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Proverbs 8:1

Context
The Appeal of Wisdom 1 

8:1 Does not wisdom call out?

Does not understanding raise her voice?

Proverbs 8:22-30

Context

8:22 The Lord created 2  me as the beginning 3  of his works, 4 

before his deeds of long ago.

8:23 From eternity I was appointed, 5 

from the beginning, from before the world existed. 6 

8:24 When there were no deep oceans 7  I was born, 8 

when there were no springs overflowing 9  with water;

8:25 before the mountains were set in place –

before the hills – I was born,

8:26 before he made the earth and its fields, 10 

or the beginning 11  of the dust of the world.

8:27 When he established the heavens, I was there;

when he marked out the horizon 12  over the face of the deep,

8:28 when he established the clouds above,

when the fountains of the deep grew strong, 13 

8:29 when he gave the sea his decree

that the waters should not pass over his command, 14 

when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

8:30 then I was 15  beside him as a master craftsman, 16 

and I was his delight 17  day by day,

rejoicing before him at all times,

1 sn 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).

2 tn 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 [1965]: 504-14; and W. A. Irwin, “Where Will Wisdom Be Found?” JBL 80 [1961]: 133-42).

3 tn 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).

4 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.

5 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.”

6 tn The verb “existed” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation in the light of the context.

7 sn 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.

8 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.

9 tn Heb “made heavy.”

10 tn Heb “open places.”

11 tn Here רֹאשׁ (rosh) means “beginning” with reference to time (BDB 911 s.v. 4.b).

12 sn The infinitive construct בְּחוּקוֹ (bÿkhuqo, “to cut; to engrave; to mark”) and the noun חוּג (khug, “horizon; circle”) form a paronomasia in the line.

13 tn To form a better parallel some commentators read this infinitive בַּעֲזוֹז (baazoz), “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.

14 tn Heb “his mouth.”

15 tn 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.

16 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 [1960]: 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 [1979]: 365-79).

17 tn 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.



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