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1. Doth not wisdom cry Call aloud. The negative form of the question implies an affirmative answer. It is a forcible way of saying that she does these things. The implied answer is dilated in Proverbs 8:2-3: compare Proverbs 1:20.
THE CALL OF Wisdom , vv1-4.
In striking contrast with the solicitations of sinful pleasure, presented in the last chapter under the type of an alluring but dissolute woman, the instructor now presents the strongest motives to the pursuit and acquisition of wisdom, which he again personifies and represents under the character of a pure, lovely, benevolent, discreet, and affectionate woman, who earnestly seeks, by all suitable means, to attract to herself the sincere affection of human hearts for a high and noble object, that of conferring all manner of good. Unlike the base character of the preceding chapter, she seeks no covert of darkness and secrecy, but gives her invitations publicly, and in the most frequented places, expostulating with the erring, and setting forth the value of the instruction she imparts, both because of its own intrinsic worth and of the heavenly source whence it emanates.
2, 3. She standeth Is stationed, like a person making a public proclamation, in the top of high places, by the way; or, on the top of eminences, by the way side, and in the places of the paths; or, “at home among the paths.” Miller. The idea conveyed is, that of entire and sought-for publicity, as of one who has an important public message to deliver important to all.
At the gates Hebrews, At the hand of the gates.
At the entry of the city Hebrew, mouths of the city.
At the coming in at the doors פתחים , ( pethahhim,) means openings, gateways, and might be applied to avenues or other openings; but there is no example of such application. The general idea is, that she makes her proclamation at all places of public resort. “At the entrance of the avenues.” Stuart. Persons desirous of proclaiming intelligence of great interest sought places where they could be most distinctly and most widely heard. Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 52:7-8; Luke 12:3.
THE EXCELLENT THINGS TO WHICH WISDOM INVITES, Proverbs 8:5-21.
5. O ye simple… fools These terms in our version may be unnecessarily strong. The original would justify inexperienced, unsuspecting; those without culture, untaught and rude, and therefore unprepared for the strategy of the enemy.
Wisdom ערמה , ( ‘ hormah,) shrewdness, sagacity, subtlety. The word is used in a good or bad sense of course in the good here.
Of an understanding heart Literally, understand the heart; compare Proverbs 15:32; Proverbs 17:16, in the Hebrew. Heart is to be taken tropically for discretion, prudence, self-government, power to control the appetites. The whole verse is an exhortation to mental and moral culture. “Learn shrewdness, ye simple; and fools, be wise in heart.” Conant.
6. Excellent things Noble, princely things; things of primary importance, or plain, obvious things, (Proverbs 8:9.) The word is elsewhere always used of persons: see 1 Samuel 9:16; 2 Samuel 5:2, in both which cases the word is rendered captain; that is, foremost, leader.
Right things Straight; the opposite of every thing tortuous, disingenuous, dishonest.
7. My mouth shall speak More literally, my palate meditates truth; only that which is true חךְ , ( hhekh,) mouth or palate means the inner part of the mouth, the seat of taste, often used for the mouth as the organ of taste and speech. Job 31:30; Song of Solomon 5:16. The language, says Zockler, implies rather the inward moulding of the word; the reflective consideration that precedes speech.
8. In righteousness Are righteous, fair, honest.
Froward Literally, twisty, crafty, tricky, deceitful.
9. Plain Rather, in front of one; hence easily seen.
To them that find knowledge Or, have found; that is, those possessing knowledge; the intelligent, the educated. However obscure these teachings may be to the untaught, gross, and sensual, they will be readily apprehended by well disposed and disciplined minds.
10, 11. Receive, etc. Having recommended the character and quality of her instructions, she again urgently presses the acceptance of them.
Instruction Discipline, correction, precepts of restraint. See Proverbs 1:2, and note.
Rubies Or, pearls.
Things that may be desired All desirable things. Comp. Proverbs 8:19. Wisdom had begun to specify silver, gold, pearls; but cuts the matter short by including all valuable and desirable things. Her teachings are more valuable than all else. Comp. Proverbs 3:15.
