Proverbs 8:1-36

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Wisdom is personified as a noble woman who describes the benefits she bestows on those who act in harmony with her teaching. Humans are endowed with the capacity to reason and can, therefore, perceive that “wisdom” is calling out to them and that “understanding” (or “insight” [LXX]) is raising its voice so that they might listen and act sensibly. In the rhetorical question (“Does not wisdom call out and understanding raise its voice?”) “wisdom” and “understanding” are parallel expressions. (8:1; see the Notes section.)

Wherever people are found, the voice of wisdom can be heard, for the results of following a wise course and of refusing to do so are clearly in evidence everywhere. Accordingly, wisdom is represented as stationing herself at the top of the heights, near the road, and at the crossroads. (8:2; see the Notes section.) She cries aloud in the proximity of the “gates” (or the open area adjacent to the gates where people congregate and elders sit to render judgments), at the egress (“mouth”) of the city, at the “entrance of the portals.” (8:3) Wisdom refers to herself as calling out to men and her voice is directed to the “sons of man [men (LXX)]” (the earthling) or to the people. (8:4)

Wisdom admonishes the “simple,” or those who may readily be led astray because of their inexperience, to perceive “prudence” or to learn good sense and for the foolish (the “unlearned” [LXX]) to “perceive heart” (understand the insight, discernment, or sound reasoning that is representative of the heart in its functions; “take in heart” [LXX], probably meaning “take in discernment, insight, or sound reasoning”). (8:5; also see verse 12.)

The expressions which wisdom exhorts the simple and the foolish to “hear” or to which they should listen are noble or princely things or matters of great importance (“serious” or “august things” [LXX]). With the “opening of [her] lips,” right or upright things would be made known. Wisdom would never lead anyone from the right course. (8:6)

“For my palate” (represented in its role in speaking [“throat” (LXX)]),” says wisdom, “will utter truth” (no falsehood or deception), “and wickedness [is] an abomination to my lips.” Anything of an evil or corrupt nature is abhorrent to wisdom, and would never come from her lips or have its source in her. According to the Septuagint, “false lips” (or lips that speak lies) are detestable to wisdom. (8:7) “All the words of [her] mouth” are expressed “in righteousness” or are right and, therefore, trustworthy. “In them,” nothing is “twisted or crooked.” No one will ever be deceived or harmed in any way from following the dictates of wisdom. (8:8) To one who understands the words of wisdom, they “all [are] straight,” and they are “right [or upright] to those finding knowledge” (or to those who find the knowledge that is essential for right living and who conduct themselves accordingly). (8:9) In view of the great value of the instruction that originates from her, wisdom is represented as saying, “Take my discipline [or instruction] and not silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold.” Neither silver nor gold can assure a good outcome for one’s life, but the discipline or teaching and knowledge that have their source in wisdom can effect the good results that no valuables can obtain. The Septuagint adds, “And choose perception rather than pure gold.” (8:10)

“Wisdom is better than corals” (peniním,). The Hebrew word peniním has been understood to designate “pearls,” “rubies,” “coral,” and “red coral.” In the Septuagint, the reference is to “precious stones.” In value, wisdom exceeds the worth of all material treasures, for only wisdom can provide the guidance that leads to a good outcome for one’s life. All other things that one might desire “cannot be made equal to” or “compare with” wisdom. The Septuagint indicates that nothing of value is “worthy” of wisdom or has like worth. (8:11)

Wisdom is quoted as speaking. “I, wisdom, I have resided with prudence [‘ormáh], and I find knowledge of discretion.” In other contexts, ‘ormáh can mean “craftiness,” “cleverness,” or “cunning.” But here, as also in Proverbs 1:4 and 8:5, the Hebrew word is used in a good sense, making “prudence” an appropriate rendering. As a resident with “prudence,” wisdom portrays herself as having a relationship with it. Therefore, persons who choose wisdom as their guide will be prudent or judicious, manifesting good judgment in their daily life. Although the Hebrew text does not include a conjunction after the word rendered “knowledge,” numerous translations add the conjunction “and” (“knowledge and discretion”). The Hebrew word translated “discretion” is plural. When it is linked with knowledge, the expression rendered “knowledge of discretion” could mean the knowledge that makes discreet, judicious, or sensible acts and dealings possible. As wisdom depicts herself as finding this knowledge, she has attained it, and it is available to all who choose wisdom as their guide and instructor. (8:12; see the Notes section.)

