New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Pro 8:1 Doesn’t wisdom cry out? Doesn’t understanding raise her voice?-
These are the very words used of how man is to cry out and raise his voice for wisdom and understanding (Prov. 2:3). The idea is that God's wisdom and understanding is crying out to those who are crying out for it. There is thus a mutuality between God and man. And the old Yiddish proverb comes true: "And going out to find Him / I met Him coming towards me". God is in search of man, and true man is in search for God. And when they meet, there is that electric spark, parties in Heaven celebrating the reconnection.

Pro 8:2 On the top of high places by the way, where the paths meet, she stands-
The crying out of wisdom in Proverbs is alluded to by the Lord as the pattern for our appealing to men and women. A feast is prepared by wisdom, and she sends out people to invite others to come in to it (Prov. 9:1-3)- clearly the basis for the Lord's parable about the King's feast. Those who reject these invitations sin against their own souls (Prov. 8:36)- just as those who reject our witness reject the appeal of God against themselves (Lk. 7:30). Wisdom appeals to people "where the paths meet" (Prov. 8:2 RV), just as the Lord taught that our witness to people places them at a 'crossroad', whereby they have to decide for or against their God. In this context my point is that the appeal of "wisdom" in Proverbs is in a spirit of urgency- an urgency inspired by the ultimate seriousness of the message, and the fact that there are only two paths in Proverbs which men can chose. It's either eternal life or eternal death, the way of wisdom or folly, obedience to the call of the woman wisdom or to the call of the harlot. There's no third way- and this should be the spirit of our witness. Insofar as we appreciate the ultimate eternity of the issues we're preaching about, so we will find a power of urgency that somehow appeals to people and compels them.

Pro 8:3 Beside the gates, at the entry of the city, at the entry doors, she cries aloud-
The wise woman wisdom is presented here as the antithesis of the whore described in Prov. 7, who is also seen outside, crying aloud to men. They both teach, but the whore's teaching leads astray. This contrast between such women is found in Revelation, where the whore is the antithesis of the bride of Christ. 

Pro 8:4 To you people I call! I send my voice to the sons of mankind-
The call or cry of wisdom is presented as in response to the cry of the believer for wisdom (s.w. Prov. 2:3; 7:4). There is a mutuality between God and man. We search for God, yet God is in search of man. And when we meet, there is that electric spark spoken of in the parables of Luke 15, whereby Heaven and earth are united together in an electric spark of joy at finding each other. Solomon parallels "the sons of mankind", people generally, with simple fools (:5). Whilst there is an element of truth in this from a spiritual angle, we also get the impression that Solomon despises people generally, leading him to abuse his own people at the end of his reign, whipping them into submission, as they were to complain of at his death.

Pro 8:5 You simple, understand prudence. You fools, be of an understanding heart-
See on :4. David likens himself to the simple who was made wise by God's word (Ps. 19:7; 119:130), and was therefore preserved (Ps. 116:6). To be taught by God's word we have to become "simple", unlearning and placing to one side all our perceived knowledge and understandings. Solomon repeats David's theme by saying that wisdom makes wise the simple (Prov. 1:4; 8:5; 9:4). But he is equating "wisdom" with the words of God, although for Solomon, "wisdom" seems to be what he is saying and teaching. Solomon doesn't direct his listeners back to God's word, as David did, but rather towards loyalty to his teaching. Inspired as it was, his lack of extended reference to God's law places his own teaching of "wisdom" above that law. This is in sharp contrast to David's attitude in Ps. 119.