12. I wisdom dwell with prudence “I inhabit prudence.” Stuart. “Have made a dwelling of subtlety.” Miller. The thought is, that of intimate association. The wisdom of this book is not merely speculative knowledge, not science merely, but intimately associated with this, practical sagacity. So ערמה , ( ‘ hormah,) or prudence, may be rendered here.
Find out knowledge of witty inventions I discover the science of ingenious things I am the patron of works or plans of ingenuity. מזמות , ( mezimmoth,) witty inventions, is something often thought upon or revolved in the mind; stands connected with well considered plans. It may have a bad sense, as plots, devices; but is here employed in a good sense. (Stuart.) “Prudence here denotes 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.” Elster.
13. The fear of the Lord JEHOVAH. A phrase equivalent to our term true piety. (See Proverbs 1:7, and note.)
Is to hate evil That is, true piety, or true religion, produces a hatred of all evil. This is its essence. Certain forms of evil are then specified.
Pride, and arrogancy Lofty feelings and lofty thoughts of one’s self.
The evil way All wicked courses of conduct.
And the froward mouth All perverse and perverting speech. These four appellations seem to cover the feelings, thoughts, words, and actions. The man of piety, the votary of divine Wisdom, must, like her, hate all manner of evil, and consequently love and practice all manner of good. Compare Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 1:29; Proverbs 2:5; Proverbs 3:7; Proverbs 9:10. On froward, compare Proverbs 2:12; Proverbs 10:31.
14. Counsel is mine, etc. It is doubtful whether this rendering gives the precise idea of the original. Perhaps the following more nearly expresses it: Stability and reality belong to me; that is, I teach that which is durable and real. The latter clause Stuart renders: “As for me, my might is understanding;” that is, with me understanding is strength: Bacon’s maxim, “Knowledge is power.” This is, probably, introductory to what follows.
15, 16. By me princes rule, etc. The meaning is well given by Patrick: “Kings themselves sit not fast on their thrones, though placed there by God himself, unless they be ruled by me. In vain do their great captains and other ministers endeavour to defend them, but under the conduct and protection of my discipline.” The various terms here employed denote civil rulers of different degrees and kinds, supreme and subordinate. If rulers would rule well prosperously and permanently they must rule in accordance with the dictates of wisdom, which means not low cunning, political strategy, unprincipled management, party trickery, and official fraud; but high, honourable, and just aims and actions, in accordance with the principles of righteousness and truth. Comp. Job 12:13; Isaiah 32:1.
17. I love, etc. This and the following verses to 21, are probably a continuation of the train of thought begun at Proverbs 8:13.
Seek me early Or, speedily, earnestly. As though Wisdom had said, Seeing that my favour and guidance are essential to real success, especially to those in high places, this one thing is necessary the obtaining them, namely, to love me, to seek me, speedily and earnestly. If they love me they will thus seek me, and if they thus seek me they shall find me. For illustrations see 1 Kings 3:5-14; James 1:5.
18. As a motive to such loving and seeking, she assures them that those things which men desire most are in her keeping, and she bestows them upon her votaries.
Durable riches הון עתק , ( hon ‘ hathek,) antique or transmitted wealth, that which passes down from generation to generation of those who love her; honours, dignities, possessions, descending to children and children’s children. “Increasing riches.” Zockler. Ill-gotten gains are seldom thus transmitted; but these are durable, because, says Patrick, “they are not gotten either by oppression or niggardice;” for I teach men to do justly, and to love mercy.
And righteousness צדקה . Some think the word means here the fruits of righteousness prosperity. It sometimes has this sense. We may suggest virtue, that is, this wealth, obtained in accordance with the principles of divine wisdom, shall descend to posterity accompanied by virtue or piety. Inherited wealth is generally a corrupter of virtue and a curse. The lovers of wisdom have the promise that it shall not be so with theirs.
19. Gold חרוצ , rendered fine gold in Proverbs 3:14, where see note. פז , paz, refined gold.
My revenue Not that which I receive, but which I bestow; the income which comes from practicing my precepts. Psalms 19:10; Psalms 21:3; Song of Solomon 5:11.
