Purpose of the Proverbs of Solomon*
king of Israel:
2That people may know wisdom and discipline,*
may understand intelligent sayings;
3May receive instruction in wise conduct,
in what is right, just and fair;
4That resourcefulness may be imparted to the naive,*
knowledge and discretion to the young.
5The wise by hearing them will advance in learning,
the intelligent will gain sound guidance,
6To comprehend proverb and byword,
the words of the wise and their riddles.
fools despise wisdom and discipline.
II. INSTRUCTIONS OF PARENTS AND OF WOMAN WISDOM
The Path of the Wicked: Greed and Violence*
8Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
and reject not your mother’s teaching;
9A graceful diadem will they be for your head;
a pendant for your neck.
10My son, should sinners entice you,
11do not go if they say, “Come along with us!
Let us lie in wait for blood,
unprovoked, let us trap the innocent;
12Let us swallow them alive, like Sheol,
whole, like those who go down to the pit!
13All kinds of precious wealth shall we gain,
we shall fill our houses with booty;
14Cast in your lot with us,
we shall all have one purse!”
15My son, do not walk in the way with them,
hold back your foot from their path!
16[For their feet run to evil,
they hasten to shed blood.c]
17In vain a net is spread*
right under the eyes of any bird—
18They lie in wait for their own blood,
they set a trap for their own lives.
19This is the way of everyone greedy for loot:
it takes away their lives.
Wisdom in Person Gives a Warning*
20Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the open squares she raises her voice;d
21Down the crowded ways she calls out,
at the city gates she utters her words:
22* “How long, you naive ones, will you love naivete,
23How long will you turn away at my reproof?
[The arrogant delight in their arrogance,
and fools hate knowledge.]
Lo! I will pour out to you my spirit,
I will acquaint you with my words:
24‘Because I called and you refused,
extended my hand and no one took notice;e
25Because you disdained all my counsel,
and my reproof you ignored—
26I, in my turn, will laugh at your doom;
will mock when terror overtakes you;
27When terror comes upon you like a storm,
and your doom approaches like a whirlwind;
when distress and anguish befall you.’
28Then they will call me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me, but will not find me,
29Because they hated knowledge,
and the fear of the LORD they did not choose.
30They ignored my counsel,
they spurned all my reproof;
31Well, then, they shall eat the fruit* of their own way,
and with their own devices be glutted.
32For the straying of the naive kills them,
the smugness of fools destroys them.
33But whoever obeys me dwells in security,
in peace, without fear of harm.”f
* [1:1–7] The prologue explains the purpose of the book. The book has a sapiential, ethical, and religious dimension: to bring the inexperienced to knowledge and right conduct, to increase the facility of those already wise for interpreting proverbs, parables and riddles, and to encourage the fulfillment of one’s duties to God.
* [1:4] Naive: immature, inexperienced, sometimes the young, hence easily influenced for good or evil.
* [1:7] Fear of the LORD: primarily a disposition rather than the emotion of fear; reverential awe and respect toward God combined with obedience to God’s will.
* [1:8–19] A parental warning to a young person leaving home, for them to avoid the company of the greedy and violent. Two ways lie before the hearer, a way that leads to death and a way that leads to life. The trap which the wicked set for the innocent (v. 11) in the end takes away the lives of the wicked themselves (v. 19). This theme will recur especially in chaps. 1–9. A second theme introduced here is that of founding (or managing) a household and choosing a spouse. A third theme is the human obstacles to attaining wisdom. Here (and in 2:12–15 and 4:10–19), the obstacle is men (always in the plural); in 2:16–19; 5:1–6; 6:20–35; chap. 7; 9:13–18, the obstacle to the quest is the “foreign” woman (always in the singular).
* [1:17] A difficult verse. The most probable interpretation is that no fowler lifts up the net so the bird can see it. The verse might be paraphrased: God does not let those who walk on evil paths see the net that will entrap them. The passive construction (“a net is spread”) is sometimes used to express divine activity. Verse 16 is a later attempt to add clarity. It is a quotation from Is 59:7 and is not in the best Greek manuscripts.
* [1:20–33] Wisdom is personified as in chaps. 8 and 9:1–6. With divine authority she proclaims the moral order, threatening to leave to their own devices those who disregard her invitation. All three speeches of Woman Wisdom have common features: a setting in city streets; an audience of simple or naive people; a competing appeal (chap. 7 is the competing appeal for chap. 8); an invitation to a relationship that brings long life, riches, repute.
The structure of the speeches is: A: setting (vv. 20–21); B: Wisdom’s withdrawal, rebuke and announcement (vv. 22–23); reason and rejection I (vv. 24–27); reason and rejection II (vv. 28–31); summary (v. 32); C: the effects of Wisdom’s presence (v. 33). Wisdom’s opening speech is an extended threat ending with a brief invitation (v. 33). Her second speech is an extended invitation ending with a brief threat (8:36). The surprisingly abrupt and harsh tone of her speech is perhaps to be explained as a response to the arrogant words of the men in the previous scene (1:8–19).
* [1:22–23] There is textual confusion. Verse 22bc (in the third person) is an addition, interrupting vv. 22a and 23a (in the second person). The addition has been put in brackets, to separate it from the original poem. The original verses do not ask for a change of heart but begin to detail the consequences of disobedience to Wisdom.
* [1:31] Eat the fruit: sinners are punished by the consequences of their sins. Wisdom’s voice echoes that of the parents in vv. 8–19. The parents mediate wisdom in vv. 8–19, but here Wisdom herself speaks.