before his deeds of long ago.
from the beginning, from before the world existed. 5
when there were no springs overflowing 8 with water;
8:25 before the mountains were set in place –
before the hills – I was born,
or the beginning 10 of the dust of the world.
8:27 When he established the heavens, I was there;
when he marked out the horizon 11 over the face of the deep,
8:28 when he established the clouds above,
when the fountains of the deep grew strong, 12
8:29 when he gave the sea his decree
that the waters should not pass over his command, 13
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
1 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 : 504-14; and W. A. Irwin, “Where Will Wisdom Be Found?” JBL 80 : 133-42).
2 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).
3 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 verb “existed” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but has been supplied in the translation in the light of the context.
6 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.
7 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.
8 tn Heb “made heavy.”
9 tn Heb “open places.”
11 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.
12 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.
13 tn Heb “his mouth.”