Proverbs 8

Original URL | Wednesday, June 1, 2022


this was originally i presented this to baltimore uh about two years ago and uh i i just haven't stopped thinking about it since it's just such a beautiful chapter

um here is a picture which um i saw in the metropolitan museum of art in new york city which is of the queen of sheba

arriving with all her exotic animals

and all the people coming into jerusalem are to hear the wisdom of solomon

and um [Music] it just sort of suggests because solomon is the author of um

it's attributed to solomon this chapter

and so might make us think about what sort of questions that we might bring to this chapter and just like sheba came to question and to to listen to solomon what

what do we bring what sort of questions do we bring to to wisdom what are we seeking um and what what are we looking for

and what does wisdom mean today to to our lives and [Music]

some of the ideas that we'll look at today um what is firstly that wisdom speaks out she calls out like like a prophet

and then in uh the second section she uh teaches

righteousness and is like a king a king who decrees justice

and uh she emphasizes how

her teaching is better than any material wealth

and of course this is kind of you know particularly pertinent to solomon himself who had great wealth and

you know but found still struggled with um

how to

how to maintain that path

and then probably the most fascinating part and i really want to focus on this section three tonight which is verse 22 to 31 which is

it you know talks about yahweh creating me and has all of the it's very clearly

got a creation uh theme it's got the heavens the earth the waters

um and it's really fascinating how wisdom is described as as being there with yahweh

and there's a particularly there's a

highly debated word

uh describing wisdom there

and then the fourth section is sort of encapsulates the whole thing where wisdom again is just calling out for children to listen to her

and we find her that she's in gates and she's in doorways

which are the classic moments of decision in the bible

and i hadn't quite realized when i started looking at this chapter how influential it has been and how controversial it was actually in the first couple of centuries a.d about trying to understand christ and what uh you know his his role

and so i i feel like i tread lightly uh when when uh when i was reading this

so brother jim boyko asked me when i sent this uh you know said what i would be presenting and the first question was why is wisdom feminine i certainly don't claim to be fully understanding the hebrew language and so david levin or anyone else wants to comment here please do this is this is my understanding from

um from a couple of commentaries and it has to do with the genre genre the language

and um the the techniques of um this poem

so firstly in poetry of course

um there's figures of speech like a word picture


something is used to describe in terms of something else for example here wisdom

what we would think of as an abstraction

is presented as a woman we know a woman and so we can use images relating to a person to talk about another abstract idea personification

and there's also

uh languages so english does not have gender we don't think we don't refer to our language words don't have gender whereas in hebrew they do just like spanish and you know italian uh have they

nouns have genders and so they have to agree the verbs have to agree

and it happens that wisdom is a feminine noun

and that's indicated here in in proverbs

8 verse 2 verse 1 actually i think it is where

the verbs

are calling kara and raising her voice have these

the tub which is indicating that they're agreeing with the feminine noun

and and so that when it's converted to english you have to then say talk about her because it's they're they're agreeing

i could not find any explicit reference to wisdom being a woman as in being described like a woman in contrast to

the foolish woman in proverbs 7 which is is described as a woman and also proverbs 31 which isn't really the same but that's where she's described as a wife

and so it's also important to to recognize that wisdom

is not a woman perhaps explicitly refuting or against that idea like asherah uh which was a you know a goddess a feminine goddess that worshipped that was worshipped so

yeah so it's a really interesting question i would love to know if anyone has any questions or comments about that

hey jake yeah so if i understand what you're saying is um

with the wisdom is not described as a one oh i see it there except in proverbs 31. so uh not explicitly is that right

only in this only in proverbs 31 what in not hearing yeah certainly

yeah so there's no like very obvious you know woman or wife or lady or there's no like very obvious

woman words used to describe uh wisdom

it's it seems to be just that the the noun is is feminine and so everything else has to agree with that gender of the word okay rather than

a person

got it got it

and then um

one of the points that you make is that wisdom it's really this personification it's not that wisdom is a goddess like asher it's it's yeah that's right yeah okay yeah that's clear to me brian lloyd also comments that understanding yeah so the second line understanding is also feminine and still has you know the verbs of raising her voice agree

with their

yeah it sort of get i never thought about any of this until i started learning a different language you realize there's genders it's uh english just doesn't doesn't carry that got it hey can i just jump in with an aside for carol carol if you change your v carol made a comment in the chat that she can't see the screen

