The book of Proverbs is a favorite of many people. It is a collection of wisdom principles being passed down from a father to his son. These proverbs describe general principles for living a successful and happy life. It is important to realize that these proverbs are not absolutes that will always be true. Instead they describe what will generally be true.
At the heart of Proverbs is wisdom. Wisdom is mentioned thirty-eight times in Proverbs and is the primary focus of the first few chapters. The English word ‘wisdom’ is translated from the Hebrew word ‘ḥokmâ’. Mounce’s Expository Dictionary defines ḥokmâ as “wisdom, skill, learning; this can refer to skill in life, trade, war, or spiritual things“.
There are two women who are identified in the first nine chapters of Proverbs. One of these is the adulterous woman who ensnares the foolish, leading them to ruin and death. The proverbs repeatedly warn against her. Avoid her at all costs.
The second woman is wisdom personified, Lady Wisdom. In Proverbs 1:20-21 we find this introduction concerning 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.” Wisdom is pictured here, and throughout the first nine chapters, as a woman. And not just any woman. But one who is to be highly desired. Whose price is beyond that of rubies.
Most of the rest of the proverbs can be thought of as the words of Lady Wisdom, seeking to impart her wisdom to those willing to listen. But then, at the end of Proverbs, a woman of noble character is described. And the description is remarkably similar to the description of Lady Wisdom in the first few chapters.
The Woman of Noble Character
Proverbs 31:10-31, about the virtuous woman, is one of the most familiar passages from the book of Proverbs. I can not tell you how many Mother’s Day sermons I have heard preached on this passage. Nor how many Mother’s Day cards I have seen with some excerpt from it. It is indeed a beautiful passage extolling the virtues of this idea woman.
But I wonder if the author of Proverbs had more than one thought in mind when he included this passage? Yes, it more than likely is exalting the virtuous woman that every man would be blessed to have as his wife. But when you compare her to Lady Wisdom, the resemblance is striking. This ending could just as easily be a summary of what wisdom brings into a person’s life.
Blessed are Those Who Find Wisdom
Blessed are those who find wisdom,Proverbs 3:13-18 NIV
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.
Wisdom, personified here as a woman, is highly to be desired. Gaining wisdom is more profitable than anything else you might obtain. Nothing is better than wisdom. She is more precious than rubies. This mimics Proverbs 31:10, “A woman of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies.“
Long life, riches, and honor are in her hands. Just like the husband of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31 who lacks nothing (Prov. 31:11), who is brought good (Prov. 31:12), and is respected in the city gates (Prov. 31:23).
The woman of noble character works with eager hands (Prov. 31:13), she supplies food for the family (Prov. 31:15), her arms are strong for her tasks (Prov. 31:17), opens her arms to the needy (Prov. 31:20), cares for her household (Prov. 31:21-22), and can laugh at days to come (Prov. 31:25). Like this woman, wisdom’s ways are pleasant and peaceful, a blessing to all who hold to her.
More Precious Than Rubies
Choose my instruction instead of silver,Proverbs 8:10-11 NIV
knowledge rather than choice gold,
for wisdom is more precious than rubies,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
The author of Proverbs for the second time emphasizes the value of Lady Wisdom. She is more precious than rubies. The same value as the woman of noble character in Proverbs 31:10-31.
Wisdom Has Built her House
Wisdom has built her house;Proverbs 9:1-5 NIV
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!”
To those who have no sense she says,
“Come, eat my food
and drink the wine I have mixed.
Leave your simple ways and you will live;
walk in the way of insight.”
Like the woman of noble character, Lady Wisdom is industrious, managing her household (Prov. 31:21-22), preparing meals (Prov. 31:15), organizing the servants (Prov. 31:27), and calling the simple to share in her bounty (Prov. 31:20).
The Beginning of Wisdom
In Proverbs 31:30 the author says that “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.” Now, compare this with the two women in the first nine chapters of Proverbs. One, the wayward wife, has charm and beauty.
For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey,Proverbs 5:3-6 NIV
and her speech is smoother than oil;
but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
her steps lead straight to the grave.
She gives no thought to the way of life;
her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it.
The other one, Lady Wisdom, fears the Lord.
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,Proverbs 9:10-12 NIV
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
For through wisdom your days will be many,
and years will be added to your life.
If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.
One road, the road marked by charm and beauty, leads to destruction and ruin. The other road, following after wisdom, leads to knowledge of God and a rewarding life. Lady Wisdom is greatly to be desired and sought after. But avoid the wayward woman of sin and self that will lead you to ruin.
Read and apply the wisdom of Proverbs. She will guide you in living a full and meaningful life. While these general principles may not always be true in your experience (see Ecclesiastes), they will be a safeguard to your life. The wisdom of Proverbs will keep you from much harm that would otherwise come your way.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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