20, 21. I lead אהלךְ , perhaps better, I move habitually; that is, as the leader and exemplar of my votaries: for the purpose stated in the next verse.
Judgment Judicial or administrative justice.
Substance All real substantial good.
Treasures Treasuries, storehouses. “That I may insure abundance to those who love me.” Zockler. “So results a heritage to those who love me.” Miller. Thus ends this head of the discourse of wisdom. How magnificent and substantial the blessings she holds out to her votaries! How great the contrast between her and the syren of voluptuous pleasure! The lovers of a short-lived, carnal indulgence plunge speedily into utter misery and ruin:
the lovers of heavenly wisdom secure to themselves and their posterity permanent good of the highest kind. It may positively be true, that in the mind of the writer these blessings did not go beyond the present life. But we, to whom life and immortality are fully brought to light by the Gospel, may extend and amplify the principles here laid down, to the laying hold of the spiritual and eternal. We may carry forward the promises and propositions of wisdom, so as to include “the life that is to come;” “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:4-5.
The following verses are admired by all critics as a composition of wonderful excellence. The general subject is the same as the preceding; the personification is continued; but wisdom, instead of being regarded as a quality or attribute of man, is presented, in a bold prosopopoeia, as an attribute of God himself. The design is to show the claims of wisdom on the ground of her antiquity, her divine origin, and her sympathy with man.
HEAVENLY ORIGIN OF WISDOM, Proverbs 8:22-31.
22. Possessed me… of old Literally, from then, since. Great controversies have been held over this word. Great theological questions have been supposed involved. Hence the earnestness of the disputants. “I will also show mine opinion.”
(1.) It is an error to lay too much stress upon words, especially on their etymology, in a poetical composition, in order to deduce nice theological distinctions. Theology is a science, and requires words to be used in an accurate, well defined, scientific manner, in statements and disquisitions. The object of poetry is different, and seeks to arrange them in an ornate, esthetic mode, partly for the purpose of moving the passions. The strict etymological meaning of words is very little regarded in poetry, only as it contributes to an esthetic effect; nay, it is very frequently departed from purposely, for the same effect. These considerations are to be borne in mind in drawing theological propositions from poetic language. There are, doubtless, doctrines involved in the sacred poetic compositions, but they are not so much to be learned from the etymological or even conventional sense of individual words, as from the general scope, tenor, and drift of the passage. It is the very essence of poetic genius and inspiration to conceive of things in a mode different from the vulgar reality, and so to represent them in poetic language. Poesy, so to speak, sees things with her own eyes, invests them with her own hues and forms, and exhibits them according to her own fancies. When theology, for her own purposes, becomes interested in these esthetic creations, she must learn to distinguish the shadow from the substance; above all, she must avoid the mistake of regarding an ornament as an essential part of the building; a poetic conception of a thing for the scientific statement of an eternal verity.
(2.) The Hebrew term for “possessed,” קנה , kanah, is a word used, in its various inflections, with a great variety of significations. As usual, these significations are related to each other, and it is, perhaps, impossible at this day to tell which is the original one; nor if we could would it help the matter, for how do we know that the royal poet used the word in that particular sense here? It is just as likely to have been used in a secondary as in a primary sense. The following are some of the meanings given to it in the dictionaries. Gesenius says, “Perhaps the primary idea is to set upright, to erect, kindred with קון , kun, and כון , khun; then, to found, to create; to get, to gain, to obtain; to own, to possess: Niphal, to be bought: Hiphil, to sell.” Bagster’s Analyt., “To form, to create; to get, acquire, obtain; to buy, purchase, redeem, possess. Hiphil, to buy.”
As to the nouns derived from it: קנין , kinyan, (Psalms 104:24,) is rendered in our version riches, (the lexicons say creatures,) also acquisition, purchase, possession, wealth; מקנה , mikneh, purchase, possession, riches, wealth, (but chiefly in cattle;) מקנה , miknah, purchase, things purchased, price of purchase, possession. The participle, קנה , koneh, signifies owner, possessor, master, and, some think, creator.
