Wisdom Reenters the Scene[a]
1 Does Wisdom not call?
Does Understanding not lift up her voice?
2 On the heights, by the wayside,
at the crossroads—she takes her stand;
3 by the gates leading into the city,
at the roads of access she cries out:
4 “I call out to you, O men;
my appeal is to the sons of men.
5 You who are simple, acquire prudence;
you who are foolish, acquire understanding.
6 Listen, for I speak of important matters;
what I proclaim is honest and right.
7 For my mouth proclaims the truth;
wickedness is abhorrent to my lips.
8 “All the words of my mouth are upright;
not a single word is false or crooked.
9 All of them are clear to those who are intelligent[b]
and right to those who have acquired knowledge.
10 Choose my instruction rather than silver
and knowledge instead of pure gold.
11 For Wisdom is better than pearls,
and no object of desire can compare with her.
12 “I, Wisdom, dwell with prudence,
and I possess knowledge and discretion.[c]
13 The fear of the Lord implies hatred of evil;[d]
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil ways and perverse speech.
14 From me issue forth counsel and prudence;
insight and strength[e] are mine.
15 Through me kings reign,
and rulers decree what is just.
16 By me princes and nobles rule,
all those who govern rightly.
17 “I love those who love me,
and those who diligently seek me will find me.
18 With me are riches and honor,
enduring wealth and prosperity.
19 My fruit is better than the finest gold,
and what I yield surpasses pure silver.
20 I walk on the way of righteousness,
along the paths of justice,
21 bestowing wealth on those who love me
and heaping up their treasuries.
By the Side of the God of the Origins[f]
22 “The Lord created me as the firstborn of his ways,
before the oldest of his works.
23 I was established in the earliest times,
at the beginning, before the earth.
24 I was brought forth when there were no ocean depths,
when there were no springs overflowing with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
before the hills, I was brought forth,
26 when he had not yet made the earth and the fields
or the mass of the world’s soil.
27 “When he set the heavens in place, I was there,
when he designated where the ocean and the horizon[g] meet,
28 when he fixed the canopy of the clouds above
and limited the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned the boundaries of the sea
so that the waters would not transgress his command,
and when he established the foundations of the earth,
30 then I was beside him as a master craftsman,[h]
and I was his delight day after day,
exulting in his presence continually,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the children of men.[i]
32 “So now, my sons, listen to me;
blessed[j] are those who keep my ways.
33 Listen to instruction and gain wisdom;
do not reject it.
34 Blessed is the one who listens to me,
who keeps watch daily at my gates,
waiting at my doorway.
35 For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from the Lord.
36 But whoever sins against me harms himself,
and all who hate me love death.”
- Proverbs 8:1 Once more, Wisdom challenges human beings everywhere. The art of living and the values that she proposes constitute the treasure spoken of in the Gospels. It is this true wealth that must be preferred to everything else; one must sacrifice all things to acquire this wisdom. While the Prophets (except for Jonah) were sent only to Israel, Wisdom claims to address everyone. She is not abstract speculation because she knows how to become political virtue like Greek philosophy. Those who wield authority have need, more than others, of lucidity and good judgment so as not to govern arbitrarily. For them especially, but also for all human beings, Wisdom is a force leading to a way of uprightness.
- Proverbs 8:9 Those who are intelligent: i.e., those who are wise. Those who have acquired knowledge: especially the knowledge of God (see note on Prov 2:5).
- Proverbs 8:12 Prudence . . . knowledge and discretion: see notes on Prov 1:4; 2:2-3.
- Proverbs 8:13 The fear of the Lord implies hatred of evil: see Prov 1:7 and note; 3:7; 9:10; 16:6. I hate pride and arrogance: see Prov 16:18; 1 Sam 2:3; Ps 10:2-11; Isa 13:11. Evil ways and perverse speech: see Prov 2:12 and note; 6:12, 16-19.
- Proverbs 8:14 Counsel and prudence; insight and strength: these are all qualities of the Lord (see Prov 2:6-7; Job 12:13, 16; Isa 40:13-14; Rom 16:27) and the Spirit of the Lord (see Isa 11:2).
- Proverbs 8:22 Wisdom is a craftsman (v. 30)—or “daughter of God,” according to an old translation—in God’s plan of creation. How can we fail to listen to her who is the very echo of God’s inspiration? This passage represents a high point in the thought of the wisdom teachers: in their eyes wisdom is too sublime and too ancient to be a merely human discovery. The inspiration that gives the world its order and beauty becomes a kind of “quality” of God. Here it becomes a person, as it were, created by God after the manner of a father who gives life to his child. She lives in close intimacy with the Lord, “with God,” like the Word of whom the Gospel of John speaks at the beginning of the Prologue. She was created before anything else existed; in God’s presence, and filled with the joy she had from the beginning, she inspired the picture of the world. Is it not she who, in the name of God, joyously associates with human beings and brings them the joy of his presence?
In this song of wisdom and creation Christians may see an anticipation, as it were, of what will become a certitude of faith for John (1:1-5) and Paul (1 Cor 1:24-30; Col 1:15-17), i.e., that there exists in God the eternal Word, inseparable from him. The Catholic Liturgy has readily made use of this passage. In that context, Wisdom personified becomes an image calling to mind the mystery of the Virgin Mary, whom God had in mind from all eternity and who is the masterpiece of his creation.
- Proverbs 8:27 Horizon: the vault of heaven.
- Proverbs 8:30 Craftsman: the term “wise” was sometimes applied to a craftsman, e.g., Bezalel, who designed and constructed the tabernacle (see Ex 31:3-4). In this verse, it highlights the skill required for creating the world and everything in it.
- Proverbs 8:31 Delighting in the children of men: made in God’s image, human beings constituted the culminating point of creation (see Gen 1:26-28).
- Proverbs 8:32 Blessed: the blessings that flow from gaining wisdom are also indicated in Prov 3:13-18; see note on Prov 31:28.