Chapter 8: Beneath the Surface

8:1 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?

8:2 On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand;

8:3 beside the gates leading into the city, at the entrances, she cries aloud:

      As an archaeologist, I am not sure we still have a full understanding of the Hebrew text of verse 2. So the "top of the heights," "going up the way," "the paths to the house" may be located inside or outside the city wall.
      Since ancient cities tended to be located on hills, high places, even tells - mounds of destruction and reconstruction – these raised places might be inside the city. As such, the high place in the city would have been a place of administrative or sacred purpose. Yet, it seems to me that verse 2 should be outside the city and verse 3 at the gate, going inside. Although the passage works fine either way.
      As to the gate, itself, the typical Old Testament Israelite city generally had only one public structure – the city wall and gate (or gates). They were built together as part of the city's defensive system. While the average Old Testament city probably had more than one gate, there was no doubt a main gate for most cities – leading to the main road that ran nearby the site.
      An ancient Israelite city gate was also more than just a door in the city wall. It was a large structure which included the 6-8 foot wide gate passageway, fortified doors, adjacent rooms, defensive towers, superstructure of rooms and defensive ramparts. At Tall el-Hammam in Jordan I excavated a small, simple city gate complex that was 17x25 feet.
      The purpose of these ancient gates extended beyond the city's defenses. Being the only real public meeting place in the typical city, it also served as the city market, courthouse and civic assembly place. Everyone in the city probably visited or passed through the city gate daily. Both wisdom and understanding were there to greet them every day, if they would receive it.

8:10 Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold,

8:11 for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.

      I am writing these words from my archaeological excavation at the Tall el-Hammam Excavation Project (TeHEP) in Jordan. We are staying at our dig headquarters (the five-star Movenpick Dead Sea Resort and Spa) and I am appreciating every moment of it here with my wife. It is a place my wife and I could not afford to stay in apart from the arrangements related to my role in helping direct this excavation.
      So, we are very grateful for the privilege! We also see quite a bit of developing third world conditions all around us. It reminds me that we actually have a lot more than we sometimes realize back home. The fact is that I have more "silver, gold and rubies" than I ever expected to have or even should have – and the best I can figure is that our daily (but imperfect) commitment to wisdom and understanding actually does work, just like these verses said they would.