Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?
A companion picture to that in Proverbs 7, and serving in some measure to generalize and idealize it. Wisdom also calls Proverbs 8:5 to the "simple" and the "fools," and they have to choose between her voice and that of the temptress.
She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths.
The full enumeration of localities points to the publicity and openness of Wisdom's teaching (see Proverbs 1:20 note), as contrasted with the stealth and secrecy and darkness which shroud the harlot's enticements Proverbs 7:9.
She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors.
Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.
Men ... sons of man - The two words are used, which, like viri and homines, describe the higher and the lower, the stronger and the weaker. Compare the Psalm 49:2 note.
O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.
Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things.
Excellent - literally, "princely things." The word is not the same as in marginal reference, and is elsewhere always used of persons (compare "captain" in 1 Samuel 9:16; 2 Samuel 5:2). The poetic style of this part of the book applies it here to the things taught, or to the character of the teaching.
For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them.
Words of the ideal Wisdom, which find their highest fulfillment in that of the Incarnate Word. Compare Luke 4:22; Matthew 11:19.
They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.
Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.
For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.
I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.
Wisdom first speaks warnings (Proverbs 1:24 note), next promises (Proverbs 2:1 note); but here she neither promises nor threatens, but speaks of her own excellence. "Prudence" is the "subtilty" (see the margin), the wiliness of the serpent Genesis 3:1, in itself neutral, but capable of being turned to good as well as evil. Wisdom, occupied with things heavenly and eternal, also "dwells with" the practical tact and insight needed for the life of common men. "Witty inventions" are rather counsels. The truth intended is, that all special rules for the details of life spring out of the highest Wisdom as their source.
The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.
By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.
Not only the common life of common men, but the exercise of the highest sovereignty, must have this Wisdom as its ground. Compare with this passage Proverbs 8:15-21 the teaching of 1 Kings 3:5-14. The word rendered "princes" Proverbs 8:15 is different from that in Proverbs 8:16; the first might, perhaps, be rendered "rulers."
By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.
I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.
Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.
Durable riches - i. e., Treasure piled up for many years; ancient wealth.
My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver.
Gold - The "choice, fine gold" of margin reference. The "fine gold" in the second clause is a different word, and perhaps represents gold extracted from the ore.
I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment:
That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.
The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
A verse which has played an important part in the history of Christian dogma. Wisdom reveals herself as preceding all creation, stamped upon it all, one with God, yet in some way distinguishable from Him as the object of His love Proverbs 8:30. John declares that all which Wisdom here speaks of herself was true in its highest sense of the Word that became flesh John 1:1-14 : just as Apostles afterward applied Wisd. 7:22-30 to Christ (compare Colossians 1:15; Hebrews 1:3).
Possessed - The word has acquired a special prominence in connection with the Arian controversy. The meaning which it usually bears is that of "getting" Genesis 4:1, "buying" Genesis 47:22, "possessing" Jeremiah 32:15. In this sense one of the oldest divine names was that of "Possessor of heaven and earth" Genesis 14:19, Genesis 14:22. But the idea of thus "getting" or "possessing" involved, as a divine act in relation to the universe, the idea of creation, and thus in one or two passages the word might be rendered, though not accurately, by "created" (e. g., Psalm 139:13). It would seem accordingly as if the Greek translators of the Old Testament oscillated between the two meanings; and in this passage we find the various renderings ἔκτισε ektise "created" (Septuagint), and ἐκτήσατο ektēsato "possessed" (Aquila). The text with the former word naturally became one of the stock arguments of the Arians against the eternal co-existence of the Son, and the other translation was as vehemently defended by the orthodox fathers. Athanasius receiving ἔκτισεν ektisen, took it in the sense of appointing, and saw in the Septuagint a declaration that the Father had made the Son the "chief," the "head," the "sovereign," over all creation. There does not seem indeed any ground for the thought of creation either in the meaning of the root, or in the general usage of the word. What is meant in this passage is that we cannot think of God as ever having been without Wisdom. She is "as the beginning of His ways." So far as the words bear upon Christian dogma, they accord with the words of John 1:1, "the Word was with God." The next words indeed assert priority to all the works of God, from the first starting point of time.
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
I was set up - Rather, "I was anointed" (compare Psalm 2:6 margin: 2 Chronicles 28:15). The image is that of Wisdom anointed, as at her birth, with "the oil of gladness."
Or ever the earth was - literally, "from the times before the earth."
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Compare Genesis 1; Job 22; Job 26:1-14; Job 38:A world of waters, "great deeps" lying in darkness, this was the picture of the remotest time of which man could form any conception, and yet the co-existence of the uncreated Wisdom with the eternal Yahweh was before that.
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
Compare Psalm 90:2. What the Psalmist said of Yahweh, the teacher here asserts of Wisdom; she was before the everlasting hills.
While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.
The highest part of the dust of the world - literally, "the head of the dusts of the world;" an image of either:
(1) the dry land, habitable, fit for cultivation, as contrasted with the waters of the chaotic deep; or
(2) man himself. Compare Ecclesiastes 3:20.
When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
A compass - Better as in the margin and Job 22:14 (see the note), i. e., the great vault of heaven stretched over the deep seas.
When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:
When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:
Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;
As one brought up with him - i. e., As his foster child. Others take the word in the original in another sense, "I was as his artificer," a rendering which falls in best with the special point of the whole passage, the creative energy of Wisdom. Compare Wisdom Proverbs 7:21, Proverbs 7:22.
Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.
Wisdom rejoices yet more in the world as inhabited by God's rational creatures. (compare Isaiah 45:18). Giving joy and delight to God, she finds her delight among the sons of men. These words, like the rest, are as an unconscious prophecy fulfilled in the Divine Word, in whom were "hid all the treasures of Wisdom." Compare the marginal reference: in Him the Father was well pleased; and yet His "joy also is fulfilled," not in the glory of the material universe, but in His work among the sons of men.
Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.
The old exhortation with a new force. The counsels are no longer those of prudence and human experience, but of a Wisdom eternal as Yahweh, ordering all things.
Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.
Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
The image is suggested probably by the Levites who guarded the doors of the sanctuary Psalm 134:1; Psalm 135:2. Not less blessed than theirs is the lot of those who wait upon Wisdom in the temple not made with hands.
For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.
Wisdom then is the only true life. The Word, the Light, is also the Life of man John 1:4. The eternal life is to know God and Christ John 17:3.
But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.