New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Pro 9:1 Wisdom has built her house, she has carved out her seven pillars-
See on Prov. 8:2. Solomon's great obsession had been the building of the temple, replete with pillars. I have noted on Prov. 8 that his personification of "wisdom" is to the point that he speaks of himself as "wisdom" personified. So here, his picture of wisdom building her grand and glorious house is in fact referring to his building of grandiose houses, both for God and for himself and his wives.

Pro 9:2 she has prepared her bread, she has mixed her wine. She has also set her table-
A table with bread and wine on it is the language of the altar, the table of Yahweh. As noted on :1, Solomon presents the house wisdom built as the temple which he had built.

Pro 9:3 she has sent out her maidens, she cries from the highest places of the city-
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.

Pro 9:4 Whoever is simple, let him turn in here! As for him who is void of understanding, she says to him-
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 9:5 Come, eat some of my bread, drink some of the wine which I have mixed!-
The contrast is with the invitation of wicked men to eat their bread and drink their wine of wickedness and violence (Prov. 4:17). Solomon again presents life as being of diametrical opposites, with people within Israel divided between the desperately, criminally wicked- and the spotlessly wise and righteous. But this is simply not true to reality. Human thought and behaviour within the people of God is more mixed than that. Bread and wine even in Old Testament times were of sacramental significance. The wicked are presented as not offering true sacrifice, but a fake appearance of it, to the praise and glory of wickedness and violence. Whereas the wise offer perfectly acceptable sacrifice.

Pro 9:6 Leave your simple ways, and live. Walk in the way of understanding-
These are the words used by David in Ps. 119:37: "Revive me in Your ways". This idea of living in God's ways was a promised blessing for remaining in the covenant (Dt. 5:33; 30:16). Solomon here uses the phrase for living in the way of understanding, but the difference with his father David was that David asks to be "revived" or made to live in those ways; whereas Solomon exhorts people to attempt to do this in their own strength and steel willpower. And this ultimately fails, as it did with Solomon.

Pro 9:7 He who corrects a mocker invites insult; he who reproves a wicked man invites abuse-
What is said in :7-9 is true enough, but it presupposes that we judge who is a mocker or scoffer (:8) before sharing with them the reproof and hope of true wisdom. This is out of step with God's universal appeal to "all men" as sinners to repent and accept His grace; wise and unwise, mockers and spiritual enthusiasts alike, are all sinners and in that sense unwise. And the records of the "insults" and "abuse" suffered by the Lord Jesus and His apostles are evidence enough that they did not seek to avoid these things by only selectively witnessing to only some men- those they judged wise.  

Pro 9:8 Don’t reprove a scoffer, lest he hate you-
As noted on :7, this may be true, but it is not an approach of love. Job's friends were scoffers (s.w. Job 16:20), but still they were reproved by him and God. Our appeal to others should not be made selectively, based upon the likely response we think they will make. Thus it is quite wrong to reason that a person should not be baptized because they may fall away, or it may divide the church. We think of how John the Baptist rebuked Herod, and was hated for it by Herodias.  

Reprove a wise man, and he will love you-
Solomon may be justifying his father David's response to Nathan the prophet.

Pro 9:9 instruct a wise man, and he will be still wiser. Teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning-
This is true, but as noted on :7,8, it rather presupposes that we can somehow judge the spiritual nature of our audience before we begin sharing instruction / wisdom with them. It is indeed so that there is an upward spiral in spiritual life, whereby the wise become wiser. But our motive for wanting to share wisdom ought to be to make the foolish wise, rather than confirm the wise in their wisdom.

Pro 9:10 The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom, the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding-
Solomon repeats his father David's conclusion that wisdom begins with the fear of Yahweh (Ps. 111:10 = Prov. 1:7; 9:10). This statement is in sharp contrast with the accepted view of the times, that wisdom was held by the sages, and was accessible only by sitting at their feet. But this idea (and it is common enough today too) is subverted by this idea that wisdom begins in each individual heart being in fear of Yahweh- so that wisdom from Him can be personally experienced, taught directly through relationship with Him rather than sitting at the feet of a human sage. "Wisdom" is parallel with getting "a good understanding" by 'doing His work' or obeying His commandments (Ps. 111:10b). The work we are to do for God in obeying His ways is not simply a test of our obedience; it is designed to give us wisdom. Wisdom therefore comes from experience of obedience and relationship with God, rather than from picking up nuggets of 'truth' from human sages. The fear of God is therefore not so much referring to a fear of the consequence of our sins; but the fear or reverence expressed through keeping His commandments (see on Ps. 112:1). 

