Invitations of Wisdom and Folly
9 Wisdom has built her house;
she has set up its seven pillars.
2 She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;
she has also set her table.
3 She has sent out her servants, and she calls
from the highest point of the city,
4 “Let all who are simple come to my house!”
To those who have no sense she says,
5 “Come, eat my food
and drink the wine I have mixed.
6 Leave your simple ways and you will live;
walk in the way of insight.”
7 Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;
whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
8 Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
rebuke the wise and they will love you.
9 Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
11 For through wisdom your days will be many,
and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.
13 Folly is an unruly woman;
she is simple and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house,
on a seat at the highest point of the city,
15 calling out to those who pass by,
who go straight on their way,
16 “Let all who are simple come to my house!”
To those who have no sense she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet;
food eaten in secret is delicious!”
18 But little do they know that the dead are there,
that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.
Chapter 9 brings us the final of the 3 great poems . This poem contrasts the woman called Wisdom, against another woman, called ‘The Foolish Woman’. Both women invite the people to a meal. If you accept the right invitation, then you will live. If you accept the other invitation, then you will die.
It presents wisdom or folly as a choice. Both are inviting and both are offering something special.
In verse 1, the number 7 has special significance as the perfect number in the Bible. It also has a connection with the 7 instructions in verses 6-12.
In verses 1-3 wisdom has prepared everything the guests need.
Jesus’ words in Matthew 6 spring to mind. Everything we need is found in God. There are a number of places in the Bible that compare heaven to a meal or a great banquet.
The guests invited by wisdom appear to be not the kind of guests we may invite. They are described as simple people. There is no social climbing at this banquet only a social elevating. The rich, the influential and famous are not given a mention.
Being called a simple person in our culture sounds like an insult but the implication is that it is someone who can be influenced or led. Perhaps “humble” might convey the idea better to us.
In verse 13 we read about the foolish woman. She has not made the same effort as the woman called wisdom. She has not pulled out all stops but she attempts to lure with the same words. Wisdom stands and invites her guests whilst the foolish woman sits in her doorway offering stolen water.
Stolen Water is an obscure phrase but it’s most likely meaning is that doing something wrong can offer an enticing thrill but the point of this poem is that it will come back at you in a “reap what you sow” fashion. Some call it karma, some call it “God’s unfailing boomerang”, in the book of Obadiah the phrase used is that “Your deeds will return on your own head”.
There is an implication of sexual sin in this poem but it may also imply secret sin or general wrongdoing.
Both offers are in the same location and at the same time. The potential guest can only choose one or the other. They cannot attend both. They both call to the simple people. These are the people that can be moulded and influenced. The wise and intelligent have made their choice already and the arrogant and proud have made their choice.
This again brings up vivid visual memories for me and the way I lived in recent years. I imagine the banquet of wisdom to be one where unity, peace and connection are fulfilling and a rich experience.
I imagine the foolish invitation as briefly passionate and exciting but leaving you feeling empty and unfulfilled, only to be discarded as she ushers in the next fool to be devoured.
As they cross paths in the entrance there is an exchange fuelled by ego, pride and ugliness and then you are outside all alone. It’s not a pretty picture.