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Exposition: Proverbs 8:1-36


“Wisdom” is the chief subject of this chapter, and it is personified, and several of the things predicated of it make it evident that none other than the Lord Jesus Himself is meant. And this only harmonizes with the N. T. which also refers to Him under this term, (Luke 11:49; compare with this Matthew 23:34; 1 Cor. 1:24-30 and perhaps 2:7-8; Col 2:3). No doubt His name “Word” is associated with this thought since in its ideal form, a word is but the declaration of hidden wisdom. Clearly, this personified Wisdom here is in contrast with the unholy woman of the previous chapter.

Proverbs 8:1 “Doth not wisdom cry? And understanding put forth her voice?” This has already been stated in Proverbs 1:20-21, so that here it is but a call for the hearers to acknowledge this fact that has already been declared. How does Wisdom cry? (1) Personally, as Jesus Himself taught. (2) Verbally, in the written Word of God. (3) Providentially, as God speaks through His works, (Ps. 19:1-6). (4) Ministerially, in the preaching of His ministers. (5) Evidentially, in the lives of the saved. “The things revealed are easy to be known, for they belong to us and to our children (Deut. 29:29), for they are proclaimed in some measure by the works of the creation (Ps. 19:1), more fully by the consciences of men and the eternal reasons and rules of good and evil, but most clearly by Moses and the prophets,” [M. Henry].

Proverbs 8:2 “She standeth in the top of high places , by the way in the places of the paths.” The glory of the ancient philosophies was that it was hidden from the average person, and could be found out only by the great thinkers. Conversely, Divine Wisdom’s glory is in its being available to all, actually making a public call to, and claim upon, all who come near it. “‘Standeth’ implies assiduous perseverance in her gracious calls to men. Instead of taking her stand in dark places, in a corner (Prov. 7:8), like the harlot (Prov. 7:9), she standeth ‘in the top of high places,’ where all going to and fro may hear,” [Faussett]. She appeals to the multitudes, but only here and there does one respond, for “many are called, but few are chosen,” (Matthew 20:16; 22:14).

Proverbs 8:3 “She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors.” The gates of a city was the place where one could reach the most people with a message, for everyone entering or leaving had to pass through here. Here the prophets often proclaimed their messages of rebuke to the people, (Isa. 29:21; Jer. 7:2; 17:19ff, etc.). As “gates” suggest the way into the city, so “doors” would suggest the way into the house, for the appeal of the Word of God is not just to men’s public lives and conduct, but also to their most private lives and conduct as well. Thus, Wisdom appeals to man’s needs in every area of life, and does so in the most plain and positive ways. “Those who will go astray and be lost, do so in the face of the plainest warnings and invitations of love,” [Faussett]. Where danger exists, true love must cry vehemently.

Proverbs 8:4 “Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.” Two different words are used for “men” here: the first suggests man as mighty and noble, while the second (son of Adam) suggests man as a common son of fallen Adam—as a mortal creature. Thus, Wisdom is shown to be needful for the great as well as the small: for those who deem themselves to be great and noble as well as for those who see themselves as they truly are: for the fathers as well as for the sons. Wisdom is sufficient for the needs of all classes of sinners, and there are none who are exempted from needing it.

Proverbs 8:5 “O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.” The design of Wisdom is to make men wise where they are simple, and it is capable of even giving understanding to fallen, sinful man. “The ‘simple’ are those liable to be led astray. The ‘fools’ are those actually guilty of sinful folly and error (Prov. 26:12),” [Faussett]. “Wisdom” here is a different Hebrew word than in verse 1, being the same as “subtilty” in Proverbs 1:4. The same word is rendered “prudence” in Proverbs 8:12. A “fool” (One who is self-confident here) is worse than merely a simple one, and his trouble is a defective heart, which needs changing ere it destroy him, (Prov. 28:26).