and uh carol i think in zoom there are different view options one of which will allow you to select uh for example side by side with a speaker and you should be able to see jake's screen then

hope that helps sorry jake

yeah i'll shut up yeah so

yeah no it's okay um i think personification you know or figure of speech is is a good the best way to think about this to to illustrate

uh that's what solomon uses to to really make a word picture

um and also i guess it also implies with without

you know wisdom is not a goddess uh in contrast to many of the cultures which deified

um wisdom or you know had gods for for many different aspects here in contrast proverbs is simply a woman

just you know not uh anything special not that women aren't special but not a goddess i suppose

and i guess it also implies that wisdom [Music] is beyond those traditional sexual binaries that we think about feminine or masculine it's


it's a bit more complicated than that

but yeah it's it's you've got to trap tread a careful line between what's literal what's literary and what's consistent like is this how's this consistently portrayed

uh it seems that the solomon you know the author uses that

because wisdom is in a feminine noun it's also very suitable to talk about use feminine language and what we associate with with uh with you know traditionally feminine things


and and that image just builds itself naturally out of what what it was what it is

so let's actually get into the chapter um so the first chapter first sorry little section um is sort of a little introduction and it describes

in verses one to three where wisdom is situated and it's using really clear language to describe her as being at uh the tights the the tops of the heights she's in the way the crossroads the gates the portals the city entrances

and what's she doing there she's calling out lifting up her voice

she's shouting

and so this is

immediately thought of um what jeremiah has told her to do so you know baltimore had been studying jeremiah and so that you know for example verse chapter 7 of jeremiah he is told to go out and stand in the gate of the lord's temple to proclaim a message

to to speak to call out


there's this repetition of listening calling the people to listen to to to calling out to them and that's happening in the gate of the lord's temple

um this is you know this is where all the people are this is the crowds out doing their business going about their things and so this is a very public place this is not not

in an ivory tower or you know a city library or something like that this is a very public

demonstration it's very clear

and it chapter ends with the same types of ideas where uh wisdom is waiting

um or sorry the people are called to wait at her doors to watch the posts of her portals

and and to listen to her to listen to her reproofs

and these are the consequences

of those who who do listen to her

and so so another interesting movement is at the start she is

at the crossroads the gates very public place but by the end of the chapter she's in her home

she's in her home and and i guess like david levin suggested which home are we going to we're going to seek the home of wisdom lady wisdom's home or the seductress

who calls foolish people into her home

so there's a movement from public place to a private place

and and

i can't remember who which commentator pointed this out that wisdom loves attention

and uh so true she's seeking attention she loves attention

both by yahweh and also humanity

just like a prophet he's constantly harassing people to listen

jeremiah to turn back to yahweh to

listen to his ways

and another sim some other similarities are found in the second movement to isaiah chapter 40 and

this is where the prophet is crying out

and he's bringing a message of comfort and renewal to zion and to judah

leading to this fantastic creation poem about verse 20 asking this question don't you know haven't you heard weren't you told from the beginning from the first haven't you grasped how the earth was founded do you not know haven't you heard the eternal god is the lord creator of the ends of the earth

in verse back to proverbs

in verse four and five

wisdom is not just calling out to

you know the

the geeks and nerds it's calling out to all people to all men to all humankind and especially uh to the dupes and the fools

this is a universal message it's a very public message

there's a consistent theme of finding of searching

and finding and


is consistent with the that

she's speaking to all people this is a very universal

uh message after all humanity

this next section from 6 to 11 again it starts with this listen and what she's speaking and it's becomes she uses

very uh

like a body language her mouth utters her tongue declares truth her lips love wickedness

and in her mouth's

uh right in the right to all my mouth sayings

and uh yeah perhaps this is contrasting to the face or the lips of the the foolish woman in the um or the seductress in the previous chapter

and in chapter nine as well actually

and here is here is

the contrast between straight and crookedness

or uprightness

and twisted

nothing in them is twisted or crooked

they are all plain to the discerning and straightforward for those who define knowledge

and again these are universally accessible to all those who find knowledge

all plain to the discerning

and here wisdom teaches her value

it's greater than material wealth

this verb to take


carries the idea of thinking of eve who takes of the fruit

but here wisdom is saying take my reproof rather than silver

knowledge is choicer than fine gold wisdom is better than rubies and all precious things

