Wisdom is the principal thing - חכמה ראשית reshith chochmah, "wisdom is the principle." It is the punctum saliens in all religion to know the true God, and what he requires of man, and for what he has made man; and to this must be added, under the Christian dispensation, to know Jesus Christ whom he hath sent, and for what end He was sent, the necessity of his being sent, and the nature of that salvation which he has bought by his own blood.
Get wisdom - Consider this as thy chief gain; that in reference to which all thy wisdom, knowledge, and endeavors should be directed.
And with all thy getting - Let this be thy chief property. While thou art passing through things temporal, do not lose those things which are eternal; and, while diligent in business, be fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.
Get understanding - Do not be contented with the lessons of wisdom merely; do not be satisfied with having a sound religious creed; devils believe and tremble; but see that thou properly comprehend all that thou hast learnt; and see that thou rightly apply all that thou hast been taught.
Wisdom prescribes the best end, and the means best calculated for its attainment. Understanding directs to the ways, times, places, and opportunities of practicing the lessons of wisdom. Wisdom points out the thing requisite; understanding sees to the accomplishment and attainment. Wisdom sees; but understanding feels. One discovers, the other possesses.
Coverdale translates this whole verse in a very remarkable manner: "The chefe poynte of wyssdome is, that thou be wyllynge to opteyne wyssdome; and before all thy goodes to get the understandynge." This is paraphrase, not translation. In this version paraphrase abounds.
The translation in my old MS. Bible is very simple: Begynnynge of wisdam, welle thou wisdom; in al thi wisdam, and in al thi possioun, purchas prudence. He is already wise who seeks wisdom; and he is wise who knows its value, seeks to possess it. The whole of this verse is wanting in the Arabic, and in the best copies of the Septuagint.
Instead of חכמה קנה keneh chochmah, get wisdom, the Complutensian Polyglot has בינה קנה keneh binah, get understanding; so that in it the verse stands, "Wisdom is the principle, get understanding; and in all this getting, get understanding." This is not an error either of the scribe, or of the press, for it is supported by seven of the MSS. of Kennicott and De Rossi.
The Complutensian, Antwerp, and Paris Polyglots have the seventh verse in the Greek text; but the two latter, in general, copy the former.