Greetings! I am continuing to pray for you as you read God’s word today.
Proverbs 9 ends what is called the “First Major Section” of the book (which is written as a loving father speaking to his children and emphasizes the topic of wisdom). Proverbs 9 closes with a final appeal to wisdom. Wisdom and Foolishness are portrayed as female; they are also in opposition to one another. Woman Wisdom (vv. 1–12) against Woman Folly (vv. 13–18).
Wisdom and Folly (foolishness) are portrayed in this chapter as rival young women, each preparing a feast and inviting people to it. But Wisdom is a responsible woman of character, while Folly is a prostitute serving stolen food. Wisdom appeals first to the mind. Folly to the senses. It is easier to excite the senses, but the pleasures of Folly are temporary. By contrast, the satisfaction that wisdom brings lasts forever.
Woman Wisdom’s Appeal (9:1–12)
The general meaning of this passage is clear, but there are a few mysteries. The meaning of Wisdom’s house of seven pillars is uncertain. Is it a house or a temple? Solomon’s temple that he built in Jerusalem had two pillars (1 Kgs 7:15). The significance of “seven” is not obvious. Some have connected it to the seven planets, but a more reasonable explanation is that it refers to the seven days of creation (note Wisdom’s role in creation in 8:22–31).
Wisdom dismisses her servant girls prior to the banquet to send them out to invite in the guests. This is in contrast to Woman Folly waiting to ambush passers-by (v. 14). The picture of servants sent out to bring guests to a feast may have contributed to the parable of the great banquet (Luke 14:15–24); note also that v. 5 may be behind Jesus’ words in John 6:51–56.
The feast Wisdom provides is symbolic of life, health, and celebration. It contrasts with the banquet of the dead (v. 18) behind Woman Folly’s door.
The warning against trying to instruct mockers (vv. 7–9) is characteristic of Proverbs. Even as it urges the young man to faithfulness and discretion, it always recognizes that there are some who will never listen. This reality appears even in 1:7, the theme verse of Proverbs.
Verse 10, which also relates to 1:7, reasserts the teaching that Wisdom apart from God is impossible.
*Are you foolish or wise? You can tell by the way you respond to correction, instruction and God’s Word. Instead of tossing back a quick excuse, a put-down or a clever response, listen to what is being said. Learn from teachers and those who instruct you. You can even learn from critics, this is the path to wisdom. Wisdom begins with knowing God. He gives insight into living because he created life. To know God is not just to know the facts about him, but to stand in awe of him and have a relationship with him.
The promise of life (v. 11) and statement of individual responsibility (v. 12) are a fitting conclusion to Wisdom’s final appeal. The joy she offers is for the taking, but everyone must bear responsibility for his or her own decisions.
Woman Folly’s Appeal (9:13–18). Like the prostitute (7:11), Woman Folly is a loud and careless temptress. The parallel of vv. 14–16 to vv. 3–4 is obvious, but Woman Folly sits and tempts those who pass by like a prostitute (Gen 38:14) or like a criminal ambush (Prov 1:11).
(9:17) Woman Folly’s promise of “stolen water” and “food eaten in secret” (v. 17) is especially significant. Some have suggested that bread and water contrast with the sumptuous feast of Woman Wisdom, but more is implied than that. “Stolen water” looks back to 5:15–18, where sexual relations are described as the drinking of water, and is from another man’s wife. “Food eaten in secret” is literally “bread of secrecy.” It refers to the criminal conspiracies that tempt the young man to easy money, as in 1:11–14; 4:14–17 (see esp. v. 17); and 6:12–15.
(9:18) This verse looks back to the two tempters—the one who draws the youth into a life of crime and the woman who draws him into promiscuity. Both are in the house of Woman Folly, and both draw more victims to the banquet of the dead. “Her guests are in the depths of hell.”
There is something “sweet” or “pleasant’ (vs. 17) about sin. I heard someone say, “if you don’t think sin is fun, you haven’t tried the right one.” It’s all pleasant and sweet at first but then every kick has its kickback. We must look ahead beyond the temporary excitement to the dangers of continuing to live that way.
Until tomorrow, Darrell
J Vernon McGee’s Thru The Bible
Life Application Bible Notes
New American Commentary