Pro 8:6 Hear, for I will speak excellent things. The opening of my lips is for right things-
The woman wisdom's lips and words are contrasted with those of the whore in Prov. 7:21. See on :3. "Excellent" translates a Hebrew term usually referring to a ruler or prince, the very term used of Solomon as king (1 Kings 1:35; Prov. 28:16). Again, we see Solomon assuming that the words of wisdom are the words of himself as king. He failed to appreciate the degree to which he was merely a channel for God's truth, and came to assume that his words and positions were on the same level as God's. He therefore ended up playing God, assuming that submission to himself was submission to Divine wisdom. And this is an abiding temptation for all who are used as channels for God's truth. Solomon liked to imagine that he was perfectly obedient to his mother's command to open his lips in right judgment (s.w. Prov. 31:9). But he went further, to assume that whatever he spoke in whatever context was right and true (see on Prov. 8:6-8).

Pro 8:7 For my mouth speaks truth. Wickedness is an abomination to my lips-
As noted on :6, Solomon's personification of wisdom ends up with him effectively considering that it is his own mouth which speaks truth, and his lips simply cannot utter wickedness. And so he went wrong; he assumed that because he did speak Divine truths, therefore all his words and positions were those of wisdom. He thereby lost any sense of personal self examination, or awareness of his own possibility of personal failure. And again we see this repeated in the lives of others who know and teach God's truth.

Pro 8:8 All the words of my mouth are in righteousness. There is nothing crooked or perverse in them-
As noted on :6,7, Solomon takes this personification of wisdom too far- in that he ends up thinking all the words of his mouth must be right just because he was chosen as the channel for God's words. The "crooked and perverse" are those David his father saw as being condemned (s.w. Ps. 18:26), in contrast to "the pure". Solomon wrongly assumed that his knowledge of Divine truth made him "pure" of itself.

Pro 8:9 They are all plain to him who understands, right to those who find knowledge-
The implication is that anyone who disagreed with or misunderstood what Solomon said was not really seeking knowledge. And yet there is, as always, a general truth here; that God's words are "plain" and clear to those who love Him. Those who wish to do God's will can easily discern doctrine / teaching (Jn. 7:17). Much [although not all] 'misunderstanding' or complaint that the Bible is hard to understand is rooted in a refusal to do God's will. People often do not understand because they don't want to. All is plain and clear to those of a humble heart. 

Pro 8:10 Receive my instruction rather than silver; knowledge rather than choice gold-
Solomon has so much to say about "correction" or "instruction" coming from the possession of wisdom (Prov. 8:10,33; 10:17; 12:1; 13:1,24; 15:5,10,32; 16:22; 19:20,27; 22:15; 23:12,13). But in the end he chastised or corrected his people by whipping them (s.w. 1 Kings 12:11,14). Solomon initially asked for wisdom in order to guide his people, but he ended up whipping / physically chastising them into conformity with his wishes rather than allowing wisdom to correct. Again, he was playing God; for it is God through His wisdom who chastises, and not man. But Solomon thought he was effectively God to his people. This is why Solomon argues that servants cannot be corrected by words (Prov. 29:19 s.w.), and a child must be physically chastised (s.w. Prov. 19:18; 29:17 cp. Prov. 13:24; 23:13), regardless of his screams of pain. This kind of thing is a denial of his claims elsewhere that it is Divine wisdom which chastises / corrects, and such correction is from God and not man. Solomon's final description of himself as an old and foolish king who refuses to be admonished says it all (Ecc. 4:13); he admonishes others (s.w. Ecc. 12:12), but refuses to be admonished or corrected by his own wisdom. He failed to personalize it.  

Pro 8:11 For wisdom is better than rubies. All the things that may be desired can’t be compared to it-
The words of Job 28:18 are repeatedly quoted in Proverbs (Prov. 3:15; 8:11; 20:15). "Wisdom" in Proverbs refers not so much to nuggets of truth, but to a way of life in relationship with God; for that is the context in the source passage in Job 28:18 cp. 28. 

