A tale of two women, Proverbs 9

For many years, I used the One Year Bible for my devotions. It has portions from Old and New Testaments, a Psalm (or part of one), and a few verses from the Proverbs for each day. I love my One Year Bible, and I’ll surely go back to it in the future, but a few years ago, I felt a need to change things up.

For about two years, I did quite a few guided Bible studies and thoroughly enjoyed them.

Some time ago, I began this study in Proverbs. (It’s always good to study wisdom.) As I did, I began to see the Proverbs in groups of verses, and it has provided me with a fresh appreciation of this book.

This ninth chapter is a fine example. It’s divided into two parts. The first part (verses 1-12) is the personification of Wisdom as a woman. Wisdom is described and then “she” has a divine message for all mankind. The second part (verses 13-18) describes the foolish woman.

Let’s study these two polar opposite women.

Wisdom prepares her house for guests (1-2). Then she sends out an invitation: Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding (4-6).

The theme shifts a little bit. Now she’s talking about a scorner—someone who mocks truth and will not seek wisdom. He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee (7-8). To me, this is good advice for a counselor. Don’t waste your time on someone with a contrary attitude. Give good advice to someone who will listen and heed—the wise person. There’s more about teaching and students in this next verse. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning (9).

This is the theme verse of this chapter: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding (10). It’s helpful to think of the fear of the LORD as respect for God. It isn’t exactly trembling and being afraid, but it’s the great recognition of God’s perfection and authority—and wanting to please Him.

Do you remember when you were a child and you had a fear of your parents? If they were decent parents, your respect was borne out of your position as a child. You wanted to please. You knew you needed to obey, or there might be some adverse consequences. This illustration isn’t perfect, since we are so much lower than God, but maybe it will help with an understanding of the kind of respect we are talking about when we see the phrase, the fear of the LORD.

This respect for God is the beginning—starting point—for wisdom. It’s the foundation. We build understanding upon our respect for God.

The next clause, the knowledge of the holy is understanding, is truly profound. What’s the only holy thing in the world? God. As we get to know Him, we will obtain understanding.

How can we know God? Through Jesus. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life (1 John 5:20).

Wisdom resumes speaking. For by me (Wisdom) thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased. If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it (11-12).

Now, we encounter the second woman, the foolish one. If you’ve been following our study of Proverbs, you’ll know that we have already met a strange woman. This one will sound familiar.

She is: clamorous, simple, and knoweth nothing (13).

We find her sitting at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city,

To call passengers who go right on their ways (14-15). At the beginning of this chapter, Wisdom was in the high place calling people to her home. But, the foolish woman says, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant (16-17).

At the end, as we’ve seen before in Proverbs, there’s a warning of the sad consequences of sin: But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell (18).

So, here we have two women and two outcomes. Heeding Wisdom: thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased. The person who goes in to the foolish woman knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.

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