The Appeal of Wisdomsn In this chapter wisdom is personified. In 1:20-33 wisdom proclaims her value, and in 3:19-26 wisdom is the agent of creation. Such a personification has affinities with the wisdom literature of the ancient Near East, and may have drawn on some of that literature, albeit with appropriate safeguards (Claudia V. Camp, Wisdom and the Feminine in the Book of Proverbs, 23-70). Wisdom in Proverbs 8, however, is not a deity like Egypt’s Ma`at or the Assyrian-Babylonian Ishtar. It is simply presented as if it were a self-conscious divine being distinct but subordinate to God; but in reality it is the personification of the attribute of wisdom displayed by God (R. B. Y. Scott, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes [AB], 69-72; and R. Marcus, “On Biblical Hypostases of Wisdom,” HUCA 23 [1950-1951]: 157-71). Many have equated wisdom in this chapter with Jesus Christ. This connection works only in so far as Jesus reveals the nature of the Father, just as Proverbs presents wisdom as an attribute of God. Jesus’ claims included wisdom (Matt 12:42) and a unique knowledge of God (Matt 11:25-27). He even personified wisdom in a way that was similar to Proverbs (Matt 11:19). Paul saw the fulfillment of wisdom in Christ (Col 1:15-20; 2:3) and affirmed that Christ became our wisdom in the crucifixion (1 Cor 1:24, 30). So this personification in Proverbs provides a solid foundation for the similar revelation of wisdom in Christ. But because wisdom is a creation of God in Proverbs 8, it is unlikely that wisdom here is to be identified with Jesus Christ. The chapter unfolds in three cycles: After an introduction (1-3), wisdom makes an invitation (4, 5) and explains that she is noble, just, and true (6-9); she then makes another invitation (10) and explains that she is valuable (11-21); and finally, she tells how she preceded and delights in creation (22-31) before concluding with the third invitation (32-36).
1 Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
2 At the toptn Heb “head.” The word רֹאשׁ (ro’sh, “head”) refers to the highest area or most important place in the elevated area. The contrast with chapter 7 is striking. There the wayward woman lurked at the corners in the street at night; here wisdom is at the highest point in the open places in view of all. of the elevated places along the way,
at the intersectiontn Heb “at the house of the paths.” The “house” is not literal here, but refers to where the paths meet (cf. ASV, NIV), that is, the “crossroads” (so NAB, NRSV, NLT). of the paths she takes her stand;
3 beside the gates opening intotn Heb “at the mouth of.” the city,
at the entrance of the doorways she cries out:tn The cry is a very loud ringing cry that could not be missed. The term רָנַן (ranan) means “to give a ringing cry.” It is often only a shrill sound that might come with a victory in battle, but its use in the psalms for praise shows that it also can have clear verbal content, as it does here. For wisdom to stand in the street and give such a ringing cry would mean that it could be heard by all. It was a proclamation.
4 “To you, O people,tn Heb “men.” Although it might be argued in light of the preceding material that males would be particularly addressed by wisdom here, the following material indicates a more universal appeal. Cf. TEV, NLT “to all of you.” I call out,
and my voice callstn The verb “calls” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for the sake of style. to all mankind.tn Heb “sons of man.” Cf. NAB “the children of men”; NCV, NLT “all people”; NRSV “all that live.”
5 You who are naive, discerntn The imperative of בִּין (bin) means “to understand; to discern.” The call is for the simple to understand what wisdom is, not just to gain it. wisdom!
And you fools, understand discernment!tn Heb “heart.” The noun לֵב (lev, “heart”) often functions metonymically for wisdom, understanding, discernment.
6 Listen, for I will speak excellent things,tn Heb “noble” or “princely.” Wisdom begins the first motivation by claiming to speak noble things, that is, excellent things.
and my lips will uttertn Heb “opening of my lips” (so KJV, NASB). The noun “lips” is a metonymy of cause, with the organ of speech put for what is said. what is right.
7 For my mouthtn Heb “roof of the mouth.” This expression is a metonymy of cause for the activity of speaking. speaks truth,tn The word “truth” (אֱמֶת, ’emet) is derived from the verbal root אָמַן (’aman) which means “to support.” There are a number of derived nouns that have the sense of reliability: “pillars,” “master craftsman,” “nurse,” “guardian.” Modifiers related to this group of words includes things like “faithful,” “surely,” “truly” (amen). In the derived stems the verb develops various nuances: The Niphal has the meanings of “reliable, faithful, sure, steadfast,” and the Hiphil has the meaning “believe” (i.e., consider something dependable). The noun “truth” means what is reliable or dependable, firm or sure.
and my lipssn Wise lips detest wickedness; wisdom hates speaking wicked things. In fact, speaking truth results in part from detesting wickedness. hate wickedness.tn Heb “wickedness is an abomination to my lips” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV).
