Chapter 9: Commentary

The final chapter of the first section of Proverbs, this is a chapter of comparisons and contrasts, focusing on the contrast between wisdom and folly. Both are personified as ladies, as the father has done all through this first section of Proverbs.

Lady Wisdom (:1-12) is mentioned as having a house with seven hewn pillars (:1). From archaeology we know this building.

It was the standard Israelite house plan beginning in Solomon's time and lasting all the way to the Exile. Like Lady Wisdom's house, these houses were also built with pillars, but usually in symmetrical rows.

So the number seven here is symbolic, suggesting completion or perfection. In this house – "perfect" in every way – Lady Wisdom prepares a banquet meal (:2).

There should be no doubt that hers would also be a perfect banquet. Then, Lady Wisdom sends out her maidens to invite the "perfect" guests (:3) for her perfect banquet at her perfect house.

The invitation goes out from the highest point of the city (:3), suggesting it is announced for all to hear. The guests who receive this "perfect" invitation (:4-6) are a specific group.

Lady Wisdom wants "those who are simple and lack judgment" (:4) – or, at least, the ones willing to admit that's who they are! Just come to my house and partake of what I have here. You won't leave the same person you were when you arrived (:5-6).

Verses 7-12 offer additional proverbial insights and instruction. Those who hang with Lady Wisdom will really learn how to live!

Now meet Lady Folly (:13- 18), who also has a house (:14). She, too, calls out from the highest place in the city (:14-15).

No surprise, Lady Folly invites the exact same guests – "those who are simple and lack judgment" (:16). She also offers a "meal" – stolen waters and food eaten in secret (:17).

The final commentary on her is the last verse of the chapter. Her guests have no idea that her place is where the dead stay and that her guests are in the depths of the grave (:18).

Helping Up Mission guys know Lady Folly's house and realize they're fortunate to have escaped alive! They also know they have a standing invitation to Lady Wisdom's house.

You're invited, too! Every day…one day at a time!

9:1 Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars.

9:2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table.

9:3 She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city.

9:4 "Let all who are simple come to my house!" To those who have no sense she says,

9:5 "Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed.

9:6 Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of insight."

     First is Lady Wisdom (:1-12) who has built a house with 7 hewn pillars (:1). Of course, the idea here is not that a female actually did the construction here – clearing and levelling the ground surface to create the house floor; gathering stones and working the stones for her foundation; collecting the mud, creating and constructing the sundried mudbrick of her exterior house walls; hewing out of bedrock 7 substantial pillars and setting them in the floor plan of the house; cutting, preparing and setting the timber roof beams; mixing and then applying the waddle and daub roof material. Instead, it was wisdom that offered to the builders of this house all the skills and plans necessary to construct this house.
      The poetic concept of this verse is that wisdom can make a perfect house and father explains wisdom to his son in terms of a good woman. In this house – "perfect" in every way – Lady Wisdom prepares a banquet meal (:2) of "meat" and "mixed wine" (that is diluted with water to an appropriate porportion). There should be no doubt that her banquet would also be "perfect" in every way.
      Then, Lady Wisdom sends "her maidens" to "the highest point of the city" – suggesting it is announced in public for all to hear. In particular, the message is to "all who are simple" and "those who have no sense" (lack judgment) – or at least those who admit that's who they are.
      For the record, these are not mentally deficient people. Instead they would be understood as not having a good understanding of the will and ways of God. In East Baltimore, they would be understood as not having "spiritual street smarts!" These are Lady Wisdom's "perfect guests" invited to her "perfect banquet" at her "perfect house."
      Lady Wisdom has already perfectly "set the table" – done everything necessary – to help someone succeed in life. She offers a place for to go and be ok. She has also prepared a wonderful meal.
      Of course, this a poetic way to present that God's wisdom can hook us up and set us up for hope, answers and supernatural empowerment in our lives. Whatever we would need is accessible and readily available at just the right time.
      That has all been prepared by God for us – a done deal (see Jere 29:11)! All we have to do is admit we need it (:4; Step 1), believe it is really possible and available (:1-3; Step 2) and then chose to go and access it (:5-6; Step 3).

