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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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PROVERBS 9

This chapter concludes the first division of Proverbs. "It gives a brief summary of the warnings in the previous chapters."F1 Some scholars label it as "the fifteenth admonitory discourse,"F2 but we have paid little attention to these rather arbitrary divisions. This chapter could easily be divided into two separate discourses; and this is true of several of the others.

"The previous warnings are here summarized in the form of a picture of two women, Wisdom and Folly, each inviting men to a banquet."F3

THE INVITATION OF WISDOM

Prov. 9:1-6

Wisdom hath builded her house;

She hath hewn out her seven pillars:

She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine;

She hath also furnished her table:

She hath sent forth her maidens;

She crieth upon the highest places of the city:

Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither:

As for him that is void of understanding, she saith to him,

Come, eat ye of my bread.

And drink of the wine that I have mingled.

Leave off, ye simple ones, and live;

And walk in the way of understanding."


 
Verses 1-6
Wisdom hath builded her house; She hath hewn out her seven pillars: She hath killed her beasts; She hath mingled her wine; She hath also furnished her table: She hath sent forth her maidens; She crieth upon the highest places of the city: Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: As for him that is void of understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat ye of my bread, And drink of the wine which I have mingled. Leave off, ye simple ones, and live; And walk in the way of understanding.
(Proverbs 9:1). These words stress the infinite preparation and experience that lie behind the true wisdom of God, as revealed in the Bible. The allegorical interpretations of the seven pillars are numberless,F4 but we have not found any which we are willing to accept. The seven pillars were an ordinary architectural feature of the times introduced here as the usual appendage of a house.F5 It may be assumed that a house with seven pillars was a magnificent dwelling. In ancient Nineveh, Sennacherib's new year festival house, discovered in recent years, had seven pillars.F6

She hath killed her beasts. mingled her wine ... furnished her table
(Proverbs 9:2). The RSV has mixed instead of mingled. The parable of the Great Supper (Matt. 22; Luke 14) may perhaps be modeled on this passage.F7 There is an evident connection between them.F8

What is meant by Wisdom having mixed her wine? The truth might not be very welcome to liquor-soaked America, but the truth is that the more enlightened ancients did not drink undiluted wine. Harris noted that, "The book of 2 Maccabees declares that wine undiluted with water was thought to be distasteful."F9 Especially, "The Greeks used diluted wine; and that usage became general, especially among the Hebrews. Rabbi Eliezer even forbade the saying of the table-blessing over undiluted wine. The proportion of the mixture that was water was large, only about one fourth to one third of the mixture being wine. The wine of the Last Supper may be described as a sweet, red, fermented wine rather highly diluted."F10

This does not mean that the sinners of ancient times diluted their wine. Drunkenness was a common sin, and the wine that usually caused it was not diluted. The significant thing, however, is that Wisdom diluted hers! There was also an ancient custom of mingling certain spices with wine, thus enhancing the taste of it and making it even more potent. This is thought to be mentioned in Isa. 5:22. However, Keil insisted that even in that passage, "The reference is to mingling wine with water."F11 Toy pointed out that, "What sort of mixing is here intended is uncertain."F12 We think it is certain. Wisdom would certainly not have doctored up her wine with any kind of drugs and spices to make it more powerful. She would have diluted it with water.

She crieth from the highest places of the city
(Proverbs 9:3). The contrast is between the appeal of Wisdom from the most prominent places on earth and that of the clandestine, secret, under-cover-of-darkness operations of Folly, the vice described in the previous chapter.

Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither
(Proverbs 9:4). The simple here are ALL MEN in that phase of life in which vital and permanent choices are to be made. There is no reference here to the feeble minded or the handicapped. It is the great paradox of human life that the choices and decisions that determine destiny come at quite an early time, that time which all mankind passes through, and during which, Ye simple ones is the proper address.

Come, eat ye of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled
(Proverbs 9:5). Toy, who was so crassly literal in his interpretation of that firm (solid dome) sky back in Prov. 8:28 had no trouble seeing the figurative nature of this passage, of which he wrote, The invitation here is figurative.F13 We also find here other overtones which speak to us of that Greater Wisdom who is Christ. This passage is parallel to the higher teaching of the holy Gospels (John 6:27; Matt. 26:26).F14 He who has been made The Wisdom of God to us (1 Corinthians 1:24,30) also invites those who love him to Eat of this bread. and drink of this cup.

SOME SPECIAL PROVERBS BETWEEN THE TWO INVITATIONS FROM WISDOM AND FROM FOLLY

He that correcteth a scoffer getteth to himself reviling;

And he that reproveth a wicked man getteth himself a blot.

Reprove not a scoffer, lest he hate thee:

Reprove a wise man, and he will love thee.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser:

Teach a wise man, and he will increase in learning.

The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom;

And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

For by me thy days shall be multiplied,

And the years of thy life shall be increased.

If thou art wise, thou art wise for thyself,'

And if thou scoffest, thou alone shall bear it."

