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David Hubbard: Scripture Outline

Description of Wisdom’s Wholesome Invitation (9:1–6)

Admonitions on Differences Between Scoffers and Wise (9:7–9)

Theme Repeated from 1:7: Inclusion (9:10–11)

Antithetic Summary (9:12)

Description of Folly’s Fatal Invitation (9:13–18)

An analysis of the structure pictures for us the ways in which these closing words sum up both the intent and the content of Proverbs 1–8 and provide a fitting conclusion to this introductory section of the book.

Wisdom’s call 9:1–6

Description of feast 9:1–2

Dispatch of maidens as heralds 9:3

Words of invitation 9:4–6

Wisdom’s reception 9:7–11

Rejection by wicked scoffers 9:7

Admonitions to teachers 9:8–9

Restatement of theme 9:10–11; see 1:7

Antithetical summation 9:12

reward to the wise 9:12a

suffering to the scoffer 9:12b

Folly’s call 9:13–18

Description of setting 9:13–15

Words of invitation 9:16–17

Summary appraisal 9:18

Chapter 9 is an envelope: It begins and ends with calls to eat, one issued by wisdom, the other by folly. In the heart of the envelope (vv. 7–12) are the descriptions and commands about dealing with the scoffer and the wise, who mark the two ways in which the calls can be answered. Chapter 9 is an envelope within an envelope, since at the heart of it stand the theme words “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (v. 10) which aims to distill the message of chapters 1–9 just as “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” served to anticipate it in 1:7.

What this final speech tells us, then, are these things:

(1)  wisdom and folly vie for our human allegiance;

(2)  that ultimate choice lies with us and which call we answer, with whom we choose to eat;

(3)  scoffers can be so hardened in their choice that they do harm to the teacher who challenges them; the wise are so open to wisdom’s call that even her rebuke will spark their affection;

(4)  behind wisdom’s invitation stands Yahweh; to say yes to wisdom is to respond in reverent obedience to Him;

(5)  to heed folly’s call is to forsake the land of the living and to join the company of the dead.

All these themes we have met before but never so adroitly packaged, never so compellingly stated. Their bold succinctness and vivid personification give them an irrefutable power.

Paul Koptak: Wisdom works at building and preparing in order to have a sumptuous banquet to offer her guests while Folly sits at her door, loud, undisciplined, and without knowledge. The meals are different, Wisdom offering wine and meat, Folly offering only bread and water. There are the differences in outcome. Wisdom offers a future, a call to maturity, and in a word, life. Folly only offers the immediate pleasure of good things enjoyed outside their intended boundaries, hiding the fact that such pleasure brings death.

Wisdom’s Invitation (9:1–6)

Description and location (9:1–3)

Invitation to the simple — “life” (9:4–6)

Learning Wisdom (9:7–12)

Responses of mockers and wise persons (9:7–9)

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (9:10)

Final outcomes of mockers and wise persons (9:11–12)

Folly’s Invitation (9:13–18)

Description and location (9:13–15)

Invitation to the simple — “death” (9:16–18)

Allen Ross: With a two-strophe poem of two banquets, ch. 9 forms the conclusion of the lengthy nine-chapter introduction to the book of Proverbs. Now Wisdom is portrayed as a noble patroness and Folly as a wicked hostess. Both Wisdom and Folly will make their final appeals; and both appeal to the simpletons, those who need to live by wisdom but who are most easily influenced by folly. Wisdom out of love offers life with no mention of pleasure; Folly out of sensual lust offers pleasure with no mention of death.


A.  (:1-2) Wisdom Has a Lot to Offer

  1. Solid Foundation

Wisdom has built her house;

she has hewn out its seven pillars.”

Eric Lane: Does the adulteress have a nicely-furnished house (7:16f)?  Wisdom has something better, a palace or temple (v.1), with pillars, like Solomon’s temple (1 Kgs. 10:12) and palace (1 Kgs. 7:2).  Pillars give a building strength and beauty.  So will the word of the wise God give us strength, not sap our energy as adultery does (5:11).  Its beauty is real and unfading, unlike the prostitute’s glamour, dependent on cosmetics and clothes (7:10).  Seven is no doubt symbolic of completeness and perfection: God’s word is sufficient because it comes from the only wise God.  It is a home where everything we need is supplied.

Tremper Longman: The fact that the house has seven pillars indicates that it is a magnificent and solid construction.  The number seven indicates perfection and/or completeness. Thus, we are to picture the scene as a large mansion; it demonstrates that Wisdom’s house was “an indication of wealth and social status.”

