“Lady Wisdom.” Given the context, “Wisdom” or “Lady Wisdom” is a very acceptable translation, particularly since it is juxtaposed with “Folly,” which is a noun (cp. BBE; NAB; NJB; RSV). The more literal Hebrew is “Wise of women” or “wisdom of women,” but “Wisdom of women builds her house” is awkward in English, although Darby’s translation reads that way. The Hebrew text clearly seems to be continuing the use of Wisdom and Folly as personifications. They represent the wise person and the foolish person, whether they are female or male.
[For more on the figure of speech personification, see commentary on Proverbs 1:20.]
In this verse, the noun “women” is plural (as is the agreeing adjective, “wisdom”), and this is the plural of emphasis; in contrast, the verb “builds” is singular (it is plural in the Septuagint, but that seems to be an adjustment of the text). The plural noun is hard to translate into English, although some versions have attempted to catch the plural. For example, the ESV has, “the wisest of women.” But that translation distorts the text somewhat, because a person does not have to be “wisest” to build up their house, they just have to be “wise.” Also, the Hebrew text does not start with “the,” although it can often be legitimately supplied. To better catch the sense of the plural of emphasis, perhaps the translation, “Very wise women” would be good, but then that translation loses the personification in the verse, which is important to the context and scope. The point of the Hebrew is that “Lady Wisdom” is very wise, and builds her house.
We should pay close attention to the plural of emphasis in this verse—that the very wise person builds their house—because it shows the great importance God places on having one’s house and household peaceful, strong, and in good order, which can take a huge amount of effort and great vision and perseverance. If one’s household is in constant strife, the people are in debt or are in constant need of money, and the home is falling apart, it is unlikely the people in the home can be godly or at peace.
“builds her house.” This is a good example of “house” referring to the house, household, and extended household. The wise person does what is necessary to build up and secure their house and household. They use wisdom and sound counsel in making decisions, and don’t make decisions based on emotion. They promote peace among the people in the house and also make sure everyone is doing their part to make the household prosper.
“Folly.” The Hebrew noun is “foolishness,” or “Folly,” and is a personification.
“tears it down with her hands.” This phrase has the idiomatic use of the word “hands” meaning authority, power, or actions. Foolish people do not literally tear their house down with their hands, but they do so by their misuse of “authority” and/or “power,” i.e., what they do (and often, what they don’t do). Foolish people act on emotion and don’t make good financial decisions or good decisions with people. They don’t set good or godly boundaries for themselves or others. They alienate people and promote strife by what they say and do. Both their house and household end up in bad shape or destroyed.