Saturday, October 9, 2010

Proverbs 9 – Two Very Contrastive “Feasts”

“Come, eat my bread

and drink the wine I have mixed.

Lay aside immaturity, and live,

and walk in the way of insight.”

~Proverbs 9:5-6 (NRSV).

Perhaps this chapter can be seen as a logical end point to the introduction of Proverbs. Both Woman Wisdom (verses 1-6) and Woman Folly (verses 13-18) are given their last positions on the stand, beseeching in their own ways for the allegiance of the listening public. In between these two speeches lays some general maxims that seem awkwardly complementary.

Wisdom’s Speech

As the first four verses of Proverbs 9 are read we get the distinct impression that Wisdom has prepared herself for us and for our presence with her. Much thought and planning has gone into this feast she has laid out before us.

Wisdom in real life is just the same. It’s not caught short. It’s known to be appropriately attired for the time and circumstance it attends itself to—which is the ever present moment.

And though Wisdom calls out to the “simple” and those “without sense” she, in fact, calls to us all—every last one. Not that we’re insulted with the use of tribal language. The fact remains that those choosing to go Wisdom’s way and not Folly’s will have acceded to Wisdom—they know they have room to mature.

They know the process of maturation will not complete itself until the final day.

Folly’s Speech

Now, let us hear with an impartial ear what Folly has to say. It is with godly humility that we take everything on face value; but with a prayer for wisdom to hear straight.

So, as we ready ourselves we’re then shocked and appalled as soon as she opens her vile mouth. She is “loud... ignorant and knows nothing” (verse 13).

This woman is the very essence of poverty in every meaningful sense. She’s not prepared a scrap for she’s too intent on minding others’ business for them. She has taken the easy way out and she is bent on tantalising wannabes into her ‘palace of destruction’. And whoever does go there reaps destruction.

The General Maxims – Proverbs 9:7-12

The placement, arrangement and location of these proverbs have bewildered many. They do not seem to fit well between these two heavily contrastive speeches.

Perhaps this section of Proverbs fulfils the function of an echo to Wisdom’s depth—knowing now the inherent shallowness of Folly.

These six proverbs cooperate to form quite pungent a warning for those looking each way; to Wisdom and then to Folly. This is the jury weighing the consequences of going with either.

The End Reminds Us of the Beginning

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,

and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

~Proverbs 9:10 (NRSV).

As we commenced proceedings in the Prologue (Proverbs 1:1-7), which called attention to the fear of the Lord, we finish the introduction to Proverbs.

There is no wiser investment in the whole of life than to install this beauty, which is the right-sized fear of the Lord—in and through us. Staged as a feast, Wisdom is fulfilling and generous, fuelling us for life. Let the feasting begin and ever continue!

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

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