  1. Sumptuous Feast

“She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine;

she has also set her table.”

Allen Ross: Thus, just as one would prepare a banquet and invite guests, Wisdom prepares to press her appeal—to come not for just a meal, but for life! All this imagery lets the simpleton know that what Wisdom has to offer is costly, but marvelous.

B.  (:3-5) Wisdom Aggressively Solicits the Naive

She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city. 

‘Let all who are simple come in here!’  she says to those who lack judgment,

‘Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed.’”

C.  (:6) Wisdom Leads to Life and Understanding Beyond the Gate or Repentance

Leave your simple ways and you will live;

walk in the way of understanding.”

Tremper Longman: We hear Woman Wisdom speaking in the last three verses (4–6) of the unit. Specifically, she addresses the simpleminded, who are also called “those who lack heart.” This reference is neither to the wise nor to the foolish, but to the naive or immature. These are people who are not yet committed to either side of the polarity, and it is the goal of the one named Wisdom to turn them to her side. She wants to instruct them in Wisdom.

She thus invites them to come to her home and share a meal with her. In the ancient Near East, for a woman to invite a man to a meal has erotic overtones. What Woman Wisdom wants is an intimate relationship with the man.


Jonathan Akin: There’s a big question to ask about Proverbs 9:7-12: How do these verses fit, sandwiched between the two invitations of Wisdom and Folly? The answer is that they are giving examples of Wisdom’s teachings so that you know how to read the rest of Proverbs. These verses seem straightforward, but they must be read in this context. After all, these verses contrast the two ways (i.e., the two invitations): wisdom and wickedness. These verses show what these two women teach and produce in their followers progressively. The party you choose to go to determines if you keep these. The party that you choose to go to determines how you act in daily life. Whether you act wickedly or wisely reveals which party you chose. Belief always determines behavior, but behavior reveals what you believe. This is a worship issue. . .

The point of Proverbs 9 is that if you cannot accept a rebuke, it is not just because that is your personality type; it reveals idolatry in your life (perhaps worship of self). This is true in all kinds of practical areas that Proverbs touches on. If you are stingy, it reveals an idolatry of money. If you have a porn addiction, it reveals an idol of sex. If you cannot discipline your children, it might reveal that you have made your kids an idol.

A.  (:7-9) Don’t Cast Pearls Before Swine

  1. (:7-8a)  Folly of Correcting a Mocker

a.  You Will Be Mocked

                                    “Whoever corrects a mocker brings on insult

Ray Ortlund: Openness and humility are how we grow.  Scoffers are not like that.  What is a “scoffer”?  A scoffer is anyone who never accepts correction.  He thinks other people really need his opinions.  He is easily offended.  He is above other people.  And if someone seems to threaten his superiority, he scoffs.  He mocks.  He mouths off.  He denigrates.  This kind of person is dangerous.  If you cross him, he will punish you – and claim it is your fault.

b.  You Will Be Abused

                                    “whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.”

c.  You Will Be Hated

                                    “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you.”

Charles Bridges: Wisdom’s messengers must discriminate in the proclamation of their message.  If the simple welcome it, the scorner and wicked will rebel.

David Hubbard: “Choose your pupil wisely” is the point of verse 8. Trying to coax one who mocks truth, morality, and wisdom to change his ways will only intensify his ire and turn him completely against you (“hate”). Your efforts will only add insult to injury. Spite will be the tuition paid you for your services. Better by far to spend your energies on the teachable; even if you show them where they are wrong they will shower you with appreciation and esteem (“love”). So open are they—the “wise” person and the “just” one (the one who wants to do right and who is fair-minded in evaluating the words of the teacher)—that they take in “instruction” like nutrition and become stronger and stronger by it (v. 9).

  1. (:8b-9)  Benefits of Correcting the Wise

a.  He Will Love You

                                    “rebuke a wise man and he will love you.”

b.  He Will Grow in Wisdom

                                    “Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still.”

c.  He Will Grow in Understanding

                                    “teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.”

B.  (:10-12) The Fear of the Lord is the Beginning of Wisdom

  1. (:10)  Principle Stated

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,

and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Lindsay Wilson: The fear of the Lord sayings in 1:7 and 9:10 form an inclusio within chapters 1 – 9. The chapter does not end with a fear of the Lord saying simply because it is structured chiastically, in which the key point is made in the centre. The invitation of personified wisdom (vv. 1–6) is balanced by the invitation of personified folly (vv. 13–18). The folly of the scoffer when corrected (vv. 7–8a and v. 12b) brackets the response of the wise person to correction (vv. 8b–9 and v. 12). This leaves the fear of the Lord and promise of long life at the centre and the structural key point of the chapter (vv. 10–11).

