The Discourse of Wisdom*
1Does not Wisdom call,
and Understanding raise her voice?a
2On the top of the heights along the road,
at the crossroads she takes her stand;
3By the gates at the approaches of the city,
in the entryways she cries aloud:
4“To you, O people, I call;
my appeal is to you mortals.
5You naive ones, gain prudence,
you fools,* gain sense.
6Listen! for noble things I speak;
my lips proclaim honest words.
7* Indeed, my mouth utters truth,
and my lips abhor wickedness.
8All the words of my mouth are sincere,
none of them wily or crooked;
9All of them are straightforward to the intelligent,
and right to those who attain knowledge.
10Take my instruction instead of silver,
and knowledge rather than choice gold.
11[For Wisdom is better than corals,
and no treasures can compare with her.b]
12I, Wisdom, dwell with prudence,
and useful knowledge I have.
13[The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil;]
Pride, arrogance, the evil way,
and the perverse mouth I hate.c
14Mine are counsel and advice;
Mine is strength; I am understanding.*
15By me kings reign,
and rulers enact justice;
16By me princes govern,
and nobles, all the judges of the earth.
17Those who love me I also love,
and those who seek me find me.
18With me are riches and honor,d
wealth that endures, and righteousness.
19My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold,
and my yield than choice silver.e
20On the way of righteousness I walk,
along the paths of justice,
21Granting wealth to those who love me,
and filling their treasuries.
22* “The LORD begot me, the beginning of his works,
the forerunner of his deeds of long ago;f
23From of old I was formed,*
at the first, before the earth.g
24* When there were no deeps I was brought forth,
when there were no fountains or springs of water;
25Before the mountains were settled into place,
before the hills, I was brought forth;
26When the earth and the fields were not yet made,
nor the first clods of the world.
27When he established the heavens, there was I,h
when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
28When he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the springs of the deep;
29When he set for the sea its limit,
so that the waters should not transgress his command;
When he fixed the foundations of earth,
I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
31Playing over the whole of his earth,
having my delight with human beings.
32* Now, children, listen to me;
happy are they who keep my ways.
33Listen to instruction and grow wise,
do not reject it!
34Happy the one who listens to me,
attending daily at my gates,
keeping watch at my doorposts;
35For whoever finds me finds life,j
and wins favor from the LORD;
36But those who pass me by do violence to themselves;
all who hate me love death.”
* [8:1–36] Chapter 8 is Wisdom’s longest speech in the book. Wisdom is here personified as in 1:20–33. She exalts her grandeur and origin, and invites all (vv. 1–11) to be attentive to her salutary influence in human society (vv. 12–21), for she was privileged to be present at the creation of the world (vv. 22–31). Finally, she promises life and the favor of God to those who are devoted to her, death to those who reject her.
The poem has four sections, each (except the fourth) with two parts of five lines each:
|I.||A.||vv. 1–5||B.||vv. 6–10|
|II.||A.||vv. 12–16||B.||vv. 17–21|
|III.||A.||vv. 22–26||B.||vv. 27–31|
Within chaps. 1–9, chap. 8 is the companion piece to Wisdom’s first speech in 1:20–33. There she spoke harshly, giving a promise only in the last line; here she speaks invitingly, giving a threat only in the last line.
Chapter 8 is the best-known chapter in Proverbs and has profoundly influenced Jewish and Christian thought. The most explicit and lengthy biblical comment is in Sir 24; it too has thirty-five lines in seven five-line stanzas and develops the theme of Wisdom’s intimacy with God and desire to be with human beings. The Gospel of John portrays Jesus in the language of wisdom in Proverbs: Jesus, like Wisdom, calls out to people to listen to him, promises to tell them the truth, seeks disciples, invites them to a banquet, and gives them life. Writers in the patristic period used the language of pre-existent wisdom to express the idea of the pre-existent Word with God.
* [8:7–8] The truth and sincerity of wisdom are absolute because they are of divine origin. They can neither deceive nor tolerate deception. The intelligent understand and accept this. “Straight” and “crooked” in Hebrew and English are metaphors for true, trustworthy and false, deceitful.
* [8:22–31] Wisdom is of divine origin. She is represented as existing before all things (vv. 22–26), when God planned and created the universe, adorning it with beauty and variety, and establishing its wonderful order (vv. 27–30). The purpose of the two cosmogonies (vv. 22–26 and 27–31) is to ground Wisdom’s claims. The first cosmogony emphasizes that she was born before all else (and so deserving of honor) and the second underscores that she was with the Lord during the creation of the universe. The pre-existence of Woman Wisdom with God is developed in Sir 24 and in New Testament hymns to Christ, especially in Jn 1 and Col 1:15–20.
* [8:30] Artisan: the translation of the Hebrew word ’āmôn has been controverted since antiquity. There have been three main opinions: (1) artisan; (2) trustworthy (friend); (3) ward, nursling. The most likely explanation is that ’āmôn is artisan, related to Akkadian ummānu, legendary sages and heroes who brought divine gifts and culture to the human race. I was his delight: the chiastic or ABBA structure of vv. 30–31 unifies the four lines and underscores the analogy between Woman Wisdom’s intimate relation to the Lord and her intimate relation to human beings, i.e., “delight” + “playing” parallels “playing” + “delight.” She is God’s friend and intimate and invites human beings to a similar relationship to God through her.