Pro 8:12 I, wisdom, have made prudence my dwelling. Find out knowledge and discretion-
The emphasis of Solomon is always upon needing to "find out knowledge" through accepting the wisdom he taught. This is no bad exhortation of itself. But it is not the accent given by an understanding of God's grace. Through intellectual searching, we will not find out God, i.e. build relationship with Him- as Job concluded. The Bible is not a riddle to be solved, with relationship with God waiting there as a reward for getting things right. Bible study alone doesn't lead a man to God; or else this would be reason for boasting in intellectual prowess. The Divine-human encounter and relationship is instead predicated upon His prevenient grace, His initiative in seeking us. And so it is not so much a question of us knowing God, but of His knowing us (Gal. 4:9). We love because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19).    

Pro 8:13 The fear of Yahweh is to hate evil. I hate pride, arrogance, the evil way, and the perverse mouth-
Solomon, as often, repeats his father's phrases. Here he has in mind Ps. 97:10 "You that love Yahweh, hate evil". But Solomon replaces loving Yahweh with fearing Yahweh. and he gives far stronger accent to the aspect of 'hating' evil and evil people. This is not merely Solomon wishing to put everything in black and white terms; but through that, he is seeking to use God's truth as a vehicle through which to express hatred against others, rather than love. And this is related to why he thinks in terms of fearing God rather than loving Him.

Pro 8:14 Counsel and sound knowledge are mine. I have understanding and power-
The word translated "power" is frequently used of the power of a king, which is the context of the following verses. Solomon is justifying himself, arguing that he has power to act as he likes because he has wisdom. And the same abuse of possession of Divine truth has so often been seen. By contrast, David often uses this word for "power" about God's power, and the way He uses it to save people, by grace (Ps. 106:8 etc.). But Solomon speaks of such "power" as being possessed by kings [he has himself in view], predicated upon the possession of wisdom.  

Pro 8:15 By me kings reign, and princes decree justice-
Solomon is again justifying himself. He had been given wisdom in order to reign over Israel on God's behalf, but from that good basis he had slipped into considering himself as therefore automatically just and right in whatever abuse of power he chose to exercise (see on :14). And he ends his reign abusing and whipping his people. He maintained his intellectual grasp of wisdom to the end (Ecc. 2:9), but he didn't reign nor live by it. He is proof enough that mere intellectual assent to God's truth is not going to save anyone. 

Pro 8:16 By me princes rule; nobles, and all the righteous rulers of the earth-
By "the earth", Solomon has in view the eretz promised to Abraham. The local rulers he had established were to teach his wisdom and judge and rule according to it. But again, Solomon's personification of wisdom gets confused with himself personally. For it was he who had appointed the various rulers, princes and nobles of Israel, as the historical records record. But he says here that wisdom had done that.

Pro 8:17 I love those who love me. Those who seek me diligently will find me-
The Lord Jesus taught that we should love our enemies, and not fall into the trap of only loving those who love us (Mt. 5:44-46). He seems to be alluding here to Solomon’s claim that wisdom says: “I love them that love me” (Prov. 8:17). It seems likely that He was consciously showing that God’s grace is in fact the very opposite of what Solomon thought. God loves His enemies, and doesn’t only love those who love Him; and this is to be our credo likewise. 

The woman wisdom is the opposite of the whore in Prov. 7, who likewise says she seeks and finds men (Prov. 7:15). But Solomon appears to draw a contrast between the whore seeking and finding the man, and the wise woman being sought and found by men. But Solomon fails to perceive that God by grace is in search of man, and indeed He had searched for and found Solomon's father David (Ps. 89:20). Solomon really understands nothing of the grace by which God works constantly in practice.

Pro 8:18 With me are riches, honour, enduring wealth, and prosperity-
This, again, is true, but not quite so simply as Solomon likes to present it. It is true that he chose wisdom rather than wealth, and was rewarded for that with great and enduring wealth. But many of God's wise people have been poor, or lost their wealth and honour; His Son being the parade example (2 Cor. 8:9). Yet Solomon failed to realize that his wealth was given to him by grace, and not because he was wise. And so he makes the false step further, to say that if we have wisdom, we will then have wealth. And logically, any who are poor are so because they have refused wisdom. And that is simply a wrong conclusion. The Gospel has ever been "good news for the poor", rather than a rebuke of them for their poverty.

