The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Proverbs 8

Pro 8:1

Pro 8: In this chapter wisdom is personified. In Pro 1:20-33 wisdom proclaims her value, and in Pro 3:19-26 wisdom is the agent, or means, of creation. "Wisdom" here is not a separate deity -- the Jews would have been horrified by such an idea! -- but it is the personification of the attribute of wisdom displayed by God: what GVG calls "the beautiful, faithful, eternal companion and handmaid of God". Others have equated wisdom in this chapter with Jesus Christ, but -- as the Bible teaches -- he did not pre-exist his conception and birth [See Lesson, Christ, preexistence of?]. Also, the fact that Wisdom is consistently personified as a woman and not a man is a secondary, though telling, argument against applying this to Christ.

It may be safer to say that the personification of "Wisdom" in Pro 8 ANTICIPATES the first advent of Jesus Christ: Jesus' claims included wisdom (Mat 12:42) and a unique knowledge of God (Mat 11:25-27). He even personified wisdom in a way that was similar to Proverbs (Mat 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 (1Co 1:24,30). So this personification in Proverbs provides a solid foundation for the similar, and more concrete, revelation of wisdom in Christ.

Pro 8 unfolds in three cycles: [1] After an introduction (vv 1-3), wisdom makes an invitation (vv 4,5) and explains that she is noble, just, and true (vv 6-9); [2] she then makes another invitation (10) and explains that she is valuable (vv 11-21); and finally, [3] she tells how she preceded and delights in creation (vv 22-31) before concluding with the third invitation (vv 32-36).

In Pro 8, "Lady Wisdom" desires to be every person's guide (vv 1-5; cf Gal 5:18,22,23). She is morality's partner (vv 6-13), the key to success (vv 14-21), the guiding principle of creation (vv 22-31), and the one essential necessity of life (vv 32-36).

"Pro 8 is mind-boggling in view of the claims that Woman Wisdom makes. It is helpful to review these points. First we notice that she addresses all humankind, not just the naive or fools. The personification begins with relatively modest claims, those that are associated with wisdom in earlier chapters: truth, justice, value exceeding gold, etc. But there is an escalation when Wisdom becomes, as it were, a social worker, and is associated with kingship and universal rule, establishing justice and right by which rulers are to operate [vv 14-16]. The love relationship she has with her followers is a guarantee of prosperity, provided they walk in her ways [vv 17-21]. Then, in the astounding passage in vv 22–31, she affirms her origins from God, and from of old before creation. The description of creation in vv 25–29 is not really important here; there is no concentration on creation itself, which merely serves to underscore Wisdom's preexistence. The climax comes in vv 30,31 where her relationship to God and to human beings is affirmed. Whether as crafts(wo)man (preferable, in my view), or as child, she brings delight to the LORD, playing before God and finding delight among human beings. That is a tall order, indeed... I see her as 'the revelation of God... She is the divine summons issued in and through creation, sounding through the vast realm of the created world and heard on the level of human experience. Thus she carries out her function with human beings (Pro 8:31)' (RE Murphy, 'Wisdom and Creation'). By human experience I mean to emphasize that this chapter finds its proper place within the book of Proverbs. Wisdom also points forward to the chapters that follow, since they contain the deposit of the experience of God and humans which flourished in Israel's daily life" (WBC).

DOES NOT WISDOM CALL OUT? DOES NOT UNDERSTANDING RAISE HER VOICE?: She loudly proclaims (v 3) -- she does not whisper secretly, seductively, and lasciviously like the harlot Folly did (Pro 7:13-21). She speaks openly, in the daytime -- not in the shadows of the night (ct Pro 7:5,9). Likewise, Jesus -- who embodied the wisdom of God -- "on the last and greatest day of the Feast... stood and cried out in a loud voice" (Joh 7:37).

"We have found the 'Truth': the saving Gospel of the Kingdom of God and the things concerning the Name of Jesus Christ. That is fine. That is indeed vital (and let us make sure we always HAVE it, and not just HAD it. The mind is leaky. We must keep refreshing and replenishing it). But, have we found THE truth? Have we 'gone on to perfection' -- to completion? -- right to the heart and core of the matter? 'He that loseth his life shall save it'... 'A man must forsake all he has to be my disciple.' Have we 'lost' our (natural) life, and forsaken all of it? -- total submission, total self-emptying, total yielding, total humility, total devotion, total service, total love, TOTAL 'peace with God'? This is what God gently, reasonably, lovingly asks of us. Do we love Him enough to give it? This is what 'love' means. Is it worth it? Is eternity worth that much effort and application? Can we give less than all, and safely presume on God's 'mercy' -- or that hopefully He will not notice that we are selfishly 'keeping back part of the price'? Human beings are congenital gamblers: that is part of the ingrained 'works of the flesh'. But are not the stakes here a little too high, the risks a little too great? Doth not wisdom cry a warning?" (GVG).

"The call of wisdom can surely be heard in the ordered wonders of the universe in which we live. Man's cheerful acceptance of the earth as his home proclaims that in his heart he recognises that there is a Creator. Would he feel comfortable on a ship with no captain? A hundred thousand tons of metal and wood driving through unknown seas, at thirty miles an hour and no one in control? How then should he feel when he realises that he is all through life on a vessel weighing millions of tons and going through space at sixty thousand miles an hour? Of course men believe that someone is in control. The stability of the earth and its long continuance, the facts of human consciousness and human ideals, the wonders of chemistry and the wonders of life all combine to prove that there is a mind far above that of man. Human intelligence is just sufficient to contemplate these things and to make some response. Wisdom is thus calling to the sons of men in the streets, in the broad places and at the entering in of the gate" (PrPr 132).

