Personification IN proverbs

Bro. Jeff Mezera

"Get wisdom, though it cost all you have, get understanding." (Proverbs 4:7 - NIV)

“The LORD created me first of all, the first of his works, long ago.” – Proverbs 8:22 TEV

There is a thesis in the first chapter of Romans which proclaims that the world is without the wisdom of God. It goes on further to say that that the world is "without excuse" (Romans 1:20), because they should recognize the power of God in creation. But, even today they do not know who God is and continue to sin. Neither do they know the Son whom was sent to redeem man, the Word of God, "the true light which lighteneth every man that cometh into the world" (1 John 1:9).

As a spoken word reveals the invisible thought, so Christ, the living Word, reveals the invisible God. Jesus, as the mediator between God and man, said "if any man has seen me, he has seen my Father."

Wisdom, by definition is the application of knowledge -- i.e. "daily practical living." Wisdom is nothing unless it is manifested. God manifested His wisdom to us through Christ -- as it is said in 1 Corinthians 1:24. "But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and wisdom of God."

"But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." (1 Corinthians 1:30)

The evangelist alludes to the pre-existence of Jesus in Luke 11:49.

Luke 11:49  Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute

Here he identifies Jesus as the "wisdom of God." Barnes Notes comments on this Scripture saying, "By the wisdom of God, here, is undoubtedly meant the Saviour himself."

Many Bible commentators for centuries have understood Wisdom in Proverbs chapter eight as descriptive of the works of Jesus Christ.

Weseley's Notes says that "it is a great question what this wisdom is. Some understand it of the Divine wisdom; others of .. [Christ] … the chapter may be understood of Christ considered partly in his personal capacity, and partly in regard of his office, which was to impart the mind and will of God to mankind."

Gills Commentary says "This chapter contains the instructions of Wisdom or Christ; showing the excellency of them, and the author of them, in opposition to the harlot and her allurements, in the preceding chapter."

In this symposium I'm going to present further evidence that Wisdom IS Christ and we will proceed from there… although I will deal with some of the objections to the interpretation of Wisdom as Christ if time will permit and try to answer each of those objections.

There are several parallels with the way in which Wisdom is personified in Proverbs. It isn't only personified in chapter eight, but also the first nine chapters of Proverbs with Jesus life and ministry.

Some commentaries make the suggestion that every time Wisdom is personified in the book of Proverbs it is prophetic of Christ and the work that he did. I've become convinced of this as I've studied this.

PROVERBS CHAPTER 1

Some examples are as simple as the giving of the Holy Spirit.

PROVERBS 1:23

Wisdom says, "Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you". -- Proverbs 1:23 

Jesus said,  "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:" -- John 15:26

Jesus said that the Spirit would not be poured out until he left. Of course the disciples didn't understand his statement at the time, it did become very clear to them later on.

PROVERBS 1:27

When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you.

Proverbs 1:27. "such was the destruction of the Jews by the Romans; it not only laid Jerusalem and the temple waste,  but the whole country of Judea. These are the "desolations" said to be "determined",  or "the consummation and that determined",  which should be "poured upon the desolate",  #Da 9:26,27" (Gill's Commentary)

PROVERBS 1:29
"For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD"

"The Jews cast off the fear of the lord by not choosing Jesus."

PROVERBS 1:31

"Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way." (Prov. 1:31) Jesus condemned the Jewish nation.

"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." -- (Matt 23:37)

PROVERBS CHAPTER 2

In Proverbs chapter two it is said that those who follow Wisdom will be delivered from the strange woman.

Prv 2:16  To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;

Who is this strange woman?  We'll come to that later on….

PROVERBS CHAPTER 3

In Proverbs 3 we find that God made the world through his Wisdom. "The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth..." (Proverbs 3:19-20) This is exactly what we find in Colossians 1:15-17 of Christ. "...For by Him were all things created, that are in Heaven, and that are in earth..." Here it calls Jesus the firstborn of every creature, and we read the same of Jesus, as God’s wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-36 which we will come to later.

Jesus loves those who seek him and love him. -- Proverbs 8:17 “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.” (See also Proverbs 1:28)

This is what Jesus himself said -- "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened." Matthew 7:7-8

PROVERBS CHAPTER 8

Those who find Jesus will be rewarded --

Proverbs 8:18 Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.
Proverbs 8:19 My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver. -- Proverbs 8:21 That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.

Jesus leads in the way of righteousness just like Wisdom does.
Proverbs 8:20 – “I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment.”

Proverbs 8:34 Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. In John 10 Jesus describes himself as both the door and the gate... he who finds Jesus finds life and the favor of the LORD.

"He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1 John 5:12)

This is the same thing that is found in Proverbs 8: 35 - "For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord." This was accomplished by the expression of the wisdom of God in Jesus on the cross.

Christians for centuries of all theological persuasions, Arians, Sabellians (Oneness Christians), Unitarians, and even Trinitarians, have applied "wisdom" in Proverbs chapter 8 to Jesus Christ beginning with the early Church Fathers even until our own time.

