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Proverbs 9:1-18 by Robert Dean
Party time! Every day you get two festive invitations. One is from Lady Wisdom and the other from the Foolish Woman. Let this lesson in Proverbs show you the rich rewards of choosing the right party to attend and the sad, self-destructive results of the wrong one. Discover the daily pattern for developing wisdom and God's red flag warning of the scoffer's miserable downfall. Find out what the seven pillars of Lady Wisdom are.
Series:Proverbs (2013)
Duration:51 mins 21 secs

Invitation to Life and Death. Proverbs 9:1-18


The Bible designates that it is the man that is the head of the home, the spiritual leader in the home, the one who is responsible for teaching and training the children on the path of wisdom, which is a major emphasis as we have seen throughout these first nine chapters of Proverbs. We make choices in life, and they reflect which direction we are going to go. We make basically two choices in life every single day. These choices may relate to a number of sub-choices but the choice that we make is: Are we going to choose today the path of life or the path of death?


The way of wisdom is described in chapter nine in the first six verses. The path of the fool, the simple, is in vv. 13-18, the last six verses. Those are antithetical, opposites; they contrast with one another. In between in vv. 7-12 is an aside focusing on the difference between how the scoffer, the fool responds to the cry of wisdom and the invitation of wisdom versus the one who is wise.

Both wisdom and folly are set forth as women and they are setting forth an invitation. So in one sense there is a choice of which party we are going to attend in life. Are we going to attend the party that looks like it is a lot of fun and very exciting? Or are we going to take the more serious group which has accepted the invitation of the lady wisdom? That is a choice each of us makes every day, and this is the appeal in these first nine chapters.


The role of the father is to teach and train the family in the path of wisdom. There are a lot of different ways to do that. If you don't know how to teach or have never had any kind of instruction, I would encourage you if you are a Dad, a male of the house, that it might be a good idea to attend the Child Evangelism Fellowship event next Saturday morning just to find out a few things. They have tremendous materials that can be used as a parent in teaching and training children in the Word of God.


As we come to our final chapter in the introduction we are faced with this choice that we are faced with numerous times every day: the path of wisdom or the path of the fool.  In chapter eight the focus was ultimately on the one who is responsive to wisdom. He is blessed (8:34). But here in chapter nine wisdom is portrayed as a lady who is setting forth a banquette and sending out invitations to all. There is no limitation on the invitation, and not only that, but she is providing a sumptuous banquet and there is no cost. It is a great illustration of grace. Grace means that something is given to us freely. It doesn't mean there is no cost associated with it. For example, with salvation the cost was the death of the Son of God. But to receive the blessings, the benefits of that death, we simply accept a free gift. We are given the opportunity of receiving eternal life by trusting in Jesus Christ for our salvation. It is a free offer but it was not free to God; it cost something, the death of Christ on the cross.


Proverbs 9:1 NASB "Wisdom has built her house, She has hewn out her seven pillars." The picture here at the beginning is an extended metaphor where wisdom is preparing for this banquet. It involves the construction of the place where the banquet will be held, all of the preparation of the food and the wine and the other furnishings of the table. [2] "She has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine; She has also set her table; [3} She has sent out her maidens …" So the picture here is of someone preparing a banquet. The first word in v. 1, "wisdom," is accurate. However, it is in the plural in the Hebrew. The plural use of the noun here is really a plural of excellence. In the Hebrew it is to be treated as a singular concept even though the plural is there which intensifies the meaning of wisdom, the fullness of everything related to wisdom. The verb that is associated with it, "has built," is a third person singular verb. A plural noun requires agreement with a plural verb, but having a singular verb here indicates that the noun is to be treated as a singularity, not as a multiplicity. It is not wisdoms but it intensifies the meaning of wisdom as one complex of ideas.


The word translated "built" is the same word used to describe God's creation of Eve in the garden of Eden. It is a word that means to carefully build and construct something through the use of craftsmanship. It describes the creative power and it shows that it is something that is thought out, something that has been prepared for and planned, not something that is done haphazardly. And it presents a sort of overview of what the next couple of verses will focus on: that wisdom has built the house.