Pro 8:2

ON THE HEIGHTS ALONG THE WAY, WHERE THE PATHS MEET, SHE TAKES HER STAND: "Heights" is the word "rosh" ("head"), which refers to the highest area or most important place in the elevated area (cp Pro 1:20,21). The contrast with Pro 7:10-13 is striking. There the wayward woman lurked at the corners in the street at night; here "Wisdom" is in the open places in view of all.

WHERE THE PATHS MEET: That is, at the most important intersection of the city. "A chapter which is to soar beyond time and space, opens at street level" (Kidner); in other words, the wisdom is presented in the forum, or "agora", in the marketplace -- before all mankind, and for all mankind to grasp, as they go about their daily tasks.

Here and in v 3, the public appeal of "Lady Wisdom" is not just in contrast to the "back-stairs" appeal of the harlot (Pro 7), but it is also in contrast to the quiet, one-on-one (or two, or three) teaching of the father to his "son" or "sons" or "children" -- as seen earlier in Proverbs. The public appeal of Wisdom also anticipates the similarly public appeals of Jesus Christ: "I have spoken openly to the world... I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret" (Joh 18:20).

Pro 8:3

BESIDE THE GATES LEADING INTO THE CITY, AT THE ENTRANCES: Besides the main intersection of the city (v 2) she also may be found at the main gates, or entrances, of the city.

SHE CRIES ALOUD: The cry is a very loud ringing cry that could not be missed. The term "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 public proclamation.

Pro 8:4

TO YOU, O MEN, I CALL OUT; I RAISE MY VOICE TO ALL MANKIND: "Men" is "ishim", the "great" men, of high social order, whereas "all mankind" is "benim adam" -- the "sons of Adam", all the rest, even those of low degree. The words of wisdom are for all men, great and small, rich and poor -- for that matter, Jew and Greek, male and female, slave and free too (Gal 3:28). "The Lord... is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but EVERYONE to come to repentance" (2Pe 3:9).

Pro 8:5

YOU WHO ARE SIMPLE, GAIN PRUDENCE; YOU WHO ARE FOOLISH, GAIN UNDERSTANDING: "Gain" is "biyn": to separate mentally, to distinguish or discern. The call is for the simple not just to know what "prudence" and "understanding" are, but to make them their own, and to see how vastly they exceed imprudence and folly.

UNDERSTANDING: Literally, "heart".

Thus wisdom is available everywhere (vv 2,3) and to anyone (v 4). Nor does it take a superior intellect to be wise in the Biblical sense (v 5; cp Pro 1:22). Anyone who can realize his need is not so much a fool that he cannot profit by wisdom.

And who is a "fool", Biblically speaking? "(1) He is a fool who buys the wealth of this world with the riches of heaven. Does not the soul far outvalue the body? Is not eternity greater than time? (2) He is a fool who supposes he can freely indulge in sin, and still keep it under his control. Men say they will go so far in the direction of this or that sin, and then stop short. As well might a man allow his train of loaded wagons to run down a steep declivity, until half the descent was made, before he applied the brakes. Dr Johnson says, 'The diminutive chains of habit are generally too small to be felt till they are too strong to be broken.' (3) He is a fool who, having once received injury, recklessly exposes himself to it a second time. In other words, he is a fool who learns nothing from his own folly. The wise man is a wary man; and having received injury in any direction once, he keeps clear of that coast ever after. 'Experience,' one has said, 'is one of the most eloquent of preachers; but she never has a large congregation.' (4) He is a fool who waits till to-morrow before he becomes religious. What has any one to do with to-morrow? Does he know that he will ever see it? Men may trifle with their religious opportunities until they are lost beyond recall. Until you enter fully and lovingly into the service of God you are living like fools, because unnecessarily imperilling your highest and most urgent interests -- because you are living at enmity with Him in whose favour is everlasting life, and in whose displeasure is everlasting death" (Forrest, BI).

Pro 8:6

LISTEN, FOR I HAVE WORTHY THINGS TO SAY; I OPEN MY LIPS TO SPEAK WHAT IS RIGHT: "Worthy" is "nagiyd": noble, princely, and hence honorable or excellent.

Pro 8:7

MY MOUTH SPEAKS WHAT IS TRUE: "The word 'truth' ['what is true': NIV] ('emet') is derived from the verbal root '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... of 'reliable, faithful, sure, steadfast'... and 'believe' (ie, consider something dependable). The noun 'truth' means what is reliable or dependable, firm or sure" (NETn). Cp generally the words of Moses in Deu 32:4,5.

FOR MY LIPS DETEST WICKEDNESS: Wisdom and godliness are practically synonymous: this was the point of Pro 1:7 ("The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge"). There is a monumentally practical aspect to knowledge, that is, divine knowledge: to KNOW is also to appreciate that there is nothing else but to LOVE and to DO the will of God, and therefore no alternative but to DETEST and TURN FROM that which is contrary to Him!

Pro 8:8

ALL THE WORDS OF MY MOUTH ARE JUST: "Tsedek" -- "righteous".

NONE OF THEM IS CROOKED OR PERVERSE: "Crooked" ("patal") means "to twist", or "to wrestle" (the twist oneself or others). 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 will describe speech that is twisted. It is a synonym for the last word ("iqqesh"), which also means "twisted, crooked, or perverse".

Pro 8:9

TO THE DISCERNING ALL OF THEM ARE RIGHT: "Right" is "nakoach" -- which means "in front" ("up front" in modern vernacular), open, clear, transparent, in plain view, or straightforward. The AV's "plain" is very good here, provided it be understood that "plain" means simple, easy, and intelligible -- rather than unadorned and unlovely.

