1:20-21 — Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
Wisdom is personified and she goes out to the street, into the markets and cries out at the entrance of the city gates. The imagery is like a father (since elders sat at the gates) making every effort to reach the uncommitted masses with his teachings (cf. Waltke). One writer said, “Lady Wisdom is no gentle persuader. She shouts, pleads, scolds, reasons, threatens, warns, and even laughs (see vv. 24-33). Pulpit bashing and hell-fire preaching if ever there were! All quite unladylike; and nowadays also quite unfashionable, even frowned upon.” (cited in Waltke, 202)
Some commentators have likened this to Jesus Himself who was in the streets and fields preaching (cf. Bridges, Arnot). He is wisdom itself — “The eternal Son of God is not only wisdom in himself, He is ‘made unto us wisdom.’” (Arnot) Regarding the setting, Perowne says, “Just within the gate of an oriental city was the principal square, or open space, where public business was transacted and courts were held.”
1:22 — How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
The phrase “How long…” is a rhetorical question which assumes a statement. “It is not a true question but an implied statement: you have had long enough; you should have answer my call by now.” (Hubbard) It may assume the rejection of parental counsel (cf. Waltke).
The “simple ones” are committing themselves to simplicity. They are the unwary (Perowne), the young and naïve (Hubbard), the gullible (Waltke) etc. “But instead of embracing the teaching, the fledgling apostates love being gullible.” (Waltke) They love something that will destroy them; they edge closer to outright rebellion. “Her problem with these three groups of people is that they each relish their present state of ignorance. They not only tolerate it but also embrace it wholeheartedly, as communicated by the verbs ‘love’ …and ‘hold dear’ [delight]. “ (Longman)
So the gullible, the simple ones are mentioned with the scoffers and fools. The gullible can easily become like them. They hate knowledge and scoff at wisdom. Of the three, the simple ones are the most likely to heed the call; the mockers are the most hardened of the three.
It is important to note that Wisdom mentions the mockers and fools to show where they stand. This contrast is important for the simple ones. They must see that there are those who oppose wisdom and must make a decision. Will the simple be like the mockers and fools? Will she also mock? Will she also hate knowledge? The options are there but what will she do?
§1. There are people who have yet to choose the right path. They flirt with mischief and disaster; they are enamored with the world; they are not committed to the way of gospel holiness. They keep their options open.
§2. Solomon says that they “love” simplicity. Some simply do not want to “grow up” and become wise and discerning. Life is serious and we need what wisdom offers but the simple like the life of indolence and leisure — they do not wish to be serious but love what is naïve and simple, they love to be careless.
1:23 — If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.
Even with this tendency to love simplicity, wisdom still beckons and promises. The gullible can still turn, he can still repent (the word can be translated as turn back or repent) and heed the reproof. “If they turn back, their action will in itself imply their repentance, for they will have humbled themselves and acknowledged that Wisdom is right and that they have been in the wrong in nursing their love to be careless and free of her discipline.” (Waltke)
Wisdom does not apologize for rebuking, for her reproof. She rebukes with a promise, namely, she will pour our her spirit on the simple ones (similar language to Joel 2:28) — “and thus be empowered to carry out the implications of the turning and to know more fully what wisdom wants to teach them” (Hubbard)
§1. Part of wisdom is to recognize that one had no wisdom and therefore has to turn back, to repent, of his ways. It does us no good to pretend we had not erred. Wisdom admits it walked in the way of folly.
§2. “Note the close connection between ‘spirit’ and ‘words’ — a connection sound theology has always made in refusing to choose one above the other or to play them against each other.” (Hubbard)
1:24-27 — Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.
The invitation to turn and repent is short; the warnings against not turning are longer. Chapter 8 develops the promises and benefits of yielding to wisdom. What have the simple ones done? They have “refused to listen” and have not “heeded”; they have “ignored” Wisdom’s counsel and “would have none of my reproof.” Their choice was deliberate. The decision was thorough and resolute. The tender promises will no longer be heard. They will hear the righteous laughter of Wisdom. “Truth has a harsh edge, and Wisdom does not dull it.” (Waltke)
This may strike us as being overly harsh. Yet, this sarcasm is righteous. One does not have unlimited opportunities. Remember, “TODAY is the day of salvation…” “The ask-receive, seek-find pattern has time limits built into it in both Testaments (Isa. 55;6; Matt. 7:7).” (Hubbard) [2 Corinthians 6:2 For he says, "In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you." Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. Isaiah 55:6 "Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; Matthew 7:7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.]
