The Personification of Wisdom in Proverbs 1:20-33

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A while ago, I was reading Proverbs 1 and noticed that Wisdom assumes a personification like she does later in the infamous chapter 8. I hadn’t realized that before or rather I was focused only on chapter 8, so when Jason posted on short post on Wisdom, Jesus and ‘She’, I thought that I should at least start the ball rolling again. Of course, this was in the middle of last year and updated again in September and I am just now getting around to it.

What strikes me about this passage, besides the Creative Agent/Attribute of God being feminine (compare with John 1.1-3) is the prophetic role which Wisdom occupies. In Reclaiming the Old Testament for Christian Preaching, Tremper Longman III writes of the constant call in the first section of the book between two women, Wisdom and Folly, while noting that it is the development of the person of Wisdom in Proverbs which transforms wisdom into a ‘theological idea.’ (p107) This idea, of course, if enjoined by other sources, such as the essential books of Wisdom and Sirach, into the Logos of John. Longman also suggests that it is the choice between Wisdom and Folly which is the author(s)’s allegory of choosing between God and false idols, a definite prophetic hue. I would go on to note that while Wisdom is personified, the other woman remains only as a literary, or allegorical, protagonist although in many ways, she is the forerunner of John’s Whore of Babylon.

While some may note that John used the Wisdom Literature to interpret Christ thereby (to which I utter a loud academic and theological, duh to), what is also interesting is that in both sections of Proverbs in which Wisdom is easily seen as personified, it gives the over all impression that Wisdom is the agent which draws humanity to God through a prophetic call to understanding. Of course, some cannot separate interpretation of and creation from but that is generally understood to be the domain of those who know the woman Folly intimately.

20 Wisdom shouts in the streets. She cries out in the public square.

21 She calls to the crowds along the main street, to those gathered in front of the city gate:

22 “How long, you simpletons, will you insist on being simpleminded? How long will you mockers relish your mocking? How long will you fools hate knowledge?

23 Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.

24 “I called you so often, but you wouldn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention.

25 You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered.

26 So I will laugh when you are in trouble! I will mock you when disaster overtakes you–

27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone, and anguish and distress overwhelm you.

28 “When they cry for help, I will not answer. Though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me.

29 For they hated knowledge and chose not to fear the LORD.

30 They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them.

31 Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way, choking on their own schemes.

32 For simpletons turn away from me– to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency.

33 But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.”

(Pro 1:20-1 NLT)

20 Wisdom shouts in the street, She lifts her voice in the square;

21 At the head of the noisy streets she cries out; At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings:

22 “How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing And fools hate knowledge?

23 “Turn to my reproof, Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.

24 “Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention;

25 And you neglected all my counsel And did not want my reproof;

26 I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes,

27 When your dread comes like a storm And your calamity comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you.

28 “Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me,

29 Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD.

30 “They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof.

31 “So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way And be satiated with their own devices.

32 “For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them.

33 “But he who listens to me shall live securely And will be at ease from the dread of evil.”

(Pro 1:20-33 NASB)

I can see several prophetic hues in this section which, at least to me, places the Person of Wisdom as God’s prophet.

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Post By Joel L. Watts (10,153 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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10 thoughts on “The Personification of Wisdom in Proverbs 1:20-33

  1. “Of course, some cannot separate interpretation OF and creation FROM”

    Without some very good independent verification, why should we? We have nothing speaking of Jesus as a historical figure other than the gospels and things dependent on the gospels. Tacitus is dependent on the gospels, seeing he knows nothing except that a man named Christ started the sect. That’s not what he read in some official document of the crucifixion. He got his info from Christians on the street and they got theirs from the gospels. How do you know that you aren’t the one who has it backwards? That it is creation FROM and not interpretation OF?

  2. “I can see several prophetic hues in this section which, at least to me, places the Person of Wisdom as God’s prophet.”

    Really? You aren’t literate enough to see Personification of the concept of Wisdom? Wow. You might as well be a Muslim as be a Christian. I’m sure they see Mohammed here. But what of the necessity of the femine gender? Is your prophet, whether Mohammed of Jesus, a woman? why is it female? especially when good king Paul says women are not allowed to teach!!!

    • First question – Um, what? As I said, I can easily easy that Wisdom is personified. Duh. Not sure about your craziness about being a Muslim.

      Paul actually didn’t say that. Further, you miss the point of the entire article. Your previous comments on this forum have been welcomed, and enjoyable, but these? Not sure while left field they came out of…

  3. When you say “Paul actually didn’t say that” what do you mean? If the argument is that Timothy is deutero-Pauline and not authentically from Paul, then may I suggest that any attempt to turn Sophia or Chakmah into Jesus or any other man is also inauthentic and deutero-something. If the argument is that “I do not allow a woman to teach” doesn’t mean that he doesn’t allow a woman to teach, well…I’ll leave you to it.

  4. The context is that Paul says since Adam was made first and was not deceived but the woman was made second and was deceived, therefore women are not allowed to teach. Nevertheless, he says, they will be saved if they bear children that remain faithful. There is nothing in the context to limit or explain away what he says. He clearly views women as incapable of teaching due to some systemic flaw in the female nature that makes them more deceivable than men, and on top of that they can’t be saved by faith alone like men can but they are so bad they can only be saved by childbearing if their children remain faithful.

    • I would disagree, and note that context is not woodenly literal words but what is going on off the page. Further, note that the translation is now criticized and is being explored differently.

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