THEY ARE FAULTLESS TO THOSE WHO HAVE KNOWLEDGE: "Faultless" is "yashar", straight, upright, and by extension righteous.

The conclusion here is that wisdom has a cumulative effect: the person who already has walked down wisdom's path for a distance can appreciate the moral rightness of wisdom better than someone who has not. "Our Lord said, 'If any man will do his (God's) will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself' (John 7:17), confirming the words, 'The secret of the LORD is with them that fear Him' (Psa 25:14)" (Waddoup). (Cp the lesson of the little parable in Pro 4:18: for such a person, the further he walks along the path, the more brightly the light shines upon him.)

Pro 8:10

Vv 10,11: "The things that are most valuable to us should be the things that we spend the most time, energy and resources to attain. To many people money and riches are the most valuable, so they spend hours working and investing to increase their wealth. To others, lifestyle is important, so all their resources go into their houses, cars, boats and the things they do.

"Here we read of the worth of wisdom. Its value far exceeds all the temporary things that could fill our lives. Wisdom says, 'Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies and nothing you desire can compare with her' (Pro 8:10,11). If it is the case that wisdom is more precious than all the things we usually aim for, then it stands to reason that we should spend more of our time, energy and resources getting wisdom instead of getting all the things that are of much less value. We also learn that 'the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom' (Pro 9:10). So let us from now on set our priorities in the right order. Let us first put our resources -- our time, energy and possessions -- into what is really important. Let's get to know the fear of the LORD and get wisdom.

"Wisdom is worth much more" (RP).

CHOOSE MY INSTRUCTION INSTEAD OF SILVER...: The comparison to precious objects such as gold and silver is a frequent one (eg, Pro 2:4; 3:14,15; 16:16), but "Choose!" is a command, not merely a comparison.

INSTRUCTION: Hebrew "muwcar". Instruction that trains with discipline (Pro 1:2).

KNOWLEDGE RATHER THAN CHOICE GOLD: "Tried", or refined or purified gold (cp 1Pe 1:7).

Pro 8:11

FOR WISDOM IS MORE PRECIOUS THAN RUBIES, AND NOTHING YOU DESIRE CAN COMPARE WITH HER: Vv 10, 11 emphasize that there are two distinct kinds of "wealth" -- there is the "wealth" of silver and gold and precious stones, which is temporal, fleeting, and of no consequence in the eyes of God. And there is the "wealth" of wisdom and all spiritual things, which has the only real value. "For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal" (2Co 4:18). It is this last, and true, "wealth" that Paul has in mind when he tells the Corinthians, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich" (2Co 8:9). And of course Jesus himself taught, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (Mat 6:19-21).

RUBIES: See Pro 3:15n.

"He is a foolish man who despises gold and rubies and pearls and choice silver: he is more foolish still who thinks they can buy him anything that he can take into eternity with him. In death all these things leave the possessor. That is a mournful reality. May not a man take the family jewels with him? No, not one. Must he go into the other world empty-handed. Yes, empty-handed: he brought nothing into this world, and it is certain he can carry nothing out [cf Job 1:21]" (Parker, BI).

Pro 8:12

Now, in this verse, "Wisdom" begins to speak for herself.

I, WISDOM, DWELL TOGETHER WITH PRUDENCE: Wisdom, now speaking for herself, claims to dwell or live with Prudence, or practical wisdom. She is the constant companion of Prudence; the two are never separated.

PRUDENCE: Heb "ormah": "shrewdness", ie, the right use of knowledge in special cases (cp Pro 1:4). Some would suggest that "prudence" has nothing to do with "faith", and thus little or nothing to do with Biblical "wisdom" -- but of course it all depends on how one define's his terms, and where the parameters are. Carter discusses true prudence from a Biblical perspective: "Many men are prudent who are not wise -- that is to say, they are superficially cautious, sagacious, calculating; but they are never wise. True wisdom is... the innermost life and reality, and it expresses itself in the large prudence which sees more points than can be seen by mere cleverness. He that seeketh his life shall lose it; he that will throw away his life for Christ's sake shall find it [Mat 10:39; 16:25], and shall thus prove himself in the long run to be the truly prudent man. Beware of the prudence that is as a skeleton... Sometimes wisdom will drive a man to do apparently foolish things -- at least, things that cannot be understood by those who live in rectangles, two inches by one and a half. But 'Wisdom is justified of her children' [Mat 11:39]; she calmly abides the issue of the third day, and raised again, she vindicates her origin and declares her destiny" (BI).

I POSSESS KNOWLEDGE AND DISCRETION: True wisdom is resourceful and discreet. It does not need to "blow its own horn". As the wise politician said, "One can accomplish just about anything, provided he is willing to let others take the credit."

Pro 8:13

TO FEAR THE LORD IS TO HATE EVIL: "The verb translated 'hate' ['sane' '] has the basic idea of rejecting something spontaneously. For example, 'Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated' (Mal 1:2,3). It frequently enough has the idea of disliking or loathing as English does, but almost always with an aspect of rejection. To hate evil is not only to dislike it, but to reject it and have nothing to do with it" (NETn).

I HATE PRIDE AND ARROGANCE: Since both "pride" and "arrogance" are from the same basic root, this phrase could be translated "arrogant pride".

EVIL BEHAVIOR AND PERVERSE SPEECH: This phrase is all-inclusive, describing sins of conduct as well as sins of speech.

