The Two Women Invite Passersby to Their Banquets*
Woman Wisdom Issues Her Invitation
1Wisdom has built her house,*
she has set up her seven columns;
2She has prepared her meat, mixed her wine,
yes, she has spread her table.
3She has sent out her maidservants; she calls*
from the heights out over the city:a
4“Let whoever is naive turn in here;
to any who lack sense I say,
5Come, eat of my food,
and drink of the wine I have mixed!
6Forsake foolishness that you may live;*
advance in the way of understanding.”
7Whoever corrects the arrogant earns insults;
and whoever reproves the wicked incurs opprobrium.
8Do not reprove the arrogant, lest they hate you;
reprove the wise, and they will love you.b
9Instruct the wise, and they become still wiser;
teach the just, and they advance in learning.
10The beginning of wisdom is fear of the LORD,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.c
11For by me your days will be multiplied
and the years of your life increased.d
12If you are wise, wisdom is to your advantage;
if you are arrogant, you alone shall bear it.
Woman Folly Issues Her Invitation
utterly foolish; she knows nothing.
14She sits at the door of her house
upon a seat on the city heights,
15Calling to passersby
as they go on their way straight ahead:
16“Let those who are naive turn in here,
to those who lack sense I say,
17Stolen water is sweet,
and bread taken secretly is pleasing!”*
18Little do they know that the shades are there,
that her guests are in the depths of Sheol!*
* [9:1–6, 13–18] Wisdom and folly are represented as women, each inviting people to her banquet. Wisdom’s banquet symbolizes joy and closeness to God. Unstable and senseless Folly furnishes stolen bread and water of deceit and vice that bring death to her guests. The opposition between wisdom and folly was stated at the beginning of chaps. 1–9 (folly in 1:8–19 and wisdom in 1:20–33) and is maintained throughout, down to this last chapter.
In comparable literature, gods might celebrate their sovereign by building a palace and inviting the other gods to come to a banquet and celebrate with them. Presumably, Woman Wisdom is celebrating her grandeur (just described in chap. 8); her grand house is a symbol of her status as the Lord’s friend. In order to enter the sacred building and take part in the banquet (“eat of my food”), guests must leave aside their old ways (“forsake foolishness”).
Verses 7–12 are unrelated to the two invitations to the banquet. They appear to be based on chap. 1, especially on 1:1–7, 22. The Greek version has added a number of verses after v. 12 and v. 18. In the confusion, 9:11 seems to have been displaced from its original position after 9:6. It has been restored to its original place in the text.
* [9:1] House: house has a symbolic meaning. Woman Wisdom encourages marital fidelity (2:16–19; 5; 6:20–35; 7), which builds up a household (cf. chap. 5). Some scholars propose that an actual seven-pillared house is referred to, but so far none have been unearthed by archaeologists. Seven may simply connote completeness—a great house.
Some scholars see a connection between the woman’s house here and the woman’s house in the final poem (31:10–31). In chap. 9, she invites the young man to enter her house and feast, i.e., to marry her. Chapter 31 shows what happens to the man who marries her; he has a house and enjoys “life” understood as consisting of a suitable wife, children, wealth, and honor.
* [9:3] She calls: i.e., invites; this is done indirectly through her maidservants, but the text could also mean that Wisdom herself publicly proclaims her invitation.
* [9:6] That you may live: life in Proverbs is this-worldly, consisting in fearing God or doing one’s duty toward God, enjoying health and long life, possessing wealth, good reputation, and a family. Such a life cannot be attained without God’s help. Hence Wisdom speaks not of life simply but of life with her; the guest is to live in Wisdom’s house.
* [9:13–18] Woman Folly is the mirror image of Woman Wisdom. Both make identical invitations but only one of the offers is trustworthy. Their hearers must discern which is the true offer. She is depicted with traits of the adulterous woman in 2:16–19; chap. 5; 6:20–35; chap. 7. Woman Folly is restless (cf. 7:11), her path leads to the underworld (2:18; 5:5; 7:27), and she is ignorant (5:6). In this final scene, she appears in single combat with her great nemesis, Woman Wisdom. Though the invitations of the two women appear at first hearing to be the same, they differ profoundly. Wisdom demands that her guests reject their ignorance, whereas Woman Folly trades on their ignorance.
* [9:17] “Stolen water” seems to refer to adultery, for “water” in 5:15–17 refers to the wife’s sexuality; “stolen” refers to stealing the sexuality belonging to another’s household. “Secret” evokes the furtive meeting of the wife and the youth in chap. 7.