8 All the words of my mouth are righteous;tn The phrase could be rendered with an understood ellipsis: “all the words of my mouth [are said] in righteousness”; or the preposition could be interpreted as a beth essentiae: “all the words of my mouth are righteousness.”
there is nothing in them twistedsn The verb פָּתַל (patal) means “to twist.” In the Niphal it means “to wrestle” (to twist oneself). It was used in Gen 30:8 for the naming of Naphtali, with the motivation for the name from this verb: “with great struggling.” Here it describes speech that is twisted. It is a synonym for the next word, which means “twisted; crooked; perverse.” or crooked.
9 All of them are cleartn Heb “front of.” Describing the sayings as “right in front” means they are open, obvious, and clear, as opposed to words that might be twisted or perverse. The parallel word “upright” means “straight, smooth, right.” Wisdom’s teachings are in plain view and intelligible for those who find knowledge. to the discerning
and upright to those who find knowledge.
10 Receive my instructiontn Heb “discipline.” The term refers to instruction that trains with discipline (e.g., Prov 1:2). rather thantn Heb “and not” (so KJV, NASB); NAB “in preference to.” silver,
and knowledge rather than choice gold.
11 For wisdom is better than rubies,
and desirable things cannot be comparedtn The verb יִשְׁווּ (yishvu, from שָׁוָה, shavah) can be rendered “are not comparable” or in a potential nuance “cannot be compared” with her. to her.
12 “I, wisdom, live with prudence,tn The noun is “shrewdness,” i.e., the right use of knowledge in special cases (see also the discussion in 1:4); cf. NLT “good judgment.” The word in this sentence is an adverbial accusative of specification.
and I findtn This verb form is an imperfect, whereas the verb in the first colon was a perfect tense. The perfect should be classified as a gnomic perfect, and this form a habitual imperfect, because both verbs describe the nature of wisdom. knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the Lord is to hatetn The verb שָׂנֵא (sane’) means “to hate.” In this sentence it functions nominally as the predicate. Fearing the Lord is hating evil.sn The verb translated “hate” has the basic idea of rejecting something spontaneously. For example, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Mal 1:2b, 3a). It frequently has the idea of disliking or loathing (as English does), but almost always with an additional aspect of rejection. To “hate evil” is not only to dislike it, but to reject it and have nothing to do with it. evil;
I hate arrogant pridetn Since both גֵּאָה (ge’ah, “pride”) and גָּאוֹן (ga’on, “arrogance; pride”) are both from the same verbal root גָּאָה (ga’ah, “to rise up”), they should here be interpreted as one idea, forming a nominal hendiadys: “arrogant pride.” and the evil way
and perverse utterances.tn Heb “and a mouth of perverse things.” The word “mouth” is a metonymy of cause for what is said; and the noun תַהְפֻּכוֹת (tahpukhot, “perverse things”) means destructive things (the related verb is used for the overthrowing of Sodom).
14 Counsel and sound wisdom belong to me;tc In the second half of v. 14 instead of אֲנִי (’ani) the editors propose reading simply לִי (li) as the renderings in the LXX, Latin, and Syriac suggest. Then, in place of the לִי that comes in the same colon, read וְלִי (vÿli). While the MT is a difficult reading, it can be translated as it is. It would be difficult to know exactly what the ancient versions were reading, because their translations could have been derived from either text. They represent an effort to smooth out the text.tn Heb “To me [belong] counsel and sound wisdom.” The second colon in the verse has: “I, understanding, to me and might.”sn In vv. 14-17 the pronouns come first and should receive greater prominence – although it is not always easy to do this with English.
I possess understanding and might.
