The Blessings of Wisdom*
1My son, if you receive my words
and treasure my commands,
2Turning your ear to wisdom,*
inclining your heart to understanding;
3Yes, if you call for intelligence,
and to understanding raise your voice;
4If you seek her like silver,
and like hidden treasures search her out,
5Then will you understand the fear of the LORD;
the knowledge of God you will find;
6For the LORD gives wisdom,
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;a
7He has success in store for the upright,
is the shield of those who walk honestly,
8Guarding the paths of justice,
protecting the way of his faithful ones,
9Then you will understand what is right and just,
what is fair, every good path;
10For wisdom will enter your heart,
knowledge will be at home in your soul,
11Discretion will watch over you,
understanding will guard you;
12* Saving you from the way of the wicked,
from those whose speech is perverse.
13From those who have left the straight paths
to walk in the ways of darkness,
14Who delight in doing evil
and celebrate perversity;
15Whose ways are crooked,
whose paths are devious;
16* Saving you from a stranger,
from a foreign woman with her smooth words,b
17One who forsakes the companion of her youth
and forgets the covenant of her God;
18For her path sinks down to death,
19None who enter there come back,
or gain the paths of life.
20Thus you may walk in the way of the good,
and keep to the paths of the just.
people of integrity will remain in it;
22But the wicked will be cut off from the land,
the faithless will be rooted out of it.
* [2:1–22] Chapter 2 is a single poem, an acrostic of twenty-two lines, the number of consonants in the Hebrew alphabet. In vv. 1–11, the letter aleph, the first letter of the alphabet, predominates, and in vv. 12–22, the letter lamed, the first letter of the second half of the alphabet. A single structure runs through the whole: if (aleph) you search…then (aleph) the Lord/Wisdom will grant…saving (lamed) you from the wicked man/woman…thus (lamed) you can walk in the safe way….
* [2:16–19] A second obstacle and counter-figure to Wisdom, personified as an attractive woman, is the “stranger,” or “foreigner,” from outside the territory or kinship group, hence inappropriate as a marriage partner. In Proverbs she comes to be identified with Woman Folly, whose deceitful words promise life but lead to death. Woman Folly appears also in chap. 5, 6:20–35, chap. 7 and 9:13–18. Covenant: refers to the vow uttered with divine sanction at the woman’s previous marriage, as the parallel verse suggests. She is already married and relations with her would be adulterous.
* [2:18] Shades: the inhabitants of Sheol.
* [2:21–22] Verses 21–22 echo the ending of Wisdom’s speech in 1:32–33, in which refusing Wisdom’s invitation meant death and obedience to her meant life. The same set of ideas is found in Ps 37 (especially vv. 3, 9, 11, 22, 29, 34, and 38): to live on (or inherit) the land and to be uprooted from the land are expressions of divine recompense.