Chapter 8: Commentary

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 seen regularly in Proverbs, here in verse 1, wisdom and understanding are paired together (2:2, 6; 3:13, 19; 4:5, 7; 7:4; 8:1; 9:10; 16:16; 19:8; 24:3). With wisdom being the key concept in Proverbs, it appears that a connection with wisdom naturally leads to connecting with understanding, as well. Defining wisdom as "seeing life from God's point of view" and understanding as "realizing how right choices lead to a meaningful life" (see note on 1:2), they are an unstoppable pair to making a meaningful life for anyone.
      These two are seen yelling ("call out" and "raise her voice") at key locations around an ancient city ("on the heights along the way," "where the paths meet" and "beside the gates leading into the city"). Since Israelite cities had no temples (only Jerusalem) or synagogues (not yet in existence) in Solomon's time, these would be the best places to get the attention of the most people (see also 1:20-21).
      These verses indicate wisdom and understanding are out in public, totally accessible and available and actively seeking to develop a relationship with any and all who will pay attention! We don't have to be intellectuals, highly educated, rich, famous, powerful or know the right people to hook up with them. Wisdom and understanding are in the streets looking for us!
      What a thought. While we are familiar with immoral women out there in the streets calling to anyone who might be interested, these two great character qualities – personified as women – are also out there actively seeking anyone who might be interested.
      It happened to me! The only explanation to what all has happened in my life the past 3 decades can only be explained by the fact that wisdom and understanding are really available to anyone willing and ready to receive them.

8:4 "To you, O men, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.

8:5 You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, gain understanding.

     Wisdom and understanding are depicted as ladies in the street calling out to those passing by (:2-3), apparently with a particular focus on "men" (:4-5). While the image may seem inappropriate, the reality is that Lady Wisdom and Lady Understanding are out in public, assessable, and available to anyone who is interested in their assistance.
      While it may be true that us guys need a lot more help than girls do (!), the reason it reads this way is because this section of Proverbs is a series of messages from father to son – guy talk – thus these two character qualities are personified as ladies.
      Specifically, these two ladies call out to the "simple" (see 1:4) and "foolish" (see 1:7), two of the most frequently mentioned characters in Proverbs. These are not mentally deficient guys, just naïve about the ways of God. In East Baltimore, we would say they don't have a lot of "street smarts" - about spiritual things.
      These verses indicate that both ladies offer what they have and what they know best to those who would seem to need it the most. To the simple is "prudence" (a synonym of "wisdom") and to the fool is "understanding." And that all just translates into good old "spiritual street smarts!"
      Forest Gump's momma said, "Stupid is as stupid does!" But it doesn't have to stay that way!

8:6 Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right.

8:7 My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.

     This whole chapter is a message from Wisdom (personified in the feminine :1-3). In these two verses she tells us that what she has to say offers real value.
      Most of us don't really like anyone telling us to "listen," but that's exactly what Wisdom says here. My unwillingness to do so suggests that nothing will probably change in my life.
      Then Wisdom indicates that hers is a message of "trustworthy things to say." She will "speak what is right"..."what is true"... and that her "lips detest wickedness."
      Wisdom will talk to us honestly ("trustworthy"), saying "what is true"- like a really good friend would. Admittedly, I might not appreciate what I hear, but it will be for my own good...and, the fact is, I probably already know it's true!
      What Wisdom offers will also be "right," correct information. We can and should build our lives, careers and reputations on it.
      And these verses end with Wisdom pointing out that she won't lead us astray. She has no toleration for what is inappropriate ("my lips detest evil").
      Our working definition for Wisdom is "seeing life from God's point of view" and most of us would agree, at least in principle, that the ability to do so would be a game-changer!
      Actually this message sounds so good that I'd be a moron to not pay attention!

8:8 All the words of my mouth are just; none of them is crooked or perverse.

8:9 To the discerning all of them are right; they are upright to those who have found knowledge.

     The speaker of these words is Lady Wisdom - God's Wisdom personified as a woman (:1). Here she actually offers some insight on her own words.
      "All the words of her mouth are just," she says in the first verse. The idea being that wisdom always says "right" or "honest" things.
      In addition, "none of them is crooked or perverse." She'll never tell us anything that is "crooked" or "twisted!"
      Here, Wisdom says of her own words that she's a straight-shooter. She says what she means...and she means what she says!
      If Wisdom is "seeing life from God's point of view" - our definition - then we should be able to have confidence that this is true, that her words really will guide us in the way we should go.
      The second verse suggests that Wisdom's words work especially well for "the discerning" and "those who have found knowledge."
      So, for all of us who are willing to get with the program, what Wisdom offers is "right," "honest" and "accurate." Wisdom shows us the straight up truth and the straight forward way to go.
      Wouldn't it be great to get this kind of guidance every day? It's available!

