Proverbs Chapter 8
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Go to Bible: Proverbs 8
“discernment.” Here “discernment” (we could have gone with Discernment), is personified as a woman, along with Wisdom.(top)
“takes her stand.” The Hebrew reads “took her stand,” making the point that she has been there calling, but she is still there, so we would more naturally say “takes.”(top)
“Beside.” The Hebrew is built on the word “hand,” but the meaning here is “beside.”a
“the gates.” The elders and important men of the city sat in the city gates (see commentary on Prov. 1:21).
“opening.” The Hebrew reads, “mouth.” The “mouth” of the city was the city gate, the entrance to the city.
Cp. HALOT Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon.
“humankind.” The Hebrew is “to the sons of man,” an idiom meaning humankind or people.(top)
“good sense.” The Hebrew word is leb (#03820 לֵב), which is often translated “heart,” but this is one of those cases where that translation would cause confusion. In modern English, the word “heart” usually refers to emotion or passion, but that is not its meaning here. The function of the brain was unknown in biblical times, so things that we generally assign to the brain, like thinking, attitudes, understanding, and good sense, were assigned to the heart. In this case, the naïve men lacked “good sense.”
[For more on the Hebrew word leb and “heart,” see commentary on Prov. 15:21, “sense.”](top)
“that are correct.” Everett Fox translates this as “candid things,” and writes that the Hebrew word “Negidim (only here in this sense) means honest or forthright things, things that are directly before (neged) a person.”a Naïve and foolish people constantly overlook or ignore things that are correct or right. For example, there is a creation, there has to be a creator. Wisdom stands before everyone, giving practical, honest, and true advice.
“the opening of my lips brings forth upright words.” The Hebrew is more literally: “the opening of my lips – fairness/evenness/straightness.” Here once again we see the idiom of life being like a road or path, and people can walk on straight and even paths, or they can walk a crooked, perverse path. When Wisdom opens her mouth, she sets forth a level and straight path to walk on.
E. Fox, The Schocken Bible.
“For my mouth.” The Hebrew is literally, “for my palate,” that is, the roof of the mouth. Many sounds are formed by the tongue being placed against the roof of the mouth, just as a “dental” sound is formed by the tongue being placed against the teeth and a “labial” sound is one formed by the lips. However, we felt that “For the roof of my mouth will utter truth” was very obscure and confusing and thus we nuanced the text to read, “For my mouth.”(top)
|Pro 8:8||- (top)|
“those finding knowledge.” The Hebrew verb is a participle, and indicates that the process of finding knowledge is an ongoing one. So we stayed with the literal, “those finding knowledge,” instead of the simpler but less accurate, “those who find knowledge.(top)
“choice gold.” This term, in Hebrew and English, refers to gold that is “chosen” by the buyer for its value, its purity and its color. Some translations, thinking “choice gold” could be confusing, go with “pure gold” or “fine gold,” but the Hebrew verb is “choice” or “chosen.”
The truth of this verse is profound. God’s Wisdom is calling out to people to take her instruction instead of “choice gold,” and choosing Wisdom’s instruction is the right choice to make in order to be most blessed here on earth and in the next life, too. But fools don’t listen, and the “choice” that far too many people make is the wrong one: they choose money, power, prestige, sex, and other temporal pleasures instead of living wisely with God. If they do know God to some extent, and try to walk with the world and also with God, they will have trouble here on earth. If they really make the wrong choice, and choose the glory of the world rather than everlasting life, they will regret the “choice” they have made. On Judgment Day there will be weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth, but it will be too late to repent (Matt. 13:42, 50).(top)
“gems.” See commentary on Proverbs 31:10.(top)
“I find.” In this verse Wisdom herself models for us how wise people behave. She knows or learns what she needs and goes and finds it. Wisdom lives together with prudence, and finds knowledge and discretion. Actually, in this verse, “prudence,” “knowledge” and “discretion” are all personifications and could have all been capitalized, but we felt that the emphasis in Proverbs was on Wisdom, and only capitalized her. But the verse is teaching us that Wisdom keeps her friend Prudence close at hand by living with her, and then goes and seeks out and finds Knowledge and Discretion so that she can have a multitude of good counselors (Prov. 11:14; 24:6). Wise people follow Wisdom’s example. Lots of people suffer because they do not properly prioritize their lives and take the time to seek out and find the knowledge they need to succeed in whatever endeavor they are involved in and, indeed, succeed in life.(top)
|Pro 8:13||- (top)|
|Pro 8:14||- (top)|
“by me.” The Hebrew text literally means “in me” and this is the use of the word “in” to indicate a close relationship, being “in relation with me,” or “in union with me.” The Greek has the same use of the word “in,” which some scholars refer to as the “static” use of “in.” We could have, and some people might argue we should have, translated this verse, “In union with me, kings reign,” etc.
