The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. — Proverbs 9:10
Like many of my contemporaries, I attended college to obtain a degree. We live in an age where a good education is considered of paramount importance. People spend great sums of money and invest years of their lives to obtain diplomas certifying successful completion of a formal course of study.
Other individuals acquire knowledge through hands-on training. I grew up in a small coastal community in which a number of fishermen turned to boat building during the winter months. Using techniques handed down to them by their fathers, they were able to build beautiful and seaworthy boats. Not only were these men good craftsmen, but they were also keen observers of the weather and their environment. While most of them had little formal schooling, they were extremely knowledgeable about the forces of nature around them. At times, that understanding made the difference between life and death when they were out on the water.
Earthly knowledge, whether acquired through formal education, hands-on training, or personal experience, is unquestionably a valuable commodity. However, given society’s focus on learning, it is possible to mistake the acquisition of knowledge for wisdom. The truth is, godly wisdom goes far beyond any amount of worldly knowledge, skill, or understanding. It is of infinite and eternal value!
Our focus verse gives us the starting point for obtaining godly wisdom when it states that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The type of fear referenced in this verse is not the distressing emotion caused by impending danger. The fear of the Lord means having a deep regard for God’s awesomeness, a rejection of anything that is ungodly, and a consistent purpose to obey God’s Word.
The last part of verse 10 offers further insight. It tells us that “knowledge of the holy is understanding.” This knowledge is received only when a person surrenders his life to God. We need to know God personally if we desire true understanding.
When I graduated from college as a computer draftsperson, I felt a measure of confidence in myself. Yet when I sat next to a person at work who had years of experience, I realized how little I knew and how much I had to learn. So it is no wonder that when we truly realize how wise and mighty God is, we feel our need to follow Him closely.
In contrast to the previous chapter which graphically described the attitude and actions of a seductress, chapter 8 gives a masterful description of wisdom. As in chapter 1 of Proverbs, the writer characterized wisdom as a woman, and in this text, declared the benefits of following her instruction.
Unlike the woman in chapter 7 who lurked on a corner in the darkness, the personification of wisdom described in the first five verses of chapter 8 stood in a public place where many people could see and hear her. There she called out to those from every level of society and cultural background to heed her message. In verses 6-11, wisdom said she spoke of “excellent things” and that her words were true and righteous. The terms froward and perverse in verse 8 could be translated as “twisted” or “crooked,” and they referred again to the seductress of chapter 7. The instruction of wisdom was declared to be more valuable than gems and riches.
Wisdom proclaimed more of her attributes in verses 12-16. Prudence means “discretion or common sense,” and witty inventions allude to “thorough and careful planning.” Wisdom stated she was strong and able to help leaders rule well. Those who loved and sought her (verses 17-21) would receive benefits.
Bible scholars have varied opinions about the meaning of verses 22-31. Some believe they indicate that wisdom is an eternal attribute of God, so it was a part of His being from long before the Creation. Other scholars believe this passage is a description of Jesus Christ, illustrating His participation in the Creation. This second view is supported by the similarity of New Testament texts such as John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17, and Hebrews 1:2. Whichever position is taken, the passage gives a superb description of the Creation.
The writer finished his exhortation in verses 32-36 with a reminder that each individual must chose whether or not to follow wisdom — God’s instructions. It is a life or death choice.
Chapter 9 contrasts wisdom and folly by presenting them both as women who had invited guests to their homes. Between the two invitations are a few verses of terse truisms.
In verses 1-6, wisdom had a fine home and had prepared a sumptuous banquet. Her maidens were sent to herald the invitation to all, including those who lacked experience, good judgment, or courage.
The timeless truths in verses 7-12 may have been comments to help draw guests to wisdom’s banquet, or they may have been prompted by the varied responses of those who heard her summons. Those who were determined to pursue wickedness scoffed and rejected the invitation, but those who desired wisdom were instructed. Each person had to choose to heed or ignore, and then bear the consequences of his or her choice.
The invitation by folly is presented in verses 13-18. In many ways she tried to make her invitation similar to wisdom’s. However, she was “clamorous” (loud) and did the inviting herself. Although she used the same words as wisdom, her intent was far different. While heeding wisdom promised life, going with folly resulted in death
Chapter 9 ends the first section of Proverbs.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The superiority of the way of wisdom
F. The worthiness of wisdom (8:1-36)
1. The call to wisdom (8:1-11)
2. The character of wisdom (8:12-21)
3. The preeminence of wisdom in Creation (8:22-31)
4. The choice between life and death (8:32-36)
G. The invitation of wisdom (9:1-18)
1. The invitation of wisdom (9:1-6)
2. The instructions for scoffers (9:7-12)
3. The invitation of folly (9:13-18)
Wisdom begins with a proper regard for God and obedience to His precepts, and knowledge of the holy comes through an intimate and personal relationship with Him.