"Holy One" can as well be translated "the assembly", the 'holy ones', as if Solomon saw wisdom as held by a group of holy people.

Pro 9:11 For by me your days will be multiplied. The years of your life will be increased-
Solomon claims that the righteous / wise live long lives, and therefore the unwise have shorter lives. This was the promise for obedience to the old covenant (s.w. Dt. 11:21). But it is not always the case, as Job learned (s.w. Job 29:18). And it was so with the Lord Jesus. And faithful men often lament that the wicked seem to get long life, whilst the righteous don't. The answer to that conundrum is that final blessing of long life is at the resurrection, at the last day; and not in this life. But Solomon didn't see that; he thought that long life now was the only reward. He failed to perceive the real meaning of the Gospel of the Kingdom.   

Pro 9:12 If you are wise, you are wise for yourself. If you mock, you alone will bear it-
Solomon presents wisdom as of great personal benefit, indeed it is "for yourself"; and folly likewise is to your loss. But this presents a somewhat selfish view of wisdom. Solomon had been granted wisdom not for himself, but because he wanted to know how best to rule God's great people (1 Kings 3:9). But once he has the wisdom, he becomes exalted by it, and concludes that wisdom is essentially for the personal benefit of those who have it, "you are wise for yourself" (Prov. 9:12). Whatever truths are revealed to us are so that we might use them to the glory of God with others, and not to merely keep them for our own personal benefit.

Pro 9:13 The foolish woman is loud, undisciplined, and knows nothing-
Just as the woman wisdom "loudly" proclaims her truths on the streets. This woman is a conscious parody of the righteous woman of Prov. 8. This contrast between such women is found in Revelation, where the whore is the antithesis of the bride of Christ. 

Pro 9:14 She sits at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city-
We note that Solomon considered that the wise woman does stay in her house, whereas the sinful woman doesn't. This appears to be Solomon's chauvinism rather than true wisdom. For he then presents the woman wisdom as being publically on the streets pleading with men to turn in to her wisdom.

The blindness of Solomon is driven home time and again.  The  wicked  Gentile  woman is associated with a large   house  in  a  high  place, in  the  temple  area. But this is exactly where Solomon built his Egyptian wife a house! 

Pro 9:15 to call to those who pass by, who go straight on their ways-
Solomon thinks of the righteous as walking unflinchingly forward in wisdom, never turning to the right or left, refusing to be distracted by any wicked person who suggests walking another way (Prov. 9:15 "to call travellers who go directly on their way"). This approach fails to take account of the simple fact that righteous people sin and stray from the direct path every day, and are saved finally into God's Kingdom by grace alone. That is all something Solomon failed to have any grasp of, whereas David his father did. Prov. 11:5 makes the somewhat tautological statement that "the righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way", s.w. Prov. 4:25 "fix your gaze directly before you". This contrasts with how David uses the word in Ps. 5:8: "Lead me, O Yahweh... make Your way straight [s.w. direct] before my face". The same statement of God directing in the straight way is found in Is. 45:13; Jer. 18:4 s.w. Solomon didn't see this need for the Spirit of God to direct his path because he assumed that mere possession of Divine truth would itself keep him in the way; hence he teaches that "understanding" makes a man walk "directly" (Prov. 15:21). And he failed miserably because of that arrogant position.

Pro 9:16 Whoever is simple, let him turn in here. As for him who is void of understanding, she says to him-
Again, this is a parody of the woman wisdom, who likewise gives teaching to "the simple". The person without / lacking or void of understanding is typically the adulterer or sexual sinner (s.w. Prov. 6:32; 7:7; 9:4,16). But Solomon failed with women, despite priding himself on his wisdom. So by 'having understanding' he seems to refer to the mere intellectual possession of it. He thought this would alone preserve men from temptation and sin; but he utterly failed to personalize wisdom. Possession of Divine truth does not of itself preserve from sin; and Solomon is the parade example of this.

Pro 9:17 Stolen water is sweet. Food eaten in secret is pleasant-
"Water" is euphemism for semen, confirming that illicit sexual behaviour is in view, which agrees with the context. The idea of secret bread may allude to the shewbread, and I suggested on Prov. 7:14 that this bad woman portrays herself in the language of the Mosaic law. This was the basis of her attraction to a young Israelite man.

Pro 9:18 But he doesn’t know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol
The idea is that they are in a living death; her house is the house of the grave. "Guests" is literally "called / invited ones". They responded to her call, which is a parody and antithesis of the call of wisdom. And indeed there are only two ways before us in life, the call of the word of God and that of the flesh, personified here as a whore.