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Tuesday, May 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 9

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Verses 1-6


Proverbs 9 is the conclusion and also the summary of Proverbs 1-8 that form the introduction to this book. Both Woman of Wisdom and the Woman of Folly are making a last appeal. Both women illustrate the teaching of the eight previous chapters.

They both address the naive (Proverbs 9:4; Proverbs 9:16), who lack wisdom. Those are the gullible ones. They need wisdom to live, but they are easily influenced by foolishness. Both women compete for their favor. They both do it in their own way with an appropriate result. To accept the invitation of the Woman of Wisdom means to enter into life. To accept the invitation of woman Folly means to enter into the realm of death. The Woman of Wisdom offers life, without saying anything about pleasure. The Woman of Folly offers pleasure, without saying anything about death.

The Woman of Wisdom is presented as the Builder and Inhabitant of a beautiful house Who sends out Her maidservants to invite guests. The Woman of Folly is presented as a lewd woman who is sitting in a chair at the door of her house, luring passengers to come to her. Both women have organized a party, with a meal included.

The Invitation of Wisdom

Wisdom performs here for the last time in these introductory chapters (Proverbs 9:1). This Wisdom is also called the highest Wisdom, which means that in Her the fullness of wisdom is found, all wisdoms are in Her. Again we see herein a clear picture of Christ “in Whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden” (Colossians 2:3).

Of Her is said that She “has built her house”. It is about something new, which was made by Her and which is available for everyone who accepts Her invitation. It is Her house. She has not built it only for Herself, but to welcome others into it and make them feel at home. Her house forms an enormous contrast to the house of the harlot. The harlot does not build her house, but tears it down.

Wisdom has also “hewn out her seven pillars” so that Her house may rest on them. The number seven speaks of fullness, without any lack, and perfection, without any shortage. The building has been established on a perfect foundation, which makes it stand unshakably. James mentions seven characteristics of “the wisdom from above” (James 3:17), which we can apply to the seven pillars. Those are the features which are perfectly seen in the Lord Jesus.

1. The first feature of wisdom is that she is “pure”. James emphasizes its importance by saying about purity that it takes the “first” place. The next features flow out of it. Purity is the first condition, because it is about Christ Who is pure.
2. Wisdom is “then peaceable”. Christ is the great Peacemaker. He who accepts Him and becomes wise, will also become a peacemaker. In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord Jesus speaks also about purity first and then about peace (Matthew 5:8-1 Samuel :).
3. The next pillar of the house of the Woman of Wisdom is called “gentle”. It is a house wherein nobody defends his own rights. How gentle was Christ.
4. He who is wise, is also “reasonable”. Christ obeyed His Father in all things, which means that He perfectly followed the will of His Father. That will also be the case with everyone who accepts the invitation of Wisdom.
5. In His relation to others, Christ was “full of mercy and good fruits”. He was and is compassionate with others who are in trouble and is a blessing to them. Everyone who is wise, will act like Him.
6. Christ was and is in His dealing with others “without partiality”. He knows no favoritism and does not exclude anyone. He doesn’t look at the outward appearance, as it is neither with those who are wise.
7. Finally He was and is “without hypocrisy”. He knows no hypocrisy. He doesn’t masquerade Who He is, but He is Who He says to be. That also goes for everyone who is wise.

Wisdom has not only prepared the house and its pillars. She also has prepared everything by Herself in that house to welcome the invitees and to give them food (Proverbs 9:2). The menu consists of meat and wine, of food and drink of the highest quality.

That “She has slaughtered her slaughter” shows that She uses Her own cattle. Herein we could see a reference to Christ Who has given Himself in death as a provision for sinners. Only on the ground of His death, they are able to come to the banquet. It is, so to speak, not a vegetarian banquet, but a banquet for which blood has been shed and where meat is eaten.

Metaphorically, or regarding its spiritual meaning, it is about eating the flesh of the Son of Man and drinking His blood. By eating of it, one receives eternal life, but that should be followed by eating it continually (John 6:53-Titus :). Because, in view of the invitation of the Woman of Wisdom, this meat can be eaten by others, we could think of Christ as the peace offering. The peace offering represents Christ in His work on the cross, on the ground of which fellowship with Him, with God and with one another, is possible (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7-Ruth :).