EVIL BEHAVOIOR: "Lady Wisdom hates an evil lifestyle, which is sinful living with wicked habits. We are to avoid ungodly men and their deeds (Psa 1:1; 5:4,5; 101:3-8; 1Jo 2:16). We are to love God's directions for each area of our lives and hate every other idea (Psa 119:128). Our blessed King Jesus was honored greatly for hating evil (Psa 45:7; Heb 1:9)" (LGBT).

PERVERSE SPEECH: "Lady Wisdom hates a [perverse] mouth, which is obnoxious, and wicked speech. Our words should feed and help others (Pro 10:21; 15:4; 16:24). God hates a [perverse] and lying tongue (Pro 4:24; 6:12,17; 10:31; 12:19; 21:6). Solomon dedicated many proverbs to sound speech, as it is a common area of sin (Pro 10:19; 12:18; 15:1,2,28; 17:27,28)" (LGBT).

Pro 8:14

COUNSEL AND SOUND JUDGMENT ARE MINE; I HAVE UNDERSTANDING AND POWER: This is reminiscent of Job 12:13: "To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his"; and also of Isa 11:2, where these same characteristics belong, by the power of the Spirit, to the Messiah (who is of course the greatest King and Ruler!).

I HAVE UNDERSTANDING: Literally, as the AV, "I AM Understanding". As though Wisdom is saying, 'Of course I am Wisdom; you already know that; but LOOK!' -- and, snatching away her disguise, to reveal herself more fully -- 'See! I am Understanding also!'

AND POWER: The last named quality, "power", begins the transition to what might be called the practical aspects of wisdom -- involving kings and rulers (vv 15,16).

Pro 8:15

BY ME KINGS REIGN AND RULERS MAKE LAWS THAT ARE JUST: "This claim resonates with the role of wisdom in the 'gift' to Solomon in 1Ki 3:9. In view of the alleged courtly associations of the wisdom movement (certainly not to be denied in view of Pro 25:1 and also the background of Pro 25–29), it is striking that only here in Pro 1–9 are wisdom and royalty intimately associated" (WBC).

LAWS THAT ARE JUST: "This verb 'chaqaq' is related to the noun 'khoq', which is a 'statute; decree.' The verb is defined as 'to cut in; to inscribe; to decree' (BDB 349). 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 Psa 2:1–3). But people in power need wisdom to govern the earth (eg, Isa 11:1–4 which predicts how Messiah will use wisdom to do this very thing)... In v 15... 'kings' and 'reign' [are] from the same root, and then in v 16... both 'princes' and 'rule' ['govern': NIV] [are] cognate. The repetition of sounds and meanings strengthens the statements" (NETn).

"Wisdom teaches kings the importance of many things: punishing the wicked (Pro 20:8,26), mercy and truth (Pro 20:28), faithfully judging the poor (Pro 29:14; 31:8,9; 24:11,12), good men with gracious speech (Pro 14:35; 16:13; 22:11), and searching out matters (Pro 25:2). And wisdom teaches kings to avoid many things: gifts of bribery (Pro 29:4), wine and strong drink (Pro 31:4,5), gluttony (Ecc 10:16,17), lies (Pro 17:7; 29:12), and wicked counsellors (Pro 25:5)" (LGBT).

Pro 8:16

BY ME PRINCES GOVERN, AND ALL NOBLES WHO RULE ON EARTH: The last phrase is based on the LXX reading, but "on earth" is not in the MT -- which has instead "judges of righteousness"; hence, the NIV margin has "nobles -- all righteous rulers". The MT appears to make perfect sense here.

On vv 15,16, Kelly comments: "This very language aptly discriminates the difference between the OT, and the NT, that is the entirely new state of things under the gospel as compared with the law. For there is instruction in the NT only for subjection to authority, in the OT for those who wield it also. The Christian waits to reign with Christ, content meanwhile to suffer with him and for him. No exhortation, no principle, no fact supposes him exercising worldly power where Christ was rejected, till he appears to judge the world. It was quite another condition before the princes of this age crucified the Lord of glory. But it is now a time of great and growing unbelief, and it is a hard trial for most believers to forego present power and honor."

Pro 8:17

Vv 17-21: Wisdom rewards those who love her. The emphasis of this section is that wisdom is accessible only to those who seek it.

I LOVE THOSE WHO LOVE ME: In contrast to the word for "hate" (v 13) -- which includes the idea of rejecting -- the verb "love" has within itself the idea of choosing (cp Joh 14:21).

AND THOSE WHO SEEK ME FIND ME: Those who seek me "early" (AV: the word literally means "at dawn, or very early in the morning"), or -- more to the point here -- "earnestly" or "diligently" will find me (cp Mat 7:7)! So in this phrase loving and seeking point up the means of finding wisdom. Similarly, Mary Magdalene loved, and sought (very early in the morning, and diligently!), and then found her Lord and Master (Joh 20:1). Cp also Job 8:5-7; Isa 26:9; 55:6; Hos 5:15; Mat 7:7; 2Co 6:2.

Pro 8:18

WITH ME ARE RICHES AND HONOR, ENDURING WEALTH AND PROSPERITY: See Psa 39:6; Ecc 5:14-16; Mat 6:19,20; and Pro 31:16.

Pro 8:19

MY FRUIT IS BETTER THAN FINE GOLD; WHAT I YIELD SURPASSES CHOICE SILVER: "Yield", or "produce", matches with "fruit", or "harvest". The combination of these two words suggest that wisdom is something which is sown, and then harvested. In other words, it is the result of a planting, growing, and developmental process. This reminds us that Wisdom is elsewhere pictured as a "tree of life" (Pro 3:13-18n; cp Rev 2:7; 22:2).