Pro 8:19 My fruit is better than gold, yes, than fine gold; my yield than choice silver-
This as it were seeks to qualify the simplistic conclusion offered in :18, that wisdom leads to wealth. Solomon has indeed just said that, but now he says that the fruit of wisdom is even more valuable than the material wealth which he thinks wisdom will give to the wise. Solomon's father David concluded that the law of God was better than gold and solver (s.w. Ps. 119:72). But as so often in the book of Proverbs, Solomon speaks of the wisdom he was teaching in the same terms as the Bible elsewhere speaks of God's entire revelation. And he saw fit to flout God's law. It was as if his obsession with the wisdom material he was teaching had led him to effectively replace God's laws with his own. He saw the particular Divine truths he had been given as eclipsing the rest of God's revelation; a mistake we see commonly made.  

Pro 8:20 I walk in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice-
Again it seems that Solomon's personification of wisdom leads him to come out with things which he clearly enough saw as descriptions of himself. He saw himself as wisdom personified, walking always in the right way, and always judging justly. And the one who walked in "the way of righteousness" would never die (Prov. 12:28 s.w.). Solomon saw his possession of Divine truths as the guarantee of itself that he was the eternal Messianic king. He had been warned that he must walk in the way of God if he was to have long life (s.w. 1 Kings 3:14); but he assumed that the mere possession of Divine wisdom meant he was in that "way". As he got older and was reminded of his own mortality, he would have realized that he had to recalculate his position; and he ended up with the cynicism about his own wisdom seen in Ecclesiastes.  And yet his injustice to his own people was evidence enough that he didn't do this in reality, but only in his own mind (1 Kings 12:11).

Pro 8:21 that I may give wealth to those who love me. I fill their treasuries-
I discussed on :18 how this is not totally true. Often Solomon’s Proverbs bring out the tension between wealth and wisdom, and the need to choose wisdom (Prov. 8:11; 16:16). But whilst he was inspired to write this, and true as it all was, it is inevitable that Solomon said all this with his mind on the way that he had rejected wealth for wisdom when asked by God for his wish. He thought that his right choice in early life [cp. Christian baptism] justified him in later loving wealth rather than wisdom. He taught that wisdom filled the treasuries of the wise (Prov. 8:21 RV)- just as his treasuries were filled with wealth.

Pro 8:22 Yahweh possessed me in the beginning of His work, before His deeds of old-
LXX has "created" for "possessed". Wisdom was "set up" (:23), "brought forth" (:24,25). Wisdom is presented as having been 'created' by God, right at the beginning, before the present world was made. Any attempt to use this passage to prove the eternal preexistence of the Lord Jesus is doomed to failure, therefore. It is true that the passage in Jn. 1:1-3 about the logos or "word" existing in the beginning, on account of whom all was made, may be alluding here. But clearly enough in this passage, "wisdom" is personified, just as the "word" is in Jn. 1:1-3. The Lord Jesus didn't physically, personally exist before His conception. The word, or wisdom / logos, became flesh in Him (Jn. 1:14). And indeed He thereby became the living embodiment of the word / wisdom, and can therefore truly be called "Christ... the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. 1:24,30). But this is not to say that He personally existed in Solomon's time. To insist on reading the text like this is to miss the point that the language of personification and preexistence "with God" is common in Jewish and indeed all Semitic writings. See on :23.  

Pro 8:23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth existed-
This kind of language is common in the literature of the time; see on :22. But it is primitive to suggest that there was a literal personal being called wisdom who existed at the beginning, just as it is to suggest this person was the Lord Jesus. The records of His birth leave out any possibility for His personal preexistence. Thus chapter 42 of the Book of Enoch likewise speaks of the personality and preexistence of Wisdom: "Wisdom found no place where she could dwell; therefore was her dwelling in heaven. Wisdom came forth in order to dwell among the sons of men, and found no habitation; then she returned to her place, and took her seat among the angels". Likewise Wisdom 8:3: "In that she dwelleth with God, she magnifieth her nobility". This is the language of personification; in no way is a literal being in view.  

