Proverbs 10

Chapters ten through thirteen form one unit in the Hebrew text, the first of three long sections, with no paragraph marker until the end of the four chapters. Unlike the first nine chapters, the format starting at this point is what most people consider a “proverb,” e.g., a one- or two-line saying containing a general principle or command, though not necessarily a guaranteed of promised results in every case.

Most of these proverbs are contained in a single verse and follow one of four patterns. In nearly every case, these use a common form of parallelism (A-B or A-A) to make the point.:

  • Positive statement…but parallel negative opposite
  • Negative statement…but parallel positive opposite
  • Positive statement…and further positive statement
  • Negative statement…and further negative statement

Solomon called the people in his positive statements righteous, wise, upright, shrewd, faithful, diligent, generous, and blameless. In contrast, the person we should not emulate is wicked, foolish, lazy, perverse, sluggard, evildoer, faithless, ruthless, without discretion, stupid, twisted, and a scoffer.

The topics of this section are just as plentiful as Solomon’s descriptions of those who participate in them. Because he addressed finances, instruction and discipline, personal appearance, parenting, integrity, anxiety, hope, work, speech, and motives, this section contains a wealth of wisdom and general principle for many of life’s daily situations.

Proverbs 9

Chapter nine closes the first section of Proverbs, with its emphasis on finding, gaining, and heeding wisdom. In Proverbs 9:1-6, wisdom is personified as a woman preparing for a dinner party. She has created a meal, set the table, and sent out the invitations. Her special guests are the naïve, who desperately need the knowledge and understanding she offers. In one of the first major distinctions between the wise and foolish person, Solomon noted that a wise person receives instruction, whereas a fool does not (Proverbs 9:7-9). In fact, it is often better to not even try to correct a fool, because he will mock and abuse the would-be helper. A wise person, on the other hand, will use the instruction to become wiser.

Proverbs 9:10 is the matching bookend to Proverbs 1:7 for this opening section of the book. Solomon has already described the “fear of the LORD” as rejecting evil, and in Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 9:10, he wrote that this proper fear of the LORD is required to obtain true knowledge and wisdom. This God-given wisdom can add years to a person’s life but the one who mocks God’s wisdom pays for it (Proverbs 9:11-12).

Just as Wisdom has been personified as a woman in the past few chapters, this chapter closes by personifying Folly as well. Like Wisdom, Folly also stands and calls for followers. In fact, Folly’s words in Proverbs 9:16 are identical to Wisdom’s call in Proverbs 9:4. Foolishness often looks like Wisdom on the surface, but those who reject Wisdom for Folly’s called “do not realize that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.”

Proverbs 8

Chapter eight finally gives wisdom a voice to speak for itself, by personifying it as a woman. 1 In direct contrast to the adulterous woman, who stands on a dark corner waiting for a young man to seduce (Proverbs 7:8-12), Solomon portrayed wisdom as standing on high places and at city gates, calling to all people to accept and embrace her (Proverbs 8:1-4). Wisdom is especially interested in the attention of the “naïve” and “fools,” because her words are “excellent… right… truth… righteous…straight…clear…upright,” and they provide knowledge (Proverbs 8:5-9). One should seek to acquire wisdom because it is more valuable than gold, silver, or rubies (Proverbs 8:10-12).

Proverbs 8:13 finally offers a definition for “the fear of the LORD,” which Solomon pointed to in Proverbs 1:7 as the source of knowledge: “to hate evil.” The phrase “fear of the LORD” is used only eight times in the NET Bible and is defined here and in Job 28:28: “The fear of the LORD—that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.” A biblical fear of God is the intentional choice to reject or hate evil. One who does not reject evil does not fear God.

There are several benefits of gaining wisdom (Proverbs 8:14-21). It provides “counsel” so one can lead or rule others well. Those who exercise wisdom tend to receive honor from others and, as Proverbs will show later, acquire long-term wealth. 2

The subject of Proverbs 8:22-31 is debated. Some see wisdom simply as one of God’s eternal characteristics or attributes, but how, then, could it be “created” or “born”? Others have suggested that Jesus, the Eternal Son, is said to be wisdom here, but his eternality has the same problem. Probably the best understanding is to not give wisdom too much personification and simply state that God used wisdom during the creation, at which time wisdom itself was revealed (e.g., created or born). Outside of Genesis 1, this chapter is one of the clearest descriptions of God’s intentional, active, immediate creation of all things. Every part of the creation was crafted with God’s own wisdom, and God himself formed the heights and depths, the waters and dry ground, and the people.

The chapter closes with a plea from wisdom that people seek her (Proverbs 8:33-36). There are four results listed in the final verses. The one who “listens” to wisdom is “blessed.” The one who “finds” wisdom “finds life and receives favor from the LORD.” However, the one who “does not find” her “brings harm to himself,” and those who “hate” (or reject) wisdom instead “love” (or choose) “death.”

Notes:

  1. The Hebrew word for wisdom is חָכְמָה (chakemah), which is a feminine noun; thus, the use of “she, her” throughout Proverbs.
  2. Of course, this is no guarantee that one will necessarily become wealthy, but a wise person will tend to hold onto his wealth longer than a fool, which puts him in the position of keeping what he has and potential for increasing it.