Proverbs 8:6 “Hear; for I will speak of excellent things. And the opening of my lips shall be right things.” “Literally ‘princely things.’ Words that are as princes above all other topics of discourse,” [Faussett]. The purpose of these excellent and right things is expressed in Proverbs 22:17-21 —to teach men to trust in the Lord rather than trusting in one’s self. “Things which relate to an eternal God, an immortal soul, and an everlasting state, must needs to be excellent things,” [M. Henry]. This reminds us of Jesus’ claims to have spoken the truth in John 8:32, 40, 45-47, which was rejected by the self-sufficient Jews in His days.

Proverbs 8:7 “For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.” Of our Lord Jesus alone was this fulfilled perfectly. “Speak” is rendered “mediate” in Joshua 1:8 and Psalms 1:2, etc. “I will not speak rashly, but with premeditation; implying the meditative thoughtfulness and gravity of the speaker’s words,” [Faussett]. The Lord’s lips always spoke the truth because His Father’s law was always in His heart, and He delighted to do His will, (Ps. 40:8-10). This is why such great emphasis is placed upon man’s need for a heart change: in no other way can the words and ways of man be sanctified.

Proverbs 8:8 “All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them.” Again, no one but Jesus Christ could honestly make this claim. Pure truth and righteousness has never fallen from the lips of but One who walked the walks of men. Men often twist and distort the truth for their own purposes, so that almost anything but an ironclad written contract is considered to be but an opportunity to cheat others. But not so did our Lord conduct Himself when He walked among men. He not only spoke righteousness, but He also spoke in righteousness for He perfectly practiced what He taught; He never had to twist His teachings to make them harmonize with His life.

Proverbs 8:9 “They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.” Right understanding requires a right attitude on the part of the learner. Unwillingness to obey closes the mind to right understanding of spiritual truth, (John 7:17; where “do” is an infinite: “if anyone willeth to do his will, he shall know…”). Spiritual things are generally dark and enigmatical to lost people simply because their minds are blinded through their unbelief, (2 Cor. 4:3-4). It is a manifest truth that most people who claim not to understand the Bible, really do understand it, but they are unwilling to obey, and so they claim not to understand it to avoid being obvious rebels against the truth.

Proverbs 8:10 “Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.” There is not here taught an absolute rejection of silver and gold, for these are often necessary, but this shows the relatively greater importance of spiritual truth to earthly treasures, and that spiritual wisdom is the most important thing. A man would trade all the earth’s wealth he could raise to be delivered from hell after it was too late to make this choice, (Matt. 16:26), but the time to choose wisdom instead of wealth is before death takes one away from both. So the rich man learned his folly after it was too late, (Luke 16:19ff).

Proverbs 8:11 “For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.” How clearly this shows the importance of knowledge of Divine truth. Gold, silver, jewels and all other forms of wealth must be left behind when this short life on earth is over, but wisdom, being an acquisition of the mind and the heart, will endure throughout all eternity. Man, because he is a carnal creature until he is born again, always desires things that pertain to the flesh, but these things, like the flesh, are so very temporal and fleeting. Only the soul, and what it has accumulated to itself, will last on and on and on. How we ought to feed and beautify the soul.

Proverbs 8:12 “I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.” “Prudence” is a practical knowledge. It takes more than a mere theoretical knowledge of the Lord to have His indwelling us. “Wisdom here is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; it is Christ in the word and Christ in the heart, not only Christ revealed to us, but Christ revealed in us,” [M. Henry]. Since his fall, man has sought out many inventions, (Eccl. 7:29), to flatter his ego and promote his own welfare, but the Divine Wisdom judges these in their true light and determines their worthlessness in the light of eternity. We must submit to the Divine diagnosis of these in order to have the right outlook on things and to prevent displeasing our indwelling Instructor and Teacher. Wisdom preserves men, but wealth often destroys man for more people have died as a result of luxury and its influence, than have died because of poverty.