The fact is, that as clear as it seems in English, the translation “by me” is somewhat shallow. It is not just “by” Wisdom that kings reign, but it is when kings and those in authority are truly “in union with Wisdom,” when they have a deep and internalized relation with her, that they can rule in a godly way like Jesus would rule. That is why it is vital for rulers and those in authority over others to take the time to really understand the Word of God. God’s word really is “Torah,” the instruction and guidance we need to live wisely and rule or guide others. God so badly wanted kings to understand His heart so they could rule over others in a godly manner, that each king was to write his own copy of the Torah (Deut. 17:18).
[For more on the static use of “in” see commentary on John 10:38.]
“rulers.” The Hebrew is actually a verb here, “the ones ruling,” but “rulers” read more easily and did not change the sense of the verse.(top)
“By me.” See commentary on Proverbs 8:15, “by me.”(top)
“love.” The Hebrew is a participle, indicating ongoing action. Wisdom “is [continuously] loving” those who love her.
“me.” There is a scribal emendation in some texts to “her,” but is seems clear from the context that “me” is correct.
“desire.” The Hebrew verb is shachar (#07836 שָׁחַר) and in the qal form it means to “seek,” but in the piel form, which it is in this verse, it means to seek or to desire. While the context would fit “seek” well, the first stanza is about “loving” Wisdom, so in that context, those who love her want her badly, they “desire” her, and will go after her. There is a beautiful word picture being painted here with Wisdom as the woman who should be loved and sought after by the young man. He (indeed, we!) should love Wisdom, yearn for her, desire her, and seek her out. All who do so will find her. The Lord Jesus said, “keep seeking, and you will find” (Matt. 7:7; Luke 11:9).(top)
|Pro 8:18||- (top)|
|Pro 8:19||- (top)|
|Pro 8:20||- (top)|
|Pro 8:21||- (top)|
|Pro 8:22||- (top)|
“From antiquity.” Occasionally, Proverbs 8:23 is used to try and support the Trinity and the preexistence of Christ by saying that “wisdom” was appointed from eternity, and since Christ is the “wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24), therefore, Christ existed from eternity. However, this position has not found strong support even among Trinitarians. The wisdom in Proverbs was “woven” by God (verb is in the niphal aspect; “woven, shaped;” cp. HALOTa) and is therefore subordinate to God. Proverbs 8:22 explains that wisdom was “brought forth as the first of His [God’s] works.” If this “wisdom” actually was Christ, then Christ would be the first creation of God, which is an Arian belief and deemed to be heretical by orthodox Trinitarians. Therefore, many of the Church Fathers rejected this verse as supporting the Trinity. Among such Church Fathers were Athanasius, Basil, Gregory, Epiphanius, and Cyril, to mention a few.
We can see from the scope of Proverbs and the context of this verse that the term “wisdom” is being used figuratively. Taking a concept and speaking of it as if it were a person is the figure of speech personification, and this was quite common in Hebrew poetry. The figure of speech personification often makes it easier for an author to convey an abstract notion or thought than literal narrative does because it uses concrete imagery from human experience. Personification was common among the Jews especially when explaining or describing intangible concepts. Thus, “wisdom” is personified in the book of Proverbs so that the reader can better understand the virtuous qualities that wisdom can offer and the role it played in God’s acts of creation.