Some of the scholars object to the inclusion of Prov. 9:7-12 at this point in the chapter; but there is no agreement on where they should be placed if removed from where we find them. "It may be that these verses are intended to emphasize in an indirect manner the role of Wisdom as a teacher."F15

Hendry pointed out that, "In Prov. 9:7 and Prov. 9:8, the contrast is not between those invited and those not invited to the house of Wisdom, but between the reactions of the scoffer and the teachable man to that discipline imparted by wisdom."F16 Christ utilized this same teaching in his warnings against giving that which is holy to dogs and casting one's pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6).

Another interesting comment on these intermediate verses between Wisdom and Folly is, "There is a degree of pessimism in these verses, and it may be that their location here is to tone down the optimism of Prov. 9:1-6."F17

It is a solemn fact that there are incorrigibly wicked men, scoffers and haters of all that is righteous; and the message here is that Wisdom must not waste her efforts upon such evil men.


 
Verses 7-12
He that correcteth a scoffer getteth to himself reviling; And he that reproveth a wicked man [getteth] himself a blot. Reprove not a scoffer, lest he hate thee: Reprove a wise man, and he will love thee. Give [instruction] to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: Teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom; And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me thy days shall be multiplied, And the years of thy life shall be increased. If thou art wise, thou art wise for thyself; And if thou scoffest, thou alone shalt bear it.
(Proverbs 9:12). Only here in Proverbs is the doctrine of individual responsibility promulgated.F18

FOLLY ALSO CRIES TO THE SIMPLE, TURN YE IN HITHER

The foolish woman is clamorous;

She is simple, and knoweth nothing.

And she sitteth at the door of her house,

On a seat in the high places of the city,

To call to them that pass by,

Who go right on their ways:

Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither;

And as for him that is void of understanding, she saith to him,

Stolen waters are sweet,

And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.

But he knoweth not that the dead are there;

That her guests are in the depths of Sheol."

This is one of the most impressive chapters in the Bible. It is this picture of the two women, Wisdom and Folly. "The two give the contrast between rectitude and sexual debauchery."F19 Both of them shout their messages from the highest places, inviting the simple ones to "turn in hither." One of these is holy, pure, eternal, righteous and the Great Benefactor of all who heed her cry. The other is unholy, shameless, wicked and seductive, bringing desolation and death to all who follow her, and whose guests are in the depths of the grave. And every man makes his choice of which he shall patronize.

Keil noted that, "Folly is here the incarnation of worldly lust."F20

The description of this evil woman stresses her ignorance, noisiness, aggressiveness and persuasiveness. She diligently advocates the sin which she covets.


 
Verses 13-18
The foolish woman is clamorous; [She is] simple, and knoweth nothing. And she sitteth at the door of her house, On a seat in the high places of the city, To call to them that pass by, Who go right on their ways: Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither; And as for him that is void of understanding, she saith to him, Stolen waters are sweet, And bread [eaten] in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there; That her guests are in the depths of Sheol.
(Proverbs 9:13). The text here is a little uncertain, and the RSV reads it, The woman knows no shame. The literal Hebrew here reads, The woman of folly is boisterous, simplicity, and knows not what.F21 The woman Folly is here regarded as a real person (personified); and between her and Virtue man has to make his choice.F22

Stolen waters are sweet
(Proverbs 9:17). The secret enjoyment of sexual immorality is here offered by Folly. Her pleasures cannot be experienced in open daylight, but secretly, under the cover of darkness.F23

Sin, due to the depravity of man, is made more attractive by the very fact of its being prohibited. "Pleasures are attractive because they are forbidden (Romans 7:7); and this is the one great proof of the inherent corruption of human nature."F24

He knoweth not that the dead are there
(Proverbs 9:18). With this warning the long first section of Proverbs (called by Cook the introduction)F25 is brought to a conclusion, and that great collection of separate proverbs for which the book is generally remembered begins at once in Prov. 10. Wisdom and Folly have both spoken, and their houses have been realistically painted for us. The learner is now challenged to choose.F26


Footnotes for Proverbs 9
1: The Pulpit Commentary, Vol. 9, p. 180.
2: Ibid.
3: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 558.
4: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 4, p. 834.
5: International Critical Commentary, Vol. 17, p. 184.
6: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 558.
7: Arthur S. Peake, A Commentary on the Bible (London: T. C. and E. C. Jack, Ltd., 1924), p. 402.
8: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 559.
9: Wycliffe Old Testament Commentary, p. 565.
10: Burton Scott Easton in International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Chicago, Illinois: The Howard-Severance Company, 1915), p. 3,087.
11: C. F. Keil, Keil-Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), Vol. 6, p. 198.
12: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 185.
13: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 187.
14: Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, a 1987 reprint of the 1878 Edition), Proverbs, p. 33.
15: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), Vol. 5, p. 34
16: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 559.
17: Broadman Bible Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), op. cit., p. 35.
18: The Interpreter's Bible, op. cit., p. 837.
19: International Critical Commentary, op. cit., p. 188.
20: C. F. Keil, Keil-Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), Vol. 6, p. 172.
21: Arthur S. Peake, A Commentary on the Bible (London: T. C. and E. C. Jack, Ltd., 1924), p. 402.
22: The Pulpit Commentary, op. cit., p. 183.
23: The Interpreter's Bible, op. cit., p. 838.
24: Barnes' Notes on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, a 1987 reprint of the 1878 Edition), op. cit., p. 33.
25: Ibid.
26: Ibid.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 9". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=pr&chapter=009>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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