Proverbs Series part three. This series originally ought to be two parts only. But, because there is so much wisdom to share from this book written by the wisest man on earth, let’s talk about it more. This time, we’ll focus on the Four Poems of Lady Wisdom.
Since we’re looking into a poem, a form of artistic literature, we’ll interpret this portion of the Bible in a similar way. We’ll look into some figures of speech and how they brought more meaning to Solomon’s intent in the portrayal of Wisdom.
Proverbs Series: Background and Interpretation
In the succeeding passages below, you’ll see that “Wisdom” is personified as a “Lady”. And one might question why. Others theorize that this is a glimpse of the existence of a female deity, etc. But is it actually that? As I’ve mentioned, this portion of the Bible is a literary piece and we should consider the genre and the figures of speech, among others, in its interpretation.
If we look into the Bible, God uses different types of figures of speech all throughout the Bible. In Matthew 5:13, He said that we are the “salt” of the earth. And, we do know that we are not literally one. In Psalm 98, the author said, “Let the floods clap their hands” and by common sense, we understand not to take this literally.
Likewise goes for these texts in Proverbs. Solomon used personification to create a tangible concept of an inanimate and abstract idea of wisdom. In English, we may not be able to relate to grammatical gender, but in many other languages such as French, Spanish, and Hebrew, this is common. “La mesa”, a table, is feminine. “El mapa”, a map, is masculinee. And yet, this does not necessarily indicate the physical gender of the object itself.
Four Poems of Lady Wisdom
“Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke, I, in turn, will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you— when calamity overtakes you like a storm when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind when distress and trouble overwhelm you. “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord. Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes. For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”
Wisdom here is personified as a woman who calls aloud in the street to persuade the people who are foolish to turn away from their foolishness because the end thereof is destruction. Despite the negative consequences Lady Wisdom speaks of in this text, in the last verse, she speaks hope that the foolish can still choose wisdom.
2. Proverbs 3:13-20
“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed. By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge, the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.”
This poem describes the great value of gaining wisdom. The author describes that even precious minerals and stones are incomparable to her. By enumerating the benefits, the author convinces the readers to seek and gain wisdom. The benefits mentioned in this text are blessedness, long life, riches and honor, pleasant ways, and peace.
3. Entire Proverbs 8
“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. I have been established from everlasting, From the beginning, before there was ever an earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth. When there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled; Before the hills, I was brought forth; While as yet He had not made the earth or the fields, Or the primal dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was there, When He drew a circle on the face of the deep, When He established the clouds above, When He strengthened the fountains of the deep, When He assigned to the sea its limit So that the waters would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth, Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman, And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, Rejoicing in His inhabited world, And my delight was with the sons of men.
In Chapter 8, Lady Wisdom talks about herself. She describes her characteristics and the benefits that she brings. She also speaks of her beginning and history. The text above shows that wisdom was with God when He created the heavens and the earth. She was beside God as a master craftsman. By doing so, the author allows Lady Wisdom to introduce herself to the people, an exposition of herself so that people will be drawn to her.
4. Entire Proverbs 9
“Wisdom has built her house; she has set up its seven pillars. She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point of the city, “Let all who are simple come to my house!” As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding. (Lady Wisdom)
“A foolish woman is clamorous; She is simple, and knows nothing. For she sits at the door of her house, On a seat by the highest places of the city, To call to those who pass by, Who go straight on their way: “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here”; And as for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, “Stolen water is sweet, And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, That her guests are in the depths of hell.” (Lady of folly)
In this chapter, the author goes into a different tactic of convincing the readers to choose Wisdom. In the text above, you can see the author both described Lady wisdom and lady of folly. The poetry structure of both is similar yet the words describing each shows the difference between the two. This comparison-contrast style allows the reader to clearly distinguish who is better between the two women.
Lady wisdom prepares her table to invite passers-by to forsake foolishness and live. On the other hand, the lady of folly prepares her table to entice passers-by leading them to the depths of hell.
Proverbs Series: Conclusion
As we went through the four poems of lady wisdom, we delved into the world of both literary and biblical interpretation. It allowed us to appreciate the art, beauty, and above all, the message of this biblical literary piece — the message of wisdom and the fear of the Lord.
Reading the book of Proverbs allows the readers, pastors, and members alike, to realize the compassion of God. That he cares so much to the point that he’d dedicate an entire book in the Bible to lead us to wisdom, how to obtain it, how to practice it, and how to keep it.
As we walk our daily Christian lives, may this article serve as a reminder to all of us to continually seek God’s wisdom without stopping. God desires for us to be wise so that the enemy cannot lead us astray. By reading Proverbs today, you can find help and wisdom for every decision you make for your life, family, relationships, career, desires, and even more.