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The Bible Personifies Wisdom

What the Bible Teaches About Wisdom May Shock Us

The book of Proverbs talks a lot about wisdom. The word pops up in fifty-five versus in this thirty-one-chapter book. That’s a lot of wisdom. This may be the reason why many think of Proverbs as a book of wisdom.

As Solomon and his co-writers compile the proverbs in this book, the reoccurring theme of wisdom takes an interesting turn in chapter 8. In this, we see Wisdom personified.

This means instead of being an abstract concept to pursue, Wisdom takes on the characteristics of a person, perhaps the expression of a spiritual entity.

To consider Wisdom as a feminine side of God fills me with a sense of wonder and awe. Click To Tweet

Wisdom Personified Is Female

First, we’re introduced to Wisdom as female. I like that. Wisdom stands at the fork in the road. She calls us to listen. She speaks truth. The discerning accepts her words as right. They possess knowledge.

Then we read what Wisdom has to say. We encounter the words of Wisdom as someone speaking to us and advising us. It’s an interesting read. Be sure not to miss it.

Wisdom Witnessed Creation

Even more amazing, however, is what Wisdom reveals about herself. Midway through her discourse, Wisdom shocks us by saying she was there when Father God created our reality.

This means that Wisdom existed before creation. She was there prior to the beginning of time. She witnessed creation, therefore she wasn’t created.

This causes me to ask, just who is Wisdom?

I wonder if Wisdom is a facet of God. If so, I find comfort that God has a feminine side. To talk about God as our heavenly father and his son as our Savior, while comforting to most, is decidedly masculine. To consider Wisdom as a feminine side of God fills me with a sense of awe.

Though the Bible teaches us much about God, there’s so much more that we still don’t know. One day we will understand it all. After our time here on earth is over and we join God in the spiritual realm, he will explain everything to us—or maybe she will.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Proverbs 8-11, and today’s post is on Proverbs 8:27.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Beware the Adulteress

The book of Proverbs contains the majority of the Bible’s mentions of the word “adulteress” (seven times in Proverbs compared to five times in the rest of the Bible).

It refers to a woman who commits adultery, that is, she has sex with someone other than her husband. In today’s language, that is referred to as “cheating.”

Solomon warns his son—and all men—to stay away from the adulteress.

The Law of Moses notes that both the adulterer (the male participant) and the adulteress (the female participant) should be put to death (Leviticus 20:10). That is how serious God views the breaking of marriage vows.

Although the majority of modern society takes a much more casual perspective on lifelong monogamy, God’s staunch opposition to adultery hasn’t changed. Fortunately, his response has.

In the Old Testament (as mentioned above), the prescribed response to adultery is judgment. However, in the New Testament, Jesus—God’s son—demonstrates a kinder, gentler response: mercy (John 8:1-11).

However, remember that even though Jesus will give both the adulterer and adulteress mercy and forgiveness, the offended spouse may not likely be so understanding.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Leviticus 19-21, and today’s post is on Leviticus 20:10.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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More Proverbs from King Solomon

We can learn from the many wise sayings in the Bible

We consider the book of Proverbs as being a collection of wise sayings from King Solomon. This is mostly correct. However, it also includes proverbs from other people. The book opens with Solomon giving instructions to his son.

Then the king adds some more wise sayings. After that we see proverbs from other people, either compiled by Solomon or added by someone else later.

More Proverbs

Beginning in chapter 25, we encounter a section where we read more proverbs from King Solomon. However, these additional proverbs were compiled and added to Solomon’s initial writings several centuries later.

This addendum occurs under the guidance of King Hezekiah, a direct descendent of Solomon. If I count correctly, King Hezekiah is the great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson of King Solomon.

Not only does Hezekiah add Solomon’s wisdom to the book of Proverbs, he also honors his wise ancestor by doing so.

As I read through this additional compilation of Solomon’s sage advice, one passage jumps out as more familiar than the others. Solomon gives counterintuitive instructions about how to treat those who oppose us, our enemies.

He says if our enemy is hungry, feed them. If they’re thirsty, offer them water. This will benefit them, and we will receive rewards from God when we do so.

This thought-provoking instruction seems unwise. Yet at the same time it seems aligned with what Jesus might’ve said centuries later.

Paul’s Letter to the Church in Rome

If this concept seems a bit familiar, that’s because Paul quotes this proverb in his letter to the church in Rome. Paul cites this passage just after he tells the Romans to not take revenge but to turn the wrongs afflicted on them over to God.

