) This is the English translation, the Hebrew actually says the Lord is clothed with Pride.
How is it that He is dressed in Pride and what sort of Pride?
The Psalm continues to describe the Creation, the Throne of Heaven and the House of God, and the Lord is higher than all these wondrous things. We, the decedents of Adam, cannot be prideful for our pride too often leads to evil intentions, but the Lord can. He can even wrap Himself in Pride. He made the World and He can boast in its beauty, but not us. After all, when He had made the world He did say its was Good. He can sit on the Throne in Heaven and be majestic and His pride leads only to good intentions and for the benefits of Man.
"The Lord is King, He is is clothed with Pride..."