Proverbs 9

Proverbs 9

Much of what is covered in this chapter has been addressed in some measure previously. Lady Wisdom and Madame Folly are contrasted. Their last appeals are given here. Sandwiched between these two, a wise person is contrasted with the scoffer.

This culminates the first eight chapters. A call for a fundamental decision forces itself upon the reader with both Wisdom and Folly issuing invitations. Each one offers something; each one will bring about conclusive ends. One will lead to life and the other to death. The theme for the entire nine chapters is “Choose wisdom and avoid folly.” (cf. Hubbard, 139)

 

9:1-6 — 1 Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. 2 She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. 3 She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town, 4 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, 5 “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6 Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.”

The house wisdom has constructed is well built — it is a house of seven pillars. She prepares a feast for the simple or naïve. She openly invites and promises the reward of life. Wisdom offers “insight” to those who will heed. The listener therefore must admit he is simple and needs insight. If we think ourselves self-sufficient, then we will never heed her call.

 

9:7-12 — 7 Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. 8 Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. 9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. 11 For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life. 12 If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it.

How one responds to Wisdom’s invitation reveals if he or she is a scoffer or a wise person. The scoffer is contrasted with the wise person by the way they heed instruction. “This section shows wisdom in a positive light and folly in a negative light.” (Longman)

The scoffer cannot be corrected (vv. 7-8). He will never be wrong and those who seek to correct him will suffer harm. The phrase “incurs injury” (ESV) is better than “they are blemished” (NIV). “Trying to coax one who mocks truth, morality, and wisdom to change his ways will only intensify his ire and turn him completely against you (‘hate’). Your efforts will only add insult to injury. Spite will be the tuition paid you for your services.” (Hubbard)

As is taught in many places in the book (3:11-12; 10:17; 12:1; 15:10, 12; etc.), the ability to hear and respond in an honest way to criticism is crucial to positive personal growth. In a word, there is no growth in wisdom without acknowledgment of one’s errors. If one does not listen to criticism and change, then one is doomed to perpetually repeat the same mistake. (Longman)

In a sense, sometimes when one interacts with a scoffer, it reveals his own foolishness. In vv. 8b-9, the wise or righteous are those who open up to instruction. They are never too wise or too full where they cannot receive more. They will continue to increase in learning.

Verse 10a is virtually the same as the verse introduced at the beginning of this book (1:7). Again Wisdom promises much (v. 11) and she will deliver if we will heed.

Verse 12 is remarkable for its simplicity. Who stands to benefit from wisdom? The one who has it alone will benefit. Who will suffer from scoffing? The one who scoffs will bear the repercussions of his own ways. Foolishly, the scoffer will blame everyone else though he must bear his own folly.

This is perhaps the strongest expression of individualism in the Bible. Such statements (cf. Ezk. 18; Gal. 6:4, 5) are not meant to deny that people benefit or suffer form each other’s characters (cf. 10:1), but to emphasize that the ultimate gainer or loser is the man himself. Your character is the one thing you cannot borrow, lend or escape, for it is you. Cf. 14:10. (Kidner)

 

9:13-18 — 13 The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. 14 She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, 15 calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, 16 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, 17 “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” 18 But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

We have already seen Madame Folly. She has nothing good to offer. She is first of all “LOUD” (v. 13). This boisterous woman trades in lies (v. 17) because the outcome of ways is certain, i.e. death (v. 18). She appeals to the same crowd as Wisdom (the simple ones). Wisdom promises life (v. 6) but Folly conceals the death she offers (v. 18). The life of wisdom is life; the course of folly is death. No middle ground exists; neutrality does not exist in this moral situation.

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