Which way? How to decide? Notes on Proverbs 9


As in all Scripture, Pro 9 presents two ways, and two invitations, that of wisdom and that of folly. The invitations are personified. Both have a location, invitation, and meal, but the invitations lead to opposite results, life, v 6, and death, v 7.

Between the two invitations is a pericope in three parts: a declaration that appears to be addressed to the wise who would extend the invitation of life, vv 7-9, the repetition of the theme statement, v 10, and a declaration addressed to those who consider the two ways, vv 11-12.

The entire chapter presents a chiastic structure, with the two invitations surrounding the central section in verses 7-12, which themselves are chiastic:

proverbs 9.7-12

This places the theme statement of verse 10 smack in the middle of the chapter.

Wisdom speaks the truth, while folly deceives.

Initial words are the same: “Whoever is naive, let him turn in here” vv 4, 16, but the food offered varies greatly, vv 2, 17. Wisdom’s invitation is an open one, she shows with honesty what can be had. Folly offers forbidden and hidden fruit. So the appeals are far apart even if the words used may be the same.

The guiding principle and motivation for the right choice is the fear of the Lord. It guides one in the “art of steering” one’s life.* The decision to fear God clarifies the ambiguity between the two invitations.

What will we decide?

*W. Zimmerli’s phrase is quoted in Rick W. Byargeon, “The Structure and Significance of Prov 9:7-12” JETS 40/3 (Sept 1997): 367-75.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

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