Proverbs 8

Proverbs 8 portrays wisdom as a woman who calls people to learn her ways and find life. In this video, we ask, Whose wisdom do we choose to live by?

Visual Commentaries May 4, 2021
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Introduction [00:00-00:40]

Tim: In the story of the Bible, God creates the world by carving order out of disorder and darkness.

Jon: Like an artist, creating a place where life can flourish.

Tim: Right! And still today, God’s ordering power is at work, preventing the cosmos from slipping back into chaos and nothingness.

Jon: And in the Bible, humanity has a key role to play in this ordering work.

Tim: But to partner with God in that ongoing ordering of the cosmos, we need to be mentored by Lady Wisdom.

Jon: Lady Wisdom? Who’s that?

Tim: Let’s find out in Proverbs chapter 8.

Proverbs’ Cast of Characters [00:41-01:35]

Jon: So within the Hebrew Bible, there’s a scroll called Proverbs. It’s about gaining wisdom.

Tim: And while most of the scroll is a collection of short proverbs, it first begins with nine chapters of speeches in which we meet a cast of symbolic characters.

Jon: There’s the wise fatherly king and a woman named Lady Wisdom.

Tim: And they’re offering divine wisdom that leads to stability and life.

Jon: There is also a wicked man and a wily woman called Lady Folly.

Tim: And their way of life is attractive, but it leads to disorder and death.

Jon: Okay, so these speeches force you to make a choice. Whose advice will you listen to?

Tim: Right. These contrasting couples are like poetic symbols of the many voices out there telling us how to be human. And in Proverbs, they’re all competing for the attention of you, the reader, who is referred to throughout as “my son.”

Jon: Got it.

Lady Wisdom at the Gates [01:36-02:13]

Tim: Now, all these speeches can be grouped into three main sections. And for now, we’re going to focus on Proverbs chapter 8. It’s a long speech from this majestic woman.

Jon: Lady Wisdom!

Tim: She is God’s wisdom personified. And she stands at a crossroads on a tall hill, inviting you to enter into God’s sacred city.

Jon: Doesn’t wisdom cry out and understanding raise her voice?

At the road’s high point, at the crossroads she stands.

Beside the gates going into the city, at the entrance, she shouts.1

Tim: And then Lady Wisdom begins her speech which has four main parts.

The Value of Wisdom [02:14-02:52]

Tim: In the first part, Wisdom declares her value.

Lady Wisdom: Choose my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than pure gold.

For wisdom is more precious than pearls, and nothing you desire compares with her.2

Tim: So living by God’s wisdom can lead to the most valuable things in life: healthy relationships, moral integrity, a stable, fruitful life.

Jon: You can’t buy those things with money.

Tim: Right, and in the third part of her speech, she repeats this same idea.

Lady Wisdom: Wealth and honor are with me, enduring abundance and justice.

My fruit is better than pure gold, and what I offer surpasses silver.3

Wisdom in Just Leadership [02:53-03:57]

Tim: Now, let’s back up to the second part of her speech where we learn that God’s wisdom is very practical. In fact, humans depend upon it every day whether they know it or not.

Lady Wisdom: Through me kings reign, and rulers issue decrees that are just;

Through me, princes rule, and nobles, all who rule with justice.4

Tim: Now that phrase “issue decrees” comes from the Hebrew word khaqaq. It means literally “to carve or engrave.” It refers to how ancient kings would carve laws of justice onto tablets.

Jon: So a good leader confronts disorder and injustice by creating laws that are just. And when they do so, they’re drawing on God’s wisdom.

Tim: Right. Wise leaders become images of the God who also creates by his decrees, carving order out of chaos. But God’s decrees aren’t written on tablets. Rather, they’re woven into the fabric of creation itself. In fact, that’s what the final part of Lady Wisdom’s speech is all about. She claims that she was there with God in the beginning.

Wisdom with God in Creation [03:58-05:23]

Lady Wisdom: Yahweh brought me forth as the firstborn of his way, before his deeds of old;

In the remote past I was formed, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the land.5

Tim: Now watch. She’s going to repeat that Hebrew word khaqaq to describe how God carved order into the world.

Lady Wisdom: When he established the skies, I was there.

When he carved a horizon on the face of the deep waters6

Tim: Here, God is splitting the dark chaotic waters in half, making the waters above and below.

Lady Wisdom: And he carved a boundary for the sea, so the waters don’t cross his command.7

Tim: This is God creating the boundary of the dry land, holding back the sea so humans can flourish in peace.

Lady Wisdom: When he carved the foundations of the land, I was there.8

Tim: The biblical authors imagined that the dry land was supported by pillars below to keep it from sinking back into the chaotic sea.

Jon: So this is the three-tiered cosmos that’s described all over the Bible.9

Tim: Right. It’s how the Israelites and all their ancient neighbors imagined the world. And notice, the dry land is sustained and protected from the surrounding chaos only by God’s wise carving abilities.

Jon: That’s beautiful.

Tim: It is. And it’s worth celebrating, like Lady Wisdom says.

Lady Wisdom: I was beside him, growing up.

and I was his daily delight, celebrating before him the entire time;

celebrating the inhabited world of the land, delighting in human beings!10

Humanity’s Choice with Wisdom [05:24-06:43]

Jon: God’s wisdom delights in the ordered universe and also in humanity.

Tim: Yes because humans are the image of God, called to live by divine wisdom as they carve out their own little spots here in his world.

Jon: But humans often reject God’s wisdom, doing what’s right in our own eyes.

Tim: And in the Bible, that’s how humans drag creation back into chaos and darkness. It’s only when we live by God’s wisdom that we join his project of ordering the world, creating space and communities where all of God’s creatures can flourish in peace. Or, as Lady Wisdom puts it at the conclusion of her speech:

Lady Wisdom: The one who finds me, find life and receives favor from Yahweh;

But the one who forfeits me, hurts themselves.

Those who hate me, love death.11

Tim: So every day, Lady Wisdom presents us with a choice. Will I live by God’s wisdom and contribute order, beauty, and justice to the world?

Jon: Or am I going to live selfishly by my own wisdom and pull creation back into the chaos from which it came?

Tim: That’s the decision that lay before humans throughout the story of the Bible and still today. Which way will you choose? Lady Wisdom is waiting for our answer.

1. Proverbs 8:1-3
2. Proverbs 8:10-11
3. Proverbs 8:18-19
4. Proverbs 8:18-19
5. Proverbs 8:22-23
6. Proverbs 8:27
7. Proverbs 8:29
8. Proverbs 8:29
9. Genesis 1
10. Proverbs 8:30-31
11. Proverbs 8:35:36
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