Christ is said to be the wisdom of God in 1 Corinthians because it was through him that God was able to redeem humanity. In other words, the plan for humankind’s redemption was conceived and brought to completion according to the wisdom of God.
[For more information on Jesus being the fully human Son of God and not being “God the Son,” and therefore not existing before his birth except in the plan of God, see Appendix 10, “Jesus is the Son of God, Not God the Son.” For more on “the Holy Spirit” being one of the designations for God the Father and “the holy spirit” being the gift of God’s nature, see Appendix 11, “What is the Holy Spirit?”]
“Woven together.” The HALOT gives to “be woven, shaped” as the meaning of nasak (#05258 נָסַךְ) in the niphal aspect. This meaning is resisted by those who see Wisdom as eternal with God, but actually. this verse is just one of many that shows God created Wisdom, and in doing so “wove” her together, a beautiful picture of Wisdom. True wisdom is woven together from many different threads. For “woven,” see also B. Waltke.b
Koehler and Baumgartner, HALOT Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon.
Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 1-15 [NICOT].
“abounding with waters.” Literally, “made heavy with waters,” implying an abundance of water.(top)
“settled.” The literal Hebrew is “sunk,” and while the word “sunk” may be misleading to English readers who think of the mountains standing high above the earth, in fact, the mountains are “sunk” into the earth’s mantle as any geologist will testify. Thus, this verse is one more proof that God is the Author behind the Scripture. No human knew the mountains were sunk into the earth, but God knew it because He did it.(top)
|Pro 8:26||- (top)|
“prepared.” The Hebrew verb is in the hiphil aspect, causative, thus “prepared” seemed the correct meaning here (cp. “prepared,” Darby; Douay-Rheims; Geneva Bible; KJV; Rotherham. Cp. “made ready” BBE).
“the heavens.” The noun is always plural, so it could also be translated “heaven.”
“the horizon above the face of the deep.” Or, “inscribed a circle.” The “deep” here refers to the oceans on the face of the earth, and God inscribed a circle upon them, which we see as the horizon.(top)
“strengthened the springs.” The idea is that the springs now had enough strength, enough force, and water that they could sustain life.(top)
|Pro 8:29||- (top)|
“great delight.” The word “delight” in Hebrew is in the plural, “delights,” and is a plural of emphasis, thus the translation, “great delight.”
“playing.” The Hebrew is sachaq (#07832 שָׂחַק), and it means to laugh, play, joke; including playing when there is music, singing, and dancing. Wisdom “laughs” at the destruction of the wicked who have ignored all her pleas to become wise (Prov. 1:26). Wisdom is portrayed as laughing and playing when God made the earth. The picture is one of great joy at the plans and purposes of God. The earth was going to be such a wonderful place for God’s people, Wisdom laughed and played as God made the earth. In Proverbs 31:25, the wise woman, the embodiment of Wisdom, has lived so wisely and prepared so well that she laughs at the future.(top)
“playing.” See commentary on Proverbs 8:30.
“humankind.” Literally, “the sons of man,” an idiom.(top)
|Pro 8:32||- (top)|
|Pro 8:33||- (top)|
|Pro 8:34||- (top)|
“finding me.” The verb is a participle, and in this case, there seems to be a clear sense that one does not “find” wisdom as a one-time event, but rather we keep “finding” her as we journey down the road of life.(top)
“hate.” The word “hate” in the Bible does not always have the meaning it has in English, an intense feeling of animosity, anger, and hostility toward a person, group, or object. In Hebrew and Greek, the word “hate” has a large range of meanings from actual “hate” to simply loving something less than something else, neglecting or ignoring something, or being disgusted by something. Here the word “hate” is used in the sense of ignoring or neglecting Wisdom, and loving other things more than she. We can see in the context the fools “reject” Wisdom.
[For more on the large semantic range of “hate” and its use in the Bible, see commentary on Prov. 1:22, “hate.”](top)