Proverbs 9

Wisdom has built her house;
she has carved out its seven pillars.
Wisdom is personified as a wise woman. She has prepared a house and established it on seven pillars. This is a reference to the habitable world (e.g., 8:31). For the equation of the house and the world, e.g., 8:29; Job 38:6; and Psalm 104:5 (also G. Boström, Proverbiastudien [LUÅ], 1–14). The “seven pillars” have been variously interpreted, but since seven is a number for completeness and sacredness, the idea seems to be that wisdom produced a perfect world.

She has prepared her meat,
Heb “she has killed her killing.” Cf. KJV “hath killed her beasts”; NAB “has dressed her meat”; NASB “has prepared her food.”
she has mixed her wine;
she also has arranged her table.
Wisdom has prepared a sumptuous banquet in this house and sends out her maids to call the simple to come and eat (M. Lichtenstein, “The Banquet Motif in Keret and in Proverbs 9, ” JANESCU 1 [1968/69]: 19-31). The figures of meat and wine represent the good teaching of wisdom that will be palatable and profitable (implied comparisons). Compare Isaiah 55:1–2 and John 6:51, 55 for similar uses of the figures. The idea of mixing wine could refer to the practice of mixing wine with spices or with water (as the LXX text assumes; e.g., Prov 23:30; Isa 5:22). Mixed wine was the most intoxicating; thus, her wisdom is attractive. All the imagery lets the simple know that what wisdom has to offer is marvelous.

She has sent out her female servants;
she calls out on the highest places
The text uses two synonymous terms in construct to express the superlative degree.
of the city.
“Whoever is naive, let him turn in here,”
she says
Heb “lacking of heart she says to him.” The pronominal suffix is a resumptive pronoun, meaning, “she says to the lacking of heart.”
to those
Heb “him.”
who lack understanding.
Heb “heart”; cf. NIV “to those who lack judgment.”

“Come, eat
The construction features a cognate accusative (verb and noun from same root). The preposition בּ (bet) has the partitive use “some” (GKC 380 #119.m).
some of my food,
and drink some of the wine I have mixed.
The final verb actually stands in a relative clause although the relative pronoun is not present; it modifies “wine.”
The expressions “eat” and “drink” carry the implied comparison forward; they mean that the simple are to appropriate the teachings of wisdom.

Abandon your foolish ways
There are two ways to take this word: either as “fools” or as “foolish ways.” The spelling for “foolishness” in v. 13 differs from this spelling, and so some have taken that as an indicator that this should be “fools.” But this could still be an abstract plural here as in 1:22. Either the message is to forsake fools (i.e., bad company; cf. KJV, TEV) or forsake foolishness (cf. NAB, NASB, NIV, NCV, NRSV, NLT).
so that you may live,
The two imperatives are joined with vav; this is a volitive sequence in which result or consequence is expressed.

and proceed
The verb means “go straight, go on, advance” or “go straight on in the way of understanding” (BDB 80 s.v. אָשַׁר).
in the way of understanding.”
Whoever corrects
The active participle יֹסֵר (yoser) describes one who tries to correct by means of instruction and discipline; it is paralleled by the Hiphil participle which refers to someone who rebukes or reproves another. Anyone trying this on these types of people would be inviting trouble.
a mocker is asking for
Heb “receives for himself.”
The word means “dishonor” or “disgrace.” It is paralleled with מוּמוֹ (mumo), translated “abuse.” The latter term means “blemish,” although some would emend the text to read “reproach.” The MT is figurative but not impossible to interpret: Whoever tries to rebuke a wicked person will receive only insults and perhaps physical attack.

whoever reproves a wicked person receives
The verb “receives” is supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity and smoothness.
Do not reprove
In view of the expected response for reproof, the text now uses a negated jussive to advise against the attempt. This is paralleled antithetically by the imperative in the second colon. This imperative is in an understood conditional clause: “if you reprove a wise person.”
a mocker or
Heb “lest he hate you.” The particle פֶּן (pen, “lest”) expresses fear or precaution (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 79, #476). The antonyms “love” and “hate” suggest that the latter means “reject” and the former means “choosing and embracing.”
he will hate you;
reprove a wise person and he will love you.
Give instruction
The noun “instruction” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation.
to a wise person,
The parallelism shows what Proverbs will repeatedly stress, that the wise person is the righteous person.
and he will become wiser still;
The Hiphil verb normally means “to cause to know, make known”; but here the context suggests “to teach” (so many English versions).
a righteous person and he will add to his
The term “his” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied for the sake of smoothness and clarity.
10  The beginning
The difference between תְּחִלַּת (tekhillat) here and רֵאשִׁית (reshit) of 1:7, if there is any substantial difference, is that this term refers to the starting point of wisdom, and the earlier one indicates the primary place of wisdom (K&D 16:202).
of wisdom is to fear the Lord,
Heb “fear of the Lord.”

and acknowledging
Heb “knowledge of the Holy One” (so ASV, NAB, NASB, NIV, NRSV).
the Holy One
The word is in the plural in the Hebrew (literally “holy ones”; KJV “the holy”). It was translated “holy men” in Tg. Prov 9:10. But it probably was meant to signify the majestic nature of the Lord. As J. H. Greenstone says, he is “all-holy” (Proverbs, 94). This is an example of the plural of majesty, one of the honorific uses of the plural (see IBHS 122–23 #7.4.3b).
is understanding.
11  For because
The preposition בּ (bet) here may have the causal sense (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 45, #247), although it could also be means (Williams, 44, #243).
of me your days will be many,
and years will be added
The verb וְיוֹסִיפוּ (veyosifu) is the Hiphil imperfect, third masculine plural; but because there is no expressed subject the verb may be taken as a passive.
to your life.
12  If you are wise, you are wise to your own advantage,
The text simply has the preposition לְ (lamed) with a suffix; but this will be the use of the preposition classified as “interest,” either for advantage or disadvantage (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 48–49, #271).

