Chapter eight finally gives wisdom a voice to speak for itself, by personifying it as a woman. 1 In direct contrast to the adulterous woman, who stands on a dark corner waiting for a young man to seduce (Proverbs 7:8-12), Solomon portrayed wisdom as standing on high places and at city gates, calling to all people to accept and embrace her (Proverbs 8:1-4). Wisdom is especially interested in the attention of the “naïve” and “fools,” because her words are “excellent… right… truth… righteous…straight…clear…upright,” and they provide knowledge (Proverbs 8:5-9). One should seek to acquire wisdom because it is more valuable than gold, silver, or rubies (Proverbs 8:10-12).
Proverbs 8:13 finally offers a definition for “the fear of the LORD,” which Solomon pointed to in Proverbs 1:7 as the source of knowledge: “to hate evil.” The phrase “fear of the LORD” is used only eight times in the NET Bible and is defined here and in Job 28:28: “The fear of the LORD—that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.” A biblical fear of God is the intentional choice to reject or hate evil. One who does not reject evil does not fear God.
There are several benefits of gaining wisdom (Proverbs 8:14-21). It provides “counsel” so one can lead or rule others well. Those who exercise wisdom tend to receive honor from others and, as Proverbs will show later, acquire long-term wealth. 2
The subject of Proverbs 8:22-31 is debated. Some see wisdom simply as one of God’s eternal characteristics or attributes, but how, then, could it be “created” or “born”? Others have suggested that Jesus, the Eternal Son, is said to be wisdom here, but his eternality has the same problem. Probably the best understanding is to not give wisdom too much personification and simply state that God used wisdom during the creation, at which time wisdom itself was revealed (e.g., created or born). Outside of Genesis 1, this chapter is one of the clearest descriptions of God’s intentional, active, immediate creation of all things. Every part of the creation was crafted with God’s own wisdom, and God himself formed the heights and depths, the waters and dry ground, and the people.
The chapter closes with a plea from wisdom that people seek her (Proverbs 8:33-36). There are four results listed in the final verses. The one who “listens” to wisdom is “blessed.” The one who “finds” wisdom “finds life and receives favor from the LORD.” However, the one who “does not find” her “brings harm to himself,” and those who “hate” (or reject) wisdom instead “love” (or choose) “death.”
- The Hebrew word for wisdom is חָכְמָה (chakemah), which is a feminine noun; thus, the use of “she, her” throughout Proverbs. ↩
- Of course, this is no guarantee that one will necessarily become wealthy, but a wise person will tend to hold onto his wealth longer than a fool, which puts him in the position of keeping what he has and potential for increasing it. ↩