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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 8

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-36

Third Group of Admonitory or Proverbial Discourses

Proverbs 8:1 to Proverbs 9:18

14. A second public discourse of wisdom personified

Proverbs 8:1-36

a) The richness of her gifts

(Proverbs 8:1-21)

1          Doth not wisdom cry aloud,

and understanding lift up her voice?

2     Upon the top of the high places, by the way,

in the midst of the way she placeth herself.

3     By the side of the gates, at the exit from the city,

at the entrance to its doors she calleth aloud:

4     “To you, ye men, I call,

and my voice is to the sons of men!

5     Learn wisdom, O ye simple ones,

and ye fools, be of an understanding heart!

6     Hear, for I speak plain things,

and the utterances of my lips are right things;

7     for my mouth meditateth truth,

and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.

8     All the words of my mouth are right,

there is nothing crooked or false in them;

9     they are all right to the man of understanding,

and plain to them that have attained knowledge.

10     Receive my instruction and not silver,

and knowledge rather than choice gold!

11     For wisdom is better than pearls,

and no precious things equal her.

12     I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,

and find out knowledge of sagacious counsels.

13     The fear of Jehovah is to hate evil,

pride, arrogance and an evil way,
and a deceitful mouth do I hate.

14     Counsel is mine, and reflection;

I am understanding; I have strength.

15     By me kings reign

and rulers govern justly.

16     By me princes rule

and nobles, all the judges of the earth.

17     I love them that love me,

and they that seek me find me.

18     Riches and honour are with me,

increasing riches and righteousness.

19     Better is my fruit than the purest, finest gold,

and my revenue than choice silver.

20     In the way of righteousness do I walk,

in the midst of the paths of justice,

21     to ensure abundance to those that love me,

and to fill their treasuries.

b) The origin of her nature in God

(Proverbs 8:22-31)

22     Jehovah created me as beginning of his way,

before his works of old.

23     From everlasting was I set up,

from the beginning, before the foundation of the earth.

24     When there were as yet no floods was I brought forth,

when there were no fountains abounding with water.

25     Before the mountains were settled,

before the hills was I brought forth;

26     while as yet he had not made land and plains

and the first clods of the earth.

27     When he prepared the heavens I was there,

when he stretched out the firmament over the deep;

28     when he established the clouds above,

when the fountains of the deep raged loudly;

29     when he set to the sea its bounds,

that the waters should not pass its border;
when he settled the foundation pillars of the earth;

30     then was I at his side as director of the work,

and was delighted day by day,
rejoicing before him continually,

31     rejoicing in his earth,

and my delight did I find in the sons of men.

c) The blessing that flows from the possession of her

(Proverbs 8:32-36)

32     And now, ye children, hearken unto me:

Blessed are they that keep my ways!

33     Hear instruction, and be wise,

and be not rebellious.

34     Blessed is the man that heareth me,

watching daily at my gates,
waiting at the posts of my doors!

35     For whosoever findeth me findeth life

and obtaineth favor from Jehovah;

36     and whosoever sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul:

all they that hate me love death.”


Proverbs 8:2. בֵּין=בֵּית, in the midst, is an Aramaic idiom, occurring also in Ezekiel 41:9.—A.

Proverbs 8:3. As to the form תָּרֹנָּה comp. Proverbs 1:20. [Bött. 929, δ.—A.]

Proverbs 8:5. Instead of הָבִינוּ לֵב [understand ye in heart, “be ye of an understanding heart,” E. V.], we should probably read with the LXX [ἔνθεσθε καρδίαν ], Vulg., Arnoldi and Hitzig הָכִינוּ לֵב, direct your heart, i.e., exert your understanding, applicate animum. Comp. לֵב נָכוֹן, Psalms 57:8; and also 1 Samuel 7:3; Job 11:13; and to illustrate the use of לֵב in the sense of the understanding the reason, comp. several other passages in the Proverbs, especially Proverbs 15:32; Proverbs 17:16; Proverbs 19:8.

Proverbs 8:6. נְגִירִים. [An illustration of the principle that “single adjectives describing what is pre-eminent or striking appear in the more elevated style, raised as it were to personality, and are therefore put in the masc. plural;” see Böttcher, § 707, 2—A.]

Proverbs 8:13. שְׂנֹאת, [an infinitive of a verb לא having the feminine termination of the verbs לה; see Bött., § 1083, 13.—A.].

אֵהָב [regularly אֶאֶהַכ,—after the rejection of one of the weak consonants, the vowel is “assimilated” from the initial vowel of the neighboring form אֹהֲבַי; for examples of the normal modification, אֹהַב, with and without suffixes,, see Malachi 1:2; Hosea 11:1; Hosea 14:5 : Psalms 119:167.—Bött., § 425, h.—A.]

יִמְצָאֻ‍ֽנְנִי, [an example of the retention of the fuller form of the plural ending with weakened vowel and toneless suffix; see Bött., § 1047, f.—A.]

Proverbs 8:24. מַעְיָנוֹת. With this fem. plural form there occurs in an isolated instance, Psalms 104:10 [together with four others of construct and suffix forms], the masculine מַעְינִָים; for which reason the masc. of the adjective נִכְבַּדֵּי is the less striking (Bertheau).

Proverbs 8:25. [Perfect tense with טֶרֶם in the sense of a Pluperfect. Bött., § 947, c.—A.]

Proverbs 8:29. [וְלֹא יַעַבְרוּ. Imperfect with וְלֹא in sense of an lmperf. Subj., “so that,” etc. Bött., § 949, δ, 2.—A.]

Proverbs 8:29. בְּחוּקוֹ stands either for בְּחֻקּוֹ, or as Hitzig perhaps more correctly assumes for the Poal form בְּחוֹקְקוֹ. [Böttcher prefers the first of these explanations, citing this as an example of usage varying in certain words, and suggesting as a reason for the adoption of the fuller form in this case, correspondence with בְּשׂוּמוֹ in the first clause. See §§ 766, η, and 1147.—A.]


1. Preliminary Remark. From the preceding larger group of admonitory discourses (chap. 4–7), that now before us, comprising only chap. 8 and 9, is distinguished chiefly by the fact that it returns to the representation, which has already been made in chapters 1–3 of Wisdom as a person. And this is so done that the two features of the representation which there appeared separately; the exhibition of Wisdom as a public preacher (Proverbs 1:20-33), and as a divine agent in the creation of the world (Proverbs 3:19-26), are now combined in one whole. Here Wisdom appearing as a preacher herself testifies to the aid which she rendered God at the creation (Proverbs 8:22 sq.). Besides this point of contact with the first main group, we may also direct attention to the mention of the fear of God as a disposition in the most intimate alliance, and even identical with wisdom (Proverbs 8:13); this also is common to the division before us and the first; for only in chapters 1–3 (see Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 1:29; Proverbs 2:5; Proverbs 3:7) was any express utterance given to this form of the Hhokmah doctrine. The middle group (chap. 4–7) nowhere contains the expression “the fear of Jehovah.” There are however continually coming to view many connections between the second and third groups; especially the plural address “ye children,” repeated in the discourse of the personal Wisdom (Proverbs 8:32) from Proverbs 4:1; Proverbs 5:7; Proverbs 7:24 (see above, p. 95). Observe also the representation of Folly personified, as a counterpart to Wisdom (Proverbs 9:13-18), appearing as an adulteress of mien and bearing quite like the adulterous woman of chap. 7 who is as it were exhibited here, “developed into a more comprehensive character” (comp. Hitzig, p. 69).—Furthermore this last section of the first main division of the Book of Proverbs consists of only two discourses of unequal length, chapters 8 and 9 each of which, however, in turn includes several subdivisions clearly distinguishable,—chap. 8, comprising the three that have been given above, and chap. 9 the two parallel delineations of the personal Wisdom (Proverbs 8:1-12) and Folly personified (Proverbs 8:13-18).—The unequal length of the two discourses Hitzig seeks to a certain extent to remove by striking out from chap. 8 a large number of verses, sixteen, and from chap. 9 a smaller number, six, as spurious additions by a later hand. His grounds of distrust are, however, here again of a purely subjective kind, and do not present for a single one of the passages in question any reliable evidence of their spurious character, as we shall hereafter have occasion to show in detail.

2.Proverbs 8:1-3. Doth not wisdom cry aloud? This form of interrogation (with הֲלֹא) which expects as its answer an assenting and emphatic “Yes, truly!” points to the fact clearly brought to view in all that has preceded, that wisdom bears an unceasing witness in her own behalf in the life of men.

Proverbs 8:2. Upon the top of the high places by the way, in order that those who pass along by the way may observe her. In the midst of the way. This Aramaic idiom gives no occasion for pronouncing the passage spurious (contrary to the view of Hitzig, who furthermore takes exception to the allusion to “high places” in the 1st clause, and therefore summarily pronounces the entire 2d verse interpolated). Umbreit translates “at the house where roads cross,” and interprets, not indeed of an inn located at cross-roads (as Döderlein does), but still of a house situated at the junction of several streets. But these “ways” are roads, solitary paths, not streets in the city, and the delineation proceeds in such an order as to exhibit Wisdom first, in Proverbs 8:2, as a preacher in the open country, in grove and field, on mountains and plains, and then in Proverbs 8:3 to describe her public harangues in the cities, and in the tumult of the multitudes. The condition therefore is unlike both to that presented in Proverbs 1:20-21, and to that in Proverbs 9:13, where in both cases the interior of a city alone furnishes the scene for Wisdom’s activity as a preacher.

Proverbs 8:3. At the exit from the city, literally “towards the mouth of the city,” i.e., standing at the gate and facing the streets which centre there.—At the entrance to its doors, (comp. Proverbs 1:21), i.e., standing on the farther (outer) side of the gateway.

3.Proverbs 8:4-11. This more general introduction to Wisdom’s discourse, with the addition of Proverbs 8:12, Hitzig declares spurious, partly on account of the alleged tautological nature of Proverbs 8:6-9, giving no genuine progress to the thought,—partly because Proverbs 8:10 is almost identical with Proverbs 8:19, and Proverbs 8:11 with Proverbs 3:15,—and lastly, partly because of the peculiar form אִישִׁים in Proverbs 8:4, which is said to betray a later date. Yet this very form is found also in Isaiah 53:3, and Psalms 141:4, for both of which passages the later origin (in the exile, or even after the exile) is in like manner yet to be established. And as respects the alleged tautologies and repetitions, similar ones occur throughout the entire Book of Proverbs (comp. Introd. § 12). The codices and old versions, however, know nothing whatever of the absence from the text of even a single one of these verses.

Proverbs 8:5. Learn wisdom, O ye simple ones. Comp. Proverbs 1:4.—Ye fools, show understanding, see critical note, above.

Proverbs 8:6. I speak plain things. The word here translated “plain” might, it is true, designate “noble, princely things,” (comp. the σεμνά of the LXX, the “res magnæ” of the Vulg., etc.); [So Wordsw., Holden, N. and M.], the parallelism however renders more natural the signification “plain, evident” (clara, manifesta); [So Stuart]; comp. a similar term in Proverbs 8:9. This only appropriate sense we find already given in the Chaldee and Syriac versions.

Proverbs 8:7. For my mouth meditateth truth, literally, “my palate,” comp. Song Song of Solomon 5:16; Job 31:30. The function of speech does not appear to be here immediately associated with the palate, but, as the antithesis in the 2d clause shows, rather the inward moulding of the word as yet unspoken, by the silent working of the spirit,—the reflective consideration which precedes speech.

Proverbs 8:8. Right, literally, “in righteousness.” For this use of thE preposition employed to introduce the predicate, and forming as it were the transition to the בְּ essentiæ, compare passages like Proverbs 24:5; Psalms 29:4, and Ewald, § 217 f.

Proverbs 8:9. Right to the man of understanding…plain to them that have attained knowledge. Straight and plain stand contrasted with the crooked and false of the preceding verse. [Trapp: “Plain in things necessary to salvation; for as all duties so all truths do not concern all men. God doth not expect or require that every man should be a doctor in the chair; but those points that direct to duty here and salvation hereafter, are clear, express and obvious to them that desire to understand them.”]

The “man of understanding” is he who is so wise as not to despise the words of wisdom, who rather duly takes them to heart. “They that have attained knowledge,” literally “the finders of knowledge,” are those who have made progress in the sphere of ethical knowledge, the “knowing,” the mature and experienced. Umbreit incorrectly interprets “to them that wish to find knowledge;” the participle is here to be taken in a preteritive sense; comp. Genesis 19:14; Nehemiah 10:29. [Other examples may be found cited by Büttcher, § 997, 2, II.]

Proverbs 8:10. Receive my instruction and not silver, i.e., when you have the choice prefer my instruction to silver. There is therefore here a comparison like that in the 2d clause, only somewhat otherwise expressed.—Rather than choice gold. Hitzig, following the LXX and Chald., “than tried gold.” But נִבְחָר means “selected, chosen,” and we have no trace elsewhere of the use of the partic. נִבְחָן, which is indeed similar in form and easily substituted, for the designation of tried gold (χρυσίον δεδοκιμασμένον). Comp. besides Proverbs 8:19, and in the foregoing, Proverbs 3:14; with Proverbs 8:11 comp. Proverbs 3:15.

4.Proverbs 8:12-21. I, Wisdom, dwell with prudence. That Wisdom who is speaking here emphatically calls herself by name is doubtless to be explained by the fact that only just before, in Proverbs 8:11, she had spoken of herself in the 3d person. Very unwarrantably Hitzig infers from this circumstance the spuriousness of this verse also.—The “dwelling” of wisdom “with prudence “expresses a confidential or friendly relation,—the same idea which is elsewhere indicated by the Hiphil of the closely related verb סכן; comp. Psalms 139:3; Job 22:21. Inasmuch as the verb stands here with the simple accusative of the noun, without the prepositions ordinarily signifying “with” (for this construction comp. e.g., Psalms 5:5) many translated “I inhabit prudence” and so conceive of prudence either as the sheltering roof (as e.g., Umbreit explains), or as a property subject to the disposal of prudence (thus Bertheau); but both are alike harsh and inapposite. The correct view is found in Ewald, Hitzig, Elster, the last of whom illustrates the relation of wisdom to prudence by the remark, “prudence (עָרְמָה) denotes here right knowledge in special cases, in contrast with the more comprehensive idea of intelligence in general; the practical realization of the higher principle of knowledge found in wisdom (חָכְמָה).”—And find out knowledge of sagacious counsels. “To find out knowledge” here stands for “to know” (comp. Job 32:13); the expression as a whole would therefore find its equivalent in the simpler “and know sagacious counsels” (וָאֵרַע מְזִמּוֹת). Comp. furthermore the notes on Proverbs 1:14.

Proverbs 8:13. The fear of Jehovah is to hate evil. Only thus far is the 1st member of this ver. to be carried; the following expressions, “pride,” “arrogance,” and “an evil way” (literally, “way of evil”) are, in spite of the present accentuation, to be regarded as prefixed objects to the verb “I hate,” so that the meaning of the entire verse is substantially this; “Inasmuch as the fear of God, this beginning of all wisdom (see Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10) comprises within itself as a distinguishing characteristic the hatred of evil, I, wisdom, accordingly hate everything proud, wicked and crafty.” (Comp. Hitzig on this passage). The general proposition forming the first member of the ver., which naturally gives us no exhaustive definition of the fear of God, but only a description of it by one of its chief characteristics (comp. Hebrews 11:1), is therefore, as it were, the major premise, from which the conclusion is drawn that forms the 2d and 3d members. The minor premise, however, which might have had some such form as the first clause of Proverbs 9:10, is omitted; the reasoning, as it here stands, taking the form of a lemma. In opposition to the diverse methods of punctuating and interpreting, such as are found in Umbreit, Bertheau, and most of the earlier commentators, comp. Hitzig and Elster on this passage.—For the expression “mouth of deceit” or “crafty mouth” comp. Proverbs 2:12; Proverbs 10:31.

Proverbs 8:14 Hitzig pronounces an addition growing out of the similar passage Job 12:13, as he also explains the two following verses as “founded upon the reading of Isaiah 32:1,” and condemns them. But the accordance with these other passages is far too remote and partial to permit us to think of a derivation from them. In the case of Proverbs 8:14 and Job 12:13 we might more readily think of the converse relation of dependence, in case one must at all maintain any such relation as existing, which seems hardly necessary. For as respects the expressions “wisdom,” “counsel,” “understanding,” and “strength,” which are brought into combination in these verses, they are found, with the exception of the second, combined elsewhere, especially in Isaiah 11:2, where they are adduced quite as they are here, as attributes of the true ruler. The instances of paronomasia, however, in Proverbs 8:15-16, (“kings are kings,” and “rulers rulers”), were of themselves so natural, and suggested themselves so obviously, that neither for the author of our verses was there need of any reading of Isaiah 32:1, nor for Isaiah of any recollection of Proverbs 8:15-16, to give occasion for the employment of this trope.—[Wordsw.: Sound wisdom, the very essence of things, whence they derive their soundness and strength].—I am understanding, I have (lit. “mine is”) strength. This change in the pronouns is certainly not undesigned: “understanding” is to be exhibited as one with wisdom, “strength” however (i.e., true efficiency or energy), as a possession, or more precisely a result of wisdom, just as previously in the first clause “counsel” and “reflection” (comp. with respect to them Proverbs 2:17) are named as constant products, possessions, or attributes of wisdom.

Proverbs 8:16. And nobles, all Judges upon earth. These two subjects, attached without any copula to the “princes” of the 1st clause, are plainly intended to signify that all possible diverse classes of princes or rulers derive their power from the celestial wisdom of God (comp. the similar enumerations in Ephesians 1:21; Colossians 1:16, etc.). The idea that this proposition can hold only of just rulers, owes its origin doubtless to the old reading “judges of righteousness” (צֶדֶק) instead of “judges of the earth” (אֶרֶץ), (found in Syr., Chald., Vulg., R. Norzi, and still preferred by Bertheau). See objections to this and arguments in support of the Masoretic text in Hitzig.

Proverbs 8:17. I love them that love me. This conforms to the pointed text (אֹהֲבַי). The written text (אֹהֲבֶיהָ), “them that love her (Wisdom)” is not in keeping with the context, seems to have been occasioned by a wandering of the transcriber’s eye to the form of the verb following [which although a peculiar form of the 1st person—see critical note above—might, unpointed, be mistaken for a form of the 3d person], and has therefore with abundant reason been rejected by all the old versions, several MSS., and by most of the recent interpreters (Umbreit, Ewald, Elster, and Hitzig).—With the 2d clause of Proverbs 8:17, comp. Proverbs 1:28.

Proverbs 8:18. Comp. Proverbs 3:16.—Increasing riches. This is probably the meaning which, with Hitzig, we should adopt (growing means, “wachsend Vermögen”); for the common rendering, “old” or “durable” riches, seems less appropriate, since the old is by no means necessarily the sound and permanent. Comp. rather, with reference to the idea of a steadily growing or accumulating wealth, Psalms 62:10.—And righteousness. What this here signifies is more fully explained in the first clause of Proverbs 8:20.

Proverbs 8:19. Better is my fruit, comp. the representation of wisdom as the tree of life in Proverbs 3:18, and to illustrate the “purest, finest gold” (in Hebrew properly two synonymous expressions for the idea of “fine gold,” comp. Psalms 19:11; Psalms 21:4; Song Song of Solomon 5:11) compare Proverbs 3:14.

Proverbs 8:21. To ensure abundance to those that love me. The word here translated “abundance” (יֵשׁ) must here necessarily be a substantive, of similar import with a derived form (תּוּשִׁיָה) occurring in Proverbs 2:7, and substantially equivalent to the ὕπαρξις of the LXX and the οὐσία of the Venetian version. For the verb “to ensure” plainly requires an object, and the position of this noun at the end of the clause shows that this is precisely the object governed by the verb. Moreover, if Hitzig’s conception of the expression as an impersonal verb in the sense of præsto est, it is at my command, (“I have it”) were correct, we ought rather to have a pronominal object (יֵשׁ לִי, “there is to me”). The verse as a whole, therefore, forms a conclusion to the preceding, setting forth the object of Wisdom’s walking in paths of righteousness as described in Proverbs 8:20; in other words, what result follows from such a course to her friends and attendants. Comp. Bertheau on this passage. After Proverbs 8:21 the LXX has the words, “If I declare to you the things that occur day by day, I will remember to enumerate the things that are from eternity” [ἐὰν�’ ἡμέραν γινόμενα, μνημονεύσω τὰ ἐξ αἰῶνος�]. This addition is evidently designed to prepare the way for the subsequent description of the antemundane origin and working of Wisdom; it appears, however, as ill adapted to this as to any possible place either at the beginning of the chapter, such as Jaeger proposes to assign it (Observatt., p. 63), or again before Proverbs 8:10, where Hitzig would be disposed to transfer it.

5.Proverbs 8:22-26. In this delineation of the divine origin of the personal Wisdom, the first half directs attention first to her existence before time, or her creation as the first of all created things.—Jehovah created me as the beginning of his course. Thus versions as old as the LXX (ἔκτισε), Chald., Syriac, with most of the modern commentators;—while the exegesis of the ancient church from the time of the Arian controversy judged itself compelled to render the verb in the sense of possedit me (Vulg.), or ἐκτήσατο (thus the Vers. Venet. and even Aquila); and this turn of expression was given, that the idea of a creation of eternal Wisdom, or what was equivalent, of the personal Word of God, might be excluded. But against the rendering, “Jehovah possessed me,” may be adduced, 1) the fact that the verb (קָנָה) does not signify simply “to possess,” but “to attain to the possession,” “to acquire,” which latter signification would find here a poor application; 2) the fact that the adjunct of the verb (רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ) agrees better with the idea of creating than that of possessing; 3) that the double mention of Wisdom’s “being born,” in Proverbs 8:24-25, and not less the expression in Proverbs 8:23, “I was set up” (“or wrought out”), corresponds better with the idea of a creation than with that of possessing or having; and 4) that the parallel passages, Sir 1:4; Sir 1:9; Sir 24:8, which are evidently formed on the model of that before us, also employ the verb κτίζειν (create), and not some such as ἔχειν or κέκτησθαι (have or possess). Even though accordingly the personal Wisdom is represented as one created at the beginning of the divine activity, not begotten, as a κτίσμα, οὐ γέννημα, still we may by no means draw from this the conclusion of the correctness of the well-known Arian dogma that the Son of God is the first creation of God. For the delineations of the whole passage before us are of a poetical nature, and are not adapted to a direct application in forming dogmatic conceptions; and the personal Wisdom of our didactic poem is by no means simply identical with the Logos, or the Son of God. Comp. the Doctrinal notes.—“The beginning of His way” is a second accusative depending on the verb; “as beginning or first fruit of His way,” i.e. His activity, His creative efficiency, His self-revelation. Instead of the singular, “His way,” we ought perhaps, with the LXX, the Vulgate, and many recent expositors, especially Hitzig, to read in the plural “His ways” (דְּרָבָו); the parallel expression “before His works” seems to speak decidedly for this reading.—Before his works. The word here translated “works” (מִפְעָלִים) occurs only here; yet Comp. the corresponding feminine form in Psalms 46:9 (מִפְעָלוֹת). The word translated “before” (קֶדֶם) Hitzig regards as also a substantive, synonymous with “beginning” (רֵאשִׁית), and therefore translates “as foremost of His works.” Yet the conception of it as a preposition is favored by the usage of the O. T. elsewhere.—Of old (מֵאָז), long ago, literally, “from long ago,” comp. Psalms 93:2.

Proverbs 8:23. From eternity. It seems necessary, with the expositors of the early church and many of recent times, such as Umbreit, Bertheau, Elster, etc., to regard this difficult verb which follows as a Niphal from נָסַךְ, and therefore to translate it “I was anointed,” i.e. consecrated to a priestly royalty; comp. the ordinata sum of the Vulgate. But the verb is not elsewhere used in this conjugation; and the parallelism with Proverbs 8:22, as well as with those following, calls for a verb having some such meaning as “establish, create, call into being.” It seems therefore needful to read with the LXX, “I was established” (נוֹסַרתִי = “ἐθεμελίωσέν με”), or, which would be better advised, so to interpret the form in the text as to give the idea of a being created, or something equivalent. To this end we may either translate, with the Versio Veneta, comparing Ecclesiastic. Proverbs 1:9 (ἐξἑχεεν αὐτὴν), κέχυμαι, “I was poured forth,” or which is on the whole to be preferred, with Hitzig we may vary the punctuation (נְסַכֹּתִי), so that the expression shall stand as Perfect Niphal, of the verb סָכַךְ, and have the signification “I was woven or wrought;” with this may be compared Psalms 139:15; Isaiah 38:12.—From the beginning, from the foundation of the earth. “From the beginning,” as in Isaiah 48:16. “The foundation of the earth,” an expression like that occurring in Isaiah 23:7 (קַרְמַת אֶרֶץ), denoting the earliest primæval period, the time of the beginning, the origin of the earth. How this establishment or production of Wisdom “from the foundation of the earth” is to be understood, namely, in the sense of an existence of Wisdom even prior to the earth (comp. Psalms 90:2), appears from the three following verses.

Proverbs 8:24. When there were as yet no floods. Hitzig regards the mention of the waters before the mountains as inappropriate, and therefore conjectures that the verse is spurious. As though in Psalms 104:6 and Job 38:8 the seas were not mentioned immediately before the earth as a whole, and also before the mountains!—Fountains abounding with water. The meaning is, doubtless, the springs from which the floods or the deep broke forth; comp. Genesis 7:11, and below, Proverbs 8:28.

Proverbs 8:25. Before the mountains were as yet settled, with their “roots” (Job 28:9) in the pliant earth; comp. Job 38:6, where mention is made of the settling even of the pillars of the earth (in the infinite space of the heavens). With the second clause comp. Psalms 90:2.—Land and plains. The LXX had in their day correctly rendered חוּצוֹת by ἀοικήτους [uninhabitable places]; these are “unoccupied commons or plains,” regions lying outside the occasionally occupied land (comp. Job 5:10).—The first clods of the earth. Thus, with Hitzig, are we to understand this expression, and not “the sum or mass of the clods of the earth” (Cocceius, Schultens, Bertheau, Elster, etc.); and still less “the first men” (Jarchi), or even “man as born of the earth” (Umbreit); these last interpretations are plainly too far-fetched.

6. Proverbs 8:27-31. From the antemundane existence of Wisdom the poet now passes over to the description of her active coöperation in the creation of the world. The same progress from the pre-existence to the world-creating activity of the divine Logos is found in several passages of the N. T., especially in John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-16.—When he stretched out the firmament over the deep, i.e. when He fixed the vault of heaven, the arch of heaven (comp. Genesis 1:8; Job 22:14), over the waters of the earth, as a barrier between the upper and lower waters (Genesis 1:6; Job 26:10). Over the deep, in the Hebrew literally “upon the surface of the deep,” comp. Genesis 1:2.

Proverbs 8:28. When he fixed the clouds above. Literally, “when He made firm, made strong” (בְּאַמְּצוֹ); i.e. the clouds are, as in Job 26:8; Job 38:37, conceived of as bags, which only in case they are suitably secured and do not burst, prevent the mighty outpouring of the upper waters upon the earth.—When the fountains of the deep (see Proverbs 8:24 above) raged violently. This is the interpretation to be given, with Umbreit, Winer, Hitzig, etc.; for the verb here unquestionably has the intransitive meaning, invalescere, vehementer agitari (comp. in Isaiah 43:16 the “mighty waters”). The transitive signification, “when He made firm, i.e. restrained, bound up” (LXX; most of the other versions, and recent interpreters like Elster) is inadmissible from the absence of the suffix with the infinitive.

Proverbs 8:29. When he set to the sea its bounds. “Bound” here in its local sense, limit, barrier, as in Jeremiah 5:22; substantially the same as “its border” (פִּיו) in the 2d member. For this expression (פִּי הַיָּם) mouth or shore of the sea, instead of the phrase, elsewhere usual, “lip of the sea” (שְׂפַת הַיָם), as in Genesis 41:3; comp. Isaiah 19:7; and for the description of the separation between the sea and the land in general, see Genesis 1:9-10; Psalms 94:9.—When he settled the foundation pillars of the earth; end of the description of the earth’s creation, comp. Job 38:6.

Proverbs 8:30. Then was I at his side as directress of the work. This noun, derived from a verb (אָמַן) signifying to be firm, true, reliable (and also kindred to יָמִין, dexter, “the right hand,” yet not to be regarded as Hoffmann takes it, Schriftbew., I. 95; as an infinitive absolute used adverbially, but necessarily as a substantive), denotes like the parallel form found in Song Song of Solomon 7:2, “artifex, artist, master of the work.” [So Wordsw., Hold., Muensch., Noyes; Stuart translates “confidant.”—A.] Comp. the description, undoubtedly based on the passage before us, found in Wis 7:21 : ἠ τῶν πάντων τεχνῖτις σοφία (“wisdom which is the worker of all things”); comp. the epithet ἁρμόζουσα (adapting) in the LXX, and the cuncta componens of the Vulgate, in our passage. In opposition to the rendering of אָמוֹן by “foster-child, alumnus, nutricius” (Aquila, Schultens, Rosenmueller, Elster) may be urged first, that then in accordance with Lamentations 4:5 we ought to point אָמוּן, [which pointing Böttcher favors, see § 660, 6 and n. 1], and then, that this form could hardly have stood in the text as a substantive without some adjunct defining it more closely. The verb should be rendered, not “then became I” (Bertheau), but “then was I.” For the existence of wisdom before the world’s creation and at the time of the world’s creation formed the principal subject of the preceding description, and not, e.g., her passing from previous rest to more active relations.—And was delighted day by day. Literally, “I was delight day by day.” This abstract noun plainly stands in the predicate quite as appropriately as the parallel term in the 3d clause (the participle מְשַׂחֵקֶת) and aims like this expression to indicate that wisdom enjoyed and delighted in her creative activity. For the idiomatic use of this abstract noun comp. e.g., Psalms 109:4 (“but I am prayer”); also notes on Proverbs 7:10 above.—The verse following then declares that this her delight and exultation relates particularly to the manifold creatures of the earth, chiefly to man. The creative agency and control of the wisdom of God in the origin of the earth and its inhabitants, is therefore here represented as attended and sustained by the heartiest satisfaction in the natures that are created, especially in man, the personal image of God; and this is quite in harmony with the “God saw that it was good” of the six days of creation (Genesis 1:10; Genesis 1:12; Genesis 1:18; Genesis 1:31); comp. also Wis 7:22; Wis 7:27; Wis 7:29 sq. A reference of these expressions in Proverbs 8:31 to any period subsequent to the creation (Umbreit: “In his earth do I now delight and am the joy of the children of men,” comp. Mercerus and many of the elder interpreters, and also Luther), is suggested by nothing in the context, and is rather decidedly at variance with the connection. Not before Proverbs 8:32 does the author with “and now” return from the past to the present. When Hitzig feels constrained to strike out as spurious the second clause of Proverbs 8:30 (“and I was in joy of heart day by day”), and also the 1st clause of Proverbs 8:31 (“sporting in His earth”), this results from the fact that he has wholly missed the progressive character of the description, which gradually descends from God and His seat in the heavens to earth, and more specifically to the human race; just as, in his representation which shows throughout a peculiarly external and mechanical conception of the nature of wisdom, he maintains, “The 1st clause of Proverbs 8:31 comes into contradiction with the first of Proverbs 8:30; for if wisdom is near Jehovah she cannot appropriately be at the same time disporting herself on the earth!” A mere hasty glance at the later representations of the nature and activity of the hypostatic Wisdom, like Wis 7:8; Sirach 24, etc., might have convinced Hitzig of the superficial and untenable nature of such a view. Yet this is in truth nothing more than the necessary fruit of his entire rationalistic view of God and the world.

7. Proverbs 8:32-36. Concluding admonition and promise, based on Proverbs 8:22-31 as well as Proverbs 8:1-21.

Proverbs 8:33. Hear instruction, etc. Hitzig would have this whole verse stricken out “because it has no rhythm,” and because it comes in only as a disturbing clement between the benedictions in Proverbs 8:32; Proverbs 8:2 d clause, and Proverbs 8:34. But the lack of rhythm that is asserted rests on the conception of the subjective taste: and the position between two benedictions produces no distraction whatever; all the more since to the first and shorter of these two sentences beginning with “Blessed,” a corresponding admonition had been prefixed, Proverbs 8:32; Proverbs 8:1 st clause.—And be not rebellious. Thus with Umbreit, Elster, etc., must we understand the prohibition without a grammatical object (וְאַל תִּפְרָעוּ). To supply from the 1st clause the idea “instruction” is unnecessary, especially since the intransitive “and be wise” had been interposed as the immediate antithesis to the verb “refuse, or rebel.” For the etymology and signification of this verb (פָוַע) see, furthermore, notes on Proverbs 1:25.

Proverbs 8:34. That hearkeneth to me, watching, etc. The expression, “so that he watch” (לִשְׁקֹד) like the following phrase “so that he keep,” expresses not so much the design as the result of hearkening to wisdom; these expressions give, as it were, the manner of this hearkening, and thus correspond with the ablative of the gerund in Latin, or with the pres. participle (LXX: ἀγρυπνῶν—τηρῶν).—For whosoever findeth me, findeth life. This is in accordance with the K’ri. The K’thibh is somewhat more artificial, “for the finders of me are finders of life,” i.e., those who find me, they find life. One may choose between the two readings which in import do not differ. [Ruetschi proposes (Stud. u. Krit., Jan. 1868, p. 134) to solve the difficulty in another way, retaining the consonants of the K’thibh, but modifying the punctuation, so that the two forms will be singular and apparently identical (מֹצְאִי), the second being a form artificially constructed with ־י as a “union vowel,”(Ewald, § 211, b, 1), so as to secure the juxtaposition of two forms apparently the same.—A.].—And obtain favor from Jehovah. Literally “and draws forth,” i.e., gains for himself, harvests, bears away.

Proverbs 8:36. And whosoever sinneth against me. Literally “who misseth me” in contrast with “who findeth me” in Proverbs 8:35. Comp. Job 5:24; Judges 20:16.—All they that hate me love death. Comp. Proverbs 4:13; Proverbs 4:22; Proverbs 7:27, and also Ezekiel 18:31.


1. For a correct understanding of the section before us two things in general are to be observed: 1) that the entire discourse is poetical, and that therefore the personification of Wisdom which forms its chief subject is also to be regarded as essentially, and in the first instance, the product of a bold poetical sweep of thought, and of a vivid oriental imagery; 2) that, however, because of the solemn earnestness and profoundly religious character of the discourse, its figurative element cannot possibly be viewed as the mere play of fancy; or an empty ringing of phrases, but must rather every where stand in more or less exact harmony with the supersensuous truth that is to be set forth. Wisdom, which here appears personified, as the principle of the world’s creation, as well as of its preservation and government, having sprung from God himself, and being absolutely supernatural, is no unsubstantial phantom, no unreal fiction of the fancy, no poetic creation without an underlying higher reality. It is rather a result of the profoundest religious and ethical inquiry, an object of the purest and most genuine knowledge of divine things, nay a product of divine revelation—only that this revelation has here passed through the medium of a poetic conception and representation, and for that very reason appears in its formal relations partially reflected, broken, or inaccurately exhibited. It is really the free poetic form, ideal in its portraiture, to which must be charged whatever in the statements before us is partially inadequate, inconsistent, and not directly applicable in the formation of dogmatic ideas. The substance, which is easily separable from this form, bears the impress of the most genuine divinely revealed truth, and forms one of the most important and strongest of the foundation pillars of Old Testament theology, on which the theology and Christology of the New Testament is reared, the doctrine of the Trinity in the ancient church, and indeed the whole glorious structure of Christian dogmatics.—Comp. Staudenmaier, Die Lehre von der Idee, pp. 31 sq., and particularly Nitzsch, Ueber die wesentl. Dreieinfffkeit Gottes (Letter to Lucke, in the Stud. und Krit. 1841, ii; especially pp. 310 sq.).

2. In the picture of wisdom drawn in our chapter the two conceptions of the divine wisdom, and the wisdom of the creature, or of the celestial type of the Hhokmah and its earthly and human counterpart, are plainly so combined that they more or less flow into each other, and without a clear discrimination of their difference interchange, (as in the shorter description of the protection and blessing going forth from God’s creative wisdom for those who honor it,—Proverbs 3:19-26). That wisdom is at the outset introduced as teaching and preaching (Proverbs 8:1 sq.), shows at once that she is regarded essentially as a self-conscious personal being, as a reflection therefore of the absolute personality, or the Godhead. And even within the first section (Proverbs 8:4-21), which refers in the first instance only to her manifestations in the moral and religious life of man, several features suggest the supernatural in her nature and relations. Thus especially the predicates “counsel, understanding, strength,” (in Proverbs 8:14) with which she is endowed as the Messiah is in Isaiah 11:2. So also the allusion to the fact that she imparts to and preserves for the kings, rulers, princes, and judges of the earth, all their power (Proverbs 8:15-16); and finally, with no less plainness, the declaration that she “loves them that love her,” and accordingly shows herself to be the dispenser of all benefits and blessings to her faithful ones (Proverbs 8:16-21). Of a purely earthly and creature principle all this could not be asserted. It is plainly not an abstract conception of moral philosophy, or any definition pertaining to the moral and intellectual conduct of men, that is thus described, but something higher, a nature fundamentally identical with the divine providence, the activity of God in preserving and ruling the world,—a personal principle belonging to God’s revelation of Himself, which is not essentially different from the Logos of the New Testament or the Son of God.

This conception of the idea of a superhuman wisdom, which determines and controls with absolute power and knowledge the destinies of our race, conducts, however, immediately to the proper and hypostatic representation of Wisdom as an emanation from God’s eternal nature, as the partaker and mediator in His absolutely creative activity. From the description of Wisdom as the mediating principle in divine Providence (Proverbs 8:14-21), the poet passes to the exhibition of her mediating participation in the creation of the world, and in this connection he reveals in the same act the deepest sources and beginnings of her nature (Proverbs 8:22-31). Wisdom is, it is true, also a creation of God, but one coming into being before all other creatures, a “first born” (πρωτόκτιστον) a “beginning of the creation of God” (ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ), comp. Revelation 3:14. And for that very reason she took part in His work of creation; she was not merely witness, but helper in the revelation of His power in the primitive creation that called His heavens and earth into being. She manifested herself as the regulative and formative principle, who in those mighty acts of creation “rejoiced before Him,” i.e., developed before Him in free, happy action, as it were in joyous sport and play, her infinitely rich life, and thus produced an infinite number and variety of creature forms. This creative activity of wisdom found however its end and its completion in the creation of men in whom she has her delight in an altogether pre-eminent degree (Proverbs 8:31) for they are called to be her conscious recipients, and under her enlightening influence to grow up into a walk in holy fellowship with God. Precisely for this reason the possession of wisdom, i.e., in the first instance that comparative, creative wisdom which is identical with the fear of God and righteousness, is the sum of all that can be recommended to man as the means to the attainment of the highest temporal and eternal welfare. For this relative wisdom is in fact nothing but the reflection and emanation of that which is absolute. It is the absolute divine wisdom as this has found its individual reflection in the life of individual man,—the eternal wisdom of God entering into the subjective conditions of man, and so becoming creatural. When the concluding verses of the chapter (Proverbs 8:32-36) emphatically advise the obtaining of this wisdom which has thus become mundane and human, and point to the blessed consequences of its possession, they seize again upon that which was the starting-point in the whole admonition, and show how the secondary wisdom is derived from the primitive and conducts again to it, how the same holy life-power infinite in its perfection, which was active in the first creation of the world and of man, must also be efficient in their moral recreation and their perfecting after God’s likeness. Comp. Staudenmaier, as cited above, p. Pro 38: “The eminence of man consists not merely in the fact that wisdom comes in him to self-consciousness, but also in the fact that by the Creator there has been conferred upon him in the gift of freedom the power to become as it were the second creator of his own life according to the innate divine idea. This idea appears therefore now a practical one: the impulse to become practical existed already in its living energy, or was this very energy; and with this it is at the same time clear that man with his freedom has pre-eminently a practical religious and moral problem set before him. Since however by this very freedom he also has it in his power not to follow his destination, and even to resist it, Wisdom appeals to him to hear her voice, and does this as she speaks to him both from within and from without,—from within by ideas (through the voice of reason and conscience), from without, through divine revelation in which absolute wisdom dwells.”

3. This representation of wisdom as a personal principle mediating between God and man, existing in God as the prototype, in man in the antitype, plainly stands in the closest relationship to the doctrine of the Logos in the New Testament.1

The connection, it is true, with a right exegesis of the main points involved (see notes on Proverbs 8:22-23; Proverbs 8:30, above), does not reach so far that wisdom is described outright as a child of God, be gotten in eternity and “anointed,” i.e., solemnly consecrated and sealed,—and so is attended by those characteristic predicates with which Christ describes His absolutely unique metaphysical relation as Son to God (John 10:36; John 5:26; John 17:5; comp. Proverbs 1:1; Proverbs 1:18). And yet when she also is declared to have been created as beginning of the ways of God, there are surely not wanting emphatic intimations that her character is absolutely above that of creatures in both respects, that which concerns her coming into being before all creatures, and also her intimate fellowship of essence and of life with God. While furthermore the primæval consecration to be a ruler over all things, to the ranks of a priestly regal mediatorship between God and His creation is not to be found among the points expressly emphasized in the description of Wisdom, yet the way in which she is described in Proverbs 8:14-16, as possessor and dispenser of all sovereign power and wisdom, reminds us distinctly enough of the omnipotence in heaven and earth that is given to the Son, and of His being endowed with the undivided fulness of the Divine Messiah-Spirit,—which Isaiah in his day pronounces a spirit of all wisdom and understanding, all counsel, all strength, knowledge, and holy fear (Isaiah 11:2; comp. John 3:34; Matthew 28:18). And although, finally, the name “son” or “child” is not given to her, and the “exultation” in the presence of God at the time of His creative activity, cannot fitly be conceived of as the intimation of a relation in any way like that existing between a sportive favorite child and his father, still the appellation “directress of the work” characterizes this being distinctly enough as a personal emanation from the very nature of God. And a mediatorial participation not only in the creative, but also in the redemptive and sanctifying activity of God is suggested, if only in gentle intimation, by what is said of her “delight in the sons of men.” To these points of correspondence which are presented in the chief individual features of the picture in Proverbs 8:22 sq., there may be added several unmistakable allusions to our chapter found in the New Testament. Among these the essential identity of the creative wisdom of God that is here described, with the Logos or the pre-existent Christ stands out most distinctly. When our Lord in Matthew 11:19 (Luke 7:35) and probably also in Luke 11:49 (comp. Van Oosterzee on this passage) designates himself as the “Wisdom of God,” and at the same time speaks of “children of this wisdom,” meaning by this the men who are subject to her revealing and enlightening influence, especially the Jews, as having been Divinely influenced by law and prophecy, He can have chosen this mode of designating Himself only with His eye upon the Biblical delineations that were familiar to His hearers; and to these, beside Sirach 24 and Wisdom 7-9, etc., the passage before us would pre-eminently belong. When John ascribes to the Divine Logos both alike, the acting as medium of the activity of God in the creation of the world, and the accomplishment of His enlightening and saving efficiency on the world,—when he in doing this distinctly characterizes the Logos not as a mere attribute or impersonal reason of God, but as a hypostasis self-conscious and freely coming forth from the absolute ground of the Divine essence, as a Divine personality seeking incarnation (John 1:1-18), the harmony of this description of his with Solomon’s praise of the Divine Wisdom cannot have continued to be merely unconscious. And this is all the less possible, from the consideration that this wisdom had already before his time and in manifold instances been designated by the name Λόγος, e.g., Sir 1:4 (comp. Proverbs 24:3), Wis 9:1. When Paul in numerous passages asserts the same of his pre-existent Christ (especially 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:15 sq.; Philippians 2:5 sq.), among the passages from the Old Testament lying at the foundation of his views in this matter, Proverbs 8:22 sq., cannot have been wanting. And furthermore his designation of the Son as the “Wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; comp. Rom. 13:27; Colossians 2:3) cannot have developed itself on any other basis. The same holds finally also of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews (see Hebrews 1:2 sq.), as well as of the writer of the Apocalypse, who, by his emphatic use of the name of the Logos (Revelation 19:13), shows himself plainly enough to be no other than the Evangelist John. His peculiar designation of Christ, already adduced above, as “the beginning of the creation of God” (Proverbs 3:14) may perhaps be viewed outright as a literal allusion to verse 22 of our chapter.2

If this were the case, the idea of a “beginning of the creation of God” would by no means for that reason require to be interpreted in the Arian sense. For in an author who elsewhere adopts the doctrine of the Logos the representation of Christ as the first creature of God would palpably be a monstrosity. John can in this expression intend to designate the Lord only as the active principle in the creation (comp. Duesterdieck on this passage). In just this active sense shall we be obliged to interpret the expression which possibly suggested John’s language,—the “beginning of the ways of Jehovah” in our chapter, i.e., as relating to that activity of the eternal Wisdom of God which commenced His manifestation of Himself in creation, its mediating coöperation in God’s world-creating act (see remarks on this passage above).

4. The only noteworthy difference between the idea of the Logos in the New Testament, and the hypostatic Wisdom of our passage consists, therefore, in the decidedly created character ascribed to the latter by the expression “Jehovah created me” in Proverbs 8:22, and the parallel expression in Proverbs 8:23. Our teacher of wisdom in the Old Testament, near as he may have come to the idea, was therefore unable to rise to an altogether clear discernment of the relation existing between God and His eternal Word, who in all His likeness of nature is yet personally distinct, and while appearing as the “first-born of every creature,” still on the other hand appears also as the only begotten Son of the living God, or as eternal personal emanation from the Divine essence. The hypostatic Hhokmah of our author (and also the Σοφία of the Apocrypha, which differs from it in no essential characteristic) appears accordingly as an imperfect introduction and preparation for the idea of the Logos in the New Testament, the conception not having yet reached a full symmetrical development. So also the “Spirit of God” in the prophetic literature of the O. T. shows itself to be the prototype, the germinal basis for the πνεῦμα ἅγιον of the N. T., this distinctly personal third Divine agent in salvation, with the Father and the Song of Song of Solomon 3:0

In any event, however, this conception stands much nearer to the idea of the Logos or the Son in the New Testament, and contributed more directly to its development, than that personification of the creative “word of Jehovah” which appears here and there in Psalmists and prophets (e.g., Psalms 33:6; Psalms 147:15; Isaiah 55:11, etc.). For this last expression has, after all, no other value than poetic figures in general, hastily thrown out. The Hhokmah of our passage, however, is, notwithstanding the poetic character of its drapery, a conception developed with the greatest care, a fruit of profound and consecrated speculation, a bright ray of Divine revelation, which, among the Messianic prophecies of the O. T. that relate to the Divine side of the Redeemer’s nature, holds one of the most conspicuous places. Comp. Nitzsch, as above cited, pp. 319, 320.

[5. The error in our English exegetical and theological literature with respect to our passage has been, we think, the attempt to force upon it more of distinctness and precision in the revelation of the mysteries of the Divine nature than is disclosed by a fair exegesis. Sometimes it is the doctrine of the Logos that is made to stand out with all the clearness of the New Testament announcement; sometimes it is “the eternal generation of the Son” that Solomon is made, as the Spirit’s mouthpiece, to reveal. Owen’s elaborate arguments (Comm. on the Epistle to tho Hebrews, Exercitation 27), and Holden’s extended and learned comments (Comm. in loc.), appear to us very plainly to err in this excess. If it be not unworthy of the Holy Spirit to employ a bold and graphic personification, many things in this chapter may be said of and by the personified Wisdom, which these and other similar authors regard as triumphantly proving that we have here the pre-existent Christ, the Son of God. How weak would that personification be which did not ascribe to the imagined person hate, love, power, etc. (see Holden) ! Why cannot a personified attribute, if the personification be at all successful, be represented as being born, as being by or near the Deity, as rejoicing in His sight, etc. (see Holden again)? And yet we need not go so far as Owen and say, “A personal transaction before the creation of the world, between the Father and the Son, acting materially by their One Spirit, concerning the state and condition of mankind, with respect to Divine love and favor, is that which we inquire after, and which is here fully expressed.” Wordsworth not agreeing with Gesenius, etc., in regard to the primary meaning of the much debated קָ‌‌נָה4 admitting that it originally signifies acquire, nevertheless agrees with Gesen., Hupfeld (?), Noyes, Stuart and others in here rendering it “created,” because he wants an “eternal generation” as the product of his exegesis,—a product far enough from the thoughts of most of those who agree with him in his rendering. We can, to say the least, go no farther than our author has done in discovering here the foreshadowings of the doctrine of the Logos. We are inclined to prefer the still more guarded statements, e.g., of Dr. J. Pye Smith (Scripture Testimony to the Messiah, I., 352), that this beautiful picture “cannot be satisfactorily proved to be a designed description of the Saviour’s person;” or that of Dr. John Harris (Sermon on Proverbs 8:30-36). “At all events, while, on the one hand, none can demonstrate that Christ is here directly intended,—on the other, none can prove that He is not contemplated; and perhaps both will admit that under certain conditions language such as that in our text may be justifiably applied to Him. One of these conditions is, that the language be not employed argumentatively, or in proof of any thing relating to Christ, but only for the purpose of illustration; and another is that when so employed, it be only adduced to illustrate such views of the Son of God as are already established by such other parts of Scripture as are admitted by the parties addressed.”—A.]


Homily on the entire chapter. See the translation above, and comp. Stöcker: The heavenly Wisdom which is the word of God is urgently commended to us: 1) by the good opportunity which we have to study it (Proverbs 8:1-5); 2) by the rich blessing that it brings us (Proverbs 8:6-21); 3) by the eminence and majesty of the teacher who teaches it, and who is no other than Christ, the eternal Son of God (Proverbs 8:22-36).—Starke: The true Wisdom’s invitation of all men to the Kingdom of God: 1) the invitation itself (Proverbs 8:1-10); 2) the inducements to give heed to it, namely: a) the inestimable value of wisdom (Proverbs 8:11-12); b) the blessings of those who accept her invitation to the Kingdom of God (Proverbs 8:13-36).—Calwer Handbuch: Wisdom commends herself: 1) in general (Proverbs 8:1-5); 2) by her truthfulness (Proverbs 8:6-9); 3) by the prudence, understanding, honor and power that she imparts to her followers (Proverbs 8:10-21); 4) by her eternal existence, her participation in the creation, her delight in the sons of men (Proverbs 8:22-36).—Wohlfarth: Wisdom the truest and best friend of men, her doors (Proverbs 8:34) standing open day by day to every one that needs and desires her.

Proverbs 8:1-11. Egard:—The Eternal Son of God gathers, plants, builds His Church by a voice, i.e., His word. All true teachers of the word are crying voices through which Christ calls.—Out of Christ’s school is no true wisdom; they who deem themselves wise and shrewd are unfitted to learn of Him.—So long as Christ’s wisdom is still speaking outside of thee it avails thee nothing; but when thou allowest it to dwell in thee it is thy light and thy life.—Thou shouldst have one heart and one mouth with Christ; if false and perverse things are found in thy mouth thou art still far from Christ.—Silver and gold is mere vanity and nothingness; what can it help in the day of wrath and judgment? Let God’s word be thy highest and best treasure.—Berleb. Bible: Wisdom (who speaks to us not only through the word written and preached, but also inwardly, as God’s voice in our hearts) is so far from keeping silence, that although we stop our ears, we yet hear her correction within at the entrances and doors of the heart; and although we will not understand her, we must nevertheless feel her. And this is a testimony how desirous God is of our blessedness.

Proverbs 8:12-21. Melanchthon (on Proverbs 8:14 sq.): Those counsels are just which agree with the word of God; and these counsels will at length have joyful issues, with the aid of the Son of God, who wills to aid those that continue in the word which He has given, and who call upon Him.—Luther (marginal comment on Proverbs 8:15-16): “Princes should act, speak, work, honorably and praiseworthily, that men may glory in and follow their example; and not as the tyrants, the foul, the cyclops,” etc.—Hasius: When true wisdom is taken into counsel in every thing, then in all ranks that will occur which each one’s purpose demands according to a perfect ideal. Kings, princes, nobles, counsellors will act in conformity with the aim of their calling (2 Chronicles 19:6-7).—Things would stand much better in the world if men exercised their spirit more after holiness, and strove with greater zeal for wisdom, Matthew 6:33.—Berleburg Bible: No one can rightfully take to himself the name of a Christian ruler, but he who subjects himself in spirit and truth, in humble obedience to the control of the Almighty, lays himself at His feet and allows himself to be wholly ruled by Him. Others exercise a rude, violent and tyrannical control, and an assumed authority over the person of men.—Von Gerlach: The wisdom who here announces herself is the very wisdom of God, and is therefore also, as all good can be from God alone, the soul of all good laws and ordinances (Proverbs 8:14-17), and must, as every thing earthly is ruled, disposed and rightly distributed among men by God, necessarily reward her disciples with welfare, honor and riches (Proverbs 8:18-21). [Proverbs 8:12. Charnock: All arts among men are the rays of Divine wisdom shining upon them. Whatsoever wisdom there is in the world, it is but a shadow of the wisdom of God.

Proverbs 8:13. Arnot: To fear retribution is not to hate sin; in most cases it is to love it with the whole heart. It is when sin is forgiven that a sinner can hate it. Then he is on God’s side. Instead of hating God for his holiness, the forgiven man instinctively loathes the evil of his own heart.—Jona. Edwards: “The affection of hatred as having sin for its object is spoken of in Scripture as no inconsiderable part of true religion. It is spoken of as that by which true religion may be known and distinguished.”

Proverbs 8:15. Bp. Sanderson: On the efficient cause and consequent obligation of human law.—Hooker: “By me kings reign,” etc. Not as if men did behold that book and accordingly frame their laws; but because it worketh in them, because it discovereth and (as it were) readeth itself to the world by them, when the laws which they make are righteous.

Proverbs 8:18. Arnot: The riches which the King of saints imparts along with the patent of nobility to support its dignity withal, are linked to righteousness and last forever. Handfuls are gotten on the ground, but a soulful is not to be had except in Christ.]

Proverbs 8:22-31. Geier:—From this delineation there follows: 1) the personal difference of the Son from the Father; 2) the essential likeness of the Son to the Father, as partaker .of the Divine activity in creation; 3) the unutterable love of the Father to the Son (Proverbs 8:30); 4) the deep and grateful love which we in turn owe to this Divinely loved director and mediator in creation and redemption.—Zeltner: All the works of God’s omnipotence and wisdom thou shouldst contemplate with holy joy and wonder, praise the Creator for them, and with them strengthen thyself in faith in His paternal providence.—As an essential and indescribable fellowship exists between the Father and the Son, so does there exist between God and the believer a gracious spiritual union, on which the Christian must be most intent.—Starke: All things have had their beginning except the Son of God regarded in His Divine nature. He is with the Father and the Holy Ghost true God from everlasting to everlasting. All that this Eternal Wisdom does in the kingdom of nature, as well as in that of grace, she does with gladness and delight: yea, there is in this work so lovely and wise an alternation and manifoldness, that we must in reason wonder at it (comp. Ephesians 3:10, “the manifold wisdom of God”).—Von Gerlach:—That “play” of wisdom in which the Lord takes pleasure, and her joyousness on the earth, in which she finds her joy among men, points to the childlike gladness of the love that ruled in creation, and to the confidential relation into which the children of wisdom on earth (Matthew 11:19) enter, to her the very wisdom of God; comp. Proverbs 10:23. In this passage there is a most clearly prophetic gleam of the light of the New Testament; God’s eternal wisdom comes forth from Him that He may delight Himself in her activity; His own eternal nature the Father for his own blessedness contemplates in the Son. And it is in a love most intimately blended with wisdom that the Father created the world, to His own blessedness and that of His creatures.

Proverbs 8:32-36. Geier: The true fruits of obedience should follow the hearing of the word. To these belong: 1) walking the prescribed way; 2) willing reception of the Divine correction; 3) the extirpation of all inner opposition; 4) zealous and persistent seeking after salvation; 5) thankful enjoyment of the true wisdom when found.—Von Gerlach (on Proverbs 8:34 sq.): Wisdom here appears as a sovereign, separate and secluded in the style of Oriental monarchs, so that only those know any thing of her who diligently keep watch at her doors. Wisdom, who is universal in her call and invitation (Proverbs 8:1-3), yet in the course of communication, in order to test the fidelity of her admirers, veils herself at times in a mysterious darkness, and reveals herself only to those who never intermit their search (Matthew 7:7).—[John Howe: There ought to be an expectation raised in us that the vital savor diffused in and by the word may reach us; and many are ruined for not expecting it, not waiting at the posts of wisdom’s door.—Trapp: Hear, etc. This way wisdom enters into the soul. Hear, therefore, for else there is no hope; hear, howsoever.—Flavel: It is good to lie in the path of the Spirit.]


[1]Comp. Nitzsch as cited above: “Do you see here no trace of a divine process, a germ of an ontological self-distinction in God? For this Wisdom is indeed at first God’s communication localized in the world, particularly in man, and still more especially in Israel. Yet it will be understood as no mere creature like others, no angel, no dependent power or effect: it claims to be known and honored in its divinity. Without exhausting the idea of divinity it claims to be God of God—“Jehovah created me”—a creation which according to the connection gives no natural, creaturely being, but has a significance plainly transcending these bounds, etc.”—The truth of this representation holds also as against that which Von Hofmann (Schriftbew., I. pp. 95 sq.) has brought forward in support of the opposite view, i.e., that which denies the hypostatic nature of wisdom in our passage.

[2]We here presuppose the spurious character of the ἐκκλησίας (which, besides, was early expunged by the correctors of the text) standing in the place of κτίσεως in the God. Sin. If this remarkable reading were genuine, the meaning of the expression would certainly be altogether different. But the assumption can hardly be avoided that there is here an attempted emendation in the interest of the Anti-monarchians or Anti-arians.

[3]Comp. also subsequent notes on Proverbs 30:3 sq.

[4][For a very full and candid discussion of this with other related points, see an article by Prof. E. P. Barrows, Biblioth. Sacra, April, 1858; also, Liddon’s Bamp. Lectures, pp. 60, 61.—A.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Proverbs 8". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/proverbs-8.html. 1857-84.
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