Then the second part clarifies the first part. How did she build her house? She did it by hewing out her seven pillars. What are the seven pillars? Where did that idea come from? Over the years there have been a number of guesses over what these seven pillars are. They reflect the fact that over a lot of church history the interpretation was based upon some sort of allegorical method of spiritualizing, where you just try to guess what that meaning might be and look for some kind of spiritual, hidden connotation there. One of the more creative was the idea they represented the first seven chapters in the introduction. But that really doesn't work; there is no indication anywhere in the text that indicates that.


Others have suggested that this is a reflection of the ancient concept of dividing the liberal arts into seven categories. In the ancient world the liberal arts were divided into a set of three and a set of four: the trivium included grammar, rhetoric and dialectics, and then the quadrivium which represented the four, which were music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. In Jewish thought the Midrash talks about the seven heavens, or seven climates, or seven parts of the earth; but again, that doesn't really fit the context here.


In the early part of the church age in what is called the Patristic period and then the Middle Ages within the Roman Catholic church there was the development of seven sacraments. And then there were a lot of people in the Middle Ages and later who mystically said the seven pillars are the seven sacraments. There is nothing in the text that indicates that.


Others tried to be a little more textual and thought, what else has seven in the Old Testament. And there is the mention of the seven spirits of God, which are the seven different ministries of the Holy Spirit in Isaiah 11:2 related to the Messiah. That is a little more created and tries to be a little more textual, but it doesn't seem to fit the context.


In fact, we really have to look at the context when we see any kind of metaphor and just ask: What are they talking about? They are just using figurative language to talk about the construction of a house. Wisdom is building a house. And so we look more towards archaeology to understand something of the construction of a house than we would any of the other things that have been mentioned in church history. The way homes were often constructed, especially among the aristocracy, was to have an open courtyard with a portico along one side with supporting pillars. There was an Arabic proverb that said a rich man has a house that stands on twelve pillars. It has to do with something that gives structure and stability to the house. When wisdom is building your house it is constructed on something that gives it a foundation, gives it stability, and gives it strength. Regarding the fact that there are seven pillars here, the number seven in Scripture often relates to the idea of perfection. And so this shows the idea of the completedness of the house that wisdom builds. It is sufficient for those who come to dwell in the house of wisdom. 


Then in verse 2 we have the preparation of the house or preparation for the feast in celebration of wisdom. She slaughters her animals, and this relates not only to just the process of the original slaughter of the animal but also stands for the entire process of preparation. In the ancient world this took some time. Proverbs 9:2 NASB "She has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine; She has also set her table." It talks about her complete preparation of everything necessary for physical sustenance. Slaughtering is a difficult activity, it demands strength, capability and knowledge of an animal. Wisdom represented here as a woman is fully capable of slaughtering the animals. Then she furnishes her table. She is concerned not just with the functionality of the food but also the presentation of the food and how the table would be set. This emphasizes the concept of something that is done skillfully and beautifully, not just doing the right thing the right way.


Once that has been provided what we see here is that wisdom has provided everything that we need in a place where we are going to reside. So we live in a house that has stability and it provides our every need at no cost. This is a great picture of the teaching of God's Word. God's Word is free to us, just as salvation is free to us. We are to study it, and it will give us stability and sustenance for every area of our life.


Wisdom, once having set the table and provided everything for us, is going to send out her handmaid to invite all to this place, to come to the party. Notice how wisdom is presented as being thoughtful in planning and preparing and covering every exigency possible, and in contrast there is noisy, foolish wisdom. She is open to any idea and often is absorbed with contradictory ideas, there is no sense of order there. She is simple; she actually knows nothing. She may have a lot of information but she has no structured knowledge, no truth. Proverbs 9:13 NASB "The woman of folly is boisterous, {She is} naive and knows nothing." Verse 15, she cries out, and so she, too, is offering an invitation. She sits in the high places of the city so, like the lady of wisdom she is offering what she has to everyone. So we are presented with this choice.


Now the invitation from lady wisdom is that she has sent out her maidens. Who are the maidens of wisdom? These would be the prophets of the Bible. These are the ones who are calling out through the highways and byways of life. In the New Testament we have the apostles, the pastors and evangelists. These are the ones who are calling people to come and dwell in the house of wisdom. Now that the banquet is all prepared and the home is prepared she sends out her handmaidens in order to invite people to come.

