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The Poetry of Wisdom

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“Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you desire cannot be compared with her.” ~Proverbs 8:10-11

There is just a little more overview of the first nine chapters that I wanted to take note of before I go on into considering specific verses….

1) Note that this instruction is written as poetry. It is beautiful in form and delightful to the ear, even in the English translation, and thus addresses the whole heart of a person. This thread of delighting in beauty, together with the assumption of the very real value of physical beauty, is a theme woven throughout this entire book.

2) Note that this teaching is conveyed verbally – it is doctrine – even though it is lovely in its linguistic form. There are multiple layers of the literature to appreciate and learn from; for the first nine chapters are filled with repeated word-figures and illustrations, each building upon one another in both form and content. Yet, the harmony and beauty of the poetry does not mask the profound truths being taught as the foundation for all of life and as the groundwork and wellspring of a wise man’s thinking.

3) Note also how in this book of Solomon draws upon the Shema Israel as well as on the Decalogue throughout. His instruction is based upon the Lord’s character and his law, as he expounds on these things, applying them very practically for many various settings and occasions.

4) Note as well how it goes back to Genesis, sourcing wisdom in God and setting it contrary to death. Allusions to Eden and outright references to God’s creation of the world are prominent in this first section of the book of Proverbs. Even though Folly and Wisdom are not described as being directly at war with one another in these passages, it is made clear that the attainment of wisdom is a matter of life and death.

5) Note that the personifications of Wisdom and of Folly are both women – women who are presented as inviting the attentions of the youth to whom this book of instruction is addressed in very different manners. In this, there is no conflict set up between men and women and there is no disparaging of either men’s or women’s ability and duty to gain wisdom. In a way, by the use of this illustration as wisdom personified as a woman, the idea is conveyed that Wisdom is the woman that the youth must win in order to become a mature man. She is to be as the wife of his bosom to him, his constant companion – and she, in turn, will be his guard from the woman Folly, whose ways lead to death.

6) Note that what is contained in this book is what Solomon wanted his son to know. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, wanted to pass down to his son this framework of understanding, this paradigm upon life. He had much wisdom, understanding, and insight – and, of all of it, this very practical book is what he wanted to give to his son as his inheritance from his father. He wanted his son to perceive and interpret the world as he did – hence, the writing of this book for instruction. This is no generic series of wise sayings – rather, it is the fruit of a multi-generational perspective of wisdom and understanding, completely devoid of the elements of peer-segregation and pop culture. Indeed, when peer-segregation is even perhaps alluded to, it is always with a negative connotation.

All in all, I think there is much to learn from in the book of Proverbs, even beyond a consideration of the wise sayings and proverbial statements themselves, as useful as that in itself is. For these must be understood within the Biblical framework of thought provided in the first several chapters if they are to be fully understood and applied aright to the heart of an individual. Practical understanding and prudence is worth a very great deal – but the fuller knowledge, understanding, and insight of wisdom is grounded in the wellspring of faith.

“…to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.” ~Colossians 2:2-4

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” ~Hebrews 11:1-3

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