So far as discovered there is no place where this word, ( possessed,) in any of its inflections, necessarily involves the idea of creation proper, as we understand that word. Our translators have very properly avoided giving it that sense in any case. The primary idea was probably, to hold, to contain, which, by an easy transition, as in other tongues, passed over into holding as property, or possessing; only another step takes us to the idea of getting, acquiring; and closely allied to this is that of originating, as our property: that is, as we say, making money, creating wealth. The most frequent use of the term is to express the relation of possessor and possessed, and the translators were probably right in rendering it by that term here. In this book there is no other place where the word could, with any plausibility, be translated by the verb create. Who would think of rendering Proverbs 4:7: Create wisdom, and with all thy creating, create understanding? The usus loquendi in this book is wholly against the translation of Proverbs 8:22, by our verb “created.” Stuart, Zockler, and others contend stoutly for created. In conformity with the remarks above, in (1,) we would not object to it, if the sense and usage of the word by any means required it. But they do not: rather, the reverse. There are terms in the above verses in respect to wisdom which imply and express origination; but it seems fitting that in the setting out the poet should express the idea that wisdom belongs inherently to God. That at the beginning of his creative acts, whenever that was, she was his: yea, and before his most ancient works. Stuart renders the verse thus: “Jehovah created me, the firstling of his way, before his works, long ago.”
23. I was set up from everlasting Rather, from eternity, or from unknown ages, I was anointed.
From the beginning Before the earth existed. Anointing was the initiating ceremony into high office among the Hebrews; hence the word is equivalent to appointing, constituting, inaugurating. Wisdom was installed in her high functions from eternity. The other expressions, “from the beginning,” “or ever the earth,” are paraphrastic, exegetical, or qualificative. עולם , ( ‘ holam,) rendered everlasting, is not as definite in its signification as our word eternity. It means indefinite or unknown duration. The terms following it define its meaning here.
24. When… no depths, I was brought forth Better, when no abysses, I was produced.
When… no fountains abounding with water The precise idea of the last words is uncertain. The participle for “abounding,” נכבדי , may mean glorious. Perhaps it may be equivalent to our expression, “fountains of sparkling water.” The sentiment of the whole verse then would be: I was produced before there were either oceans or flowing streams. Brought forth, Stuart renders, “was born.” Produced is preferable, as corresponding better with the original, חוללתי , which, though sometimes used in the sense or was born, is not a specific term, like ילד , ( yulladh,) but more general, like our words produced, originated, which may be applied to the beginning of any thing.
25. Settled Hebrew, sunk, as a foundation; founded.
Brought forth Same word as in preceding verse.
26. The fields חוצות , ( hhutsoth,) the exterior surface, or ostensible part.
Nor the highest part of the dust of the world ראשׁ עפרות תבל , ( rosh ‘ haphroth tebhel,) the first dust of the world the primeval atoms, seemingly opposed to the hhutsoth the observable part. “World,” ( tebhel,) a poetic word from בלל , ( balal,) one of the meanings of which is to mix, mingle the compounded mass of the earth. The sense of the whole, throwing off the poetic garb, and carrying forward the verb from the preceding verse, appears to be: I was produced while yet he had not made the land, neither the observable exterior nor the interior atoms of the complex globe. Some expositors fancy that the highest part of the dust of the earth means man himself, originally formed of the dust of the earth.
The drift of the thought in Proverbs 8:23-27, is seemingly this: We have, first, the proposition, (Proverbs 8:23,) I existed before the earth (as a whole) existed. This is amplified in sundry particulars, first, (Proverbs 8:24,) before the fluid parts, the oceans and streams; second, (Proverbs 8:25,) before the solid parts, especially the more prominent and observable, as the mountains and hills; third, (ver.
26,) an amplification of this again, descending to other particulars the surface of the land and its internal components the original atoms or particles of the same. Wisdom was before all these.
27. The teacher now ascends to the visible heavens, (the region of the atmosphere,) as they appear to the eye.
When he prepared בהכינו , prepared, disposed, adjusted, according to their established order or laws.
The heavens The רקיע , ( rakia’h,) or expanse of Genesis 1:6.
