New American Bible (Revised Edition)
The Discourse of Wisdom[a]
1 Does not Wisdom call,
and Understanding raise her voice?(A)
2 On the top of the heights along the road,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3 By the gates at the approaches of the city,
in the entryways she cries aloud:
4 “To you, O people, I call;
my appeal is to you mortals.
5 You naive ones, gain prudence,
you fools,[b] gain sense.
6 Listen! for noble things I speak;
my lips proclaim honest words.
7 [c]Indeed, my mouth utters truth,
and my lips abhor wickedness.
8 All the words of my mouth are sincere,
none of them wily or crooked;
9 All of them are straightforward to the intelligent,
and right to those who attain knowledge.
10 Take my instruction instead of silver,
and knowledge rather than choice gold.
11 [For Wisdom is better than corals,
and no treasures can compare with her.(B)]
12 I, Wisdom, dwell with prudence,
and useful knowledge I have.
13 [The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil;]
Pride, arrogance, the evil way,
and the perverse mouth I hate.(C)
14 Mine are counsel and advice;
Mine is strength; I am understanding.[d]
15 By me kings reign,
and rulers enact justice;
16 By me princes govern,
and nobles, all the judges of the earth.
17 Those who love me I also love,
and those who seek me find me.
18 With me are riches and honor,(D)
wealth that endures, and righteousness.
19 My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold,
and my yield than choice silver.(E)
20 On the way of righteousness I walk,
along the paths of justice,
21 Granting wealth to those who love me,
and filling their treasuries.
22 [e]“The Lord begot me, the beginning of his works,
the forerunner of his deeds of long ago;(F)
23 From of old I was formed,[f]
at the first, before the earth.(G)
24 [g]When there were no deeps I was brought forth,
when there were no fountains or springs of water;
25 Before the mountains were settled into place,
before the hills, I was brought forth;
26 When the earth and the fields were not yet made,
nor the first clods of the world.
27 When he established the heavens, there was I,(H)
when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
28 When he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the springs of the deep;
29 When he set for the sea its limit,
so that the waters should not transgress his command;
When he fixed the foundations of earth,
30 then was I beside him as artisan;[h](I)
I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
31 Playing over the whole of his earth,
having my delight with human beings.
32 [i]Now, children, listen to me;
happy are they who keep my ways.
33 Listen to instruction and grow wise,
do not reject it!
34 Happy the one who listens to me,
attending daily at my gates,
keeping watch at my doorposts;
35 For whoever finds me finds life,(J)
and wins favor from the Lord;
36 But those who pass me by do violence to themselves;
all who hate me love death.”
The Two Women Invite Passersby to Their Banquets[j]
Woman Wisdom Issues Her Invitation
1 Wisdom has built her house,[k]
she has set up her seven columns;
2 She has prepared her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table.
3 She has sent out her maidservants; she calls[l]
from the heights out over the city:(K)
4 “Let whoever is naive turn in here;
to any who lack sense I say,
5 Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
6 Forsake foolishness that you may live;[m]
advance in the way of understanding.”
7 Whoever corrects the arrogant earns insults;
and whoever reproves the wicked incurs opprobrium.
8 Do not reprove the arrogant, lest they hate you;
reprove the wise, and they will love you.(L)
9 Instruct the wise, and they become still wiser;
teach the just, and they advance in learning.
10 The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.(M)
11 For by me your days will be multiplied
and the years of your life increased.(N)
12 If you are wise, wisdom is to your advantage;
if you are arrogant, you alone shall bear it.
Woman Folly Issues Her Invitation
13 [n]Woman Folly is raucous,(O)
utterly foolish; she knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house
upon a seat on the city heights,
15 Calling to passersby
as they go on their way straight ahead:
16 “Let those who are naive turn in here,
to those who lack sense I say,
17 Stolen water is sweet,
and bread taken secretly is pleasing!”[o]
18 Little do they know that the shades are there,
that her guests are in the depths of Sheol![p]
Chapter 8 is Wisdom’s longest speech in the book. Wisdom is here personified as in 1:20–33. She exalts her grandeur and origin, and invites all (vv. 1–11) to be attentive to her salutary influence in human society (vv. 12–21), for she was privileged to be present at the creation of the world (vv. 22–31). Finally, she promises life and the favor of God to those who are devoted to her, death to those who reject her.
The poem has four sections, each (except the fourth) with two parts of five lines each:
I. A. vv. 1–5 B. vv. 6–10 II. A. vv. 12–16 B. vv. 17–21 III. A. vv. 22–26 B. vv. 27–31 IV. vv. 32–36
Within chaps. 1–9, chap. 8 is the companion piece to Wisdom’s first speech in 1:20–33. There she spoke harshly, giving a promise only in the last line; here she speaks invitingly, giving a threat only in the last line.
Chapter 8 is the best-known chapter in Proverbs and has profoundly influenced Jewish and Christian thought. The most explicit and lengthy biblical comment is in Sir 24; it too has thirty-five lines in seven five-line stanzas and develops the theme of Wisdom’s intimacy with God and desire to be with human beings. The Gospel of John portrays Jesus in the language of wisdom in Proverbs: Jesus, like Wisdom, calls out to people to listen to him, promises to tell them the truth, seeks disciples, invites them to a banquet, and gives them life. Writers in the patristic period used the language of pre-existent wisdom to express the idea of the pre-existent Word with God.
- 8:5 Naive ones…fools: see note on 1:4.
- 8:7–8 The truth and sincerity of wisdom are absolute because they are of divine origin. They can neither deceive nor tolerate deception. The intelligent understand and accept this. “Straight” and “crooked” in Hebrew and English are metaphors for true, trustworthy and false, deceitful.
- 8:14 What is here predicated of Wisdom is elsewhere attributed to God (Jb 12:13–16).
- 8:22–31 Wisdom is of divine origin. She is represented as existing before all things (vv. 22–26), when God planned and created the universe, adorning it with beauty and variety, and establishing its wonderful order (vv. 27–30). The purpose of the two cosmogonies (vv. 22–26 and 27–31) is to ground Wisdom’s claims. The first cosmogony emphasizes that she was born before all else (and so deserving of honor) and the second underscores that she was with the Lord during the creation of the universe. The pre-existence of Woman Wisdom with God is developed in Sir 24 and in New Testament hymns to Christ, especially in Jn 1 and Col 1:15–20.
- 8:23 Formed: since the other verbs of the origin of Wisdom in these verses describe birth, it is likely that the somewhat uncertain verb is to be understood of birth as in Ps 139:13.
- 8:24–26 Perhaps the formless mass from which God created the heavens and the earth; cf. Gn 1:1–2; 2:4–6.
- 8:30 Artisan: the translation of the Hebrew word ’āmôn has been controverted since antiquity. There have been three main opinions: (1) artisan; (2) trustworthy (friend); (3) ward, nursling. The most likely explanation is that ’āmôn is artisan, related to Akkadian ummānu, legendary sages and heroes who brought divine gifts and culture to the human race. I was his delight: the chiastic or ABBA structure of vv. 30–31 unifies the four lines and underscores the analogy between Woman Wisdom’s intimate relation to the Lord and her intimate relation to human beings, i.e., “delight” + “playing” parallels “playing” + “delight.” She is God’s friend and intimate and invites human beings to a similar relationship to God through her.
- 8:32–36 The final appeal of Woman Wisdom to her disciples is similar to the appeal of the father in 7:24–27.
- 9:1–6, 13–18
Wisdom and folly are represented as women, each inviting people to her banquet. Wisdom’s banquet symbolizes joy and closeness to God. Unstable and senseless Folly furnishes stolen bread and water of deceit and vice that bring death to her guests. The opposition between wisdom and folly was stated at the beginning of chaps. 1–9 (folly in 1:8–19 and wisdom in 1:20–33) and is maintained throughout, down to this last chapter.
In comparable literature, gods might celebrate their sovereign by building a palace and inviting the other gods to come to a banquet and celebrate with them. Presumably, Woman Wisdom is celebrating her grandeur (just described in chap. 8); her grand house is a symbol of her status as the Lord’s friend. In order to enter the sacred building and take part in the banquet (“eat of my food”), guests must leave aside their old ways (“forsake foolishness”).
Verses 7–12 are unrelated to the two invitations to the banquet. They appear to be based on chap. 1, especially on 1:1–7, 22. The Greek version has added a number of verses after v. 12 and v. 18. In the confusion, 9:11 seems to have been displaced from its original position after 9:6. It has been restored to its original place in the text.
House: house has a symbolic meaning. Woman Wisdom encourages marital fidelity (2:16–19; 5; 6:20–35; 7), which builds up a household (cf. chap. 5). Some scholars propose that an actual seven-pillared house is referred to, but so far none have been unearthed by archaeologists. Seven may simply connote completeness—a great house.
Some scholars see a connection between the woman’s house here and the woman’s house in the final poem (31:10–31). In chap. 9, she invites the young man to enter her house and feast, i.e., to marry her. Chapter 31 shows what happens to the man who marries her; he has a house and enjoys “life” understood as consisting of a suitable wife, children, wealth, and honor.
- 9:3 She calls: i.e., invites; this is done indirectly through her maidservants, but the text could also mean that Wisdom herself publicly proclaims her invitation.
- 9:6 That you may live: life in Proverbs is this-worldly, consisting in fearing God or doing one’s duty toward God, enjoying health and long life, possessing wealth, good reputation, and a family. Such a life cannot be attained without God’s help. Hence Wisdom speaks not of life simply but of life with her; the guest is to live in Wisdom’s house.
- 9:13–18 Woman Folly is the mirror image of Woman Wisdom. Both make identical invitations but only one of the offers is trustworthy. Their hearers must discern which is the true offer. She is depicted with traits of the adulterous woman in 2:16–19; chap. 5; 6:20–35; chap. 7. Woman Folly is restless (cf. 7:11), her path leads to the underworld (2:18; 5:5; 7:27), and she is ignorant (5:6). In this final scene, she appears in single combat with her great nemesis, Woman Wisdom. Though the invitations of the two women appear at first hearing to be the same, they differ profoundly. Wisdom demands that her guests reject their ignorance, whereas Woman Folly trades on their ignorance.
- 9:17 “Stolen water” seems to refer to adultery, for “water” in 5:15–17 refers to the wife’s sexuality; “stolen” refers to stealing the sexuality belonging to another’s household. “Secret” evokes the furtive meeting of the wife and the youth in chap. 7.
- 9:18 The banquet chamber of Folly is a tomb from which no one who enters it is released; cf. 7:27. Shades: the Rephaim, the inhabitants of the underworld.