See Lesson, Proverbs: "Better things".

Pro 8:20

I WALK IN THE WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, ALONG THE PATHS OF JUSTICE: The very frequent metaphor of the path, or road, or way, turns up again. In contrast to Pro 1:15; 2:13–15; 4:14,15 -- which describe paths of the wicked -- the figure changes slightly; here Wisdom herself, and not the youth, is traveling the path of justice.

But in doing so, she is leading others, her devotees who follow her: "How reassuring are Wisdom's words in v 20: 'I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment'... 'in the midst of' means 'right down the middle, turning neither to left or right'. As Isaiah said: 'And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left' (Isa 30:21). Wisdom leads us. Now she will lead us from earthly to heavenly things!" (Waddoup). And thus the transition to vv 22-31...

ALONG THE PATHS: Literally, "in the midst of the paths" (as the AV), straying not to either side (Pro 4:27). "In this [modern, or western] country, if you walk in the middle of the street in the town, or in the middle of the road in the country, you are exposed to danger from horses and vehicles, for which that part of the road was reserved, and therefore side-paths and pavements have been provided, where you can take refuge from the traffic. It is different in the East. There the roads are so badly made, and so little frequented, that you are always safest in the middle. There is a rock, perhaps, on this side, and a precipice or a ditch on that, and the edges of the road are always so rugged and uneven that only the well-worn track in the middle is available for easy travelling. And from this condition of Eastern roads has arisen the moral lesson that the middle of the path of conduct is the safest and the best. The sentiment may be exemplified in everything moral and religious. The Greeks of old always spoke of the golden mean between two extremes, and were fond of proving that truth and safety always lay in the middle. The wise man speaks of the paths of judgment. These paths are oft either side of the way of righteousness, which is the middle; and they are called paths of judgment because, if you stray into them off the strait and narrow way of righteousness, you will meet with dangers and evils that will assuredly punish you. The virtues that yield the blessings of life are in the middle, between the vices that wreck and blight your life. A little too much on the one side or the other makes all the difference in the world; and so close to each other do the evils you have to avoid come, that narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it [Mat 7:14]. The side-path may, therefore, be smooth and pleasant, but it leads to danger. The middle of the road may be rough and difficult, but it is safe -- the way of righteousness, between the paths of judgment" (Macmillan, BI).

As the old saying goes, rather ruefully: "The strait and narrow gets most of its wear on the edges!"

Pro 8:21

BESTOWING WEALTH ON THOSE WHO LOVE ME AND MAKING THEIR TREASURIES FULL: "Wealth" is "yesh", translated "substance" in the AV: Waddoup points out that " 'substance' is literally that which is real; there is nothing airy-fairy about it." He goes on also to point out that "bestowing" ("inherit" in the AV) speaks of that "inheritance incorruptible, that fadeth not away" [1Pe 1:4].

Pro 8:22

"Now," says WBC, "a certain intensification in Wisdom's speech can be detected. From the present, which manifests Wisdom's generosity, she now turns to the past, which will highlight her origins from God before creation."

THE LORD BROUGHT ME FORTH AS THE FIRST OF HIS WORKS, BEFORE HIS DEEDS OF OLD: This section was anticipated by Pro 3:19,20: "By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew." Now it is to be greatly amplified.

Waddoup comments: "What tremendous thoughts now fall around us! 'I, Wisdom, was God's then, and I am God's still!' We stand humbly before the majesty, wondering in ourselves what this should mean... Wisdom was God's, and came forth from Him, and the tremendous lesson we are being taught in Proverbs is this: that Wisdom which imposes on man the moral Law, is the same by which the worlds were made. God said, and it was done! Solomon anticipates John's Gospel opening, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God' [Joh 1:1,2]." And thus the Bible draws for us an unbroken line from the earth on which we stand, and the heavens at which we marvel, TO the glorious Law of God, in which we (should) delight! (See how this same connection is worked out, dramatically and effectively, in Psa 19: see notes there.)

BROUGHT ME FORTH: "There are two roots 'qanah' in Hebrew, one meaning 'to possess', and the other meaning 'to create'. The older translations did not know of the second root, but suspected in certain places that a meaning like that was necessary (eg, Gen 4:1; 14:19; Deu 32:6). Ugaritic confirmed that it was indeed another root" (NEtn). Instead of "possessed" (AV), this new translation is attested in Ugaritic with the meaning "to create, bring forth" (cp Gen 4:1, re birth of Cain; Gen 14:19,22). Pro 8:22 reads in the KJV: "The LORD POSSESSED me [Wisdom] in the beginning of his way, before his works of old" -- this uses the old meaning of 'qanith' (to get, or acquire), and was adamantly supported and expounded by earlier commentators. But that translation surely misses the point; the context of Pro 8 is the Creation! The RSV, following the more recent scholarship, translates the same passage: "The LORD CREATED ME at the beginning of his work"; and the NIV translates: "The LORD BROUGHT ME FORTH as the first of his works." And now 'Wisdom' is seen, rightly, as the first of Yahweh's "creations"!

AS THE FIRST OF HIS WORKS: 'As the "reshith" of His ways, or works"; cp sw Pro 1:7; 3:9; 4:7. The word can mean either "first" in point of time, or "most important" overall. Here it may signify "firstborn" particularly -- bearing in mind that, paradoxically, the "firstborn" in Bible terms was not necessarily the one "born FIRST", but could (and often did) mean a younger one elevated to a leading role.