15 Kings reign by means of me,
and potentatestn The verb רָזַן (razan) means “to be weighty; to be judicious; to be commanding.” It only occurs in the Qal active participle in the plural as a substantive, meaning “potentates; rulers” (e.g., Ps 1:1-3). Cf. KJV, ASV “princes”; NAB “lawgivers.” decreesn This verb יְחֹקְקוּ (yÿkhoqqu) is related to the noun חֹק (khoq), which is a “statute; decree.” The verb is defined as “to cut in; to inscribe; to decree” (BDB 349 s.v. חָקַק). The point the verse is making is that when these potentates decree righteousness, it is by wisdom. History records all too often that these rulers acted as fools and opposed righteousness (cf. Ps 2:1-3). But people in power need wisdom to govern the earth (e.g., Isa 11:1-4 which predicts how Messiah will use wisdom to do this very thing). The point is underscored with the paronomasia in v. 15 with “kings” and “will reign” from the same root, and then in v. 16 with both “princes” and “rule” being cognate. The repetition of sounds and meanings strengthens the statements. righteousness;
16 by me princes rule,
as well as nobles andtn The term “and” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for the sake of smoothness and readability. all righteous judges.tc Many of the MT mss read “sovereigns [princes], all the judges of the earth.” The LXX has “sovereigns…rule the earth.” But the MT manuscript in the text has “judges of righteousness.” C. H. Toy suggests that the Hebrew here has assimilated Psalm 148:11 in its construction (Proverbs [ICC], 167). The expression “judges of the earth” is what one would expect, but the more difficult and unexpected reading, the one scribes might change, would be “judges of righteousness.” If that reading stands, then it would probably be interpreted as using an attributive genitive.
17 I lovesn In contrast to the word for “hate” (שָׂנֵא, shaneh) the verb “love” (אָהֵב, ’ahev) includes within it the idea of choosing spontaneously. So in this line loving and seeking point up the means of finding wisdom. those who love me,
and those who seek me find me.
18 Riches and honor are with me,
long-lasting wealth and righteousness.
19 My fruit is better than the purest gold,tn The two synonyms, “than gold, than fine gold” probably form a hendiadys here to express “the very finest gold.”
and what I producesn The language of the text with “fruit” and “ingathering” is the language of the harvest – what the crops yield. So the figure is hypocatastasis, comparing what wisdom produces to such crops. is better than choice silver.
20 I walk in the path of righteousness,
in the pathway of justice,
21 that I may causetn The infinitive construct expressing the purpose of the preceding “walk” in the way of righteousness. These verses say that wisdom is always on the way of righteousness for the purposes of bestowing the same to those who find her. If sin is involved, then wisdom has not been followed. those who love me to inherit wealth,
and that I may filltn The Piel imperfect continues the verbal idea that the infinitive began in the parallel colon even though it does not have the vav on the form. their treasuries.tc The LXX adds at the end of this verse: “If I declare to you the things of daily occurrence, I will remember to recount the things of old.”
22 The Lord createdtn There are two roots קָנָה (qanah) in Hebrew, one meaning “to possess,” and the other meaning “to create.” The earlier English versions did not know of the second root, but suspected in certain places that a meaning like that was necessary (e.g., Gen 4:1; 14:19; Deut 32:6). Ugaritic confirmed that it was indeed another root. The older versions have the translation “possess” because otherwise it sounds like God lacked wisdom and therefore created it at the beginning. They wanted to avoid saying that wisdom was not eternal. Arius liked the idea of Christ as the wisdom of God and so chose the translation “create.” Athanasius translated it, “constituted me as the head of creation.” The verb occurs twelve times in Proverbs with the meaning of “to acquire”; but the Greek and the Syriac versions have the meaning “create.” Although the idea is that wisdom existed before creation, the parallel ideas in these verses (“appointed,” “given birth”) argue for the translation of “create” or “establish” (R. N. Whybray, “Proverbs 8:22-31 and Its Supposed Prototypes,” VT 15 : 504-14; and W. A. Irwin, “Where Will Wisdom Be Found?” JBL 80 : 133-42). me as the beginningtn Verbs of creation often involve double accusatives; here the double accusative involves the person (i.e., wisdom) and an abstract noun in construct (IBHS 174-75 §10.2.3c). of his works,tn Heb “his way” (so KJV, NASB). The word “way” is an idiom (implied comparison) for the actions of God. sn The claim of wisdom in this passage is that she was foundational to all that God would do.
before his deeds of long ago.
23 From eternity I was appointed,tn The first parallel verb is נִסַּכְתִּי (nissakhti), “I was appointed.” It is not a common word; it occurs here and in Ps 2:6 for the coronation of the king. It means “installed, set.”
from the beginning, from before the world existed.tn The verb “existed” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation in the light of the context.