but if you are a mocker,
The perfect tense is here in a conditional clause because of the conjunction following the first colon of the verse that begins with “if.” The perfect tense then lays down the antithetical condition – “if you mock,” or “if you are a mocker.”
you alone must
The use of the imperfect tense here could be the simple future tense (cf. NASB, NRSV “you…will bear it”), but the obligatory nuance is more appropriate – “you must bear it.” These words anticipate James’ warnings that the words we speak will haunt us through life (e.g., James 3:1–12).
bear it.
The LXX has an addition: “Forsake folly, that you may reign forever; and seek discretion and direct understanding in knowledge.”

13  The woman called Folly
Heb “a woman of foolishness.” This could be translated as “foolish woman,” taking the genitive as attributive (cf. KJV, ASV, NRSV). But in view of the contrast with the personification of wisdom, this word probably also represents a personification and so can be taken as a genitive of apposition, the woman who is folly, or “the woman, Folly” (cf. NIV). For clarity and stylistic reasons the word “called” has been supplied in the translation.
is brash,
The meaning of the word comes close to “riotous.” W. McKane describes her as restless and rootless (Proverbs [OTL], 366).

she is naive
The noun means “foolishness” (cf. KJV “simple”; NAB “inane”). Here it could be classified as a metonymy of adjunct, or as a predictive apposition (when a substantive is used in place of a noun; see R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 15, #67).
and does not know
The ignorance here in Proverbs must be moral ignorance. But see D. W. Thomas for the idea that the verb means “become still,” “be at rest,” yielding here the idea of restless (“A Note on בַל־יָדְעָה in Proverbs 913,” JTS 4 [1953]: 23-24).
The text of v. 13 has been difficult for translators. The MT has, “The foolish woman is boisterous, simplicity, and knows not what.” The LXX reads, “A foolish and impudent woman comes to lack a morsel, she who knows not shame.” The Syriac has, “a woman lacking in discretion, seductive.” Tg. Prov 9:13 translates it, “a foolish woman and a gadabout, ignorant, and she knows not good.” The Vulgate has, “a woman foolish and noisy, and full of wiles, and knowing nothing at all.”

14  So she sits at the door of her house,
on a seat at the highest point of the city,
15  calling out
The infinitive construct “calling out” functions epexegetically in the sentence, explaining how the previous action was accomplished.
to those who are passing by her
The term “her” does not appear in the Hebrew text, but is supplied for the sake of clarity and smoothness.
in the way,
The noun is a genitive of location after the construct participle. Its parallel word is also an adverbial accusative of location.

who go straight
The participle modifies the participle in the first colon. To describe the passers-by in this context as those “who go straight” means that they are quiet and unwary.
on their way.
16  “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here,”
she says to those who lack understanding.
This expression is almost identical to v. 4, with the exception of the addition of conjunctions in the second colon: “and the lacking of understanding and she says to him.” The parallel is deliberate, of course, showing the competing appeals for those passing by.

17  “Stolen waters
The offer is not wine and meat (which represented wisdom), but water that is stolen. The “water” will seem sweeter than wine because it is stolen – the idea of getting away with something exciting appeals to the baser instincts. In Proverbs the water imagery was introduced earlier in 5:15–19 as sexual activity with the adulteress, which would seem at the moment more enjoyable than learning wisdom. Likewise bread will be drawn into this analogy in 30:20. So the “calling out” is similar to that of wisdom, but what is being offered is very different.
are sweet,
and food obtained in secret
Heb “bread of secrecies.” It could mean “bread [eaten in] secret places,” a genitive of location; or it could mean “bread [gained through] secrets,” a genitive of source, the secrecies being metonymical for theft. The latter makes a better parallelism in this verse, for bread (= sexually immoral behavior) gained secretly would be like stolen water.
is pleasant!”
18  But they do not realize
Heb “he does not know.”
that the dead
The “dead” are the Rephaim, the “shades” or dead persons who lead a shadowy existence in Sheol (e.g., Prov 2:18–19; Job 3:13–19; Ps 88:5; Isa 14:9–11). This approximates an “as-if” motif of wisdom literature: The ones ensnared in folly are as good as in Hell. See also Ptah-hotep’s sayings (ANET 412–414).
are there,
that her guests are in the depths of the grave.
The LXX adds to the end of v. 18: “But turn away, linger not in the place, neither set your eye on her: for thus will you go through alien water; but abstain from alien water, drink not from an alien fountain, that you may live long, that years of life may be added to you.”
The text has “in the depths of Sheol” (בְּעִמְקֵי שְׁאוֹל, beimqe sheol). The parallelism stresses that those who turn to this way of life are ignorant and doomed. It may signal a literal death lying ahead in the not too distant future, but it is more likely an analogy. The point is that the life of folly, a life of undisciplined, immoral, riotous living, runs counter to God’s appeal for wisdom and leads to ruin. That is the broad way that leads to destruction.

The First Collection of Solomonic Proverbs

Beginning with ch. 10 there is a difference in the form of the material contained in the book of Proverbs. No longer are there long admonitions, but the actual proverbs, short aphorisms dealing with right or wrong choices. Other than a few similar themes grouped together here and there, there is no arrangement to the material as a whole. It is a long collection of approximately 400 proverbs.
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