There are some who have raised an objection here, that in the ancient world you wouldn't have female messengers going out to invite male guests to the banquet. However, this is seen even in the culture of the time, in a Ugaritic legend that has been uncovered in recent years, called The Legend of King Keret, where the king instructs his wife to prepare a meal, to slaughter the fattest animals of  the fat stock, to open up the wine flasks, to invited the dignitaries and troop leaders, and then she is the one who sends out the invitations to one and all within the community. 


Then we begin to read how the invitation is phrased: Proverbs 9:4 NASB "Whoever is naive, let him turn in here! …" This word "naïve" we have seen before. It is a word that indicates one who is open to just any idea. They are the naïve, foolish person. They haven't established themselves, they haven't sunk down their roots deeply into their foolishness yet and so are convertible, winnable to the side of wisdom. This would be contrasted to the one identified as the scoffer in vv. 7-12 because the scoffer is one who is already set in his ways and refuses to respond to the invitation of wisdom and is set on his path of self-destruction. 


This is the call of the gospel as well—to anyone. It doesn't matter what your station in life is, what mistakes in life you have made, what your past is. The invitation is there to freely respond to the offer of salvation freely through Jesus Christ. The offer is to you to come and to learn wisdom so that you can avoid the mistakes, the pitfalls, the disasters, that come from those who reject the wisdom of the Bible, the wisdom of Christianity.


"To him who lacks understanding she says. [5] 'Come, eat of my food And drink of the wine I have mixed.'" This is where we get our action plan. We see this through the imperative in the text. This is the only section (vv. 5, 6) where we have imperatives (commands) in this passage. [6] "Forsake {your} folly and live, And proceed in the way of understanding." There is a pattern to this. First of all we have to take in the Word of God. The metaphor of eating and drinking in Scripture is taking something and making it a part of ourselves. When we eat or drink something it comes into our body and it then metabolized and becomes part of our being. Eating and drinking is often used in the Scripture of believing in Christ. What is meant by that metaphor is that if we don't accept His gift of salvation, if we don't believe or receive it by faith alone then it will end up in eternal condemnation. The same it true about our ongoing relationship with the Lord. We need to take in the Word, we need to eat the Word of God, take it in so it becomes part of our life. "Eat of my food" (v.5), which is true wisdom, biblical thinking. 


There is a choice here (v.6). We have to turn from the foolish choices that we have made, the foolish patterns that we have adopted, and turn our back on the path that leads to death; and by doing so we are going to live; we are going to choose life rather than death, and this means we are going to choose a different path. We are going to go in the path of understanding and not in the path of foolishness.


Then the next set of verses describe what happens to those who refuse the offer, the invitation of wisdom. They become a scoffer. A scoffer is a fool or a simple person that has basically become fossilized in their negative volition. They have hardened their heart to God, they are no longer responsive and, in fact, anyone who tries to correct them is just going to bring misery upon themselves. 


Proverbs 9:7 NASB "He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man {gets} insults for himself. [8] Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you." These two verses are tied together. This represents the consequences of the path of the one who chooses wisdom versus foolishness. So if you are wise and you attempt to correct a scoffer, i.e. someone who is hardened in their opposition to God (sometimes translated as "a mocker"), just brings shame upon himself. The idea that he brings shame upon himself can be either a result of the fact that the scoffer just ridicules and rebukes the wise person and acts in hostile opposition to the person trying to correct them, or it could be a process that is going to end in failure. So it can be a shame because you are trying to correct somebody who is not ever going to respond, it is a waste of time and energy.


There are several passages in Proverbs that talk about the scoffer, e.g. Proverbs 21:24; 3:34. The scoffer is a proud an haughty man. He is driven by arrogance towards God and a rejection of truth. 


Proverbs 21:24 NASB "Proud," "Haughty," "Scoffer," are his names, Who acts with insolent pride." God has a specific attitude towards the scoffer. Proverbs 3:35 NASB "Though He scoffs at the scoffers, Yet He gives grace to the afflicted." He rejects the arrogant. In the New Testament it is more the idea of "God declares war against the arrogant."


Proverbs 19:29 NASB "Judgments are prepared for scoffers, And blows for the back of fools." This is a dramatic description of the divine discipline that will come in the path of the one who has rejected truth.