can't match her worth

these incidentally these are some of the things that were uh described in genesis 2 as being around eden

there was gold in the land there were

precious gems

it also reminded me of

psalm 19 which is is also a beautiful hymn and poem to to yahweh and creation and also um torah

and then in amongst there is this repetition of six

uh saints

yahweh's teaching is perfect restoring to life

which is and then in verse 10 describes it as more desired than gold

more abundant than fine gold and kind of appropriately to the discussion earlier before the class sweeter than honey

the quintessence of bees

so then in verse 12 to 16 we transition into a theme of leadership

perhaps carrying that idea of you know material wealth and the propensity of of kings to

want to accumulate things

material things

and uh it's

there's there's more hints of of eden here as well of shrewdness i wisdom dwell in shrewdness and cunning knowledge i find

so this is obviously used to describe the serpent in the garden

but it's not necessarily a negative connotation because in proverbs 1 verse 4 wisdom describes

is described to impart shrewdness to the morally naive

so it's not necessarily

you know a negative thing it's i guess it's how it's used

are the net describe this as prudence

and the idea of dwelling in trueness is where are you sitting where's your location

that's what we found at the start where she's out

calling in the public places but by the end of the chapter she's in a house

and we might also think about the the tabernacle or the temple

uh where yahweh came and dwelt amongst the people

and we also get uh down in 15 and 16 where

king through me king's reign ruler's decree righteous laws by me prince's rule as well as nobles and all righteous judges

so these are the

you know people who are set to to lead and to uh

you know to govern on behalf of people and those people need wisdom to govern well

this is uh you know echoed in isaiah 11 which is described how

the messiah would use wisdom to do this very thing

just back to verse 13 where

fear of the lord is hating evil

pride haughtiness and evil way and perverse speech do i hate

very strong language here of of hating

and um

fear of the lord is hating evil and of course this is echoing back in in proverbs one where it talks about the beginning of wisdom

fear of yahweh is the beginning beginning of wisdom


i suppose the fearings

suggest a deep unconscious


within like a like a transfer of energy of

recognize of recognition

um recognizing the ways of yahweh

hating evil perverse speech again this idea of twisting and

crookedness versus upright and straight

verse 14 mine is counsel and prudence i am discernment

mine is might

this made me think of deuteronomy

particularly because

there's many echoes of wisdom actually in deuteronomy and

it carries it it's also curious because

most of deuteronomy is

is uh moses speaking

and so similar to this chapter 8 proverbs 8 where wisdom is speaking in deuteronomy moses is speaking and so there's similar uh themes and ideas and in contrast to example in exodus where you know the majority of that is god that is the direct speech of god

and both deuteronomy and proverbs are orientated towards very practical skills and prosperity

and life in the land

for example in verse 4 i sorry chapter 4 of deuteronomy moses is saying to be sure to do the statues and ordinances because it is wisdom and understanding to the people who will learn of all the statutes and say indeed this great nation is a very wise people

and of course the classic chapter of verse chapter 6 hear o israel the lord is our god the lord is one you must love the lord your god with your whole mind your whole being all of your strength

and particularly we'll touch on this a little later uh verse 7 of chapter 6 teach my words to your children and speak of them as you sit in your house as you walk along the road as you lie down and as you get up

there's a strong

emphasis on education and particularly educating children intergenerate transferring


the the elders to the younger

and and similar idea to wisdom or the father teaching the son in proverbs and also hear the

wisdom teaching to

to the kings and also what we saw before about to to the fools and to to all humankind

but particularly in verse chapter 17 of deuteronomy where

moses describes how when

you know it sort of concedes that when if you have kings yes you're probably going to want to have kings but if you do when you do that then what has to happen is that the king has to make a copy of this law on a scroll given to him by the priest

it must be with him constantly you must read it as long as he lives that he might learn to revere the lord he's god observe all the words of this law these statues and carry them out

the same idea of fearing the lord through understanding by paying attention to it

and to particularly it ends with not exalting himself above his fellow citizens

just because your king doesn't make you any greater in quality only in position

and then verse 17 to 21 um comes back to those

themes of uh wealth of riches

and um honor

with a with me long lasting wealth and righteousness my fruit is better than all fine gold my yield then the choice is silver

