Invitations from Wisdom and Stupidity
Cordially invited to Wisdom’s feast1 Lady Wisdom built herself a house.
She chiseled out seven columns.
2 She cooked the meal and blended the wine.
She set the table.
3 She sent her servants out, to call the guests.
Then she climbed to a high place and yelled down to the city below,
4 “Whoever needs tutoring in common sense, come on in.”
To people who have trouble making wise decisions, she says,
5 “Come and get it. Eat the food of wisdom.
Drink its wine, which I’ve blended for you.
6 Stop making dumb decisions. Choose life.
Search for insight, and let it guide you through your life.”
Ignore the critics7 “If you correct a heckler, expect insults.
If you try to reason with a bad human, you’ll get hurt.
8 Don’t try to reason with hecklers because they’ll hate you for it.
But if you reason with wise people, they’ll love you for it.
9 Teach wise people, and they’ll get even wiser.
Teach good people, and they’ll get smarter.
10 Wisdom starts with respect for the LORD.
When you know the Holy One, you’re better informed.
11 Wisdom keeps you alive longer.
It adds years to your life.
12 If you’re wise, good for you.
If you’re a critic, shame on you.
Invitation to visit Lady Stupid13 Lady Stupid lives it loud.
But she’s naïve, and knows a lot of nothing.
14 She plants herself at the front door of her house,
Looking down at the city below.
15 She yells out to people passing by,
Walking through life, and going about their business.
16 “Hey, anyone out there who’s stupid, come on in.”
And she says to people low on common sense,
17 “Water tastes best if it’s stolen.
So does bread when you eat it in secret, without sharing. Yum.”
18 People listening don’t know that Lady Stupid’s house is death’s door.
All who join her as guests end up in the grave.
Scholars debate the meaning of the seven columns or pillars. Some say the poet is comparing Wisdom’s house to a temple, and that the feast to follow is intellectual food. Others say the pillars relate to Creation, and perhaps refer to the legendary seven pillars that hold up the world. Or maybe they’re related to the Jewish tradition of the seven heavens. Many scholars, however, say we should probably understand the columns as part of a real house. Archaeologists have found evidence of columned homes in Old Testament times, including some with seven columns.
The more literal phrase is “fear of the LORD.” This phrase shows up in Proverbs more than any other book in the Bible. “Fear,” most scholars say, doesn’t mean terror or fright. In Proverbs, it means reverence for God—devotion expressed in obedient behavior. Someone who fears the LORD is someone who lives in a way they believe pleases God. They know the rules, they value the rules, and they live by the rules. If they do this, sages promise God will give them a long and successful life (10:27; 14:27). Sages didn’t always get it right, not literally. But we should probably recognize their poetic license since they are expressing their ideas in the form of Hebrew poems. In which case, exaggeration is allowed.
Literally, Sheol, a word Old Testament writers used to describe the place of the dead. It is a kind of underworld where the dead are cut off from the living—and from God—and there is no coming back.
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