Proverbs 8:13 “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.” “Here wisdom gives a sample of her blessed teachings. They consist not I mere abstruse speculations, but in practical inculcation of the fear of the Lord (Prov. 9:10) as her fundamental principle, and its consequence, the hatred of evil (Prov. 16:6),” [Faussett]. The fear and love of the Lord involves the hatred of evil: there is no room for compromise in this, for evil sets itself against the Lord, and to take any attitude toward it but hatred is to dishonor the Lord, (Ps. 97:10; 139:21-22; Amos 5:14-15). Here are three categories of evil: (1) Pride and arrogance are mental evils. (2) The evil way has to do with evil actions. (3) The froward mouth is vocal evil. Evil is either in thought, word or deed.

Proverbs 8:14 “Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.” “Here we are introduced to a most extraordinary and perplexing complication of figures. It is supposed that the divine wisdom is figuratively exhibited as a person, addressing her admonitions and instructions to the sons of men,” [Baird]. Not only is Christ the Wisdom of God, (1 Cor. 1:24), but He is also the Wonderful Counselor, (Isa. 9:6), for His counsel is always that which does us good. “Sound wisdom” is contrasted with the wisdom of the world, (1 Cor. 1:20-21), which is not sound. Being understanding personified, He is also the source of all understanding, and this understanding, (2 Tim. 1:7). But He does not unscrew the top of the head and pour in understanding regardless of one’s attitude: no! He gives it through the hearing and obeying of the Word of God.

Proverbs 8:15 “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.” Many texts show that God alone raises up and puts down the rulers of earth, (Ps. 18:35; 75:6-7; Jer. 27:5; Dan. 2:21; 4:27-37; Rom. 13:1-2). Because it is always of God’s directive or permissive will that anyone reigns, believers have a duty to pray for all who are in authority, (1 Tim. 2:1-3), even for thoroughly wicked rulers, as Nero was at the time Paul wrote this. “If even ‘kings’ owe their authority, and their power of reigning wisely and happily, to Wisdom, whose embodiment is Messiah, the King of kings, much more may we, as private individuals, depend on her for guidance in all our concerns,” [Faussett].

Proverbs 8:16 “By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.” Jesus Himself acknowledged this fact in John 19:10-11. “Princes” here is a different Hebrew word from that in verse 15, being a lower grade of ruler, for whereas in verse 15 the word is associated with kings, here it is associated with nobles and judges. The word here, though most commonly rendered “prince” is also commonly rendered “captain.” Taken together, verses 15-16 show that all governmental offices are ordained by God, and men only come to occupy them by God’s permissive will. This is why we have a duty to honor them, for they represent God, even when they do not personally know God.

Proverbs 8:17 “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.” Here is shown that there is a reciprocal love between Christ and His people. One Hebrew reading is “I love them that love her” (i.e. Wisdom). “In either case the Word of God identifies loving her with loving God Himself. She cannot be a mere attribute, but a person,” [Faussett]. 1 John 4:19 goes further to reveal that God’s love is prior to ours and the cause of ours for Him. His love to us draws out our love to Him. “It is implied that the love of God is the fountain and foundation of the communication of all blessings, and therefore of perfect blessedness,” [T. Cartwright]. “Early” may be applied several ways: (1) Early in life. (2) Early in each day. (3) Early when problems first arise (not as a last resort). (4) Early, in the sense of earnestly, without delay.

Proverbs 8:18 “Riches and honor are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.” This does not justify the idea that every believer will become rich in material possessions. God has never promised more than just a sufficiency of our needs, (Ps. 37:23-26; Phil. 4:19). Nor does this mean that the believer will have much worldly honor; quite the contrary, (John 15:18-21; 2 Tim. 3:12). These promises deal with spiritual riches, honor and righteousness; hence, they are “enduring” riches. Everything of earth will eventually pass away, but he who seeks the Lord’s righteousness will endure forever, (1 John 2:17).