Pro 8:23

I WAS APPOINTED: The verb "nissakhti" is not a common word; it occurs here and in Psa 2:6 for the coronation of the king. It means "installed, set." WBC points out, however, that it may be derived from "cakak" in Psa 139:13: "For you created ['qanah': cp v 22 here] my inmost being: you knit me together ['cakak'] in my mother's womb." If so, this reinforces the "birth" analogy, that goes along with the personification of "Wisdom".

FROM ETERNITY, FROM THE BEGINNING, BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN: "Eternity" = "olahm" -- the hidden age, the age to come. "Beginning" = "rosh", the head, first, or primary time. "World" = "eretz", the earth, or land.

Pro 8:24

Vv 24-31: The summary statements just given (vv 22,23) are now developed in a lengthy allegory describing "Wisdom" as the witness, and even the agent and "crafts(wo)man" (v 30) of all God's creation. The order of creation here (the earth in vv 24-26, and the heavens in vv 27-29) agrees with the order of events in Genesis.

And, most profoundly, the wisdom exemplified in God's literal, natural creation is a glorious pattern, and prophecy, and allegory, of the wisdom -- to be developed most perfectly in His Son -- in His "New (spiritual) Creation", the primary subject of the New Testament: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation [this, of course, is the NEW "creation"]. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together" (Col 1:15-17). For now, v 18, especially, explains how this is brought about: "And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy" (Col 1:18).

WHEN THERE WERE NO OCEANS: This verse singles out "watery deeps" (Heb "tehomot") in its allusion to creation because the word in Gen 1:2 ("the deep": NIV) points to the condition of the world at the very beginning. It was at that time that the earth was "formless and void", and "darkness was over the surface of 'tehomot'." Everything would have appeared chaotic, without rhyme or reason, so to speak. But it was not really true -- because, even then, "Wisdom" was there, along with God!

I WAS GIVEN BIRTH: The verb is "chul", used of the travail of women in childbirth, and rightly translated "I was given birth." The KJV translates it "brought forth" -- not in the sense of being presented, but in being "begotten, given birth to." Here is the strongest support for the translation of "qanah" as "created" (rather than "possessed": KJV) in v 22. Of course, the verb is not literal; it continues the perspective of "Wisdom's" personification.

WHEN THERE WERE NO SPRINGS ABOUNDING WITH WATER: Literally, "heavy with water". Probably referring to the "springs" in the depths of the earth, opened up during the Flood (Gen 7:11). Cp Job 38:16: "Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep?"

"The LORD Jehovah created all water (Gen 1:1-8). The Word of God often presents Him as the Creator of the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that in them is (Ex 20:11; Psa 146:6; Jon 1:9; Acts 4:24; 14:15; Rev 10:6; 14:7). He is the Ruler of the seas and uses them to accomplish His holy purposes (Psa 77:19; Isa 43:16; Amo 5:8; 9:6; Jon 1:4).

"Do you feel pressure on your ears at the deep end of a swimming pool –- 10 feet from the surface? Have you tried scuba diving and felt the pressure at 100 feet? The submarines of World War II could not survive 500 feet; and modern nuclear submarines are not made to operate below 1500 feet. Yet the Mariana Trench in the Pacific is 35,800 feet deep! A mile deeper than Mount Everest is high!...

"Consider the Asian tsunami of 2004. An undersea earthquake of magnitude 9.0 in the Indian Ocean sent a sea surge one to two feet high racing in all directions at 600 mph! When it reached shore it slowed to about 35 mph, but it grew in height to as much as 50 feet! A wall of water! It killed as far away as Port Elizabeth in South Africa, 5000 miles from the epicenter! Over 225,000 lost their lives, and 2,000,000 were made homeless" (LGBT). Such is the power of God as manifested in the seas!

Pro 8:25

BEFORE THE MOUNTAINS WERE SETTLED IN PLACE, BEFORE THE HILLS, I WAS GIVEN BIRTH: The LORD God "formed the mountains by [His] power, having armed [Himself] with strength" (Psa 65:6). They are called "the ancient mountains and... the everlasting hills" (Deu 33:15) because, presumably, they existed from before the beginning of our creation. And so the Psalmist praises God with these words: "Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God" (Psa 90:2).

Pro 8:26


OR ITS FIELDS: "Chuwts": that which is outside, ie of the cities, or of the inhabited areas. "The extremities of the earth, the two poles of it; the uninhabitable parts of the earth" (Gill).

OR ANY OF THE DUST OF THE WORLD: "Or the beginning (Heb 'rosh') of the dust of the habitable world (Heb 'tebel')." The "dust of the world" calls to mind the words of Isaiah: "Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who has understood the mind [ Or Spirit; or spirit ] of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding? Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust" (Isa 40:12-15).

Pro 8:27

I WAS THERE WHEN HE SET THE HEAVENS IN PLACE, WHEN HE MARKED OUT THE HORIZON ON THE FACE OF THE DEEP: The verb translated "marked out" (Hebrew "chaqaq") signifies "to mark, to engrave, or to carve out" -- as though the Almighty took a sharp pen or engraving tool, and drew across the face of the whole world: 'Here is where the horizon will be!' Such a figure gives an picture of the awesome scale of His handiwork.

The KJV is interesting here: "When he set a compass upon the face of the depth." The word is said to mean the vault of heaven (cp the first phrase: "when He set the heavens in place"), conceived of as resting on the ocean which surrounds the earth. Thus in Isa 40:22 (KJV) we read, "It is he that sitteth above the circle (chug) of the earth", ie, the vault of heaven that encircles the earth.

Pro 8:28

WHEN HE ESTABLISHED THE CLOUDS ABOVE AND FIXED SECURELY THE FOUNTAINS OF THE DEEP: That is, the subterranean springs and fountains of water (cp Gen 7:11).