9:1 Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars.

     Here, once again wisdom is personified as a lady and Lady Wisdom has a house with 7 hewn pillars (:1). From archaeology we understand what he is talking about. Her pillars were not standing in a row on the front porch of an antebellum southern mansion, instead they were standing in 2 rows holding up the second floor of a typical Israelite house and creating a series of 3 rooms between them (in archaeology we refer to this as a pillared 4-room house plan). While the number of pillars in each row was usually equal, the number 7 would be symbolic and suggest completion or perfection (God's number). The idea would be that Lady Wisdom has the "perfect" house, totally equipped in every way.
      The verse also notes these were hewn – stone carved – pillars. That would make the house solid and stable, certainly capable of holding up a second story, as well. While many such houses might have had just wooden posts for pillars, this house is strong, solid, secure and expensive(!) with these stone quarried pillars.
      The verse notes Lady Wisdom actually built her house, herself. There should be no doubt that Wisdom knows how to build and furnish a house right! And best of all, as the following verses indicate, this solid, stable, and secure house (with 7 stone-cut pillars) that is totally equipped in every way, is made available by Lady Wisdom for any and all who would like to come and stay!
      A final thought about her house. It will not necessarily be someone's "dream house." It would not a palace covered in gold and filled with every imaginable gadget and plaything. But it would have everything we need and would be totally adequate for our daily lives.
      Many of us are very blessed and already have so much. In most cases, we are already thoroughly equipped to have a great life - we just need to realize it and embrace it! Lady Wisdom can help us with that, too.

9:2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table.

     This chapter begins with a discussion about Lady Wisdom. It is Solomon's way of explaining God's wisdom to his son - understand and treat wisdom like you would a good godly woman.
      So the chapter discusses all she has at her disposal and how she is willing to share it all with those who could use it. This verse describes a banquet meal she offers.
      In her home (:1) she "set her table" for this special meal she has planned with some unique and specifically invited guests (:3-5). For the banquet she "prepared her meat and mixed her wine" – food and drink for their nourishment.
      Lady Wisdom is seen here as someone who can offer us anything we might need – not, of course, anything we might want. She is also seen as very willing to make it available to us.
      But, in order to experience any of it, we have to admit we need the help. We must also recognize that God's Wisdom can and will provide all we really need. Finally, we just simple receive it for ourselves.
      This whole concept is the basis of Steps 1, 2 and 3 of the 12 Steps. They say it this way: I Can't (Step 1); He Can (Step 2); So Let Him (Step 3). God made it that simple, so most of us could actually get it!

9:3 She has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point of the city

     Frequently mentioned in Proverbs, here God's wisdom is personified as a woman. This chapter discusses Lady Wisdom who has built a nice house (:1) and prepared a good meal (:2).
      In our verse, it's time to eat and "she has sent out her servants" to invite the guests. At her house, Lady Wisdom has everything anyone might need - and that including enough servants to handle anything that needs to be done.
      Yet she also goes to "the highest point of the city" - where most of the city could see and hear her - and extends the invitation herself. Wisdom puts her offer out there for any and all to hear.
      This little verse is not very profound, but is part of a longer narrative about Lady Wisdom (:1-6). It suggests that Wisdom is willing to share with those who are in need - and willing to say so (:4-5) - all the abundant resources she has at her disposal in her house.
      Our definition of Wisdom is "seeing life from God's point of view." It would be so beneficial for many of us if we could just get comfortable with hanging out around Lady Wisdom - because God's Wisdom really does offer to all of us anything we need.
      Our verse makes it clear, I don't have to go to college for years or sit in church every day to get wisdom - although neither would hurt! I just have to admit that I'm in need and accept God's daily offer to me!

9:4 "Let all who are simple come in here!" she says to those who lack judgment.

     In 9:4, Lady Wisdom sends her maids out to specifically invite the "the simple" and "those who lack judgment" to her house for a banquet she had prepared. An interesting picture, Wisdom makes an offer to those who know her least to come and dine at her house and receive all the benefits she has available

9:5 "Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed.

9:6 Leave your simple ways and you will live, walk in the way of insight."

