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Proverbs 8:1-13

Context
The Appeal of Wisdom 1 

8:1 Does not wisdom call out?

Does not understanding raise her voice?

8:2 At the top 2  of the elevated places along the way,

at the intersection 3  of the paths she takes her stand;

8:3 beside the gates opening into 4  the city,

at the entrance of the doorways she cries out: 5 

8:4 “To you, O people, 6  I call out,

and my voice calls 7  to all mankind. 8 

8:5 You who are naive, discern 9  wisdom!

And you fools, understand discernment! 10 

8:6 Listen, for I will speak excellent things, 11 

and my lips will utter 12  what is right.

8:7 For my mouth 13  speaks truth, 14 

and my lips 15  hate wickedness. 16 

8:8 All the words of my mouth are righteous; 17 

there is nothing in them twisted 18  or crooked.

8:9 All of them are clear 19  to the discerning

and upright to those who find knowledge.

8:10 Receive my instruction 20  rather than 21  silver,

and knowledge rather than choice gold.

8:11 For wisdom is better than rubies,

and desirable things cannot be compared 22  to her.

8:12 “I, wisdom, live with prudence, 23 

and I find 24  knowledge and discretion.

8:13 The fear of the Lord is to hate 25  evil;

I hate arrogant pride 26  and the evil way

and perverse utterances. 27 

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 Heb “head.” The word רֹאשׁ (rosh, “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.

3 tn 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).

4 tn Heb “at the mouth of.”

5 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.

6 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.”

7 tn The verb “calls” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for the sake of style.

8 tn Heb “sons of man.” Cf. NAB “the children of men”; NCV, NLT “all people”; NRSV “all that live.”

9 tn 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.

10 tn Heb “heart.” The noun לֵב (lev, “heart”) often functions metonymically for wisdom, understanding, discernment.

11 tn Heb “noble” or “princely.” Wisdom begins the first motivation by claiming to speak noble things, that is, excellent things.

12 tn 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.

13 tn Heb “roof of the mouth.” This expression is a metonymy of cause for the activity of speaking.

14 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.

15 sn Wise lips detest wickedness; wisdom hates speaking wicked things. In fact, speaking truth results in part from detesting wickedness.

16 tn Heb “wickedness is an abomination to my lips” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV).

17 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.”

18 sn 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.”

19 tn 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.

20 tn Heb “discipline.” The term refers to instruction that trains with discipline (e.g., Prov 1:2).

21 tn Heb “and not” (so KJV, NASB); NAB “in preference to.”

22 tn The verb יִשְׁווּ (yishvu, from שָׁוָה, shavah) can be rendered “are not comparable” or in a potential nuance “cannot be compared” with her.

23 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.

24 tn 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.

25 tn 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.

26 tn Since both גֵּאָה (geah, “pride”) and גָּאוֹן (gaon, “arrogance; pride”) are both from the same verbal root גָּאָה (gaah, “to rise up”), they should here be interpreted as one idea, forming a nominal hendiadys: “arrogant pride.”

27 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).



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