Pro 8:29

WHEN HE GAVE THE SEA ITS BOUNDARY SO THE WATERS WOULD NOT OVERSTEP HIS COMMAND: This phrase is very much like the description of God's creative work in Job 38:8-11: "Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'?"

AND WHEN HE MARKED OUT THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE EARTH: "Marked out" is sw v 27: see note there. "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand" (Job 38:4).

"The sea covers three [quarters] of the surface of the globe. Leagues upon leagues of spreading ocean roll round the earth with every tide. The sea is deep, and hides in its many waters myriads of living creatures. The fearful storms that sweep its surface tell sad tales of its more than giant strength. Here we are face to face with a frightful nature power. Yet that power is under law. God's decree encircles it, and his hand reins it in with irresistible might. The sea is great, but God is greater; strong, but God is stronger. As we look at the fearful might and majesty of the ocean, we are called to bow before the infinitely greater Power who holds its waters in the hollow of his hand. If we tremble before its terror, we may remember that it is but the inanimate slave of our Father in heaven" (Pulpit).

Yahweh's control of the waters at creation were a commentary on the Canaanite "sea chaos" myth: see Lesson, Leviathan -- esp the "Creation".

Pro 8:30

THEN I WAS THE CRAFTSMAN AT HIS SIDE: "Critical to the interpretation of this line is the meaning of 'amon'. Several suggestions have been made: [particularly] 'master craftsman' [and] 'nursing child'... The image of a child does fit the previous figure of 'give birth to.' But 'craftsman' has the most support (LXX, Vulgate, Syriac, Targum... Song 7:1; Jer 52:15...)" (NETn). But perhaps we need not choose either one to the exclusion of the other. The whole allegory in which "Wisdom" is personified as a daughter of God, born to Him at the very beginning of His creative work, suggests the "delight" and "rejoicing" with her "father" at what He is doing (v 30b,31). (In this we might compare Job 38:4,7: "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?... while the morning stars sang together and all the angels [Heb 'the sons of God'] shouted for joy?") But, to carry the allegory further, the little child "Wisdom" is growing up alongside her Father, and learning and doing along with Him, and so is instrumental to Him, working to complete the Creation work that He has begun; thus, she is also the "craftswoman" at His side. And this is ESPECIALLY true if we go on to consider, not just the literal six-days "creation" at the beginning of man's time, but the ongoing, never-yet-completed "new creation" -- in this work, "Wisdom" -- as well as the Angels, and particularly Jesus Christ himself -- are ever at this work! God's most meaningful "creation" continues day by day!

I WAS FILLED WITH DELIGHT DAY AFTER DAY, REJOICING ALWAYS IN HIS PRESENCE: "Delight" might be read "HIS delight": the delight the Almighty feels at "Wisdom" His child, and also at the work of creation they are crafting together. "The relation of this divine Wisdom to God is represented as being a continual delight and a childlike rejoicing in Him, or as the word literally means, a 'sporting' in Him" (Maclaren).

Pro 8:31

REJOICING IN HIS WHOLE WORLD: "Tebel" and "eretz" are put together in combination -- a way of saying "the whole world", and everything in it. "Rejoicing" in this whole world suggests Gen 1:31 and the end of the sixth day of Creation: "God saw ALL that he had made, and it was VERY good" -- not simply "good" as at the end of the first five days!

AND DELIGHTING IN MANKIND: And the sixth day, of course, saw the creation of man and woman, who were His special delight: Mankind -- made "in his image" (vv 26,27) -- was the crowning glory of all God's creative work! And furthermore, "Man, made in the image of God, is the principal object of creative Wisdom's pleasure; and her joy is fulfilled... When the Word became flesh, then was the end
and design of creation exhibited, and the infinite love of God towards man
made, as it were, visible and palpable" (Pulpit).

Pro 8:32

Vv 32-36: An invitation to listen to Wisdom and receive her blessing.

NOW THEN, MY SONS, LISTEN TO ME; BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO KEEP MY WAYS: "Wisdom is to know God, to have fellowship with Him, to work together with Him, to love Him, and loving Him means doing, and doing means submitting to His teaching and discipline" (Waddoup).

WHO KEEP MY WAYS: The promised blessing belongs only to practical hearing, which then sets about to "keep" or "do" the "ways" or "will" of God. To listen only, and then not to do, is far from the mark here. "Give ear, and COME to me" (Isa 55:2,3). "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God AND OBEY IT" (Luk 11:28). "Whoever has my commands AND OBEYS THEM, he is the one who loves me" (Joh 14:21,23). "But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, AND CONTINUES TO DO THIS, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it -- he will be blessed in what he does" (Jam 1:25).

Pro 8:33

LISTEN TO MY INSTRUCTION AND BE WISE; DO NOT IGNORE IT: "Instruction" is the Hebrew "muwcar": see Pro 1:2,3,7,8 and notes there. Paul commended the Bereans, because they "were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11).

DO NOT IGNORE IT: Cp Pro 1:24-31; 21:16; 28:9; Mat 10:14; Heb 2:2,3; 10:28,29; 12:25.

Pro 8:34

BLESSED IS THE MAN WHO LISTENS TO ME, WATCHING DAILY AT MY DOORS, WAITING AT MY DOORWAY: If there were no "place" in this world where we surely knew we could find wisdom, that would indeed be a terrible tragedy; nevertheless we would surely want to search for it, wherever our journey might take us. "But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?" (Job 28:12). But our situation is so much easier than that: there IS a "place" where wisdom may be found: it is in the Scriptures. And therefore we ought to take ourselves, daily, to the "house" of Wisdom! "The scene portrayed in v 34 suggests the daily attendance of an eager lover at the door of the house of the beloved. Although the theme of waiting at the doors is not found elsewhere in Proverbs, it [may be compared to] the description of the lover in Song 2:8-10. It may also be an anticipation of the 'house' of Wisdom in Pro 9:1, although no doors are mentioned" (WBC).

