The Songs and Sayings Podcast: Reading through the wisdom literature of the world.
By Menashe David Israel
Chapter 9 of Hebrew Proverbs
Further reading: The Wisdom Books by Robert Alter
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Chapter nine concludes the first of the six sections in the book of Proverbs. As I reflect on the journey through this book so far, I can see how up to this point, the first section has been composed and placed in the opening position of the book in order to establish the very baseline maxims necessary for the youth to move on to bigger and wiser things.
So far the youth has been told to fear God; no matter what to get wisdom and understand; to avoid strange women and the risk of fatal consequences that comes along with yielding to them; to consider that the very foundation of the world is predicated on wisdom, and thus, it behooves a man to get to know this wisdom so he might make his way.
So we arrive now at chapter 9, a chapter that is directed at the simple—or open-minded—man, a one who can be influenced. And he is presented with two options: Wisdom and Folly. The dichotomy is carried out further with Wisdom crying out from her high place, almost a palace by its description; while Folly also calls out from her house. Both offer meals. Wisdom offers bread and wine; Folly offers bread and water. Wisdom’s ways lead to life; while Folly’s ways lead to death and Sheol.
What is impressive to me about this chapter is that it so perfectly sets up section two, which will consist of many verses of aphorisms and contrasting couplets. (We’ll discuss a bit about their names and structure in the next episode.) The set up is evident in the way that chapter lacks much advice giving. It just tell the young man the way that the world is. If we believes these words, then he can read on; if not, then the loss is his to bear alone.
I should add that if Proverbs has a motto, it is surely this line which is pulled from chapter 1 verse 7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
In chapter 9 verse 10, it reads: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”
So let’s read this chapter with the idea in mind that we are going to take wisdom’s advice to get wisdom and understanding, and avoid Folly, by continuing to read to the end of the book as we pursue the living way of the wise. ☗
Read Proverbs 9 on the Bible App