but we yeah just to repeat that in psalm 19 the the same type of emphasis of

that instead of accumulating wealth

well what about the wealth of wisdom

on the paths of righteousness i walk within the ways of justice

to pass substance onto my lovers and their storehouses to fill

and here we get in contrast to the hating we get i will love those who love me and those who seek me diligently will find me

it's very reciprocal isn't it

i love those who love me this is like jesus saying what's the law and the prophets

give unto others what you want to receive

that's what wisdom does

those who seek me will find me

and oh just to touch back on that in psalm 19 about the lord's judgments and commandments precepts teachings

being sweeter than honey

i thought that might

relate to the idea of milk and honey a land flowing with milk and honey

where scripture provides

both milk for the babes and also honey for the mature

for the

you know the discerning and those who seek it

you know jake it's it's steve um

you know i think that verse 17 there has a great contrast with the last verse in proverbs 8 you know so uh verse 17 says i'll love those who love me and then the last verse says uh all who hate me love death right so you know who are you going to love

you're gonna love wisdom or you're gonna love death

pretty easy choice

yeah and that that uh we'll touch on that in in a sec but yeah that that's basically where moses goes in deuteronomy doesn't it he goes choose life don't choose death oh yeah yeah yeah

jake i'm just doing a time check here we have about 15 minutes till uh or quarter after eight right now

thank you

so i love poetry and particularly something i loved during during the pandemic uh long aft long days sitting in the backyard not doing much and that's when i was reading about hebrew poetry by robert alter and so i just wanted to touch a little bit on the structure here of this section from 22 to 31 it's a really really elegant

uh poem

and stands alone as as a poem apart from the chapter and it begins in the first section a

where it begins with yahweh the lord

as the active subject and he created

and i've listed that out here where the second part in verse 26 yahweh is also the subject

and the verb is being is made

but this time the object is earth

and it's the time for example is from the outset and not yet and in between uh we'll get to in in a second

and then in the second section

there's a repetition of when

of time

when when when when when

and wisdom is there

i was there

i was by him

in verse 30. and it transitions from heavens i found the heavens

to strengthen the earth's foundations

so here's the three-part creation of heaven earth and in between

uh it's the deep

you see the waters

and the skies

and then in uh


f which i've got in the blue

it indicates that just as yahweh delights in wisdom day by day wisdom delights in humanity at all

times and in a sense this is from transitioning between a d and then f

wisdom delights in mediating between yahweh and his children and in a similar way to psalm 19 where

god's commandments or his instructions his torah brings joy and he's like honey to the mouth

so in these sections there's three main actors there's yahweh there's wisdom and then there's

humankind or the sons of man

and in the middle is wisdom there's a progression of wisdom's role where

she's just passive she was created she was shaped

spawned i was spawned so it's very passive

action things have been done to her


before the end so she's transitioned now now she's active she's playing before him playing in the world

and her delight so he's very active as this transition from being passive to active

um through time


it's so beautiful in this structure i really it's so elegant and

needs a lot of meditation

it's a kind of autobiography of wisdom it's exquisitely structured of creating

wisdom structuring maintaining the world

and serves as a backdrop behind the narrative

in the subsections of b

there's a development of two verbs used to describe her creating yahweh created me and i was shaped

these are similar verbs to for example psalm 139 where the psalmist is is praising god for how incredible his own body is

for you formed me you formed my inward paths you knitted me together in my mother's womb

and then in stroke c

there's a development of those birth images of um i was spawned


robert alter translates them as being the same word but they're slightly different but they carry this idea of birth without necessarily being a human

a human being involved in that

and then in stroke e there's a repetition of these waters the face of the deep the springs of the deep and the waters and the sea

and if you think back to genesis 1 how yahweh separates and divides these to bring forth life these elements these sort of chaotic elements of destruction and darkness that were there in the beginning are divided and controlled

and then in genesis 8 of course with noah

the floods these springs

of the deep and the fountains are let forth to destroy

but here yahweh is speaking of there being limited to not flout his command

just like how his speech yahweh

separated and divided

and then in g

there's playing

it's uh it's fun

it's laughter

playing and laughter

and the only really same ideas i could find is in leviathan of job 41 where leviathan

laughs and plays like

you know what in other parts of the bible leviathan is like a terrible monster but in job it's just

