Proverbs is the corpus of wisdom. Wisdom literature is different from didactic literature or historical or narrative literature. We spent quite a lot of time early in the series trying to help you understand what it means to read wisdom literature.
Solomon did not spill his dissertation on the way to the publisher. The first nine chapters lay a foundation. In simplest terms, the way of the righteous goes against the way of the wicked. So we have the wicked woman typified as the harlot and wisdom personified as the woman you want to follow. When you come to the end of Proverbs 31, you know it is not a list of how to be a godly woman, although that’s applicable. Chapter 31 is the consummation of what wisdom looks like.
Bruce Waltke, on Proverbs 9, “Wisdom is depicted as a noble patroness and Folly as a pretentious hostess. Both invite the gullible to their houses for a feast. Wisdom, out of true love, competes for the hearts of the uncommitted; Folly, out of erotic lust, competes for their bodies. Wisdom invites them to leave behind their old identification and become wise at her sumptuous feast; Folly lures those who have been going straight to turn aside, mindless of the consequences, at her profligate (shamelessly immoral) and self-indulgent meal.” These two are against each other.
Two verses provide a hinge for this text: Proverbs 8:3 and Proverbs 8:34. We’re getting a picture of wisdom. Verse 34 is a literary hinge to take us into Proverbs 9 because we can decide if we will pay attention to wisdom or allow the temptation to seduce us.
The Feast of Wisdom (Proverbs 9:1-6)
Solomon wrote these verses in common sense language. Wisdom is a strong and stable house. Despite the temptation of Bible students and scholars alike, the general rule of thumb is don’t ask a passage a question that it’s not addressing. Wisdom is clear; you can’t miss her. Her house is there, the feast of wisdom is well laid, and it’s inviting for you. In Proverbs 9:2, every word in the Hebrew text ends with an ‘ah’ sound. Solomon, when he writes this, is setting a standard that this is what wisdom looks like.
Interestingly, sin is one of the problematic issues for Christians that we continue to struggle with. Scripture doesn’t ever say, ‘stop sinning,’ but gives an opportunity to do something else. We must turn the other way because God knows that our hearts naturally choose sin, pride, and jealousy.
The Proverbs say, ‘I’ve got wisdom to help you, so you don’t continue down the path of sin.’ You can’t just stop sinning; you’ve got to do something else or change your heart and mind because there’s nothing good. Wisdom is life versus death.
The Centerpiece (Proverbs 9:7-12)
Kidner points out that these verses “correct the impression that men are saved or lost, merely through an isolated, impulsive decision. The choice is seen ripening into character and so into destiny.” You don’t have to know the exact day you accepted Christ, but you need to know that you trust in Christ and Christ alone, that He lived, died, was buried, and came back from the dead. He offers eternal life and forgiveness of sins to all who put their trust in Him.
His atoning work solves our sin condition. A helpful passage to study is John 10:27-30, which says, “My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
The ancient text is never out of date. We don’t need to make the Bible relevant, as many so-called Bible teachers today claim. Since it is His word, trust Him and don’t worry about the words of false teachers. Know that you will be insulted if you rebuke or reprove someone wicked. In the last decade, the response of the wicked has gone from acceptance to criticism. If you say you believe God made one man and one woman for life in His image, and that’s the way He designed it, people will vilify you.
Be careful because once you taste dishonor, you will get to decide whether you will stand firm or recuse yourself. Wisdom stands apart and tells us, “Reprove a wise man, and he will love you.” The sign of wisdom in a man is the ability to receive reprove and take it as an opportunity to continue learning.
Regarding Proverbs 9:12, Derek Kidner writes, “This is perhaps the strongest expression of individualism in the Bible. Such statements don’t deny that people benefit or suffer from each other’s characters but emphasize that the ultimate gainer or loser is the man himself. Your character is the only thing you cannot borrow, lend, or escape, for it is you.” People will bear the decision for what they do. To be wise for yourself, as the text states, gives each person a sense of personal responsibility. God made man in His image, and man has been making God in his image ever since.
The Feast of Folly (Proverbs 9:13-18)
Bruce Waltke writes, “Instead of building a house, preparing a banquet, and sending maidservants in preparation for her banquet, the personified harlot pompously sits on an elevated throne at the opening of her house. From this pompous posturing and prominent position, she seduces the gullible to steal from her husband her erotic pleasures that rightly belong to him. Tragically, the gullible, as morally ignorant as the harlot, are unaware that her house is a death trap.” This is vivid language but a very accurate explanation of the passage.
This sordid counterfeit tries her voice by the high places to pass as the real thing, for she cannot withstand truth. The woman personified as wisdom in Proverbs 8:1-2 takes her stand at the doors and cries out. This deceptive daughter can only sit at the doorway of her house or by the city gate, too careless to take a stand for the truth. She fishes for those who make their paths straight, feigning to be the woman personified as wisdom; she is a fraudulent substituent at every turn.
For the first time, Solomon talks about the one choosing the straight path while she sits waiting to seduce and lie to him. Proverbs 9:17 says, “Stolen water is sweet. And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” This verse likely connects to Proverbs 5:15, which is suggestive of stealing another man’s wife. The believer in Christ knows 1 John 1:9 too well. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous, so that He will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
We sin, knowing we have 1 John 1:9 in our back pocket as a ‘get out of jail free’ card. This is why we remember Romans 6:1-3, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? Far from it! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” If you have to think about something twice, don’t do it. Forsake it and go the other way.
The Lesson of The Text
If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Like Satan, she whispers you surely will not die! Many will say your choice of immorality doesn’t matter. Be true to yourself. However, God made man in His image, and we have distorted, contorted, and perverted it. The American Christian has created more than a golden calf to worship. The idols on the mantles of our hearts are bigger, better, newer, more, money, sex, power, position, title, authority, and personal rights. The void of Godly leadership makes idols.
Proverbs 9:18 gives us an interesting picture after the feast of wisdom and the feast of folly. It tips its hand to the intrigue and fascination with the consequences of those who do not believe. Scripture says when you die as a believer, you’ll be in the presence of Jesus Christ.
The only questions left will be, “What was I ever worried about? Why did I ever lack the faith to believe He’d see me?” For now, we are in the middle. You get to choose what feast you go to, The Feast of Wisdom or The Feast of Folly.
Catch up on the rest of the Proverbs series here.
Find all Proverbs resources here.