The “fear of YHWH,” or the reverential regard for him and a wholesome fear of acting contrary to his commands and will, means for one “to hate evil” or to abhor what is bad in his sight. According to the Septuagint rendering, the “fear of the Lord” (apparently with reference to one who has such a wholesome fear) “hates injustice.” (8:13)

Wisdom refers to herself as hating “arrogance,” “haughtiness,” the “way of evil” or corrupt conduct (“ways of evil ones” [LXX]), and a “mouth of perversity” (a mouth that utters twisted, corrupt, or deceptive things). The concluding phrase in the Septuagint indicates that wisdom hates the crooked ways of evildoers. (8:13)

Wisdom speaks of herself as possessing “counsel,” “prudence” (tushiyyáh), “insight” or “understanding,” and “strength.” Those who are responsive to wisdom would receive good counsel or advice and acquire prudence or sound wisdom, insight, and the strength to be steadfast in doing what is right. (8:14)

There is a measure of uncertainty about the meaning of the Hebrew word tushiyyáh. Lexicographers have suggested that, depending on the context, tushiyyáh can mean “prudence,” “sound wisdom,” success,” “good outcome,” or “victory.” The word tushiyyáh may here designate the prudence or sound wisdom that leads to success or a good outcome. In the Septuagint, the corresponding term for tushiyyáh is aspháleia, meaning “security,” “stability,” or “steadfastness.” The Septuagint rendering suggests that persons who conducted themselves in harmony with wisdom would enjoy security. (8:14)

With the aid of wisdom, “kings reign,” exercising authority in a just manner, and “rulers” or high officials decree “righteousness” or what is right. (8:15) It is also “by wisdom” that “princes” rule (“nobles” or “great ones” are made great or magnified [LXX]) and that all those judging in “righteousness” or righteous judges exercise authority. According to some Hebrew manuscripts, the reference is to “all the judges of the earth.” The Septuagint rendering concludes with the words, “and tyrants” (sovereigns or men who dominate) rule “the earth through me” (wisdom). (8:16)

Wisdom loves (has affection for [LXX]) those who love her. They are individuals who truly value wisdom and appreciate understanding and knowledge. Persons who seek wisdom, earnestly endeavoring to have her as a guide, will find her. (8:17)

With wisdom, there are “riches and glory” or “honor,” indicating that those who seek to live by wisdom will prosper. Regardless of what their situation might be, their life will be much better than that of senseless individuals in comparable circumstances. Wisdom is also represented as saying that she has “eminent [true or lasting] wealth [possession of much property (LXX)] and righteousness.” Possibly the reference to “righteousness” denotes that enduring wealth is attained by righteous or just means. (8:18)

The “fruit” or what wisdom has to offer is better than “gold, even refined gold,” or has far greater value than this precious metal that can provide no guidance for one’s life. According to the Septuagint, for one to harvest the fruit that wisdom produces is better than “gold and precious stone.” The yield of wisdom is also better than “choice silver.” (8:19)

Wisdom represents herself as walking “in the way of righteousness,” also “in the paths of judgment” or “justice.” Nothing that is corrupt or unjust has its source in wisdom, and those who let wisdom be their guide will do what is right and just. After referring to wisdom as walking “in the ways of righteousness,” the Septuagint says that wisdom “returns,” “stays,” or “conducts herself” in the “midst of the paths of justice.” (8:20) The objective of wisdom is to benefit those who follow her in doing what is right or just. By greatly appreciating her as their guide, individuals demonstrate their love for wisdom. Those who love her will find that she will reward them richly, letting them get possession of “substance” or “property” and filling their treasuries (“with good things” [LXX]). (8:21; see the Notes section.)