This banquet, where fellowship is experienced, besides life also gives joy. We see that joy in the wine which She has mixed. Wine is a picture of joy (Judges 9:13; Psalms 104:15). She has also been engaged with wine. She has mixed it with water or with herbs, so that it makes the best quality. Wine speaks of full happiness which is enjoyed when there is fellowship with the Father and the Son and with one another (1 John 1:1-Numbers :).

Then we see that She has “also” set Her table. The word “also” points to an extra activity. A “table” speaks of fellowship, a joint possession and sharing it. That there is mention of “Her table”, means that Her concern is not only about supplying the guests with food and drink, but to eat and drink together with them also. “Her table” speaks of having fellowship with Her, of taking part of what Her portion is.

When Wisdom has made everything ready to welcome the guests, She sends out “Her maidens” (Proverbs 9:3). Through them She calls “from the tops of the heights of the city”. The maidens are Her voice. She makes every effort to reach everyone with Her invitation. Everybody can hear Her, for She “calls”. Everybody can see Her, for She has taken a high position in the city. This is how Christ sends out His servants with His invitation to come to His banquet.

And who does She invite? Everyone who is naive and acknowledges it, for it is asked of him to turn in to Her (Proverbs 9:4). What She makes, Her house, is large and has an unshakable foundation (Proverbs 9:1). What She offers, Her meal, is royal (Proverbs 9:2). Those whom She invites do not fit there. They are the opposite of royal, for they come from the street and lack every qualification to fit there. The Lord Jesus uses in a parable the same metaphor (cf. Luke 14:21-Isaiah :).

Therefore something should happen first, before a person accepts the invitation. The call to come actually implies also a call for repentance. That resonates through the words “let him turn in here”. What Wisdom offers, can only be enjoyed when the path of sin is forsaken. He who realizes that he “lacks understanding”, will turn away from his foolish way; he will forsake that way, repent and come to Wisdom.

She invites, not only to come and see, but to eat of Her food and drink of the wine She has mixed (Proverbs 9:5). How many people remain standing at a distance looking at what Christ offers, without actually accepting the eternal life which He offers. Some think that it is too easy. You can’t accept it just like that. They think that they have to do something first. Others want to enjoy life first. They think that they can determine themselves when they want to come. But it is an invitation without conditions and also an invitation which should be accepted unconditionally. The only thing that the invitees have to do, is to come directly (cf. Isaiah 55:1).

Every excuse for not accepting the invitation (cf. Luke 14:18-Proverbs :) is a part of the “folly” which has to be forsaken. Whoever forsakes them, will live. As long as repentance has not taken place yet, one finds himself heading into death. But he, who listens to the voice of Wisdom, which is the voice of the Son of God, will transcend from death into life (John 5:24). This is life in the true and in its full sense, which is offered with repentance.

He who repents and lives, goes “in the way of understanding”, which is the way in which one shows understanding: a behavior and walk which is determined by understanding. It is the way in which the believer seeks fellowship with God and with the ones who are His Own. In that way the Scripture is being read and consulted and God’s guidance is asked in prayer. Also the counsel or instruction of fellow believers is appreciated. These things testify of understanding.

Verses 7-12

The Scoffer and the Wise Man

Proverbs 9:7-2 Kings : form a transition section from the previous section (Proverbs 9:1-Joshua :) to the next section (Proverbs 9:13-Job :). We hear Wisdom still speaking here, Who summarizes the main things of Her teaching. We can see these words as spoken to the naive. He is not to let himself be involved with a scoffer, nor to correct him. If he corrects the scoffer, he will actually “get dishonor for himself”. To get into a debate with a scoffer means that you will be overloaded with filthiness.

A scoffer is in essence “a wicked man” (Proverbs 9:7). It is somebody who sins willfully and is not subject to reason (2 Peter 3:3-Deuteronomy :). It is dangerous to correct someone who willfully provokes God. Such a person follows his own lusts and purposefully goes against all commandments of God. It is throwing pearls before swine when we present him the beauties of the gospel. There is a great chance that he will turn and tear the corrector to pieces (Matthew 7:6).

What is said in this section is an urgent presentation of the two kinds of people which we have encountered in this book: the scoffer and the wise man. The “scoffer” is the one who lives with contempt for wise and sound teaching. His scoff is rooted so deeply that he doesn’t even tolerate that others do listen to it. He expresses that by making cynical remarks about it.

