Proverbs 8:1-11

Proverbs 8:1-11

One commentator said, “Chapter 8 is the most difficult and profound chapter in the book.”[1] This has to do with verses 22ff. Chapter 8 is nonetheless the culmination of the previous chapters. Another writer says that this is the “summit of Old Testament discipleship.”[2] It is the final call; Wisdom once again cries out in the streets.

 

8:1-3 — Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? 2 On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; 3 beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:

Wisdom is in the third person in these verses. Wisdom already cried out (1:20-33) in the streets and once again she does the same — “wisdom does call. She shouts, in fact. She cares too much to keep silent.” (Hubbard) She appeals to all the simple ones in their every day lives, at the crossroads, at the gates, that is, “at the entrance of the portals” (v. 3). “Hers is not a private word of inner piety alone. It sounds from the hilltop like watchman’s warning; it rings from the junctions of the main roads where merchants, travelers, pilgrims, farmers, and soldiers salute each other; it echoes in the gates of the city where deals are struck, political decisions made, and judicial verdicts rendered.” (Hubbard) Wisdom must emerge in all the important decisions, both private and public. The gates in front of the town represent that truth.

 

8:4-11 — “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man. 5 O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense. 6 Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, 7 for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. 8 All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. 9 They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge. 10 Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, 11 for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.

Wisdom is in the first person and addresses men as fools and simpleminded (v. 5). Men & the children of men are the simpletons; we are all capable of being fools. “Every human being has great capacity for simpleminded foolishness. The address is not specifically to a group of naïve or wicked persons but to all of us who carry the constant potential of foolish conduct.” (Hubbard)

Wisdom tells the naïve all that she has to offer, her self-evident moral excellence (cf. Kidner). She will give an autobiography in vv. 12-31. In verse 5, she calls men to learn “prudence” which means an “ability to use reason, in context and under the fear of God, to navigate the problems of life.” (Longman)

Verses 6-9 tell us that she is reliable. We can bank on her words (unlike madam folly). They are right, noble, righteous, straight, etc. She will not mislead — not twisted or crooked (v. 8). As one writer noted, “Concretely, that means that they avoid speech characterized as gossip, rumor; slander; and lies.” (Longman)

Verses 10-11 teach us to prize wisdom above the most precious metals and jewels. Why? Because all that we desire “cannot compare with her.” (v. 11) “Material success was undoubtedly a high ambition of the ‘Yuppies’ of antiquity. Wisdom claims, with cogency that our materialistic generation needs to hear, to be of infinitely more value than any material goods.” (Hubbard)

Wisdom will not mislead since she is excellent and incomparable. Unless we are convinced of this, we will not pursue her. If wisdom is better than gold and silver, then “if it were put to our choice whether to be rich or holy, we ought not for a moment to hesitate in deciding.” (Lawson) We quote Lawson’s words one more time:

If we are resolved at any rate to be rich; if we value the means of enriching ourselves with gold above the means of grace; if we grudge the necessary expense that may attend the means of religious instruction; then we receive gold, and not wisdom. …Silver and gold are good things, under the direction of wisdom. But they must not be the chief object or our esteem; for if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. (Lawson)



[1] Longman, 197.

[2] Hubbard, 117.

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