a playful thing to go away there's it's a fun thing

and the horse in job 39 is described as laughing going into battle

and perhaps it carries a similar idea of um isaiah i'm sorry isaac his name means laughter

because he's a miracle child

there's a promise child of promise


yeah so this slide is just showing how there's a repetition there's intensification this is

robert alter describes this as being a technique poetic technique where you say one thing and then you emphasize it you repeat it and emphasize it

uh to sort of carry momentum forward so i won't really touch on that because i want to get to this next section of


in verse 30 there it really depends on your translation there's very many different translations about this and i had to do a lot of research and didn't really find a good answer

um this is a very rare hebrew word amman


and it could be translated as being like a child robert alter goes with an intimate

which i think

sits in the boundaries between the different translations

and this translating this word as a child or an infant or a nurseling

so some translations use

reflects the earlier ideas we saw about a birth of being created or being born

or spawned

and it it's similar to um numbers 11 where moses is complaining to god

um to yahweh that he was he was not asked to carry israel in his bosom like a child like an infant

or in naomi how naomi takes the child of ruth


laid it on her lap and became his nurse

or in esther as this used to describe hadassah

who mordecai brought up hadassah

so in this reading this interpretation wisdom is declaring that while god was busy creating the world she was nearby she was like a child growing up in his care giving him delight

playing before him in the world that she would

that would be inhabited by mankind

and so then when humans are on the scene she

becomes like a guardian and a teacher

and her delight is with humanity

and this type of this translation teaches us that like with since wisdom is in this trusting relationship intimate relationship with god then we ought to be safe by his side even though there's elements of chaos of the waters and and the heavens

um [Music]


being by his side is delightful and it's fun playing before him

and his works

i really love this image of wisdom playing and delighting

wisdom is there and

beside him and even yeah this sort of suggests that yahweh is contemplating wisdom

um as part of the design and it's good

and and again that idea of wisdom as being

sort of seeking attention loving


and rejoicing in that

there's also a more common translation actually is as a master artisan or a craftsman

past person i suppose dust woman

and that carries this idea for example in ezekiel sorry that should be exodus 31 where um


sorry bezalel


uh i know someone else

anyway so bezelele is chosen to construct the tabernacle um and yahweh is saying i have filled him with the spirit of god with skill understanding knowledge craftsmanship

to work with gold and bronze and stone and all types of craftsmanship

and so and this carries this idea of a master artisan who

builds and creates so in this translation it carries more of the idea that wisdom was was by god's side helping him as like an architect or

um you know a more active type of role but in the previous verses there there is no implication that wisdom

was helping god um just that she was being born she was being formed as a development of birth and dependence rather than action


yeah i didn't really land on a particular preference yeah i

prefer the idea of a child or an infant because that's more consistent with the earlier verses

but i can also see how craftsman and partisan fits in with that as well yeah this language is used definitely particularly luke has described how jesus grew up with wisdom and favor of god that's definitely picked up in the new testament um


using this language and obviously uh john 1 the introduction to john 1 proverbs 8 and genesis 1 uh you know it's a midrash they're interpreting they're using that to try and describe jesus are the implications of what it meant for the son of god to come to earth in flesh

and so it's using this type of language

so thank you and i'll just um

try and get forward to the end so we can we can discuss a little more

um yeah so from verse 32 which we looked at this earlier about how

now wisdom is in her home and she's calling for the children to listen to her

um three times

and so you have to ask her okay what are you listening to who are you listening to

and whose house are you going into i suppose

the house of god or house of wisdom

yeah some 19 echoes these same types of ideas um

you know the laws and instructions and commandments are sweet

and so i just want to end here by reflecting on verse 10 and which was like verse 17 i will love those who love me and those who seek me diligently find me

um it's a highly compressed

design pattern of wisdom of like what jesus describes do to others what you want them to do to you if you want x

do that to someone first this is the golden rule jesus describes in matthew as this is the law and the prophets it's reciprocation

and so what we looked at was how wisdom is is out in the public crying out for attention to listen to her and her wealth is greater than material wealth through wisdom king's reign

and so there's great skill in leadership

and we also looked at how yahweh created me


you can i'm sure you can think about in your own time about how that's used to describe jesus growing up

before yahweh

but yeah just really have a think about those different ideas of

wisdom being like a child or being like at a crafts person like an architect

they sort of carry different ideas and

i'll be interested to see what other people think about that