Aug 5

Three Identities of Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9

In Proverbs 1-9, wisdom is pictured as a noble woman, Lady Wisdom, who calls to men and offers to dispense to them the blessings at her disposal. She is  contrasted with the harlot, Madame Folly, who also calls to men, but in order to seduce and destroy them. Wisdom in these chapters can be understood as possessing three distinct identites:

  1. A poetic and figurative identity: She represents the attribute of wisdom. This is an example of personification (attributing human characteristics to an abstract concept). Wisdom is the moral and philosophical attribute that is possessed by God (cp. Prov 8:22-31), and which is to be desired, sought after, and exercised by men (cp. Prov 8:11-21). This wisdom is both implicitly and explicitly revealed in the spiritual and moral order of Creation and must be applied in every area of human life (chs. 11-31).
  2. A symbolic and emblematic identity: She stands for God. God is “the only wise God” (Rom 16:27). In reality it is the Divine Wisdom in the person of God himself who calls to men (Luke 11:49) and appeals for them to accept his wisdom for salvation and godly living (cp. Eze 33:11; Jas 1:5).
  3. A typical and prophetic identity: She is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Word and Wisdom of God made flesh (cp. John 1:14; 1 Cor 1:30; Col 2:3). Solomon here presents a prophetic picture. Just as David was the great prototypical king, who acknowledged a coming Ruler who was greater than himself (Ps 110:1; cp. Matt 22:41-46), so Solomon is here the great prototypical wise man, who declares a coming One who is the very embodiment of wisdom (Matt 12:42) much greater than himself!  Wisdom’s first person monologue in Proverbs 8 is not the literal speech of Christ; but Solomon’s picture of wisdom in these chapters does present an OT type of Christ.

For the more thoughtfully inclined:

The above analysis should not be construed as a “spiritualizing” of the text, but as an honest effort to determine objectively the authorial intent (both divine and human) behind the reference to wisdom in this context. I always attempt to remain consistent in my use of the principle of literal interpretation.

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