Proverbs 8:19 “My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver.” (Prov. 3:14). The fruit of Wisdom is the benefits that flow to those who receive it and submit to it. However men may value gold and silver, in the final analysis, no material thing can deliver one from death: righteousness, which comes from knowledge of the Lord, alone can deliver from death and damnation, (Prov. 10:2; 11:4). “Revenue” means increase, so that clearly there is profit in the possession of “Wisdom” that is greater than the best interest one can draw on money. The old theologians often spoke of “having an interest in Christ’s redemption”: if we are assured of a part in this, we may be sure of rewards growing out of this. The two following verses explain this.

Proverbs 8:20 “I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment.” The Lord’s leading is always in the way of righteousness: it is the devil who leads outside the way of righteousness. It is because of the direction of the Lord’s leading that it is always profitable both for the life that now is, and also for that which is to come, (1 Tim. 4:7-8). The Lord’s leading is such that we are found to be in the midst of the paths of judgment, not to the extreme on either side, as was warned against in 4:27. The way of truth is, as Jesus taught, a strait and narrow way, (Matthew 7:13-14). The broad way that allows people to wander far astray, though very popular, is the way to eternal destruction. Divine Wisdom leads men to the way that is righteous, and that produces righteousness.

Proverbs 8:21 “That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.” Here is the promised fruit of submitting to Wisdom: treasures of real substance. “It is a happiness which will subsist of itself, and stand alone, without the accidental supports of outward conveniences. Spiritual and eternal things are the only real and substantial things,” [M. Henry]. Worldly possessions and riches are but shadows that are here today and gone tomorrow, (Prov. 23:5). But spiritual blessings, though seen only by the eye of faith, are the real substances, for they have God’s own power operating in them, (Rom. 8:28). Note that not only does the Lord promise substance to them, but He promises to “fill” their treasures. See the greatness of this promise in 1 Corinthians 2:710; Ephesians 3:18-29; Revelation 21:7.

Proverbs 8:22 “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.” “Wisdom here has personal properties and actions; and that intelligent divine person can be no other than the Son of God himself, to whom the principal things here spoken of wisdom are attributed in other scriptures. The best exposition of these verses we have in the first four verses of St. John’s gospel,” [M. Henry]. “The ‘beginning of God’s way’ is that time when first God passed from His inscrutable way to active operation. The first of ‘His ways’ was creation,” [Faussett]. This carries this “Wisdom” back to eternal time, and nothing is eternal but God.

Proverbs 8:23 “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” “Set” is the same Hebrew word as in Psalm 2:6, and means “to anoint” or to set forth officially. His eternal existence is often mentioned, (Ps. 93:2; Micah 5:2). His existence before the earth was, in the beginning of time as we know it, is also declared, (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:1-2). Those who reject the eternal existence of Christ, and wish to make Him only the first created being, are faced with an impossible task in the light of all these and many other like texts which so closely bear witness to his eternal being before all created things. The description of Wisdom’s eternal being goes on.

Proverbs 8:24 “When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.” According to Genesis 1:2, the deep is the first thing specifically mentioned after the creation, so that what is here said of Wisdom reveals His existence anterior to Genesis 1:1-2. It was on the second creative day that the upper and lower waters were separated from one another, the firmament dividing between the two, (Gen 1:6-8). This, as well as all of the rest of creation, was the work of Christ Himself, as we are told often in the N. T. “Wisdom is in this full description shown to be prior to all existing things in every kind of priority—in that of time, order, dignity, and causation,” [Faussett]. Though “brought forth” may seem to our ears to imply Wisdom’s origin, it is only because all things that we know have some sort of beginning, and human language is almost unable to express origin without beginning. Christ is also the “only begotten Son of God,” but this does not imply that there ever was a time when he was not. God in all three persons of the Trinity is “I AM THAT I AM,” (Ex. 3:14) —the eternally existing One, to whom there is no past or present or future. He is above time.