Wisdom first becomes evident when it is observed as being applied. God’s creative works required that wisdom be at work. Apparently for this reason, wisdom identifies herself as YHWH’s creation at the “beginning of his way, the first of his acts of old.” Without wisdom being present, creation could not have begun. The Septuagint quotes wisdom as saying, The “Lord created me as the beginning of his ways for his works,” or to have wisdom in his service from the start for the accomplishment of his creative works. (8:22)

In relation to the creation, wisdom is represented as declaring, “I was set up long ago [before the (present) age (LXX)], at the first, before the [formation] of the earth” or the land. (8:23)

At the time wisdom came into being as an active agent, no “deeps,” “abysses” (LXX), or huge basins of water existed on the earth, and there were “no springs” gushing forth water. (8:24)

Wisdom was brought forth before the “mountains” were established (literally, “were sunk down”) and “before the hills” (“before all hills” [LXX]). (8:25)

The coming into existence of wisdom was before God made the “earth” or land (“countries” or “lands” [LXX]) and the “open spaces [uninhabited spaces (LXX)],” and the “first of the dust” (or soil) of the tillable land (“and the habitable heights [that are] under heaven” or under the sky [LXX]). (8:26)

Wisdom was present when God “established the heavens” and “when he inscribed a circle on the face of the deep.” In this context, the noun “heavens” may be understood to mean the apparent celestial dome, and the inscribed circle appears to designate the horizon, which is like a fixed place between the celestial dome and the water of the “deep” or the sea. According to the Septuagint rendering,the Lord “marked out his throne on the winds,” possibly indicating that his throne is above the celestial vault and, therefore, above the location where the winds blow. (8:27)

When God made firm the “clouds above” could refer to the time he established them so that they would remain suspended above the earth. His causing the “fountains of the deep” to be strong (or “securing” them [LXX]) could mean that he strengthened the springs (“under heaven” or under the sky [LXX]) so that they would not cease to produce the water which flows into the deep or the sea. (8:28)

God’s assigning the sea “its limit so that the waters might not transgress his command” refers to his preventing the sea from overwhelming the land when its waves lash against the shore. According to Jeremiah 5:22, he set the “sand as the boundary of the sea.” The yielding sand absorbs the force of the waves, diffusing and dissipating it so that the raging sea is kept in check. (8:29; see the Notes section.)

The Hebrew verb that is linked to the “foundations of the earth” or the land is a form of chaqáq. Based on contexts in which chaqáq is used, lexicographers have defined the word to mean “mark out,” “inscribe,” “decree,” “enact,” and “command.” Translators have variously rendered the phrase about what God did in relation to the “foundations of the earth.” “I [wisdom] was there … when he marked out the foundations of the earth” (NIV), “when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth” (NAB), “when he traced the foundations of the earth” (NJB), “when he laid foundations to support the earth” (CEV). The thought could be that God firmly established the land as if placed on foundations. According to the Septuagint rendering, “he made strong the foundations of the earth” or land. (8:29)

During the time of creation, wisdom is portrayed as referring to herself as having been beside God as his “master worker” (’amóhn) or expert craftsman, the one in whom he found delight day after day. At all times, wisdom rejoiced “before his face” or before him. The Septuagint quotes wisdom as concluding with the words, “And daily I rejoiced before his face [before him or in his presence] at every time.” (8:30; see the Notes section.)

Wisdom speaks of herself as rejoicing over God’s habitable land or finding pleasure in the land where vegetation flourished and animals and humans lived. The special delight of wisdom was in the “sons of man” (the earthling) or in humans. In the Septuagint, the words that the extant Hebrew text attributes to wisdom are applied to God, indicating that “he rejoiced” at the completion of the inhabited world “and rejoiced in the sons of men” or in humans. (8:31)

Wisdom addresses her “sons” (“son” [LXX]), her children, or her pupils, calling upon them to listen to her and saying that those who keep her “ways,” or who live in harmony with them, would be happy or truly fortunate. They would enjoy an enviable state of well-being. (8:32; see the Notes section.)

