The Word Made Fresh
1But wisdom does call out,
and understanding does raise her voice
2from the hilltops, along the roadside,
and where the roads cross she takes her stand.
3Beside the city gates where people enter the town,
and at the entrances of the public buildings she calls,
4“Listen, people, I call out to all of you.
5Those who are simple minded must gain wisdom,
and those who lack learning must strive to acquire it.
6Listen to me, and I will teach you important things,
and what you hear from me will give you insight.
7My mouth will speak truth to you,
for I detest lies.
8Everything I tell you is true.
You will find nothing deceitful in my words.
9Anyone who seeks truth will find it in what I say,
and truth will lead you to knowledge.
10So, take my teaching rather than silver.
Take my knowledge rather than fine gold.
11Wisdom is better than wealth,
and nothing you desire is as valuable.
12I, Wisdom, live by common sense,
and by knowledge and self-restraint.
13To fear the LORD is to hate evil.
I hate pride and arrogance and corruption.
14I give good advice and sound insight;
I am wise and strong.
15Kings reign by me, and by me
those who rule do so with justice.
16Their authority, and the authority of all
who govern, rightly comes from me.
17I love all who love me,
and all who search for me find me.
18I confer riches and honor,
wealth that endures, and prosperity.
19What I have to give is better than even the finest gold,
and what I produce is better than choice silver.
20I tread the path of righteousness
beside the trails of justice,
21giving wealth to those who love me
and making their treasuries overflow.
22The LORD created me in the beginning.
I was the first of all created things.
23At the beginning, before anything was made,
I was established.
24Before there were springs of water
I was brought forth.
25Before the mountains appeared
or the hills had been formed I was born.
26There was as yet no earth,
no field, nor the first bit of soil.
27When God established the universe I was there.
When God inscribed the bounds of space
28and shaped the skies above;
when God created the underground fountains,
29and designated the boundaries of the oceans
so that the waters could not disobey;
when God drew the earth’s foundations
30I was at God’s side executing God’s designs.
I rejoiced with God every day,
31delighting in the world being created
and taking delight in humanity.
32So now, listen to me:
Those who follow my ways will rejoice.
33Listen to what I tell you and don’t neglect my teaching,
and you will live in wisdom.
34Those who listen to me, who daily attend to my teaching
and watch how I guard my gates, will be rewarded.
35Whoever finds me finds life,
and whoever finds life the LORD will reward.
36But those who ignore me do themselves harm
and all who hate me embrace death.”
In contrast to the prostituting adulteress, the teacher now turns to her alter-ego, Wisdom. Wisdom is presented as the counterpart to the temptress. Many scholars see in this chapter a deliberate structure of seven sections, each containing five verses more or less, combining to give a picture of Wisdom as God’s companion in creation.
1-5: Wisdom is located at all places human beings may wander; the heights, the open road, the crossroads, the gates, the doorways. She calls out to all who pass to stop and learn.
6-11: In stark contrast to the words of the temptress, Wisdom’s words are righteous and true, and more valuable than wealth.
12-16: Wisdom’s guidance is essential if kings and other rulers are to govern well.
17-21: In contrast to the results of listening to the words of the temptress, those who love Wisdom receive enduring benefits.
22-26: Before anything else was created, God made Wisdom. Wisdom thus became God’s first companion. Some have held that the plural references in Genesis 1:26 (“let us make human beings in our image”) reflects this understanding of how God created all things.
27-31: God and Wisdom are pictured working together: God creating and Wisdom cheering on the work.
32-36: Since God utilized Wisdom in the creation of all things, it stands to reason that humans, as created beings, will do best when living in partnership with Wisdom, and so the poem ends with a warning that those who ignore wisdom do themselves harm, and “all who hate me embrace death.”
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” is often quoted in scripture (see Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7, Job 28:28, and so forth). But the fear of the LORD doesn’t mean being afraid of God. It is rather the acknowledgment of God’s power and knowledge. It is respect for the LORD. Only when we have a healthy respect for God and who God is can we begin to learn what God wants of us, and how God wants us to use the gift of life.