Caleb Nelson: The heart of the matter is fearing God. The fear of God, if you remember, is the proper attitude of one who, above all else, abhors offending his Father. To fear God is to have the proper attitude toward His overpowering dynamic energy. It is know and respect Him as a consuming fire. If you work with radioactive materials, you fear them. If you don’t fear them, you won’t be working with them very long. And in the same way, if you have anything to do with the Holy One of Israel, then you must fear Him. Wisdom begins with an attitude, the basic attitude of piety: humility, reverence, awe, and yes, real fear before the majesty of God Almighty.

Wisdom means knowing God as the Holy One. Only when you understand how radically He is set apart from common use to the special and sole purpose of glorifying Himself do you begin to have an accurate conception of God. He doesn’t exist to make you happy, to forgive you, to give you what you want. He exists to glorify Himself, and you exist to glorify Him too.

All true religion boils down to these two principles: the fear of God and the knowledge of God. Do you know Him? And do you fear Him? Remember, to know Him is not just to know about Him, but to know Him personally. To fear Him is not just to agree that He ought to be respected, but deep in your soul to have a holy fear of doing anything of which God would disapprove.

  1. (:11)  Long Life is at Stake

For through me your days will be many,

and years will be added to your life.”

  1. (:12)  Both the Wise and the Mocker Get What They Deserve

If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;

if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.”

Paul Koptak: Taking the proverb as Wisdom’s last words, we see that she puts responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the listener, making it clear that one “reaps what one sows.” She tells each of her listeners to decide whether they will be a wise one or a mocker. Once you hear the call of Wisdom, she warns, you are no longer simple or unlearned. You are either on your way to becoming wise or you are a scoffer; it all depends on your response. And if you are wise, you are not only learning for yourself, you are learning for others, for you will become a teacher. Wisdom’s feast, then—her instruction and her correction—is a first course in the fear of Yahweh. Her call is not an invitation to some school of manners or moral self-improvement. Rather, it is an invitation to know the Holy One.

Roland Murphy: This saying is a kind of no-nonsense statement, pointing out the effects that wisdom/arrogance have for their possessors. It balances vv 7–9, which envision communication of wisdom to others, both the arrogant and the wise, in v 8. Wisdom is a boon that is considered to be something to be communicated, even in the home, from mother and father, and also throughout life. The youth may or may not choose to listen, and will accordingly bear the responsibility with its inevitable results.


(portrayed as a prostitute)

A.  (:13) The Fool Lacks Substance

  1. Shouts an Empty Message

The woman Folly is loud;”

  1. Leads an Undisciplined Life

she is undisciplined

  1. Lacks any Depth of Understanding

and without knowledge.”

B.  (:14-16) The Fool Aggressively Solicits the Naive

She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city,

calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way. 

‘Let all who are simple come in here!’ she says to those who lack judgment.”

Aggressively markets her wares; even to those who were not actively looking for seductive pleasures

Allen Ross: Folly’s position (v.14) is prominent in the city streets. Here we must notice how she often imitates wisdom (cf. v.3), so only the cautious and discerning will make the right choice. In ch. 7 the adulteress woman was lurking in the night, but now Folly is openly bold and apparently accepted by the community. Her deportment is one of a prostitute; she has put no effort into preparing the feast but only sits and calls. Her invitation, likewise, is to passersby (v.15), here described as those “who go straight” (hamyaššerîm) on their ways, thus identifying them as quiet and unwary.

C.  (:17-18) Foolishness Leads to Death and Condemnation Beyond the Seductive Pleasures of the Moment

  1. (:17)  The Open Seduction of Temporal Pleasures

Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!”

Does not hide the unlawful character of the sinful pleasures … just appeals to the flesh to satisfy its cravings; there is something sinister and attractive about doing something naughty

  1. (:18)  The Hidden Reality of Death and Condemnation

But little do they know that the dead are there,

that her guests are in the depths of the grave.”

David Hubbard: What appears to be a portal to pleasure—“the door of her house” (v. 14)—is the corridor to “hell” (Sheol, the grave or the grim abode of the dead where the full life of God never reaches). Bluntly but truly put, her past “guests” are now ghosts.

Allen Ross: The point is that the life of folly—a life of undisciplined, immoral, riotous living—runs counter to God’s plan of life and inevitably leads to death. Once again a section of the book ends with the death of a fool (see 7:26–27, 36). Jesus will warn people to avoid this broad way that leads to destruction and to follow the straight and narrow path of righteous, wise living.