Wisdom continues her exhortation. “Listen to discipline and be wise, and do not neglect [it].” Those who act in harmony with the discipline, chastening, correction, or instruction of wisdom will prove themselves to be wise in their choices and actions. Not to neglect this discipline or instruction would mean to accept it and to apply it in life. (8:33; see the Notes section.)

Wisdom appears to represent herself as being inside a house. A man who would benefit from her instruction would eagerly seek her guidance and position himself to receive it. He would listen to wisdom, daily keep awake or alert at her doors, and remain watchful at the posts of her entrances. As an individual who was responsive to wisdom, he would be happy or in a fortunate state of well-being. (8:34; see the Notes section.)

A man who finds wisdom would find “life,” coming to enjoy a meaningful life and being safeguarded from harming himself through senseless actions and conduct that could lead to a premature death. He would also gain favor from YHWH as a person whom he approves. (8:35; see the Notes section.)

Any person who misses (sins against [LXX]) wisdom, choosing not to benefit from sound guidance, wrongs (is impious to [LXX] or despises) “his soul” or does injury to himself. The ultimate end for him could be a premature death. Therefore, all those who hate wisdom “love death,” not the noble life that ultimately has a good outcome. They deliberately follow the senseless course that is headed for death. (8:36)

Notes

In verse 1, the Septuagint appears to represent the “son” whom his father counseled as the one who will “proclaim wisdom,” calling it (according to verse 4) my “sister.” “Understanding” would then respond to or be obedient to him, serving like a submissive guide in his life.

Verse 2 in the Septuagint indicates the position of wisdom to be on the “highest” or “loftiest tops” and “between the paths.”

In verse 3 of the Septuagint, wisdom is represented as being seated by the “gates of the rulers,” of those exercising authority and rendering judgments. “At the entrances, she hymns” or sings her own praises.

In verse 12, the rendering of the Septuagint differs somewhat from the Hebrew text. “I, wisdom, I resided with counsel, and I have called knowledge and insight.” In the role of summoning “knowledge and insight,” wisdom appears to portray herself as having them at her service and for the benefit of those who choose her guidance and teaching.

The Septuagint rendering of verse 21 concludes with words that are not found in the extant Hebrew text. “If I announce to you the things occurring daily, I will remember [also] to recount the things of old [or from the past age].”

Based on the manuscripts available to him in the third century CE, Origen marked the words (verse 29) about the sea as not being in the Greek text. The words are not included in the main text of Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuaginta but are contained in a footnote (“in the setting of his limit on the sea, and waters shall not go by his mouth”).

In verse 30, the Hebrew word ’amóhn is commonly understood to designate a “craftsman” or a “master workman.” This, however, is not the only possible meaning. Another suggested significance for ’amóhn is “ward,” “fosterling,” or “nursling.” The thought then could be that wisdom was like a dear child growing up in God’s presence and bringing him delight. A number of translations convey a meaning that is more in keeping with this significance. “Then I was at his side each day, his darling and delight, playing in his presence continually.” (REB) “Then I was by Him, as a nursling, and I was daily all delight, playing always before Him.” (Margolis)

In Rahlfs-Hanhart Septuaginta, the main text of verse 32 does not include the reference indicating that those who keep the ways of wisdom would be happy, but it is found in a footnote. The wording of verse 33 also is missing in the main text and a footnote includes it.

After the introductory words “happy [is] the man who will listen to me” (verse 34), the Septuagint adds a phrase that is not found in the extant Hebrew text (“and the man who will guard my ways”).

Verse 35 in the Septuagint quotes wisdom as saying, “My issues” (or all that goes out from me and of which I am the source) are “issues of life.”