24 When there were no deep oceanssn The summary statements just given are now developed in a lengthy treatment of wisdom as the agent of all creation. This verse singles out “watery deeps” (תְּהֹמוֹת, tÿhomot) in its allusion to creation because the word in Genesis signals the condition of the world at the very beginning, and because in the ancient world this was something no one could control. Chaos was not there first – wisdom was. I was born,tn The third parallel verb is חוֹלָלְתִּי (kholalti), “I was given birth.” Some (e.g., KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV) translate it “brought forth” – not in the sense of being presented, but in the sense of being “begotten, given birth to.” Here is the strongest support for the translation of קָנָה (qanah) as “created” in v. 22. The verb is not literal; it continues the perspective of the personification.
when there were no springs overflowingtn Heb “made heavy.” with water;
25 before the mountains were set in place –
before the hills – I was born,
26 before he made the earth and its fields,tn Heb “open places.”
or the beginningtn Here רֹאשׁ (ro’sh) means “beginning” with reference to time (BDB 911 s.v. 4.b). of the dust of the world.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there;
when he marked out the horizonsn The infinitive construct בְּחוּקוֹ (bÿkhuqo, “to cut; to engrave; to mark”) and the noun חוּג (khug, “horizon; circle”) form a paronomasia in the line. over the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above,
when the fountains of the deep grew strong,tn To form a better parallel some commentators read this infinitive בַּעֲזוֹז (ba’azoz), “when [they] grew strong,” as a Piel causative, “when he made firm, fixed fast” (cf. NIV “fixed securely”; NLT “established”). But the following verse (“should not pass over”) implies the meaning “grew strong” here.
29 when he gave the sea his decree
that the waters should not pass over his command,tn Heb “his mouth.”
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 then I wastn The verb form is a preterite with vav consecutive, although it has not been apocopated. It provides the concluding statement for the temporal clauses as well as the parallel to v. 27. beside him as a master craftsman,tn Critical to the interpretation of this line is the meaning of אָמוֹן (’amon). Several suggestions have been made: “master craftsman” (cf. ASV, NASB, NIV, NRSV), “nursing child” (cf. NCV), “foster father.” R. B. Y. Scott chooses “faithful” – a binding or living link (“Wisdom in Creation: The ‘Amon of Proverbs 8:30,” VT 10 : 213-23). The image of a child is consistent with the previous figure of being “given birth to” (vv. 24, 25). However, “craftsman” has the most support (LXX, Vulgate, Syriac, Tg. Prov 8:30, Song 7:1; Jer 52:15; also P. W. Skehan, “Structures in Poems on Wisdom: Proverbs 8 and Sirach 24,” CBQ 41 : 365-79).
and I was his delighttn The word is a plural of intensification for “delight”; it describes wisdom as the object of delight. The LXX has the suffix; the Hebrew does not. day by day,
rejoicing before him at all times,
31 rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth,tn The two words are synonymous in general and so could be taken to express a superlative idea – the “whole world” (cf. NIV, NCV). But תֵּבֵל (tevel) also means the inhabited world, and so the construct may be interpreted as a partitive genitive.
and delightingtn Heb “and my delights” [were] with/in.” in its people.tn Heb “the sons of man.”
32 “So now, children,tn Heb “sons.” listen to me;
blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Listen to my instructiontn Heb “discipline.” so that you may be wise,tn The construction uses two imperatives joined with the vav (ו); this is a volitive sequence in which result or consequence is being expressed.
and do not neglect it.
34 Blessed is the onetn Heb “the man.” who listens to me,
watchingtn The form לִשְׁקֹד (lishqod) is the infinitive construct serving epexegetically in the sentence. It explains how the person will listen to wisdom. at my doors day by day,
waitingtn Heb “keeping” or “guarding.” beside my doorway.tn Heb “at the posts of my doors” (so KJV, ASV).
35 For the one who finds me findstc The Kethib reads plurals: “those who find me are finders of life”; this is reflected in the LXX and Syriac. But the Qere is singular: “whoever finds me finds life.” The Qere is generally favored as the original reading in such cases as these. life
and receivestn The preterite with vav (ו) consecutive carries the same nuance as the perfect tense that came before it, setting out the timeless principle. favor from the Lord.
36 But the one who does not find metn Heb “the one sinning [against] me.” The verb חָטָא (khata’, “to sin”) forms a contrast with “find” in the previous verse, and so has its basic meaning of “failing to find, miss.” So it is talking about the one who misses wisdom, as opposed to the one who finds it. brings harmtn The Qal active participle functions verbally here. The word stresses both social and physical harm and violence. sn Brings harm. Whoever tries to live without wisdom is inviting all kinds of disaster into his life. to himself;tn Heb “his soul.”
all who hate metn The basic idea of the verb שָׂנֵא (sane’, “to hate”) is that of rejection. Its antonym is also used in the line, “love,” which has the idea of choosing. So not choosing (i.e., hating) wisdom amounts to choosing (i.e., loving) death. love death.”
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