Paul wraps up this teaching by saying that we should not be overcome by evil. Instead we should overcome evil by doing what is good (Romans 12:19-21).

Because Paul shares this verse in his letter, he elevates the importance of this proverb. This also serves as a reminder to not overlook the words of the Old Testament, including this section with more proverbs from Solomon.

The whole Bible—not just the New Testament—can help us in our walk with Jesus.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Proverbs 25-28, and today’s post is on Proverbs 25:21-22.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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God Gives Us Parents to Teach and Instruct Us

We Will Do Well to Listen to the Advice of Those God Sends to Guide Us

King Solomon opens the book of Proverbs extolling the value of wisdom and the importance of receiving wise instruction, which starts with a reverence for God.

After establishing this opening premise, Solomon begins his instruction to his son—and to us. Toward this end, God gives us parents.

Solomon tells his boy to pay attention to what his father says. Beyond that Solomon advises his son to accept what the lad’s mom teaches. The direct application is that God gives us parents to guide us. We will do well to listen to both father and mother, doing as they instruct.

We must trust God with them, believing that they—like him—want what’s best for us.

However, not everyone comes from a two-parent household. Some children live with only one parent and others, none. Beyond that, as adults, we may no longer have our parents—or parental figures—in our lives to share their wisdom and guide us through the ups and downs of living.

Trust God with Our Parents

In this respect, we can trust God to send people into our lives who can instruct and teach us. These may be our biological parents, adoptive parents, or parental figures. Beyond that consider schoolteachers, wise employers, and mentors.

Regardless of our situation, it’s up to us to listen and accept the wisdom of those who God puts in our lives. God gives us parents, along with others, to help us navigate life.

God gives us parents, along with others, to help us navigate life. Click To Tweet

Though their advice won’t be without error, we should respectfully receive it and carefully consider it. We should apply the best parts to our fullest abilities.

God gives us parents, along with others, to help us navigate life. By listening and doing what they say, we honor them—and we honor God.

Thank you, Papa, for sending people into our lives for our benefit. May we trust you with their advice, following it diligently out of respect to them and to you.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Proverbs 1-4, and today’s post is on Proverbs 1:8.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Following the Good and Straight Path

If “wisdom” is the theme of Proverbs, then “path” may be the context. There are good paths and evil paths, straight paths and crooked paths. There are the paths of the righteous and paths of the wicked.

For those who are wise and make good decisions, there is the right path, the path of life, of peace, of justice, of the upright, and that leads to immortality.

Taking a journey—the journey of life—implies making decisions. Which paths do you take? This isn’t a one-time selection, but a series of choices, of continuing to choose the right path, repeatedly making the good and right decision.

And the best part is that we don’t need to travel alone. We have a “spiritual” GPS to guide us, God’s spirit. David acknowledged that God had supernaturally revealed the right path to him (Psalm 16:11) and Peter confirmed that many centuries later (Acts 2:28).

We also have the Bible to guide us in selecting the right paths, with over 100 mentions of the word. Proverbs is especially helpful (as are the books of Job and Psalms). Not only does Proverbs mention “path” 28 times, but its sub-contexts point to it as well.

Consider the words that we’ve highlighted in Proverbs. The sluggard and the simple choose the wrong paths. Folly takes one there, as does being quarrelsome or following the adulteress. However, the prudent, those with wisdom, know which paths to take.

Consider the mentions of “path” in the Bible and then choose the right ones.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Seeking Wisdom is Imperative—and Accessible

Among all the reoccurring words in Proverbs, it is “wisdom” that is the most prominent—mentioned 54 times. Wisdom, in fact, is the central theme of the book, effectively summarizing its focus and purpose.

The dictionary defines wisdom as “the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight; common sense; good judgment.”

Given this definition, it would seem that wisdom is more of an innate characteristic than something that can be learned or acquired. Yet Proverbs continually advises readers to seek wisdom, to obtain wisdom, to get wisdom, to keep wisdom, and to gain wisdom.

Not only is wisdom imperative, it is apparently also accessible.

But, how? From God. He gives wisdom. James writes that “f any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

This is how we seek wisdom. Proverbs is the primer; God is the source.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is James 1-3, and today’s post is on James 1:5.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Along Came Folly

The word “folly” occurs 23 times in Proverbs and only 16 times in the rest of the Bible. The dictionary defines folly as “a lack of good sense, understanding, or foresight; an act of foolishness; or a costly undertaking having an absurd or ruinous outcome.”