When he set a compass In his defining the circle, or sphere: when he described a circle upon the face of the depth, תהום , ( tehom,) the abyss, of the atmosphere; more probably of the apparent resting of the concave heavens, the atmosphere the sphere of air over the abyss beneath; a poetic description in accordance with the appearance.
I was there Hebrews, emphatic There was I. Comp. Isaiah 40:22; Job 26:10. Translation, according to the sense: When he disposed the heavens there was I when he swept (his) circle upon the face of the (great) abyss.
There is in this and the following verses a change in the form of the predicate concerning wisdom. When the antemundane period is spoken of, the ‘holam eternity “ the beginning,” she belonged to Jehovah she existed as the attribute of the eternal Mind. She was produced, originated, (a poetical conception of the period of actual exertion or manifestation,) when she began to act, as in the work of creation. She was there, was with him.
28. When he established the clouds Stuart: “Fixed the clouds.” Patrick: “Made the watery clouds so firm in the air that they shall not fall down altogether, but by drops, upon the earth.”
Strengthened the fountains Septuagint, “Made secure,” which accords with what seems to be the idea in the next verse. Zockler renders the last clause, “When the fountains of the deep raged loudly.” Conant, “When the fountains of the deep became strong;” that is, in the sense of pouring forth; and maintains that the term fountains of the deep, according to the usus, refers to the outlets of the abyss of waters through which it breaks forth to the earth’s surface, forming streams and rivers.” Compare Ezekiel 31:4; Ezekiel 31:15; Genesis 7:11; Genesis 8:12; Genesis 49:25; Deuteronomy 33:13.
29. Should not pass his commandment קיו , his mouth, that is, the mouth of the sea, used tropically the edge, margin, shore. Should not pass over its shore.
Foundations of the earth Or, land. ארצ , ( erets,) stands opposed to ים , ( yam,) sea, and should, probably, be rendered land. The solid land, with its everlasting rocks as its foundations, constitutes the barrier of the sea, keeping it within its appointed limits. Translation: “When he defined to the sea its statute, (limit,) that the waters should not pass over its shore: when he decreed, (marked out,) the foundations of the land. Comp. Genesis 1:9-10; Job 38:4; Job 38:10-11.
30. Then I… by him Translation: “There was I, his chosen darling; there was I, his delight, day by day, sporting before him (as a beloved child) all the time.” The particle אצלו , ( etslo,) rendered by him in the Authorized Version, may mean that; but the root, among other significations, has “to reserve,” “keep near one,” and hence “to select,” “choose.” Taken in this sense, with the אמון , ( amon,) a nursling, (one nurtured by another, and hence beloved,) a darling, we make out the above, which agrees with the imagery following: “All the images in this [and the next verse] are borrowed from the state and circumstances of a darling, affectionate, playful child.” A. Clarke.
Although the rendering above given of this verse is well supported, yet there is some uncertainty about the word אמון , amon. The root-meaning of the word branches out in many directions. One is that of establishing, bringing up, rearing. Hence our Authorized Version renders it, “one brought up with him,” a nursling, foster-child, darling, etc. Others take it in the more active sense, of artificer, master-worker, or builder, fabricator, artist, etc. The Septuagint, Vulgate, Luther, and many Germans favour this idea. So, also, some English and Americans, as Holden, Boothroyd, Noyes, Muenscher, Miller, the Bible Com., etc. But Goode, Stuart, Conant, Fausset, Adam Clarke, Benson, etc, prefer the other view. For a defence of this view see Conant. It is a matter of choice and taste.
Fausset, indeed, who identifies the Hhokmah and the Logos, combines both thus: “I was nursed at his side,” amon, answering to John 1:18, the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father; “never separated from the Father; who seeth the Father always; who seeth what the Father doeth, so that he doeth the same himself, (with the same will and power;) in whom the Father is well pleased,” etc. Comp. John 5:20.