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.

     At the beginning of the chapter, wisdom and understanding are connected together in typical Hebrew poetry (:1), and it is wisdom/understanding doing the talking in these verses (:10-11) they suggest that what they have to offer is better than any treasure, including silver, gold and rubies (see 3:15).
      The reason wisdom (and understanding) are better than these riches is because our connection with wisdom will actually bring along some level of silver, gold and rubies with it. But maybe even more important, wisdom not only helps us get this stuff, it also helps us keep, enjoy and even share it with others. Yet I am not suggesting that these verses promise to make us rich (or famous or important or powerful). At whatever level of having all this stuff we actually find ourselves (and most of us are a lot better off than we realize), these verses do suggest that I can live life seeing things as God sees them (wisdom) and realizing the relationship between right choices and a meaningful life. In the process (at least in our 21st century American culture) I will be able to get a nice little pile of stuff in the process. It is a pretty attractive way to live.

8:12 "I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion.

8:13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech

8:14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine; I have understanding and power.

     Lady Wisdom doesn't operate in a vacuum, but is the leading character on a team of wonderful qualities which help and empower people through life (:12-21). In verse 12, wisdom is associated with prudence, knowledge and discretion.
      Wisdom also reminds us that "to fear the LORD is to hate evil" (:13). The connection between wisdom and the fear of the LORD is frequent in Proverbs (see 9:10. 15:33). Here's the suggestion that hanging out with wisdom helps us fear the LORD; hate evil, pride, arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech. Wisdom will empower us over these attitudes and actions – and really help us become different people.
      Also, hanging with wisdom are counsel, sound judgment, understanding and power (:14). These three verses suggest wisdom has it all and can do whatever we need. What a great place to be hanging!

8:15 By me kings reign and rulers issue decrees that are just;

8:16 by me princes govern, and nobles – all who rule on earth.

     God has always intended for wisdom and rulers to work together. Wisdom can provide them everything they need to do a good job and to properly take care of the people under their authority ("issue decrees that are just").
      No leader can provide right leadership by themselves and Lady Wisdom has made it clear how accessible she is and that she can handle any issues that might pop up. This isn't rocket science – it doesn't matter who you are – just understand that you need my help and I will be there to do it for you.

8:17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.

     Lady Wisdom continues speaking in this verse. She addresses the benefits for anyone choosing to develop a relationship with her. Here, we see Wisdom's commitment to those committed to her. Interestingly, it is a statement of conditional love – not like God's unconditional love for us. She says if you love me and seek me, I will be there for you.
      But this conditional statement is in the context of the first section of the chapter (:1-11) where wisdom is outside in the public arena, calling out to any and all. Her message is especially addressed to those who need her most – the simple and foolish (:5).
      The reality is that wisdom is not a person, but a character quality that is totally available to us if we want it. And if we do, wisdom will absolutely show up and make a significant difference in our lives – see the next four verses (:18-21).

8:18 With me are riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity.

8:19 My fruit is better than fine gold; what I yield surpasses choice silver.

8:20 I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice,

8:21 bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me and making their treasuries full.

     Here Lady Wisdom points out that she brings some other pretty special things into our lives with her. While we can make a spiritual application for all these terms, Proverbs is talking about some measure of material wellbeing, as well.
      These verses indicate that "riches," "honor," "enduring wealth," "prosperity," things "better than fine gold" and "choice silver," "righteousness," "justice," "a rich inheritance" and "treasuries full" are what Lady Wisdom brings to the party. If there is any way we could believe this, it would be a no-brainer to "love" her (:21)!
      While I don't claim to be proficient at this, I have to say that I have more great stuff in my life – materially, relationally and spiritually – than I ever imagined would be part of my world. There is only one thing to which I can attribute it. I have imperfectly tried to be Honest, Open and Willing (HOW) before God one day at a time. It appears to me that this must fulfill Wisdom's directive ("love me"), because this has all happened for me.
      I am not a rich, famous, important or powerful guy – and don't ever expect to be! But I have a great life and more things and opportunities than I ever imagined. I'm down with this Wisdom stuff!

8:22 "The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old;

8:23 I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be.

8:24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water;

8:25 Before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth,

8:26 Before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth.

8:27 I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,

8:28 When he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,

8:29 When he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.

8:30 Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence,

8:31 Rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.

     Wisdom continues her discourse as a narrative poetic proverb in verses 22-31. Here, she suggests to those she is offering to help that she has been around a very long time and has been hanging in some pretty good company!
      This long narrative poem describes her presence at the Creation of the world. She was there at the beginning (:23) – even before the watery depths (:24) of Genesis 1:2.
      In these verses Wisdom does not claim to be the Creator. The LORD (:22) is doing the creating. Wisdom is just there for it all and, by extension, maybe even part of the process.