Proverbs 14:6 NASB "A scoffer seeks wisdom and {finds} none …" How many times have we heard people say they have read the Bible but just couldn't make any sense of it? They may have gone to church or even read some good books, but they just reject it because they have already become so deeply embedded in a foundation of arrogant boastfulness against God that they wouldn't see truth if it slapped them in the face. So a scoffer will never find truth no matter how visible it might be to him. But on the opposite side, "But knowledge is easy to one who has understanding." If you have humbled yourself before God; if you have fear of the Lord, then you can easily see the truth that God makes clear to you. 


Proverbs 9:9 NASB "Give {instruction} to a wise man and he will be still wiser …" He loves being corrected, he desires to do well, and so he is not governed by subjectivity and personal antagonism who is trying to help him in pointing out the path of wisdom. "…  Teach a righteous man and he will increase {his} learning." So we see just the opposite between the wise and the fool. 


Proverbs 15:31 NASB "He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof Will dwell among the wise." So we need to be responsive to those who are honestly correcting us, and that correction comes from this Scripture.


Proverbs 17:10 NASB "A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding Than a hundred blows into a fool." The fool just won't respond.


Proverbs 19:25 NASB "Strike a scoffer and the naive may become shrewd …" They are not going to be responsive. "… But reprove one who has understanding and he will gain knowledge."


Proverbs 10:8 NASB "The wise of heart will receive commands, But a babbling fool will be ruined." The core value is humility. 


Proverbs 12:15 NASB "The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel." Are you willing to listen to others who are more mature and more advanced in the spiritual life than yourself?


Proverbs 15:32 NASB "He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding."


The core value: Proverbs 9:10 NASB "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." Three key words there are linked together: wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. We can't get down the path of wisdom unless we are responsive to God's Word. We have to want to know God. We have to humble ourselves before God, and in doing so we will begin to develop a knowledge of the Word of God and an understanding of how to apply it in our lives. Only the wise and the humble person appreciates rebuke because he can learn from it.


Proverbs 9:11 NASB "For by me your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you." This is the benefit of following the invitation to wisdom's party, because that is where there is real life. This is not just the length of life but the richness of life. If you want to live life to the full and enjoy the benefits then it has to be based on wisdom. 


Proverbs 9:12 NASB "If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, And if you scoff, you alone will bear it." What this is emphasizing is that your life is the result of the decisions that you make. We make many decisions every single day in life and it is the accumulation of those decisions that determine the quality of our life. Ultimately our life is determined by our volition. Are we going to choose the path of life or chose the path of death. The one who benefits is the individual. The one who responds to wisdom is going to experience all of the benefits and blessings of wisdom but the one who is a scoffer, boastfully arrogant, is the one who reaps the negative consequences of his arrogance. 


Then we come to the closing statement describing the path of folly, the way of the foolish woman; going to this party that foolishness throws. It looks great and a lot more fun than the other party. Its trappings are a lot more enjoyable on the surface but it is really a party celebrating death. The foolish lady sits at the door of her house. She hasn't constructed the house, she hasn't built anything, she hasn't planned anything; it is just there. She doesn't care about those things.


Proverbs 9:13 NASB "The woman of folly is boisterous, {She is} naive and knows nothing. [14] She sits at the doorway of her house, On a seat by the high places of the city" – A vantage point where she can make her invitation known to all. [15] "Calling to those who pass by, Who are making their paths straight: [16] 'Whoever is naive, let him turn in here,' And to him who lacks understanding she says, [17] 'Stolen water is sweet; And bread {eaten} in secret is pleasant.'" Whatever the area of temptation is sin always seems to present a façade of fun, a façade of joy and pleasure. And even though we know it is wrong and is ultimately going to hurt us we think, 'Well if nobody is watching and nobody sees. I'll get away with it.' That is the seduction of sin.


But what we learn is, Proverbs 9:18 NASB "But he does not know that the dead are there, {That} her guests are in the depths of Sheol." This is not necessarily those who are going to be eternally condemned because that is not really the focus; this is in life today, the walking dead, not experiencing the richness of life, the pleasure of life as God intended.


The conclusion is that if we don't follow the path of wisdom it leads to a death-like experience. If we reject the wisdom of the gospel then it will indeed lead to an eternal death and condemnation. But if we are believers and we reject God then it will lead to a death-like experience. It may be a lot of physical pleasure and fun for a while but the end result is a death-like existence, we will develop our own self-developed tragedy.