Study Guide

Proverbs Wisdom (Personified)

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Wisdom (Personified)

God's First Fan

Wisdom isn't just a concept for Proverbs—it's a person, either allegorically or as an angel-like being of immense power. Proverbs talks about Wisdom's background, and adds some detail to God's mysterious pre-Creation days. It reveals that he created Wisdom before he created the earth, even before he first said, "Let there be light." Wisdom was hanging out, watching and helping God create the world, and delighting in it.

Proverbs describes Wisdom's role in the process of Creation:

The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens. (Proverbs 3:19)

And also, Wisdom personified says,

The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. (Proverbs 8:22-23)

It's important to consider this quote, as well:

When he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race. (Proverbs 29-31)

From the get-go, Wisdom was God's right-hand… er, companion, cheering on the creation of the world and its inhabitants.

God's Romantic History

So, Proverbs reveals that Wisdom isn't only a way to avoid throwing up after gorging yourself on honey, or a bunch of platitudes about good being good. Nor is it just a reminder that badness is really bad and that it's okay to beat your kids. Admittedly, that's all in Proverbs too. But mainly, Wisdom is a way to get joy out of life, a way to navigate any situations that might arise.

Jack Miles—Pulitzer Prize-winning author of God: A Biography—points out that Wisdom, in her personified form, basically takes the role of God's wife, or something very close to it. They're not a married couple like many Greek gods, but they invoke the idea, at least. Earlier in time, people in the Near East apparently worshipped Yahweh (the Israelite's God, in case you didn't know) and his consort, Asherah, a goddess. Various priests and prophets and other authorities kept arguing for ditching Asherah and worshipping one God alone—and their position eventually won out.

Yet, with Wisdom, we see a feminine figure that begins to take on the role of the Asherah in a new way. In a sense, that's what Israel does for God too, in the eyes of prophets like Isaiah—Israel become God's bride. But this isn't actually much of a contradiction, since it is through its love for Wisdom and righteous conduct that Israel will (according to the prophets) win God's favor and become "married" to God. (For more on the Asherah and Wisdom connection, check out Jack Miles, God: A Biography.)

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