Wisdom urgently advises not to correct the scoffer, for it will only result in him hating you (Proverbs 9:8). The scoffer is incorrigible. Therefore Wisdom warns that everyone who tries to correct a scoffer, is asking for trouble. Making trouble and expressing insults are in the blood of these cynical peace disturbers. The only response that the scoffer gives, is hatred. Whoever tries to reprove the scoffer, will be rejected by him with disgust.

It implies that a situation may arise that he who is wise, will have to become wiser, and he who scoffs, will have to scoff more (cf. Revelation 22:11). Wisdom makes clear that the character of each individual will develop further in the direction which he has chosen. Wisdom gives an option with eternal consequences.

In contrast to the response of the scoffer to a reproof is the response of the wise man to a reproof (Proverbs 9:8). The wise man will love the one who reproves him. He proves to be a wise man by listening to the reproof. And not only that, He will love the one who reproves him. Reproof which is accepted kindles love, which is the opposite of the hatred which arouses with the scoffer when he is reproved.

It shows that one does not think too lofty of himself and is willing to receive further teaching. Besides that, he is a wise man, he is also a righteous man (Proverbs 9:9). Such a person wants to obtain more understanding in Who God is and in who he himself is. That understanding gives to life its true wealth and meaning. It makes one live with more and more satisfaction, because it fulfills God’s intention with it more and more.

True wisdom finds her origin in “the fear of the LORD” (Proverbs 9:10). Without fear, in the sense of reverence, to God, there can be no mention of wisdom. Nobody is wise as long as does not fear God. To fear means: to be afraid of dishonoring God. It is not the fear of a bondservant for his master, but of someone who loves God. The first evidence of wisdom, meaning its beginning, is to fear God.

He who is wise from the fear of the LORD, is not afraid of Him, but on the contrary wants to be close to Him, in order to learn to know Him better. Through ”the knowledge of the Holy One” – with Whom God is meant as the triune God – the wise man gets understanding in life, how life should be lived.

Whoever listens to the calling voice of Wisdom and embraces its beginning, the fear of God, will be wonderfully rewarded for that. That reward is presented as an extra argument to accept the invitation of Wisdom. Wisdom gives the prospect of numerous days and the addition of years, in other words the eternal life (Proverbs 9:11). It is here, as always, about the life of the soul and not about the physical life. “But the one who does the will of God” – so he who listens to Wisdom – “will live forever” (1 John 2:17).

In Proverbs 9:12 the conclusion follows with an agreement and a contradiction. Both he who is wise and he who is a scoffer, will face the consequences of who he is. He who is wise will get the benefit of it, while the scoffer will have to bear its consequences himself. He who is wise and lets himself be led by wisdom, will be rewarded for that by wisdom. Wisdom bears the reward in herself. The scoffer, he who scoffs at wisdom, only harms himself and will ultimately end up in eternal torment.

“Each one” – both he who is wise and he who is a scoffer – “will bear his own load” (Galatians 6:5), means that each individual is responsible for what he has done. The wise man sows to the Spirit and the scoffer sows to his own flesh. The results are consistent with them (Galatians 6:7-Ruth :).

Wisdom and scoff give no advantage or disadvantage to God (cf. Job 22:2-Leviticus :). God finds no lack in Himself. He is the only happy God. Wisdom and scoffing often affect other people, but that is also not the case here. Here it is about what the ultimate portion of the wise and the scoffer will be, the results of their personal choice. To him who sees the similarity and the difference, it will not be difficult to make the right choice.

Verses 13-18

The Invitation of the Woman of Folly

“The woman of folly” is the strange woman, the harlot (Proverbs 9:13). Earlier in the book we have heard and seen her (Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 5:3Proverbs 7:5). She “is boisterous”. Her life is full of restlessness. She has no stability and therefore she cannot possibly offer that which is in contrast to the Woman of Wisdom. She lacks the slightest bit of understanding, she is “naive and knows nothing” and therefore extremely foolish. “She knows nothing”, means that she has no knowledge of the good. God is the great absent One in her life.

All this lack of rest, understanding and knowledge does not embarrass her. She does not care at all about what others think of her, whatever evil she causes in families, bodies and souls of others and what she robs herself from and whatever harm she finally brings over herself. He who accepts her invitation, is of course not less guilty, but here the initiative comes from her. Her shameless attitude and behavior are also displayed in our days in a more and more shameless way. The posters along the roads and the advertisements in all kinds of media, have passed beyond shame for a long time already.