:24 When there were no watery depths, I was given birth, when there were no springs overflowing with water; 25 before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, 26 before he made the world or its fields or any of the dust of the earth.

     As part of the long narrative poem (:22-31), Lady Wisdom continues to offer her pedigree – going all the way back to the creation of the earth, itself. She was there before the waters in the depths of the earth (:24) or the mountains towering above the earth (:25). She was also there before He made the area between the two – the land surface of the earth when people lived (:26).
      Lady Wisdom has seen it all from the beginning. That suggests that she is in a position to offer some real insights, help and support to me in whatever I am going through.

:27 I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, 28 when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, 29 when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command,

     In juxtaposition to the ocean depths on earth (:24-26), Lady Wisdom was also present when the bounds of the heavens were set in place, too. It sounds like she's referring to the origin of the whole universe. These verses suggests that Lady Wisdom was there for all that, as well.
      I seems to me, since Wisdom was there for it all, that she would have had an active part of the process the LORD used to do the creating. If that is true – Wisdom was there and participating in the creation of the world and even the whole universe – then Wisdom can certainly help me with whatever puny little problems I'm struggling with today!

30 Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, 31 rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.

     Many have suggested that this section (:22-31) is a speaking about Jesus in the beginning, at Creation. While I understand why they think so, I would suggest the best way to understand the passage is that Jesus, himself, is the Creator. The spiritual quality of God's Wisdom was, of course, there and maybe even part of the process.

8:32 "Now then, my children, listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways.

8:33 Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not disregard it

     This is part of the final section (:32-36) in a chapter-long message from God's Wisdom. Personified as a lady (:1-3), Wisdom addresses us (:4) as "my children" and offers instructions - with great benefits.
      The overriding thought here is for us to listen - "listen to me...listen to my instruction." That's something many of us find hard to do!
      I can get so busy doing things or just be so sure about my own plans that slowing down to "listen" doesn't come easy. Maybe that's why Wisdom felt the need to say it twice!
      But with this instruction, Wisdom also points out the benefits of our listening - "blessed are those who keep my ways...and be wise" Blessings and wisdom are ours if we're willing to simply pay attention to what Wisdom is saying to us.
      But, in case we don't get the picture, she ends this thought with a warning - "do not disregard it." Yet, she doesn't say "...or else...!" like I would!
      The entire chapter is a positive message about who Wisdom is and the power Wisdom has to do good for us. But while there are benefits to hanging with Wisdom, we also need to know there are consequences if I decide to go my own way instead. I get to choose what I'm going to do about all this every day at a time. And it all starts with just "listening!"

8:34 Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway.

     Lady Wisdom finishes her chapter 8 message with this last section (:32-36). Based on all she says about herself and the wonderful promises she offers others in the chapter, she concludes by announcing a blessing. In the father-son context of this section of the book, she makes this offer to "the man who" is willing. Yet the concept is clearly for all!
      To receive the blessing, all we have to do is hang out with Wisdom and just "listen," "watch" and "wait" there with her.
      That is not a simple thing to do! We all spend way too much time running all over the place, trying to figure things out and make things happen. Wisdom says just chill out here with me "daily" – this is going to need to become a one-day-at-a-time operation. Most of us would rather she tell us to go and do something!
      For many of us, this verse is a true paradigm shift. We all want to be happy (one of the meanings of the word "blessed"). I am supposed to stop running around trying to make things happen and stop trying to figure everything out. I'm supposed to sit still, listen and wait and God's wisdom will give me exactly what I need and right on time.

8:35 For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord.

8:36 But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death."

     These are the last two verses of a long speech given by Lady Wisdom (:4-36). She has explained who she is (:6-21), where she's been (:22-31) and what she could do for any of us who want her help (:4-5, 32-36)
      Here she makes it clear that, while she is there and willing to help, we must want it and take the first step. "Those who find me" will benefit. They will "find life and receive favor from the LORD."
      "Life" and "favor from the LORD" sound like a pretty good place to be. Lady Wisdom says we can have it, if we will seek it
      But, the opposite is also true, if anyone "fail to find" Lady Wisdom they will only "harm themselves." Admittedly, I suppose it's possible that someone might try to find Wisdom but fail...yet, my guess is that they weren't looking for real Wisdom, just wanted what they wanted.
     At some point we simply must stop trying to run our own program! Most of us have enough experience to know that an unwillingness to go after God's Wisdom, will cost us. In fact, if we don't embrace Wisdom and all she has for us it could even kill us ("love death")!
     God has the most wonderful plan for each of our lives. We can access it all by accepting Wisdom as she really is - that is, learning to see life from God's point of view (our definition of wisdom).