Proverbs 8:25 “Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth.” Most of our modern mountains and hills have resulted from the upheavals resulting from the flood and its aftermath, but some hills were before the flood, (Gen. 7:19-20). They were part of the original creation which Jesus Himself created at the original creation. But if He created them, He had to exist before them. “Brought forth” is an anthropomorphism—describing God in human terms (the only terms we can understand) —which does not imply that He had an origin, as we do, but the whole point is to show His existence prior to all created things and thereby to prove that He is God, for only God antedates all created things. Nothing is eternal but God.

Proverbs 8:26 “While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.” Again the priority of “Wisdom” to the creation is set forth, nor is the reference to God making the earth a proof that “Wisdom” is not Christ, for the Father is the authority and God the Son is the agent in creation: “by whom he made the worlds,” (Heb. 1:2). “Fields” refers to the outside placed in contrast to the mountains, (v. 25). Most of the primeval earth was flat, and the mountains of later date, so that this goes back to the very beginning. “Highest part of the dust” sounds strange, but perhaps it refers to man, the noblest part of the creation, who was made of the dust of the earth, (Gen. 2:7). The Hebrew word is the same in both places, and is often used of man, (Gen. 3:19; 18:27; Ps. 103:14; Eccl. 3:20). Hence Wisdom’s existence before the first man. “The creation of man is the last and highest stage in the production of organic life. Every step in creation so far is a prophecy of his coming and a preparation for it. This wonderful world is purposed for a higher being than fish or fowl or beast,” [Carroll].

Proverbs 8:27 “When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth.” Heaven and its hosts (angels as well as the stars) were prepared before earth, and it was the rebellion of an angel that disrupted the primeval earth of Genesis 1:1, (See Isa. 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:12-18; Jer. 4:23ff). Thus Wisdom antedates even the angelic creation, and proves Christ to be infinitely more than the highest archangel. “Compass” is “a circle” as the marginal reading and shows that the Bible taught the sphericity of the globe long centuries before the first scientist thought of this. The Bible is always accurate in all realms, science included, and so it is always far in advance of the most advanced scientific theories. It is “Science falsely so called” that opposes the Bible, (1 Tim. 6:20).

Proverbs 8:28 “When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep.” Clouds are a mystery even to meteorologists. Time-lapse photography of developing clouds make it appear that they develop out of nothing. Were it not for God’s having established the atmospheric laws that produce clouds, they would long since have dissipated once and for all and left this globe a barren desert, incapable of life. God also has blessed the earth with reservoirs of water to nourish life during droughts. However, this deals primarily with the original creation. “He made them of greater density, so as to sink down into their deep bed, and not float above in the air, like the clouds; and strengthened the fountain-beds so that the deep should not break forth, as he proceeds to describe in verse 29,” [Faussett].

Proverbs 8:29 “When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth.” This decree is stated in Job 38:10-11, Psalm 104:9 and Jeremiah 5:22. All that God does is orderly, and every part of the creation is bounded by laws and decrees, which is why all creation works with a more perfect precision than the most precise clock on earth. The skeptic may snort that it is only the higher level of land that holds the sea in place, but this would be true only if the earth were one great flat pancake. Because it is a globe, the natural tendency would be for all water to fly out into space away from earth, but for the law of gravity which constantly presses the waters into the pores of the earth. God also appointed foundations to the earth, of which we know little because they are in the heart of the earth, but they stably uphold the surface.

Proverbs 8:30 “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” Remarkably similar to John 1:1-2, where we have (1) Absolute eternity of being. (2) Distinct personality. (3) Nature or essence of Deity (Carroll). Wisdom’s eternal existence before all creation means this can refer only to Deity. “With Him” shows distinct personality. “Delight” and “rejoicing” reveals the mutual complacency that the Father and Son have with each other, (Isa. 42:1). God the Father calls Jesus His “beloved,” (Matthew 3:17; 12:18, 17:5; Eph. 1:6.) “Rejoicing” is more commonly rendered “laugh” or “play” and the idea is of a father’s delight in watching a child frolic before him. “The truth meant is, ‘I was by Him as the closest and supreme object of the Father’s delight,’” [Faussett].