WISDOM PERSONIFIED

"That wisdom is more than the personification of an attribute of God, or of the will of God as best for man, but is a distinct adumbration of Christ, is sure to the devout mind. Proverbs 8:22-36, John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:17 can refer to nothing less than the Eternal Son of God." --  Scofield Notes

"Wisdom here has personal properties and actions; and that intelligent divine person can be no other than the Son of God himself, to whom the principal things here spoken of wisdom are attributed in other scriptures, and we must explain scripture by itself."  -- Matthew Henry's Commentary

Jewish commentaries understood wisdom in Proverbs 8 to refer to a creature. "The Targum makes this wisdom a creature, by thus translating the passage: … ‘God created me in the beginning of his creatures.’ The Syriac is the same.” -- Clarke's Commentary

ALL THE TREASURES OF WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE

In Christ is "hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Col. 2:3)

Like all good treasures, it is hidden. What is wisdom if it is not in something or someone? (Col. 2:6)

Col. 2:6  "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him."

 Wisdom can not be anything unless it is displayed. God expressed his wisdom through his son. We can express God’s wisdom not only through our actions just as Jesus expressed God’s wisdom through his actions, but God will express his wisdom in us as He molds, shapes, and develops us as new creatures.

Wisdom is personified many ways throughout chapters 1-9 as we have already described. The wisdom here is from God and wisdom is nothing if it is not manifested. Proverbs 8 shows how God expressed that wisdom through His Son.

It is not talking about one someone apart from God who manifested their own wisdom. God is the father of all the wisdom throughout Proverbs and this chapter specifically shows how God manifested his wisdom in Christ.

THE WORK OF WISDOM IN CREATION

There is in Proverbs chapter 8 a vivid and apt description of the work of Christ in creation, but also of his ministry.

Pr. 8:30 Then I was beside Him, as a master workman -- Through Jesus God made the worlds,  Eph 3:9; Heb 1:2; Col 1:16.

Of all the Kings in the earth, and all the Lords, Jesus is the King of those Kings, and Lord of those Lords. (1 Ti 6:15) "By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth." Pr. 8:15-16

Col. 1:16  For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

Jesus existed before the earth was (Pr. 8:22) "in the beginning" (John 1:1), before the sea was, before the hills. Job was asked by God, "Wast thou made before the hills?" (Job 15:7) The Wisdom of God was!

Proverbs 8:25  Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth

He was even there on the first day in the beginning when the heavens and the earth were created. (Gen. 1:1)

Jesus was there on the second day when there was a compass set upon the face of the depth (Pr 8:27),

He was there on the third day when the waters above the heavens, were gathered together by establishing the clouds above, and those under the heavens by strengthening the fountains of the deep, which send forth those waters (Pr 8:28), and by preserving the bounds of the sea, which is the receptacle of those waters, Pr 8:29.

"God saw every thing that the Son made, and, behold, it was very good, it pleased him, and therefore his Son was daily, day by day, during the six days of the creation, upon that account, his delight,  Ex 39:43. And the Son also did himself rejoice before him in the beauty and harmony of the whole creation, Ps 104:31…The gracious concern he had for mankind, Pr 8:31. Wisdom rejoiced, not so much in the rich products of the earth, or the treasures hid in the bowels of it, as in the habitable parts of it, for her delights were with the sons of men; not only in the creation of man is it spoken with a particular air of pleasure (Ge 1:26), Let us make man, but in the redemption and salvation of man. The Son of God was ordained, before the world, to that great work." -- Matthew Henry's Commentary

If we listen to everything Jesus tells us, and do it, we will be blessed. -- "Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways." (Proverbs 8:32)

Those who refuse Jesus' opportunity for salvation when it is presented to them during Jesus Millennial reign will die. -- "But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death." (Proverbs 8:36)

MASCULINE OR FEMININE

There are some however who argue that Wisdom can not be a personification of Jesus because Wisdom is feminine and Jesus was male.

Proverbs 8:1 – “Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth HER voice?”

The Hebrew word for "Wisdom" is a feminine word. Because the Hebrew word is feminine and because Wisdom is personified it is only a matter of grammar. We normally associate war with men going into battle, but the Hebrew word for "war" is also feminine. Those who have studied other languages know that words in other languages have gender ascribed to them.

In Polish the word for "table" is masculine, but in Spanish and Romanian the word is "feminine." Just because this word is feminine in Hebrew doesn't preclude the idea that this does not refer to Christ.

This idea of ascribing gender is difficult for English speakers who have not studied other languages.

Jesus is prophetically spoken of as the "sun of righteousness in Mal. 4:2 where the "sun", which all Christians agree is representative of Christ, is feminine. (Strong’s 2451)

"'They are proclaimed from on high: She stands in the top of high places’ (Proverbs 8:2); it was from the top of Mount Sinai that the law was given, and Christ expounded it in a sermon upon the mount." --  Matthew Henry

Proverbs 8:2-4  "She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man."