     Once again, God's Wisdom is personified as a Lady and she is the focus of the first half of this chapter. These two verses are her words specifically directed to "the simple" and "those who have no sense" (:4).
      She has invited them to a special banquet (:2) at her house (:1). Here she said, "Come, eat...drink" of what she had prepared for them. In doing so, she also invites them to "leave your simple ways" and "walk in the way of insight."
      Wisdom has the resources to provide for us and help us through life. God's Wisdom will help us with our physical needs - like food and shelter here.
      But, what Wisdom really offers in these verses is the chance to change as a person - on the inside. "The simple" and "those who have no sense" can change if they want to.
      They can choose to "leave their simple ways and live" and start "walking in the way of insight."
      Because Wisdom is the ability to "see life from God's point of view," She really can make a difference in our lives. Wisdom enables us to see things differently, think differently, feel differently and act differently.
      And that changes everything!

9:7 "Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.

9:8 Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you.

9:9 Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.

     Verses 7-9 are spoken by Lady Wisdom and she offers suggestions about how to address certain characters – good and bad – and the consequences of interaction with each one.
      Verse 7 speaks about trying to address issues with a mocker or a wicked man – trying to address either one will not lead to anything positive. Both will just respond to correction and rebuke with insults or abuse. Better to just say nothing!
      Verse 8 says to not rebuke a mocker, again noting the futility of such efforts. These verses are sort of proverbial forerunners of Jesus' statement to not cast pearls before swine. If we are going to try and correct these guys, just know it will not go well.
      Verses 8-9 talk about a wise and a righteous man. Rebuking a wise man will bring a totally opposite response – he will appreciate your efforts (love you and become wiser). Instruction/discipline of a righteous man is also a good investment of my time because he will benefit from it. One of the great truths of Proverbs is that sometimes we need to speak up and sometimes it is better to just shut up. The key is just to know with whom we are dealing.

9:10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding."

9:11 For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.

9:12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.

     The fear of the LORD" was one of the first concepts introduced in Proverbs (1:7). There it was stated to be the beginning of knowledge, here it is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the LORD is such an important concept and is foundational to both good theology and a meaningful daily life. If we can get that concept straight in our thinking and actions, it will empower make a major difference in our lives.
      "The fear the LORD" is generally understood as not being scared of God (although a bit of that is also appropriate) but an attitude of "reverence." At its basic element, "the fear of the LORD" is the ability to see and appreciate God as He really is – all His moral attributes (love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, patience, justice, and righteousness) and His non-moral attributes (the "omnis" and immutability). When we see God as He really is, we will recognize how awesomely wonderful and great He really is and that will begin to make an impact on how I live.
      Typical of the parallelism of Hebrew poetry, this verse parallels "the fear of the LORD" and "knowledge of the Holy One," as well as parallel "wisdom" and "understanding." "Knowledge of the Holy One" is not as prominent a phrase, but it carries the same idea – when we really see and understand God, it will make a difference in our lives.
11 For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.
      Here Lady Wisdom notes the benefit of connecting with her – long life. Admittedly, I don't think this is an ironclad promise – that wise people never die young – but it teaches the truth that wisdom helps us put people, places and things in perspective. That sets us up for a longer and more meaningful life.
12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer." Life with wisdom is not just to be longer, it will also be much fuller, richer and more meaningful. Addressing the wise in this verse, Lady Wisdom says their connection to her really makes a difference ("reward"). If that is not your experience, you need to talk with someone who understands this – because Jesus came to offer us all "life to the full" (Jn 10:10).
      Lady Wisdom also addresses the mocker (see :7-9) in this verse - not open or interested in what wisdom offers. There is a well-known quote from the Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text: "There is one thing more than anything else that will defeat us in our recovery: this is an attitude of indifference or intolerance toward spiritual principles."
      This describes the mocker and this truth applies to anyone – chemicals or not. The mocker will have no one to blame, but himself, for what happens as a result of his choices.

9:13 Folly is an unruly woman; she is simple and knows nothing.