Proverbs 8:31 “Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.” “Rejoicing” and “delights” are both the same Hebrew words in both verses, showing that what the Father felt for His Son, the son also feels for men, for the Son does all the works that His Father does, (John 5:17-18), for He is equal to the Father in all attributes. Here we see the love of Christ for men manifesting itself in eternity past, for knowing the Father’s determinate counsels, He reckoned men as already existing though they did so only in the elective purposes and counsels of God. It was this supreme kind of love that moved Him to voluntarily lay down His life for His sheep, (John 10:16-18). It required a like supreme love for the Father to give up His Son, (Rom. 5:8).

Proverbs 8:32 “Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.” “Therefore” suggests a reason to love God because of His love to us, (1 John 4:19), and love is always manifested to God by obedience. Wisdom appeals to the sons of men to obey and keep her ways that they might be blessed. Christ apparently refers to this very verse in Luke 11:28, 49; 7:35. “Let Wisdom’s children justify Wisdom by hearkening to her,” [M. Henry]. So far from Wisdom’s counsel causing one to lose out on some desirable thing, it actually promotes happiness, for it withholds one from dangers, and directs one to that which is best for him. No one really loses anything of real value by obeying the Word of God. It is apart of Satan’s deception to imply that God withholds good from people, (Gen. 3:1-5).

Proverbs 8:33 “Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.” There cannot be any wisdom without the hearing of God’s Word and accepting it. Hence, Satan attempts to out off wisdom at its very source by stealing the Word from men. Note how he does this in Jeremiah 23:29-32: (1) By withholding the Word, verse 30. (2) By misinterpreting it, verse 31. (3) By substitution of falsehood for it, verse 32. This has always been a common way of keeping people from obeying Wisdom’s precepts so that they could be happy. Often man’s own depraved nature causes him to lend himself to this deception so as to refuse the Word.

Proverbs 8:34 “Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the post of my doors.” “Blessed” always has to do with happiness, so that here is the source of true happiness: obedience to Christ. But notice how this chapter teaches the prevenient grace of God: “Prevenient grace” is grace that goes before and acts prior to all human acting and seeking. We do not first seek Him until we find Him, but He first seeks us, crying at our gates and doors, (v. 3), until we finally seek to him. In this day of humanism and will-worship, one hears little of prevenient grace.

Proverbs 8:35 “For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord.” “Life” is plural, for the promise is both of the life that now is, and that which is to come. Both of these find their fullness only in Christ, for in Him alone is the life that is the light of men, (John 1:4). Eternal life is alone in Christ, and this is through the grace (favor) of God, for we are only accepted in Christ, (Eph. 1:6). Whoso neglects the salvation that is in Christ alone, shall not have life, (Acts 4:12; Heb. 2:2-3). The Lord’s promise to seekers is that they shall find, (Matthew 7:7-8). There is no promise but of wrath to come for the unconcerned and negligent, (Rom. 1:18; 2 Thess. 2:10-12.) It is a simple choice: we must choose Him who is the Truth or we shall be deceived by him who is the Lie. Hence the warning of the final verse in this chapter:

Proverbs 8:36 “But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.” “Not to love and earnestly seek wisdom is to sin against her. To disregard her is to hate her, and is virtually, though unconsciously, to love death. [Faussett]. This is no one’s fault but the one who neglects to hear. “They ruin themselves, and Wisdom will not hinder them, because they have set at naught all her counsel.” [M. Henry]. Remember the warnings of Proverbs 1:24-33. It is clear that unbelievers hate Christ when they do all in their power to keep clear of Him, and desire not to even hear His Word. May Divine grace tender our hearts to hear and receive the Word.

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