31. Rejoicing, etc. We translate: “Sporting in the world, his earth, and my (especial) delight is (with) the sons of Adam.” Patrick’s paraphrase makes a link of good thought between this verse and what follows: “More particularly, I displayed my skill in the vast variety of creatures wherewith I have beautified this earth wherein you dwell, which affords a most delightful spectacle unto me and to all wise observers, who may see that, above all the rest, my principal thoughts were fixed upon the children of men, (Genesis 1:26,) in whom I delighted exceedingly, as the Lord doth in me, (Proverbs 8:30,) beholding them made in the image of God and after his likeness, capable to converse with me.”
BLESSEDNESS RESULTING FROM ATTENDING TO THE INSTRUCTIONS OF WISDOM, Proverbs 8:32-36.
32, 33. Now therefore Considering all these preceding things.
Ye children Compare Proverbs 4:1; Proverbs 5:7; Proverbs 7:24; Proverbs 8:32. The old exhortation returns now with a new force. The counsels are no longer those of prudence, calculation, human experience; but that of a wisdom wide as the universe, eternal as Jehovah, ordering all things.
Refuse it not Do not let it go.
34. My gates Wisdom is now represented as in her temple, while her votaries, on whom she pronounces blessings, wait and watch for the opening of her gates, that they may meet her and secure her instructions.
35, 36. That sinneth against me חשׂאי , misses me, taking the word in its primitive sense, which best suits the context, as it stands opposed to those finding or meeting her in the preceding verse.
Wrongeth his own soul חמס נפשׁו , does violence to his own life, commits suicide.
All they that hate me love death That is, their conduct will be their destruction. They love their own evil way which leads to death, and hence, by a bold metaphor, they are represented as loving death itself, as if bent upon their own ruin.
We may appropriately close our notes on this part of the allegory by quoting a writer of the New Testament who, perhaps more than any other writer thereof, wrote in the spirit and style of this book: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men [who ask] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5.
ADDENDA. The importance attached to some portions of this chapter justifies a few additional remarks. From the time of the great Arian controversies (4th century) the theologians on both sides generally assumed that the Hhokmah, or Wisdom, of the Proverbs was the same as the Logos of John 1:0. Accordingly, the meaning of the terms in which the Hhokmah was spoken of (Proverbs 8:22, et seq.) became a matter of great moment, of careful scrutiny, and of excited controversy. The Arians, who held that the Son was not properly God, but only the first of creatures, favoured that translation of kanah (Proverbs 8:22) which seems to support their theory, while the orthodox, on the other side, contended for the rendering most accordant with their creed. As usual, each had some authorities on their side. The Arians could appeal to the Septuagint, Syriac, Chaldee, and Arabic, all of which translated the word by a term corresponding to our word created, founded, etc., while Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, and the Vulgate, rendered it by possessed. Modern criticism is about as much divided as was the ancient. There is, however, this difference, that modern critics and theologians do not all think the Hhokmah and the Logos identical. And some, who believe in the supreme divinity of our Lord, as Stuart, do not hesitate to translate the word by created. Nor were the ancients entirely unanimous in regarding the Hhokmah and the Logos as the same, for some of them identified the Hhokmah with the Holy Spirit. Many very sound modern divines regard the Hhokmah as simply the personification of wisdom, considered first in its more general sense, and, secondly, as an attribute of Jehovah. Others, without identifying the Hhokmah and the Logos, regard the poetic pictures of Solomon as the shadowing forth of the New Testament doctrine of the divine Word. “The error of our English exegetical and theological literature,” says Aiken, (in notes on Zockler,) “has been the attempt to force upon it more distinctness and precision in the revelation of the mysteries of the divine nature than is disclosed by fair exegesis. Sometimes it is the doctrine of the Logos that is made to stand out with all the clearness of New Testament announcement; sometimes it is the eternal generation of the Son that Solomon is made the Spirit’s mouthpiece to reveal… We can go no farther than our author (Zockler) has done in discovering here the pre-shadowings of the doctrine of the Logos. We are induced to prefer the still more guarded statement of John Pye Smith, that this beautiful picture cannot be satisfactorily proved to be a designed description of our Saviour’s person; or that of Dr. John Harris: “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.”
The difference of gender between the Hhokmah and the Logos, the former being feminine and the latter masculine, is noteworthy, and, theologically, of deep significance.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 8". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19