Pro 8:24 When there were no depths, I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water-
The specific references to the waters are because the Genesis creation is spoken of as happening after a point at which the earth was covered with deep waters (Gen. 1:2). But before that point, wisdom was there, God's plan, His ways. LXX "Before the springs of the waters came forward" would be a reference to the opening up of the fountains at the flood (Gen. 7:11).

Pro 8:25 Before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was brought forth-
The language of Ps. 90:2 about God Himself, who existed before the mountains were settled. But again we note that "wisdom" was brought forth; it had a beginning. Whereas God has no beginning. We cannot simply equate wisdom with God. There is a marked difference between them. Any attempt to prove "Jesus = God" because He is called the wisdom of God is therefore simplistic and lacking in attention to what the text is saying. 

Pro 8:26 while as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields-
The distinction is between the areas used by man and those not. LXX "The Lord made countries and uninhabited places".

Nor the beginning of the dust of the world-
This could be an oblique reference to the seed of Abraham, who were to multiply as the dust- if they followed the way of wisdom. Or "The highest part of the dust of the world" could refer to the creation of man from the dust, the rosh or head of all creation (Gen. 3:19; Ecc. 3:20). 

Pro 8:27 When He established the skies, I was there; when He set a circle on the surface of the deep-
Here as in Job 22:14, the reference is to the idea that there was a dome like vault called "heaven", imagined as resting on an ocean which surrounds the earth. As with the language of demons in the New Testament, wrong ideas aren't necessarily corrected in the Biblical record. People had these ideas, but believed that God was behind them. And the overall form [belief, faith in God as creator] was more significant to God than the exact content. Human attempts at religion have emphasized the opposite.

Pro 8:28 when He established the clouds above, when the springs of the deep became strong-
This may be a reference to the events of the flood, when the springs of the deep were unleashed (Gen. 7:11). The flood, therefore, was an outcome of "wisdom", it was according to God's plan and in line with His principles, and not some senseless pouring out of Divine anger. LXX "When he made secure the fountains of the earth beneath the heaven" would continue the allusions to current conceptions of creation and cosmology, however incorrect (see on :27).

Pro 8:29 when He gave to the sea its boundary, that the waters should not violate His commandment, when He marked out the foundations of the earth-
The reference may be to the earth / land promised to Abraham. The sea of Gentile nations were given a boundary beyond which they could not pass in their aggression toward Israel (Jer. 5:22). This was all by the Divine grace which is such an integral part of His "wisdom", His purpose, His word from the beginning. 

Pro 8:30 then I was the craftsman by His side. I was a delight day by day, always rejoicing before Him-
This again is the language of personification and not to be taken literally. And such language is found in contemporary writings, with no hint that a literal person is to be imagined. Thus in Wisdom 7:22, Wisdom is called "the worker of all things... from the beginning". And indeed the whole of creation was according to God's wisdom (Prov. 3:19); God spoke, and the creation came about. Creation is presented in Genesis as by the spoken word of God, but that "word" reflected His wisdom, the logos which was from the beginning.

Pro 8:31 rejoicing in His whole world. My delight was with the sons of men-
The joy of God and the Angels in creation is elsewhere mentioned (Job 38:7; Ps. 104:31). In this sense, "wisdom" rejoiced. God's special joy was in the creation and salvation of men- according to the principles of His wisdom. 