     There are two ladies discussed in this chapter - Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly. It is clear that everything Lady Wisdom is and stands for (:1-9), Lady Folly is not (:13-18). By definition, folly - being a "fool" - is one who does not have God in the equation for decision-making in her life (Psalms 14:1).
      While it is understood she would not be a nice lady, this verse says three things about her. She is "unruly," "simple," and "knows nothing." "Unruly" with both God and other people, she will consistently do things her way. Folly is also "simple," which doesn't mean stupid. Instead, without God in the picture, she continually makes impulsive, uninformed decisions that will hurt her.
      She also "knows nothing" about how to really enjoy life as God intended for us. This is a sad case – but it is so true about so many of us today. Maybe even more tragic is that this lady is going to take others with her!

9:14 She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city,

9:15 Calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way,

     This chapter discusses two different characters - the female personifications of wisdom and folly (foolishness). Lady Wisdom is described in verses 1-12 and Lady Folly beginning in verse 13.
      This "simple," "unruly" and foolish woman who "knows nothing" (:13) is seen here sitting "at the door of her house" and/or "on a seat at the highest point of the city." The first represents her private domain where she invites people to come.
      The second is in public where she is "calling to those who pass by, who go straight on their way." Lady Folly particularly encourages those with the greatest need (:16) to participate in what she offers (:17) - and, of course, live with the consequences of such a choice (:18).
     Admittedly, it doesn't seem to me that what Lady Folly is offering "(:17; "stolen water" and "food eaten in secret") would be very appealing to anyone. Yet, in an honest moment, most all of us would admit we gave in to and committed ourselves to something equally absurd.
     It's just really important that we learn to stop and take the time to look at and think through what is before us. We might even need to get some good advice, too.
     We don't ever have to settle for such lousy "Lady Folly" choices again. Even second-best isn't necessary anymore.
     Even better, we can experience all the benefits of hanging out with and Lady Wisdom. Good days ahead!

9:16 "Let all who are simple come in here!" she says to those who lack judgment.

     This verse is part of an extended poetic wise saying. Here Lady Folly (or the Foolish Woman; see :13) invites to her house for a meal the same people Lady Wisdom invited earlier in the chapter - the Hebrew text of 9:16 is identical to 9:4.
      The message here is very clear. Both Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly are out there in the streets and they are both talking to the same guys – "all who are simple" and "those who lack judgment." They both invite these same guests to come to their homes and dine.
      But the motivations of these two ladies is diametrically opposite, as is the end result for their guests. These who have been invited have the opportunity to choose which way they want to go.
      Both Wisdom and Folly regularly offer an invitation for us to visit them, as well. We have to make the same decision as the folks in this chapter.
      And the reality is - we have to make such choices every single day. So, just for today, which lady are you going to hang with?!?!

9:17 "Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!"

     This verse is a direct quote from Lady Folly. The banquet she invites the "simple" and "those who lack judgment" consists of stolen water and secret food. It doesn't sound nearly as appealing as the banquet offered by Lady Wisdom (:2, 5).
      But there is something in her offer that most of us can honestly say that we understand to be true. Stolen water is sweet – it really is fun to sneak around and get away with something. There is a huge rush when we do things in secret and get away with it. Most of us have experienced this part of life.
      But, as adults, we should also outgrow this type of childish thinking. Many proverbs note we can't steal and sneak around forever. We will get caught and there will be a price to pay.
      Sadly, many of us don't count that cost until it is too late. The price we – or even worse, our loved ones – pay for our choices is just too high. If it hasn't already cost us our lives, that's when many of us finally decide to hang out with Lady Wisdom and partake of what she offers, instead.

9:18 But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave.

     The guy who goes to the Foolish Woman's house thinks it will be a great time. He has great expectations – but he has no idea where it will all lead because he really isn't thinking beyond the moment. This kind of thinking can get a guy killed!
      The truth is that those who visited her previously would not give glowing testimonials about their experience. Their time at her house cost them everything, even their lives. There are benefits to good decision (visiting Lady Wisdom in verses 1-6) and there are consequences for bad ones – like this visit. Such choices are daily decisions, but they can have long term, even eternal, effects. So it is not surprising that this is the fourth time that Solomon suggests connecting with the immoral woman leads to death and hell (2:18-19; 5:5; 7:26-27).