Wise and Foolish Women
Wayne C | March 9, 2023
The ninth chapter of the Book of Proverbs is a short, fascinating chapter. Proverbs 9 is about wisdom and foolishness personified as women.
In the first few verses (vv.1-6), wisdom is personified as a woman who offers herself to the naive (simple) and those lacking understanding. She has built her house with seven pillars (probably indicating perfect, complete safety and protection -- the number 7 having its usual significance of "completeness" in Jewish literature.). She offers a banquet of meat, mixed wine and bread (vv.2, 5). (The mixed wine is possibly a reference to diluted wine used by the Jews. 1 part wine/grape juice to 3 parts water.) Wisdom's offer can fulfill and satisfy men's true needs.
While wisdom has been busy, the foolish woman "sits" (vv.13-14). The foolish woman also offers what she has to the simple and those lacking understanding. What she offers, however, is "stolen water" and "bread eaten in secret" (v.17). The water is said to be "sweet" and the bread "pleasant."
The woman seems to indicate that things are better when acquired illegally. A true feast of palatable and nutritious food -- or some stolen bread and water? Morality is not a concern for the foolish. Instant gratification and the easy way are what entice those who reject the high road.
The two middle, and seemingly unrelated, sections of Proverbs nine are worth noting (vv.7-12). Verses seven and eight discourage one from offering wisdom/correction to the scoffer and the wicked. Many well-meaning Christians ignore this advice to their own harm. They may insist on continuing to try to reason with the unreasonable. In a passage with a similar message, the apostle Paul says, "Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned" (Titus 3:10-11). Jesus said that we should not cast our "pearls before swine" (Matt.7:6).
Where the scoffer will hate you for correcting him, the wise man will love you (vv.8-9). The wise man values correction and instruction because he desires to do better -- even when it requires going against what comes naturally. This is not merely a pious platitude. Those who love truth recognize the damage of believing and following the path of foolishness.
The destination of that path is identified in this chapter. The last verses describing the two "women," make clear the consequences of following each of the paths. The wise woman says, "Forsake foolishness and live. And go in the way of understanding" (v.6). By contrast, the consequence of following the foolish woman is revealed in verse 18. The one who is lured by her, "does not know that the dead are there. That her guests are in the depths of hell (the grave)."
As is the case throughout the Book of Proverbs, long life is promised to the ones who follow wisdom: "By me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you" (v.11). We must remember -- these are proverbs, not prophecies. If one lives by the teachings of the Lord, he increases the chances that he will have a more peaceful and a longer life. Salvation and hope is found only in Jesus who is "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). He makes an offer similar to that of wisdom's offer: "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matt.11:28-30).
Proverbs 9:12 says, "If you are wise, you are wise for yourself (for your own benefit), and if you scoff, you alone will bear it" (you are the one who will suffer for it).
Many will choose the way of foolishness, and will suffer for that choice (Matt.7:13-14). May we be among the few who choose wisely.