Most of us are bombarded with hundreds if not thousands of messages every day. These messages come in many forms, from notifications to advertisements to texts and emails. No matter how much we may want to be “ad free,” it’s becoming nearly impossible not to be inundated with these messages. As a result, this inundation can lead us to ignore, delete, or zone out all the voices that are seeking our attention. So, how can we filter out the messages we don’t want to hear in order to hear what we need to hear? How can we block out the excessive messaging to pay attention and listen to what God is saying to us? How do we develop ears to hear when we’ve trained ourselves to be dull of hearing? Let’s learn why it is essential for us to hear and heed wisdom’s call from the Zondervan Bible Commentary.

Wisdom States Her Case (8:1–9:18)

The introductory section of Proverbs (1:8–9:18) ends with a powerful positive statement, gathering up the hints scattered throughout the section (1:20–23; 3:13–20). No longer by contrast with the crooked and perverse, but in forthright, direct terms, wisdom claims to fit the universe, to be evidently the key to life and understanding, as it was fundamental to its creation (22). Wisdom fits man to be truly man (32–36) in open fellowship and contentment (9:1–6).

Wisdom’s Call (8:1–5)

Above the babble of conflicting greeds, wisdom calls out (1). To rouse people from their indifference or low-level satisfactions, understanding has to raise her voice. As in 1:20, the call is widespread (2, 3): people in general, even simple and foolish men (5), are urged to pay attention, for this wisdom is no esoteric philosophical system but down-to-earth common sense. It has to do with moral standards (6–14), the purpose and goal of social and personal life (15–21) and a proper response of wonder and worship to the universe around us (22–31).

Wisdom and Godliness (8:6–14)

The description of wisdom has a wholesomeness and refreshing quality like a sea breeze after the stuffy atmosphere of the scheming world. Powerful words drive the lesson home. Wisdom is synonymous with what is right (Heb. yāšār, a great OT word, the ‘upright’ of 2:7; 3:32; base of the ‘equity’ of 1:3; the standard by which all is judged Ps. 19:8; 1 Kg. 15:11).  There is finality and objectivity in biblical wisdom which contrasts with the relativistic and subjective morass of much 20th century opportunism. Wisdom speaks what is just (Heb. ṣedeq, cf. 1:3) and right (cf. 24:26, NIV ‘honest’; 2 Sam. 15:3; Isa. 30:10) Wisdom speaks the simple, obvious truth, even if unpalatable.

Familiar nouns are recalled as wisdom names those who share her house: prudence (as 1:4), knowledge (1:4), discretion (1:4, here pl.), sound judgment (2:7), understanding (1:2) are joined by counsel (advice freely offered, but coloured by its source, 1 Kg. 12:13, 14; Ps. 1:1; 33:11; bad men may still have the power to give good counsel, 2 Sam. 16:23) and power (the might or strength to do things, though floundering without wisdom, Ec. 9:16) to give a balanced, many-sided tool-kit for dealing with life.

Wisdom and Society (8:15–21)

The ideal ruler of Isa. 11:2f exemplifies most of these qualities, a beautiful instance of how things are when kings reign and princes govern by wisdom. Riches, . . . honor, . . . righteousness, . . . justice, . . . wealth are the rewards of such wise rule (Isa. 11:4–9). The wisdom is the root from which wealth grows and hence more valuable than its fruits. The comparison with gold and silver (10, 19), generally reckoned the durable and valuable things, highlights the real value of what is intangible and lasting (by comparison with which they are ‘perishable’, 1 Pet. 1:18).

Wisdom and Creation (8:22–31)

The Word and Wisdom of God

This passage is often read as if it referred prophetically to Christ, the wisdom of God (1 C. 1:24) and the word by whom all things were made (Jn 1:1–3). There is a strong connection in the development of Jewish thought between this passage, through two books of the Apocrypha (Ecclesiasticus 24 and Wisdom of Solomon 7) to Philo of Alexandria (early 1st century) who attempted to join Hebrew and Greek world-views with the idea of a principle of wisdom (logos, word), an emanation from God by which the world was made. But Philo’s logos was impersonal and ‘spiritual’. So when John speaks of the Word (logos, Jn 1:1) he reinstates the true Hebrew idea of a personal, creating God and ‘uses Philo’s word to reject Philo’s thought’.

The “Birth” of Wisdom

The Hebrew (qānāh as 4:7) usually means ‘get’ as by purchase (Jos. 24:32), and hence what is got is numbered among one’s possessions. Occasionally the getting is by giving birth (Gen. 4:1) or by (implied) creation (Gen. 14:19). The emphasis, as here, is on the fact that wisdom belongs to the LORD, not on how or when it came so to belong. The primacy of wisdom to the creation, when the world came to be . . . before . . . before (25). . . . before (26), sets the universe in a fresh light. Here is no random happening but ordered, premeditated development. ‘The laws that make the universe a cosmos, not a chaos, are expressions of the divine mind’ (Westcott). This gives solidity, significance and pattern to the universe and sets the poet free to rejoice in it with evocative word and metaphor.

The detail is to be enjoyed in this way, not pressed into service to support particular cosmologies (as 28, 29 to show a supposed three-tier system or to prove the earth is round). There are suggestions of bounty (24), meticulous care (26), superabundant power (27b, ‘girdled the ocean with the horizon’, NEB) and control (29 see Job 38:4–11; Ps. 33:6–7). In all this God’s wisdom rejoiced, delighting in humankind, a unique feature of the biblical account of creation. Man is not God’s drudge in the world, but object of favour and joy. ‘With joy thou saw’st the mansion where the sons of men should dwell’ (Lady Campbell).

The Lesson Enforced (8:32–36)

The examples have been spelt out, the supremacy and suitability of wisdom displayed, so now wisdom urges listen to me . . . be wise . . . watching daily at my doors. This will produce happiness (32), life . . . and . . . favor from the LORD (35). The contrast is again drawn between life and death, growth in harmony with the true nature of things and the rejection that harms themselves (36) a violation of the personality (AV ‘wrongeth his own soul’, see Num. 16:38 and Prov. 6:32).

Two Invitations and Their Results (9:1–18)

Wisdom’s final call is an invitation to a feast, open to all, in terms reminiscent of Jesus’ parable (Lk. 14:16–24). Over against this is a final appeal from her rival Folly (NEB ‘Lady Stupidity’) with exactly similar invitation (16) but utterly perverted result. Instead of the open fellowship of the meal shared with wisdom (5) there is the furtive conspiracy of v. 17, stolen perhaps suggesting that evil is parasitic upon good; even the pleasures of sin depend upon God’s good creation for any enjoyment they may bring.

Folly is simple. The RSV ‘wanton’ follows the amended text, whereas ‘simple’ follows MT, using the same word as for her victims. She is no better than they. Between these two invitations are sandwiched two sorts of person. The mocker (1:22; 3:34) reappears in all his intolerance of correction, with his companion the wicked (3:33) who meets arguments with violence. Against this is set the wise who learns and prospers. Verse 12 is a sobering motto–your attitudes affect you most of all.

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