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A companion picture to that in Proverbs 7:0, and serving in some measure to generalize and idealize it. Wisdom also calls Proverbs 8:5 to the “simple” and the “fools,” and they have to choose between her voice and that of the temptress.
The full enumeration of localities points to the publicity and openness of Wisdom’s teaching (see Proverbs 1:20 note), as contrasted with the stealth and secrecy and darkness which shroud the harlot’s enticements Proverbs 7:9.
Men ... sons of man - The two words are used, which, like viri and homines, describe the higher and the lower, the stronger and the weaker. Compare the Psalms 49:2 note.
Excellent - literally, “princely things.” The word is not the same as in marginal reference, and is elsewhere always used of persons (compare “captain” in 1 Samuel 9:16; 2 Samuel 5:2). The poetic style of this part of the book applies it here to the things taught, or to the character of the teaching.
Words of the ideal Wisdom, which find their highest fulfillment in that of the Incarnate Word. Compare Luke 4:22; Matthew 11:19.
Wisdom first speaks warnings (Proverbs 1:24 note), next promises (Proverbs 2:1 note); but here she neither promises nor threatens, but speaks of her own excellence. “Prudence” is the “subtilty” (see the margin), the wiliness of the serpent Genesis 3:1, in itself neutral, but capable of being turned to good as well as evil. Wisdom, occupied with things heavenly and eternal, also “dwells with” the practical tact and insight needed for the life of common men. “Witty inventions” are rather counsels. The truth intended is, that all special rules for the details of life spring out of the highest Wisdom as their source.
Not only the common life of common men, but the exercise of the highest sovereignty, must have this Wisdom as its ground. Compare with this passage Proverbs 8:15-21 the teaching of 1 Kings 3:5-14. The word rendered “princes” Proverbs 8:15 is different from that in Proverbs 8:16; the first might, perhaps, be rendered “rulers.”
Durable riches - i. e., Treasure piled up for many years; ancient wealth.
Gold - The “choice, fine gold” of margin reference. The “fine gold” in the second clause is a different word, and perhaps represents gold extracted from the ore.
A verse which has played an important part in the history of Christian dogma. Wisdom reveals herself as preceding all creation, stamped upon it all, one with God, yet in some way distinguishable from Him as the object of His love Proverbs 8:30. John declares that all which Wisdom here speaks of herself was true in its highest sense of the Word that became flesh John 1:1-14 : just as Apostles afterward applied Wisd. 7:22-30 to Christ (compare Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).
Possessed - The word has acquired a special prominence in connection with the Arian controversy. The meaning which it usually bears is that of “getting” Genesis 4:1, “buying” Genesis 47:22, “possessing” Jeremiah 32:15. In this sense one of the oldest divine names was that of “Possessor of heaven and earth” Genesis 14:19, Genesis 14:22. But the idea of thus “getting” or “possessing” involved, as a divine act in relation to the universe, the idea of creation, and thus in one or two passages the word might be rendered, though not accurately, by “created” (e. g., Psalms 139:13). It would seem accordingly as if the Greek translators of the Old Testament oscillated between the two meanings; and in this passage we find the various renderings ἔκτισε ektise “created” (Septuagint), and ἐκτήσατο ektēsato “possessed” (Aquila). The text with the former word naturally became one of the stock arguments of the Arians against the eternal co-existence of the Son, and the other translation was as vehemently defended by the orthodox fathers. Athanasius receiving ἔκτισεν ektisen, took it in the sense of appointing, and saw in the Septuagint a declaration that the Father had made the Son the “chief,” the “head,” the “sovereign,” over all creation. There does not seem indeed any ground for the thought of creation either in the meaning of the root, or in the general usage of the word. What is meant in this passage is that we cannot think of God as ever having been without Wisdom. She is “as the beginning of His ways.” So far as the words bear upon Christian dogma, they accord with the words of John 1:1, “the Word was with God.” The next words indeed assert priority to all the works of God, from the first starting point of time.
I was set up - Rather, “I was anointed” (compare Psalms 2:6 margin: 2 Chronicles 28:15). The image is that of Wisdom anointed, as at her birth, with “the oil of gladness.”
Or ever the earth was - literally, “from the times before the earth.”
Compare Genesis 1:0; Job 22:0; Job 26:1-14; Job 38:0: A world of waters, “great deeps” lying in darkness, this was the picture of the remotest time of which man could form any conception, and yet the co-existence of the uncreated Wisdom with the eternal Yahweh was before that.
Compare Psalms 90:2. What the Psalmist said of Yahweh, the teacher here asserts of Wisdom; she was before the everlasting hills.
The highest part of the dust of the world - literally, “the head of the dusts of the world;” an image of either:
(1) the dry land, habitable, fit for cultivation, as contrasted with the waters of the chaotic deep; or
(2) man himself. Compare Ecclesiastes 3:20.
A compass - Better as in the margin and Job 22:14 (see the note), i. e., the great vault of heaven stretched over the deep seas.
As one brought up with him - i. e., As his foster child. Others take the word in the original in another sense, “I was as his artificer,” a rendering which falls in best with the special point of the whole passage, the creative energy of Wisdom. Compare Wisdom Proverbs 7:21, Proverbs 7:22.
Daily - Heb. “day by day.” As the Creator rejoiced in His workmanship Genesis 1:4, Genesis 1:10, Genesis 1:12-13, so Wisdom rejoiced in the exuberance of her might and strength.
Wisdom rejoices yet more in the world as inhabited by God’s rational creatures. (compare Isaiah 45:18). Giving joy and delight to God, she finds her delight among the sons of men. These words, like the rest, are as an unconscious prophecy fulfilled in the Divine Word, in whom were “hid all the treasures of Wisdom.” Compare the marginal reference: in Him the Father was well pleased; and yet His “joy also is fulfilled,” not in the glory of the material universe, but in His work among the sons of men.
The old exhortation with a new force. The counsels are no longer those of prudence and human experience, but of a Wisdom eternal as Yahweh, ordering all things.
The image is suggested probably by the Levites who guarded the doors of the sanctuary Psalms 134:1; Psalms 135:2. Not less blessed than theirs is the lot of those who wait upon Wisdom in the temple not made with hands.
Wisdom then is the only true life. The Word, the Light, is also the Life of man John 1:4. The eternal life is to know God and Christ John 17:3.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Proverbs 8". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany