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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 9

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

Verses 1-18

15. Allegorical exhibition of the call of men to the possession and enjoyment of true wisdom, under the figure of an invitation to two banquets

Proverbs 9:1-18

a) The banquet of wisdom: Proverbs 9:1-12

1          Wisdom hath builded her house,

she hath hewn out her seven pillars.

2     hath slaughtered her beasts, spiced her wine,

hath also spread her table;

3     hath sent out her maidens; she inviteth

on the highest points (summits of the high places) of the city:

4     “Whosoever is simple, let him come hither !”—

Whoso lacketh understanding, to him she saith:

5     “Come, eat of my bread

and drink of the wine I have mixed!

6     Forsake the simple, and live,

and walk in the way of understanding.

7     He who correcteth a scorner draweth upon himself insult,

and he who rebuketh the wicked, it is his dishonor.

8     Reprove not the scorner lest lie hate thee;

admonish the wise and he will love thee.

9     Give to the wise and he becometh yet wiser,

instruct the upright and he learneth yet more.

10     The beginning of wisdom is the fear of Jehovah,

and knowledge of the Holy (one) is understanding.

11     For by me will thy days become many,

and the years of thy life will increase.

12     Art thou wise, thou art wise for thyself,

and if thou scornest thou alone shalt bear it.”

b) The banquet of Folly: Proverbs 9:13-18

13          A simple woman (and) clamorous,

is Folly, and knoweth nothing whatsoever.

14     She sitteth at the door of her house

enthroned in the high places of the city,

15     to invite the wayfarers

who go straight on their ways:

16     “Whosoever is simple let him come hither!”—

whoso lacketh understanding to him she saith:

17     “Stolen waters are sweet,

and bread taken in secret is pleasant,”

18     and he knoweth not that the dead are there,

in the depths of hell (the lower world) her guests.


Proverbs 9:3. [Böttcher cites מְרֹמֵי as illustrating a peculiar Hebrew idiom by which the emphatic plural of generic designations of persons, places and things is used for the singular with an indefinite article, which the Hebrew lacked, and only in its later periods began to supplement by the numeral. He would therefore translate “on one of the high places of the city.” See Ausführt. Lehrb., § 702, d.].

Proverbs 9:4. [יָסֻר, an example of the “consultive” use of the Jussive form (see Bött. § 964, 2), which under the influence of the succeeding word retains the u vowel (§ 956, g,—§1132, 3), the ordinary Jussive being אָ֥מְרָה ּיסָֹר Perf. consec. employed, as it sometimes is in the lively discourse of oratory and poetry, without the connective וְ, B. § 974].

Proverbs 9:9. [וְיוֹסֶף ,וְיֶהְכַם, examples of Jussive with וְ consec., in the “consecutive-affirmative” sense, as giving an assured result. Bött. § 964, a.].

Proverbs 9:13. [מָה is regarded by Böttcher also as an indefinite, quidquid or quidquam, (§ 899, ε), as it is by Gesenius and Fuerst. Gesen. however finds a different shade of meaning in the verb, and translates “and careth for nothing”].

Proverbs 9:16. [וְאָמְרָה, an example of the Perf. consec. in the sense of the “Fiens solitum,” the “future” with the idea of customary action. Bött. § 981, B. β.].


1.Proverbs 9:1-3. Wisdom hath builded her house. The figure of the building of a house which is readily suggested by the appellation “director of the work” in Proverbs 8:30, appropriately provides for a transition from the description of the agency of eternal Wisdom in the creation of the world, to that here symbolized as an invitation to a banquet,—her activity among men, summoning and morally instructing them. Comp. Proverbs 14:1.—The designation of Wisdom (חָכְמוֹת) is the same as in Proverbs 1:20.—Hath hewn out her seven pillars. This hewing out of pillars suggests the splendor of the completed building. The sevenfold number represents this as a sacred work; for seven stands here, as it so frequently does in the Old and New Testaments, as a sacred number (comp. my article “Siebenzahl” in Herzog’s Theol. Real-Encycl., XIV. 353 sq.). The house of the celestial Wisdom is by this peculiar and emblematic description represented, as it were, in advance, as a temple, and the banquet offered in it as a sacred sacrificial meal. Special significance in the seven pillars, e.g., in connection with the seven attributes of the higher wisdom enumerated in James 3:17; or the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit referred to in Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:12 sq.; Proverbs 3:1; Proverbs 4:5; Proverbs 5:6, etc. (Vitringa, C. B. Michaelis, J. Lange, Von Gerlach, etc.), or the seven principia deductiva Ethices divinæ (according to S. Bohlius, comp. remarks above, p. 74, note), or finally, the first seven chapters of the Book of Wisdom now before us,—all this is indicated by nothing whatever in the context, and is therefore wholly arbitrary. The suffix in עַמּוּדֶיהָ, since בַּיִת is usually masc., seems to refer to Wisdom as the subject of the proposition,—her, not its seven pillars.

Proverbs 9:2. Hath slaughtered her beasts. Notwithstanding the sacred character of the banquet, טִבְחָהּ is still not to be necessarily translated “her victims,” but signifies “that which is slaughtered,” slain animals in general. There is probably no reference to Proverbs 7:14.—The “mixing of the wine” seems not to refer to a mere mixing of wine with water, but to the preparation of a strong spiced wine with myrrh, etc.; comp. Isaiah 5:22; Proverbs 23:30, etc.

Proverbs 9:3. She inviteth on the highest points of the city, i.e., so that her servants must ascend the highest elevations of the city (not specifically the roofs of palaces), from which their calls of invitation to the banquet are most widely heard. Hitzig singularly translates “on the bare elevations of the city,” because גַּפִּים in Exodus 21:3-4, and according to the Arabic, means naked, unclothed (?).—Furthermore the maidens sent forth, the servants of Wisdom, correspond to the servants by whom the Lord in the Gospel (Luke 14:16 sq.; Matthew 22:1 sq.) has the guests invited to his banquet.

2.Proverbs 9:4-12. “Whosoever is simple let him come hither!” etc. On account of the similarity of this verse to Proverbs 9:16, which contains the words of Folly’s invitation, and on account of the summons to eat bread (Proverbs 9:5) which does not agree with the mention of the slain beasts in Proverbs 9:2, Hitzig pronounces Proverbs 9:4-5 spurious. But it is very significant and pertinent that Wisdom’s invitation appears clothed in the same words as that of Folly (comp. the analogous verbal repetitions in Christ’s parables and didactic narratives, e.g., Matthew 25:20; Matthew 25:22; Luke 5:6; Luke 5:9; Luke 16:6-7, etc.); and to “eat bread” stands here as in Proverbs 4:7, and indeed frequently (e.g., Genesis 3:19; Leviticus 26:5; Deuteronomy 29:6; Jdg 19:5; 1 Samuel 2:36, etc.), by synecdoche for “the partaking of food, the taking a meal” in general. [The allegorical view of this passage as held, e.g., by Wordsw., and in his Commentary supported by ample use of the Church Fathers, may be illustrated by the supposed reference of Proverbs 9:5 to “the Body of Christ, the Living Bread, and the mystery of His blood, by which we are refreshed at His Holy Table.” A.].—The destitute of understanding, to him she saith. Before the הֲסַר־לֵב there is to be supplied from the 1st member the pronoun מִי,—literally, therefore “who is destitute of understanding, to him she saith.” The discourse accordingly here (and in the 2d member of Proverbs 9:15) falls back from the style of recital to that of description.

Proverbs 9:6. Forsake the simple. It will be easiest to take this phrase in its literal sense. For the verses following give this very counsel, not to keep company longer with the simple, with fools and scorners, because these are still incorrigible. The old versions and most modern commentators [as e.g., ST., N., M.] regard the noun as abstract (equivalent to the sing. פְּתִי in Proverbs 1:22, or the abstract derivative פֵּתַיּוּת in Proverbs 9:13), and therefore translate “Forsake simplicity, let your simplicity go.” [As Trapp, in his pithy way expresses it: “No coming to this feast in the tattered rags of the old Adam; you must relinquish your former evil courses and companies”]. But such a signification of this plural is attested by no example whatsoever. Just as unadvisable is it to construe the verb absolutely, by which Hitzig reaches the translation, “Cease, ye simple,” etc.; for in Jeremiah 18:14, the verb is construed not absolutely, but rather with מִן; and the connection with what follows at least decidedly favors our explanation, which is supported by Umbreit also among ethers of the later expositors.

Proverbs 9:7. He who correcteth the scorner draweth upon himself insult. Usually the connection with Proverbs 9:4-6 is so conceived as if Wisdom were here, (in Proverbs 9:7-10) explaining her conduct in inviting especially the simple; she is supposed to turn to these alone, for the reason that if she wished to invite the scornful and wicked also she would only expose herself to indignities, and yet would effect nothing. But against this view of the course of thought may be urged decidedly, the warning and admonitory tone of Proverbs 9:8-9, and the didactic nature of Proverbs 9:10, which make it easy to find expressed in Proverbs 9:7 also the spirit of dissuasion, and so to regard Proverbs 9:7-10 as an argument in support of the demand embodied in the 1st clause of Proverbs 9:6, to avoid further intercourse with the simple, scorners, villains, etc. A comparison with Proverbs 1:22 shows that under the “simple” may be included very readily mockers, the violent, etc., as belonging to the same category; so does also the name “simplicity” (פְּתַיוּת) which is below, in Proverbs 9:13, directly given to the personification of Folly. “Abandon intercourse with such persons” is therefore Wisdom’s admonition, “for you gain from it nothing but insult, hate and contempt; forsake the camp of the simple (פְּתָאִים) and come over into that of the wise (חֲכָמִים), whose watchword is the fear of God and knowledge of the Holy; so will you find abundance of happiness and blessing.”—Hitzig, whose conception of the 1st clause of Proverbs 9:6 makes the recognition of this as the true connection of thought, from the first impossible, summarily rejects Proverbs 9:7-10 as a later interpolation. But if in fact the “if thou scornest” in the 2d clause of Proverbs 9:12 suggested this interpolation, the verses introduced would both in form and substance have been essentially different. And in the form in which the passage has come down in the manuscripts Hitzig’s hypothesis of an interpolation here again finds no kind of support.—And he who rebuketh a wicked man to him it is a shame. The word מוּמוֹ (his fault or shame) cannot be dependent on the verb (לקה) of the first clause which is associated with לוֹ [he taketh to himself his shame], but must be regarded as a predicate: “this is to him shame, such action is his disgrace.” Comp. Ecclesiastes 5:16; Psalms 115:7.

Proverbs 9:9. Give to the wise and he becometh wiser. Comp. Proverbs 1:5, which passage although expressing an idea like that before us, must not for that reason be regarded as derived from this (in opposition to Hitzig). [Lord Bacon (Adv. of Learning, Book II.) says, “Here is distinguished the wisdom brought into habit, and that which is but verbal and swimming only in conceit; for the one upon the occasion presented is quickened and redoubled, the other is amazed and confused”]. With Proverbs 9:10 comp. Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 2:5. Corresponding with the “Knowledge of God” in the latter passage we have here “knowledge of the holy,” i.e. not “knowledge of the holy” [in plural] (LXX, Vulgate, and most Catholic expositors), but “of the Holy” [in singular, “des Heiligen”], i.e. of God. Comp. further for this plur. majest. Proverbs 30:3 and Hosea 12:1. [See still further examples of the use of participial plurals in the same way in Isaiah 54:5; Psalms 121:5; Ecclesiastes 12:1, etc., Ewald, Lehrb., § 178, b, Bött., § 701, Green, § 202.—With regard to the interpretation compare Dr. J. Pye Smith (Script. Test, to the Messiah, I., 311): “According to the usual construction of Hebrew poetry, the plural epithet “the Holy” must be understood in apposition with Jehovah in the former half of the distich.” So H., St. M., and N.—A.]

Proverbs 9:11-12 are not to be regarded as taking up the discourse after the alleged digression in Proverbs 9:7-10, and attaching themselves to the words of invitation in Proverbs 9:4-6 to justify them (Bertheau, Hitzig), but give the reason for the general affirmation in Proverbs 9:10, which had been added as a peculiarly strong motive to the acceptance of Wisdom’s invitation. The address in the singular has therefore nothing remarkable in it; it simply follows Proverbs 9:8-9).—By me will thy days become many, etc. Comp. similar promises of long life, Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 4:10. [For the use of this 3d pers. plural יוֹסִיפוּ see the grammars generally, e.g. Ges., § 134, 3; Green, § 243, 2, b, but more fully Bött., § 935, 6].—Art thou wise, thou art wise to thyself. The same thought is found somewhat more fully developed in Job 22:2-3; Job 35:6-9; comp. also Romans 11:35; Revelation 22:11-12.—If thou scornest thou alone shalt bear it. Comp. Numbers 9:13; Jeremiah 7:19; Job 34:31, and also the Latin dictum of Petronius, “Sibi quisque peccat.” The LXX offer in Proverbs 9:12; Proverbs 9:1 st clause, the fuller reading “thou shalt be wise for thyself and for thy neighbor” (καὶ τῷ πλησίον) which is surely the result of interpolation, like the addition which they append to Proverbs 9:10 (τὸ γὰρ γνῶναι νόμον διανοίας ἐστὶν�). The longer additions also of three verses each, which they with the Syriac and Arabic translators exhibit after Proverbs 9:12 and Proverbs 9:18, hardly rest upon a genuine original text that was before them, although they may readily be rendered back into Hebrew (see Hitzig’s attempts at this, pp. 86 and 88), and therefore very probably date from pre-Alexandrian times.

Proverbs 9:13-18. A simple woman, clamorous, [violently excited] is Folly. The abstract פְּתַיּוּת, simplicity, foolishness (see above remarks on Proverbs 9:7) is here plainly the subject, and designates the personified Folly, the exact opposite of Wisdom in Proverbs 9:1. With this subject is associated and prefixed as the main predicate, the appellation “woman of folly,” i.e., simple woman; the הוֹמִיָה “clamorous, boisterous” is in turn an attribute of this predicate, and describes the passionately excited, wanton desire of the foolish woman represented as an adulteress, just as in Proverbs 7:11, with which delineation that before us has a general and doubtless intentional correspondence.—And knoweth nothing whatever. In this way in accordance with Job 13:13, this phrase of the Masoretic text (וּבַל־יָדְעָה־מָּה) must unquestionably be interpreted, Utter ignorance (comp. John 11:49, “ye know nothing at all”) would accordingly be what is here asserted of Folly. But perhaps Hitzig is right, according to the LXX (ἥ οὐκ ἐπίσταται αἰσχύνην, “who knoweth not shame”) in reading כְּלִמָּה instead of מָה (the disappearance of the two consonants might easily have been occasioned by the false reading כָּל־מָה), and therefore in translating “and knoweth no shame,” which agrees admirably with the “boisterous” of the 1st clause.

Proverbs 9:14. She sitteth at the door of her house, like harlots who watch for passers by; comp. Jeremiah 3:2; Genesis 38:14, and the conduct of the adulteress described in Proverbs 7:10 sq.—Seated in the high places of the city. The place thus described is not the same as that in the 1st clause, but some other, farther removed from the door of the house. The harlot is therefore quite like the one in Proverbs 7:10 sq., represented as running irregularly this way and that and often changing her place. In this, however, the representation accords with that in Proverbs 9:3; as Wisdom so also Folly sends forth her call of invitation from elevated places of the city (comp. also Proverbs 8:2). A real throne as her seat, which she has erected under the open air, and which, in contrast to the “bald, uncovered heights” (?) mentioned in Proverbs 9:3, is supposed to be covered with tapestry (Hitzig), is certainly not intended; but the “throne” is here metaphorical; a “lofty throne of the city” (Umbreit) is a figurative and probably an ironical representation of a specially high place on which the wanton harlot has stationed herself, and therefore is as it were enthroned.

Proverbs 9:15. Who go straight on their ways, and therefore quiet, unwary travellers who take no thought of circuits or by-paths. The expression is doubtless to be taken literally, and yet not without a secondary moral significance.

Proverbs 9:17. Stolen waters are sweet, etc. Plainly words of Folly, and not of the author (Ewald, Bertheau), or even of one who has been assailed and ensnared by Folly’s allurements (Elster): for the suggestion of the attraction and charm of forbidden pleasures appears most appropriately in the mouth of the beguiler. Comp. Umbreit on this passage. Instead of wine (Proverbs 9:5) water is here mentioned as the ingredient of the feast, probably with reference to the waters mentioned in Proverbs 5:15.—Bread of secrecy, i.e. not simply bread secretly enjoyed, but also unjustly gained: an image of the forbidden enjoyment on which the adulterer seizes (comp. Proverbs 30:20).

Proverbs 9:18. And he knoweth not, i.e. the foolish victim who heeds her call and enters her house (comp. Proverbs 8:22).—That the dead (shades) are there, i.e. children of death, who are surely moving on toward the horrors of the lower world, and therefore even now, while the body still lives, are tenants of the lower world (וְפָאִים, comp. Proverbs 2:18), or “dead” (thus quite correctly according to the sense, Luther [the English version, etc.]: comp. Matthew 8:22; Ephesians 2:1, etc.).—In the depths of hell her guests; literally, “in the depths (not as Umbreit and Ewald would read ‘in the valleys’) of Sheol her invited ones.” Therefore although in the house of Folly and to be found at her banquet those ensnared by her are in truth already in hell. For that house as a throat of hell reaches down to it (comp. Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 7:27), is as it were only a station on the way of these sinners, which leads surely and irresistibly down to hell. Thus, and doubtless correctly, Hitzig, in opposition to others who make this language only anticipative. As to the three verses which the LXX supply after Proverbs 9:18 see above on Proverbs 9:12.


The prototypical relation of the contents of this chapter to our Lord’s parables founded on banquets (Matthew 22:1-14; Luke 14:16-24) is evident, and therefore its special importance to the doctrine of the call to salvation. What peculiarly characterizes the representation before us is, however, the twofold banquet to which invitation is given, and the correspondent resemblances and differences no the two feasts with their accompaniments. In both instances, at Wisdom’s feast as well as that of Folly, it is the “simple,” i.e. the great mass of the unrenewed, the children of this world, those indeed needing but not yet partaking the divine salvation, to whom the call goes forth. It also goes in both cases (Proverbs 9:4; Proverbs 9:16) with the same words of invitation, and under quite similar conditions,—that is, in such a way that those to be invited are laid hold upon in the street, and at once taken into the house comp. Matthew 22:9; Luke 14:21). With these analogies which are found mainly at the beginning of the acts compared, how great are the differences, how fearful the contrasts! In the former case it is a splendid palace with its columns, a holy temple of God, in which the feast occurs; in the latter a common house, a harlot’s abode, built over an entrance to the abyss of hell! In the first the entertainer, represented as the princely occupant of a palace, remains quietly at home, while her servants take charge of the invitations; in the last the common woman goes out herself on the streets and high places of the city, that sitting in the attire of a harlot (comp. Proverbs 7:10), with the open heavens as a canopy above her, she may craftily and shamelessly attract as many as may be affected and ensnared by the contagion of her wanton lust! In the former instance it is simple words of God that make up the inviting testimony, words that in part with a literal exactness agree with the gracious calls of mercy and love with which the Son of Man once called sinners to repentance (comp., for example, Proverbs 9:5 with John 6:35, Proverbs 9:7-8 with Matthew 7:6; Proverbs 9:9 with Matthew 13:12; Proverbs 9:6; Proverbs 9:11-12 with Matthew 11:28-30); in the latter it is a Satanic voice of temptation that is heard, setting forth with the boldest effrontery as a commendable principle to which we should conform our lives, the well-known “we ever strive for the forbidden, and desire the denied” (nitimur in vetitum semper cupimusque negata)! comp. Proverbs 9:17 with Matthew 4:3; Matthew 4:9; Romans 1:32, etc.

In the homiletic treatment of the passage as a whole it will be appropriate to set in the clearest light this parallelism of the banquets that are compared, with their special resemblances and contrasts; in some such way as this then: The friends of the kingdom of heaven and the friends of this world; or, The call of Christ to His Church, and the enticement of Satan to the service of sin; or, The feast of death, etc. Comp. Stöcker: Christ’s wisdom and humanity (φιλανθρωπία); Antichrist’s folly and destructiveness.—Starke:—A lesson on the founding of the church of the Messiah, and the collection of its members: 1) The founding of the Church by the work of redemption (Proverbs 9:1-2). 2) The invitation to the enjoyment of the blessings of Christ’s salvation in the Church; and in particular: a) How Christ invites to the enjoyment of these blessings of His salvation (Proverbs 9:3-6); b) How this invitation is foolishly despised by many men, and the allurements of sin preferred to it.—Wohlfarth:—The cross-roads; while wisdom calls us to the way of virtue and offers herself as our guide on it, at the same time the pleasure of this world calls and offers everything imaginable to draw it itself earth’s pilgrims of all races, ages and conditions.

Single passages. On Proverbs 9:1-6. Stöcker:—(Sermon on Christmas eve); Christ’s friendliness and condescension, as it appears 1) from the founding of His Church and its maintenance by “seven pillars,” i.e. by the apostles endowed with the manifold gifts of the Holy Ghost (Proverbs 9:1); 2) from His costly work of redemption in His own sacrificial death (Proverbs 9:2); by the institution of the means of grace in His Word and Sacrament (Proverbs 9:2-3); 4) from the gracious invitation to partake of all this (Proverbs 9:4 sq.).

On Proverbs 9:7-8. Cramer:—In the office of the Christian ministry the function of discipline must also be especially maintained. It does not, however, produce uniform fruits; some reform, some are and continue scorners.—[Proverbs 9:7. Flavel:—What we fear might turn to our benefit. The reproof given is duty discharged; and the retort in return is a fresh call to repentance for sin past, and a caution against sin to come.

Proverbs 9:7-9. Arnot:—Reproof—how to give it and how to take it. There should be jealousy for the Lord’s honor, and compassion for men’s souls like a well-spring ever in the heart; and then the outgoing effort should be with all the wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove. For rightly receiving reproof the rule is, be more concerned to get the benefit of the reproof than to wreak vengeance on the reprover.]

On Proverbs 9:7-12. Calwer Handbuch; Reflections on the reception which Wisdom’s invitation finds among men; mockers answer it with derision; wise, i.e. God-fearing men, and such as continue in sanctification grow not only in wisdom, but also in outward prosperity: the gain is in every case ours, as the loss is the scorner’s.—On Proverbs 9:11-12. Hasius:—Wisdom and virtue lose nothing by being reviled and defamed; he, however, inevitably loses who makes sport of them.—[T. Adams:—Wisdom is the mother of abstinence, and abstinence the nurse of health; whereas voluptuousness and intemperance (as the French proverb hath it) dig their own grave with their teeth.]

On Proverbs 9:13-18. Starke:—If the temptation of Satan and his agents is so strong so much the more needful is it to try the spirits whether they be of God, and to beseech God that He will guide us in the right way. Alas! to many men in consequence of their corrupted taste in spiritual things there is more relish in the bread of vice and in draughts from the impure sloughs of the world, than in what is offered to them on the table of Jesus’ grace.—Berleburg Bible:—The more faithfully one serves the world, the more he allows himself to be led by corrupt reason and gives ear to the fascinating voice of temptation, the more enamored he is of the deceitful harlot, so much the deeper will he sink into the lowest depths of hell .... Who would prefer hell to heaven! who would go after death that may attain life!—[Proverbs 9:17. Trapp:—Many eat that on earth that they digest in hell.—Arnot:—When you have tasted and seen that the Lord is gracious, the foolish woman beckons you toward her stolen waters, and praises their sweets in vain: the new appetite drives out the old]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Proverbs 9". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/proverbs-9.html. 1857-84.
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