Pro 8:32 Now therefore, my sons, listen to me, for blessed are those who keep my ways-
Solomon's prophetic sonship of David was conditional upon him preserving or observing Yahweh's ways (1 Kings 2:4; 1 Chron. 22:13; 2 Chron. 7:17); but he didn't preserve of observe them (1 Kings 11:10,11); despite David praying that Solomon would be given a heart to observe them (1 Chron. 29:19). We can pray for God to work upon the hearts of others, but He will not force people against their own deepest will and heart position. Solomon stresses overmuch how God would keep or preserve the righteous (Prov. 2:8; 3:26), without recognizing the conditional aspect of this. Why did Solomon go wrong? His Proverbs are true enough, but he stresses that obedience to his wisdom and teaching would preserve his hearers (Prov. 4:4; 6:22; 7:1; 8:32; 15:5), preservation was through following the example of the wise (Prov. 2:20); rather than stressing obedience to God's ways, and replacing David his father's simple love of God with a love of academic wisdom: "Yahweh preserves all those who love Him" (Ps. 145:20).

He spoke of his law as giving life and blessing, appropriating the very terms of Deuteronomy about the blessings of obedience to God’s law. Wisdom said: “Now therefore my sons, hearken unto me: for blessed are they that keep my ways” (Prov. 8:32 RV). Yet these are the very words Solomon uses when talking to his kids: “Now therefore my sons, hearken unto me” (Prov. 5:7; 7:24). Conclusion? Solomon sees the woman “Wisdom” as a personification of himself.   It was really Solomon's self-justification. He personally was wisdom, so he thought. This is how self-exalted his possession of true wisdom made him. And of course, his kids didn’t listen to wisdom’s way. In passing, I have noted that those raised ‘in the truth’ often find it very hard to take criticism in later life. They find tolerance of others’ views hard; they perceive themselves to be right to an intolerant extent. Is this not a little bit of the Solomon syndrome? 

Pro 8:33 Hear instruction, and be wise. Don’t refuse it-
The same power of wisdom in the natural creation just described can be articulated to men who accept wisdom, thereby forming a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

Pro 8:34 Blessed is the man who hears me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my door posts-
This may be an intentional contrast with the bad woman if Prov. 7, who tempts men to furtively enter the doors and gates of her house. And Solomon failed in this; for the Song of Solomon speaks of the "gates" of his illicit Gentile girlfriend (Song 7:13), outside which Solomon waited secretly at night (Song 5:2,4). The language of doors, posts and gates recurs in the descriptions of Solomon's temple. The subtext could be that Solomon considered that building to be the repository of wisdom, in that from there he taught wisdom; whereas the true abode of wisdom is in human hearts.

Pro 8:35 For whoever finds me finds life, and will obtain favour from Yahweh-
True as this is, as noted on :12, through intellectual searching, we will not find out God, i.e. build relationship with Him- as Job concluded. The Bible is not a riddle to be solved, with relationship with God waiting there as a reward for getting things right and our intellectual search ending in 'finding'. Bible study alone doesn't lead a man to God; or else this would be reason for boasting in intellectual prowess. The Divine-human encounter and relationship is instead predicated upon His prevenient grace, His initiative in seeking us. And so it is not so much a question of us knowing God, but of His knowing us (Gal. 4:9). We love because He first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19.

God's "favour" isn't predicated upon our intellectual prowess in mastering "wisdom" (Prov. 8:35) nor upon our good works (Prov. 12:2). Academic truth and / or good living isn't as it were the key which opens up access to God's grace. For otherwise Divine "favour" would be a reward, and grace would no longer be grace. See on :36.

Pro 8:36 But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul. All those who hate me love death
"Sins" is the word for 'missing', and is the antithesis of 'finding' wisdom in :35. But whilst this may be true in a sense, Solomon has the idea that those who seek wisdom but miss finding her will be punished for it. The truth is that God is in search of man, and finally all we have to do is say "yes" to His approach. Intellectual failure will not of itself mean that we have 'missed' God; for He is right on course for us. The Divine-human encounter I discussed on :12 will surely happen; for God is coming out to meet us, and is focused upon us. The sin, the failure, is to refuse His approach. But Solomon, like many fundamentalists, puts the failure on missing wisdom, not finding truth, for whatever reason.