The contrast to the Woman of Wisdom is enormous. The Woman of Wisdom has built a beautiful house and has hewn out seven pillars for it (Proverbs 9:1). So She has worked hard for it. Then She prepared a meal and had set the table (Proverbs 9:2). The Woman of Folly has not done anything. She does not build, but tears down. She has not prepared a house, nor did she prepare a meal.

The Woman of Folly sits “at the doorway of her house” and actually “on a seat” (Proverbs 9:14). She knows no shame and any feeling of inferiority is also strange to her. That she sits on a seat means that she considers herself a queen. She deludes herself in that way “by the high places of the city”. Just as she feels like, she behaves accordingly. She loves to radiate authority, as if it is a privilege to come into contact with her.

It reminds us of “the great Babylon, the mother of the harlots” (Revelation 17:5), who says of herself in her heart: “I sit as a queen” (Revelation 18:7). It is a symbolic representation of the roman church, which is seated in Rome and is built on seven hills (Revelation 17:9). This corrupt system has spiritually committed fornication with the kings of the earth and has presented itself as one of them.

She is emphatically present in the streetscape (Proverbs 9:14) and she invites each passenger (Proverbs 9:15). In different areas she is an imitation of Wisdom, like it is with the calling for the invitation and the banquet, from the heights of the city. The Woman of Folly apparently has Godliness, but she denies the power of it (2 Timothy 3:5). She is corrupt regarding her way of thinking and reprehensible regarding the faith (2 Timothy 3:8). In her we see the devil as a master imitator in action.

The devil is also an excellent advertiser. We see that in the promotion flyers and promotion video’s, in which the needs of man are always keyed into. He knows very well where to find the needs of man. He knows the needs of man concerning food and drink and sexuality. Those are in themselves not sinful needs, for they were put by God in man. Those are really human needs. These needs only become sinful needs when man provides himself for that without asking God and accepts the offers that the devil makes.

The Woman of Folly addresses everyone as a representative of the devil; not only to those who want to sin purposefully. She calls to those “who are making their paths straight”, who do not want to turn away from, but want to walk the right path in obedience to what they were taught from God’s Word. She however, presents the right path as boring. She shows cunningly that turning away from the usual way, gives the necessary variation, which apparently will cause life to become exciting.

She also imitates Wisdom by especially addressing him who is “naive” (Proverbs 9:16; Proverbs 9:4). Let him turn once into her way and come to her. Among all those passersby certainly somebody is walking who “is naive and knows nothing”. For him she has a very attractive invitation.

She plainly offers “stolen water” (Proverbs 9:17), with which she calls to the passersby to have improper sexual intercourse with her. In this way she responds to the passion as thirst (cf. Proverbs 5:15). This way of quenching the thirst is indeed stealing, for it is stealing the intimacy of someone else who alone is entitled to it. She presents it as “sweet”. Satan always presents sin as ‘sweet’, while the after taste of it is so bitter.

With stolen water also goes together “bread in secret”, which is ‘bread of mysteries’, ‘bread from hidden places’ (cf. Deuteronomy 13:6). Enjoying this bread cannot stand the daylight. She presents it as “pleasant”, while the after taste of it is very nasty.

By offering the water and the bread in this way, she appeals to the inclination that is hidden within every man, which is to do something that is illicit, which goes against the rules of God. But what she offers, can justly be called ‘a prisoner’s meal’, as the saying goes that a person in prison is put ‘on a starvation diet’. Whoever drinks this water and eats this bread, will become a prisoner of hers.

The end is even worse than a prison. He who enters into her house, meets a company there of “the dead” (Proverbs 9:18). All of his predecessors who have accepted her invitation, “are in the depths of Sheol” (Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 7:27). The house of the Woman of Folly appears to be ‘the throat to hell’. All who on earth drink of her water and eat of her bread will have to digest that forever in hell. This confrontation with death encourages us to choose for life.

The Woman of Wisdom and the Woman of Folly illustrate two ways each with its own end. The Lord Jesus calls these ways the broad way and the narrow way (Matthew 7:13-2 Chronicles :). He appeals to avoid the broad way and to follow the right and narrow way of a righteous and wise life. The broad way leads to destruction, the narrow way leads to life. Almost all following verses in this book present these two ways: the way of life and the way that leads to life and the way of death and the way that leads to death.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 9". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/proverbs-9.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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