WATCHING DAILY AT MY DOORS, WAITING AT MY DOORWAY: This suggests the priests and Levites, whose duties were exactly as described here -- waiting as servants at the doors of their Master's house (cf, eg, Psa 84:1,4,10; Exo 29:42; Psa 100:4; 122:2; Luk 1:10,21). "The Bible seldom speaks, and certainly never its deepest, sweetest words, to those who always read it in a hurry. Nature can only tell her secrets to such as will sit still in her sacred temple, till their eyes lose the glare of earthly glory, and their ears are attuned to her voice. And shall revelation do what nature cannot? Never. The man who shall win the blessedness of hearing ["Wisdom"] must watch daily at her gates, and wait at the posts of her doors" (Meyer).

Alternatively, beggars also wait at the doors of those who might help them -- as does "Lazarus" in the parable of Luk 16:20,21. The character of other "beggars" in the NT (Mat 20:30; Mar 10:46,47; Luk 18:35-43; Joh 5:1-7) -- and not to forget the little dogs who sought the crumbs that fell from the children's table (Mat 15:27; Mar 7:28) -- ought to remind us of our position relative to the Lord, and to God Himself: we of ourselves have nothing, and can have nothing, except it be by the good graces of Jesus and his Father. And so we -- like the poor widow (Luk 18:1-7) -- ought to wait, and beg unceasingly, at the doors of the Lord.

WAITING AT MY DOORWAY: The man, or woman, who is "waiting at the doorway" of Wisdom is the one who is early to Bible class, or Sunday meeting, or Bible seminar, or any other place where the word of God is to be preached or studied or read. He, or she, is not the one who dawdles in late -- making a fuss and bother and disturbing others. People who are chronically late for any and every "appointment" are saying, in effect, 'My time is too important to wait for ANYONE! Much better that others wait for ME!' How must this attitude sound in the ears of God? The old Puritan, William Law, wrote in "A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life": "I take it for granted, that every Christian, that is in health, is up early in the morning; for it is much more reasonable to suppose a person up early, because he is a Christian, than because he is a labourer, or a tradesman, or a servant, or has business that wants him." And if "up early", then surely "early to Sunday meeting and to Bible class", and to any other spiritual activity, whether undertaken individually or communally.

Pro 8:35

FOR WHOEVER FINDS ME FINDS LIFE AND RECEIVES FAVOR FROM THE LORD: Cp Pro 3:16,18,22; Joh 1:4; 3:36; 17:3. "This verse is important for several reasons. First, it repeats the theme of life that Wisdom brings to her followers. It is a distant echo of the formula in v 17b; whoever 'finds' her, finds life. Again, the verb 'find' retains a certain aura. There is the famous question in Job 20:12, 'Where is wisdom to be found?' And Pro 18:22 declares that the one who 'finds' a wife 'finds' a great good. Actually this verb does not suggest mere search or happenstance; it indicates attainment. The only other occurrence of 'find life' is in Pro 21:21, where it is the result of pursuing justice. But wisdom and life are more closely associated than any other concepts in Proverbs: the goal of wisdom is life, eg, Pro 4:13,23; 10:17. Moreover, v 35 associates this life with the favor of the Lord. V 35b is a kind of rewriting of Pro 3:13, replacing 'understanding' with the 'favor' of the Lord. The favor is not merely a divine attitude; it is described as FROM the Lord, objectified as a gift" (WBC).

Pro 8:36

BUT WHOEVER FAILS TO FIND ME: The KJV's "sinneth against me" should really mean, as here, "fails to find me".

HARMS HIMSELF: The word for "harms" ("chamac") stresses both social and physical harm and violence. Whoever tries to live without wisdom is inviting all kinds of disaster into his life.

ALL WHO HATE ME LOVE DEATH: "The final verse of Pro 8 expresses a principle that is so simple and obvious and self-evident, and yet so ignored. If we could only fully receive it as a deep, fixed mainspring of conviction and action, then anything contrary to the will of God would not only be repulsive to us but impossible" (GVG). The full meaning of this verse is to be found in 1Jo 5:12: "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life."

"If we regard sin as the failure or refusal... to apprehend and confide in the unseen, then sin is unbelief. But it is always the one and selfsame thing, the same grim and ghastly thing -- in the godless man of the world, and the ruffian who outrages law, and the smooth libertine and vulgar thief; in the respectable atheist who says there is no God, and the brave outlaw who lives his creed and acts upon his belief. For, while sins differ, sin -- the evil root out of which all sins proceed -- is the same. Sins are but symptoms; the disease called sin lies deeper in the soul. And oh! it is an awful thought, well calculated to humble us all into the very dust, that no matter what our sins may be -- no matter how decent, how respectable, how secret -- they each and all proceed out of the same fell disorder as the sins of the veriest wretch who outrages man's laws and exhausts man's patience by his wickedness!" (Harris, BI).

ALL WHO HATE ME: "Sane' " means, basically, to reject (v 13n). "Whoever REJECTS the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him" (Joh 3:36).

LOVE DEATH: That is, love the ways THAT LEAD TO death: "Her house is a highway to the grave, LEADING DOWN to the chambers of death" (Pro 7:27).

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