Waltke says, “Wisdom does not laugh at disaster, but at the triumph of what is right over what is wrong when your disaster happens…” (Waltke, 207) That is, Wisdom rejoices over God’s righteous judgment on evil (cf. Hubbard denies God’s active role in this — it is “the order coded by God into the creation”). Waltke also adds, “Wisdom rejoices in turning the present upside-down world rightside up, when wisdom overturns folly, righteousness outs wickedness, knowledge overcomes ignorance, humility topples pride, and life swallows up death.” (Waltke)
Longman explains, “Woman Wisdom comes across in this speech as angry and unyielding. She shows no mercy to those who come to their senses in the midst of the punishment that their foolish action brings on them. However, the intention of this speech is to spur present action. She does not want them to wait till they are in the midst of their suffering, but she wants them to turn to her right away to avoid the pain.”
1:28-31 — Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.
If Wisdom’s laughter seems harsh, then these verses almost seem incomprehensible. Wisdom will be vindicated; time will run out and her ways will be shown to be right. One does not have endless opportunities to heed wisdom; choices made can lead to death unless the person repents. It is too late to turn when the consequences of folly come upon the simple. What they did to her, she will do to them. They did not heed her but despised her; they mocked her and hated her counsel. Now the table has turned on them —“they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.” Bridges says, “Prayer, once omnipotent, will then be powerless.” (Bridges, 11)
It must be noted that the refusal in question is one that is substantive and resolute. The mocker is the one who chose not to fear the Lord and “would have none my counsel and despised all my reproof.” The person in question is not the one who has made some foolish choices and has wandered off occasionally. The person envisioned in these verses is the one who has consciously and repeatedly refused wisdom. Such a person will receive his just recompense (see §2). He is the one who continually sinned in time who will fall into hell in eternity. God has not ceased to be gracious while we live nor does He desire our death (Ezekiel 18:23, Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?) but his grace will not extend beyond the grave.
§1. In our evangelical situation, we tend to think of limitless opportunities. Everybody can always make a fresh start. So these words in Proverbs seem to be very unevangelical. God is not always going to extend His mercy — He is not merciful forever. Hell is the monument of God’s righteousness and man’s rebellion. So, we must reckon with the consequences of our actions.
§2. Some may say that we have all acted as this fool. So how long and how often can we refuse God before He will turn deaf to us? God is not obligated to hear any of us. The question assumes that God is obligated to be gracious to us at every turn. He is not. He extends mercy and pleads through His Word. But if He chooses to turn us over to our evil passion and consign us to our wicked ways, then we have only ourselves to blame. These verses are given as a warning. We must not entertain the notion that we can safely sin and safely resist God. If fear of the future judgment causes us to be wise and turn to the Lord, then for that we thank God. If the love of God and His goodness woo us, then for that we also thank Him. It has been prayed, “Save, Lord, by love or fear.”
1:32-33 — For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”
The gullible turned away from Wisdom (God) and fools are destroyed on account of their sense of security, prosperity, ease, etc. “So the complacency of fools (or dolts), due to their false feelings of security, causes them to fail to take precautions against the inevitable judgment bound up in their folly, and so it will destroy them…” (Waltke).
On the other hand, the one who obeys or listens to Wisdom “will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” It is in contrast to the fool. The fool thought he had this; he did not. The one who listened to Wisdom actually secured this.
§1. “And, oh! be it remembered, that every inattention, every willful neglect, is a step towards this fearful apostasy. The word gradually becomes a burden, then a scorn.” (Bridges) Let us heed God’s Word.
§2. The promises in v. 33 do not mean worldly security but true security in the Lord. We will dwell confident because our conscience is clear and because the Lord is near. We trust not in our wit or wisdom but in God’s Wisdom and Word.