I think that is exactly what Solomon had in mind as he advised against folly.

Over half of Proverbs’ verses that include “folly,” also pair it with the word “fool.” That gives the perspective that folly is foolishness.

Also, just like the word “simple,” “folly” is often contrasted with being “prudent.” This implies that prudence is the prescription for folly.

Interestingly, in one instance, Solomon personifies “folly” as a woman who is loud, undisciplined, and without knowledge. That is a most effective metaphor, explaining why folly is to be avoided.

Of course, there are the simple who may desire a woman like Folly, but that just wouldn’t be prudent—and Solomon repeated cautions against liaisons of that nature.

[23 occurrences of folly in Proverbs]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Don’t Be a Sluggard, Be Prudent

In contrast to the sluggard, is the prudent person. The word “prudent” also predominates the book of Proverbs with 10 appearances, contrasted to only two in the rest of the Bible.

“Prudent” means “wise in handling practical matters; exercising good judgment or common sense; careful in regard to one’s own interests or conduct.” It seems that in many ways being prudent is the opposite of—and therefore the desired alternative to—being a sluggard.

Interestingly, half of the mentions of “prudent” specifically reference the male half of the population (“prudent man”), with only one to the female side (“prudent wife”—she is a gift from God). The remaining mentions are directed to all people.

Based on this disparity in gender mentions, one might assume that being prudent is a bigger issue for men than women—but that conclusion might not be prudent.

The reality is that most everyone can improve in this area, that is, to be more prudent. Plus, it is easier (albeit shortsighted) to be a sluggard than prudent.

[Read more about prudent in the Bible.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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Are You a Sluggard?

Don’t Be Too Quick to Say “No”

The word sluggard occurs 14 times in Proverbs, but is nowhere to be found in the other 65 books of the Bible. This is curious.

First, what is a sluggard? A sluggard is a slothful person; an idler; a person who is habitually lazy. Consider then, Proverbs’ 14 mentions of a sluggard:

  • How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?
  • As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is a sluggard to those who send him.
  • The sluggard craves and gets nothing, but the desires of the diligent are fully satisfied.
  • The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.
  • The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!
  • A sluggard does not plow in season; so at harvest time he looks but finds nothing.
  • The sluggard’s craving will be the death of him, because his hands refuse to work.
  • The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!” or, “I will be murdered in the streets!”
  • I went past the field of the sluggard, past the vineyard of the man who lacks judgment;
  • The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road, a fierce lion roaming the streets!”
  • As a door turns on its hinges, so a sluggard turns on his bed.
  • The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he is too lazy to bring it back to his mouth.
  • The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who answer discreetly.

It is clear that Solomon does not think much of sluggards, of lazy, idle, slothful people. According to his proverbs, sluggards do not plan or take initiative; they procrastinate and delude themselves about their own wisdom. Are you a sluggard?

While few would consider themselves a sluggard, the preceding sluggardly characteristics are something that most of us struggle with upon occasion.

[Read through the Bible with us this year. Today’s reading is Proverbs 5-7 and today’s post is on Proverbs 6:6. And read other mentions of sluggard in the Bible.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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An Overview of the Book of Proverbs

The book of Proverbs in the Bible has 31 chapters. I see them organized as follows:

  • Chapters 1 to 9: Solomon’s personal instructions to his son (or sons). [Proverbs 1:8]
  • Chapters 10 to 24: More wise sayings (proverbs) of Solomon. [Proverbs 10:1]
  • Chapter 24:23-34: A brief collection of proverbs from other sources. [Proverbs 24:23]
  • Chapter 25-29: An apparent addendum, added by King Hezekiah’s men, but understood to have been from Solomon. [Proverbs 25:1]
  • Chapter 30 and 31: Two appendices by other people that fit the book’s overall theme: the sayings of Agur [Proverbs 30:1] and the sayings of King Lemuel [Proverbs 31:1], followed by an epilogue, about the wife of noble character [Proverbs 31:10], which is perhaps the most familiar passage in the entire book.

So there are essentially three segments to Proverbs:

1) Solomon teaching his son
2) More wise teachings from Solomon
3) More wise teaching from other people

In the next few weeks, we will look at the book of Proverbs in greater detail.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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