Chapter 9 (Handout)


We are picking up in chapter 9 after a 2-month hiatus, so I will begin with a short review of a couple of the broad principles we gathered along the way last summer.

Hebrew Poetry

Like Psalms, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and small parts of other books, Proverbs, is Hebrew poetry. Except for what passes for poetry in our lifetimes, poetry has a defined structure. Before we were born, English language poetry had rhyme and meter. Hebrew poetry has doublets, the same idea expressed twice, using different words. Sometimes we saw doublets of doublets, the same pair of ideas repeated, and in a couple cases, doublets of doublets of doublets. For really important principles, the poet would do a triplet, the same idea three times.

Some of what Jesus said in the Gospels is also in the Hebrew poetic form, not all of it shown in our modern English translations, for example Matt.7:6, which is a doublet of doublets:

Do not give dogs what is sacred;
  Do not throw your pearls to pigs. (If you do)
  They may trample them under their feet,
And then turn and tear you to pieces.
This also illustrates another Hebrew poetic structure called Chiasm, named for the Greek letter chi (pronounced "khee" in Greek, but "kahy" in English like in "kayak"), where the two arms cross over so the two ideas are repeated in reverse order the second time. Here in the first two lines, the order is dogs then pigs, and in the last two lines it's pigs (who trample) then dogs (with teeth to tear you). Perhaps not intentionally (who knows?) the NIV English (but not the Greek) also makes a chiasm of the first two lines, dogs before what is withheld, then the other way around for the pigs.

Wisdom Personified

English has three grammatical genders, masculine and feminine for people and a few objects that have (usually feminine) attributes, and neuter for impersonal objects. Hebrew has only two, so everything is either masculine or feminine. Abstract ideas are considered feminine, so there is an easy and natural blurring of the distinction between the abstract idea of wisdom and a person who can speak and act and have emotions. We saw
1:20 Wisdom calls aloud in the street...
4:9  She will set a garland ... on your head
8:30 I (wisdom) was filled with delight...
The abstract notion of foolishness is similarly personified as a woman. Both of them are given their turn to call out for followers in chapter 9.

Invitations of Wisdom and of Folly

Jesus was probably thinking of Proverbs 9 in the Sermon on the Mount [Matt.7:24] when he said
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.
We know who the Rock is. And again in Matt.22 when he told about
The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come...
Israel, the Jewish people, were the first invited -- and some of them came! 3,000 in one day. But that was a tiny minority, less than 1% -- but most of them refused, so the invitation was opened up to the rest of us Gentiles, not like it was a big surprise, because God told Abraham at the very beginning of the Jewish nation, that he (by his "seed" Jesus),
...all nations on earth will be blessed through him. -- Gen.18:18
That would be us. So [read v.1-3]

Wisdom sent out her "maids" (female servants, v.3) to invite her guests, but when Jesus told the story, it was a (male) king who sent out his (male) servants. Men are physically stronger, and therefore better suited to the harshness of outside travel and unwilling guests, but it is not appropriate for a woman to have male servants. Besides, she (Wisdom) is only an abstraction, so maybe her servants are also abstract, and therefore female. In Hebrew. Perhaps. [read v.4-6]

Who are being invited to her party? The "simple" (meaning foolish) and lack judgment. The unbelievers. Once you are inside the doors and drunk her wine, you are no longer stupid. You become Wise. The Wisdom from God includes His Salvation. When you leave off being stupid, she says [v.6] "you will live." This is the "Life more abundant" (NIV: "to the full") that Jesus gives us.

The next three verses turn a corner, almost like this is no longer Wisdom speaking but Solomon as narrator [read v.7-9]

This is actually doublet of triplets, three times telling us how silly it is to try to give a Bad Guy advice, then three times how a wise (=righteous) person accepts advice. My father told me, probably several times,

"No matter how smart you think you are,
No matter how dumb you think the other person is,
There is always something you can learn from them." And,

"Experience is a hard school, but the fool learneth in none other."

I took that as good advice, which I distilled into "opium" (OPM = Other People's Mistakes), learn from other people everything you can, so you don't make the same mistakes. Isaac Newton, quoting a medieval monk, said "If I have seen farther than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants." I became an information junkie, soaking it up from anywhere I could find it -- at least a couple times where I shouldn't have been looking. I still made mistakes, but not as many as I could have made.

Which brings us to the ultimate source of wisdom, God Himself [read v.10-12]

Again, this reads like it might be Solomon as narrator rather than Wisdom speaking, but then verse 11 is in the first person, which makes sense as Wisdom, but not as Solomon, and not even so much as God -- but it could be God, Who gives us eternal life, longer than we could possibly imagine. If we accept the Wisdom of God, God will reward us eternally. The other people, the stupid people, I suspect Hell will be a very lonely place. Solitary confinement is a place of punishment inside a place of punishment, I don't think the residents of Hell will even get to enjoy the company of other sinners. Don't go there.


The rest of this chapter is the woman Folly getting her turn to call out to passers-by [read v.13-15]

Did you notice? Wisdom and Folly call out from the same mountain top, "the highest point of the city." Sometimes it's hard to tell the two apart. Even worse, God is a "still small voice," Folly is much louder.

In my experience, people get louder when they are angry, when they have run out of intelligent things to say. The Bible has numerous references to loud voices, 21 in Revelation alone, where all but two are angels or God speaking loudly so the whole universe can hear the proclamation. A couple verses in Psalms and three more in Isaiah urges us to "shout aloud" our praise to God, but much more often the "cry aloud" is what people do in anguish and pain and suffering, like they have nothing else to say. And then there are the places, like here, where it's the Bad Guys doing the shouting, because they ran out of intelligent things to say. Or rather, they never had any. Like here.

Notice who Folly is calling out to: "those who pass by, who go straight on their way." The people wandering about aimlessly, she doesn't need to call out to them, they are already in her house. God gives us Purpose, something important to do, and if going to do it takes us past Folly's house and loudspeaker, keep going straight. It's not like she's the poor bloke lying in the gutter after being mugged and needs our help like the guy in the Good Samaritan story, she's doing the mugging. Keep going.

So (keeping going ;-) [read v.16-18]

You know the thrill of "forbidden fruit"? It doesn't last, "the dead are there." My concordance lists 76 times the word "dead" is used in the Old Testament, 63 of them are derived from the verb to die ('muth'), people who died, a half-dozen derived from other verbs not really about dying, and seven are 'Rephaim' = disembodied "shades" or ghosts. This is one of those, the deadest of the dead, not even retaining a body. Don't go there.

Tom Pittman
2022 October 29