Some say Wisdom can not be prophetic of Christ because he did not cry out in the streets.

Mt. 12:17 "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets." (See also Isa. 42:1-2)

This passage is quoted from Isaiah by Matthew not to show that Jesus did not cry out in the streets, but to explain why he retreated from his enemies, and sought to hide himself. Those familiar with Jesus ministry know that Jesus did cry out the message of God in the streets. The word cry is Strongs' 7121 which means "to preach." Jesus preached everywhere he went.

OTHER PERSONIFICATIONS IN WISDOM

Other commentators suggest that if wisdom is personified then other words in the chapter must be personified as well.

"I wisdom dwell with prudence" (Proverbs 8:12)  The reasoning is that if Wisdom is personified as Christ, then Prudence must be as well.  Who is this Prudence Christ dwelling with?

This is a weak argument because it is only wisdom and foolishness that is personified in these chapters. Proverbs 8:12 is explaining that the personification of Wisdom, Christ, has good judgment.

We can see this from the NLT.

"I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment." NLT

Earlier in our comments, on Proverbs chapter two we mentioned that Wisdom would protect those who follow him from the strange woman.  (That was Proverbs 2:16) This strange woman is mentioned again in Proverbs chapter 9 where Wisdom is contrasted with Foolishness. As was stated earlier, foolishness is personified just as Wisdom is.

If we were to personify Wisdom as Christ, then Who would the personification of foolishness be?

Foolishness is personified as a woman in Proverbs 7

Pr. 7:7  And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding,

8  Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house,

9  In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night:

10  And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.

In Proverbs chapter 9:13-15 this foolish woman is described again.

Pr 9:13  A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing. For she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city,

15  To call passengers who go right on their ways:

If Wisdom is Christ and Wisdom is contrasted with what is opposite of wisdom then foolishness must be that which is the opposite of Christ, i.e. the Antichrist who is represented as a "woman" in Revelation 17:3,4,6,18

 


Revelation 17:3-5  So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.


4  And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:

5  And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.


Gill's commentary says this: "Antichrist is represented as a "woman",  #Re 17:3,4,6,18; and is "foolish"; for whatever worldly cunning and craft,  and wicked subtlety,  there may be in the Romish antichrist,  yet he is destitute of all spiritual wisdom and knowledge; and is "clamorous" and noisy,  has a mouth speaking great swelling words of vanity and blasphemy,  boasting of infallibility,  works of supererogation,  merits,  miracles,  wealth, and riches; and very pressing and importunate to gain proselytes to his religion; the priests and Jesuits are compared to noisy,  clamorous, croaking frogs,  #Re 16:13" (comment on Pr 9:13)

THE FIRST OF HIS WORKS

Many translations render the word “possessed in Proverbs 8:22 as "created." (See LXX, JPS, LAMSA, NIV, NLT, NRSV, ROTHERHAM, RSV, JB, MOFFATT, NAB, NEB)

Many translations render this word "created."

LXX -- "The Lord hath created Me for the beginning of His ways for His Works."
JPS -- "The LORD made me as the beginning of His way, the first of His works of old."

Lamsa -- "The LORD created me as the first of his creations, before all of his works."

NIV -- "The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; NIV
NLT -- "The LORD formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else."

NRSV -- "The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago."

Rotherham -- "Yahweh, had constituted me the beginning of his way, before his works, at the commencement of that time."

RSV -- "The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old."

American Translation-J. Edgar Goodspeed: "The LORD formed me as the first of his works"

JB -- "Yahweh created me when his purpose first unfolded."

Moffatt: -- "The Eternal formed first of his creation"

NAB -- "The LORD begot me, the firstborn of his ways"
NEB -- "The LORD created me at the beginning of his works"

"Gesenius gives as the primary meaning of qanah: ‘to get, to gain, to obtain, to acquire.’ Davies gives it the meaning of ‘to form or make, to get or acquire, to gain or buy.’ Strong defines qanah as ‘to erect, i.e., to create ; by extension to procure, especially by purchase.'" – The Great Debate, by Robert Wagoner.

There is serious question as to the meaning of the word, “qanah” in Pr. 8:22 (“possessed”) with the meaning of “create.” It is never used once in the form it is used with in Proverbs 8:22 with the meaning of "create." *

There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the meaning of this word.  The following commentary I will read will speak a little about this.


--------------------------

*Footnote:

There are two roots … in Hebrew, one meaning ‘to possess,’ and the other meaning ‘to create.’ The older translations did not know of the second root, but suspected in certain places that a meaning like that was necessary (e.g., Genesis 4:1; 14:19; Deuteronomy 32:6). Ugaritic confirmed that it was indeed another root. The older versions have the translation "possess" because otherwise it sounds like God lacked wisdom and therefore created it at the beginning. They wanted to avoid saying that wisdom was not eternal. Arius liked the idea of Christ as the wisdom of God and so chose the translation "create." Athanasius translated it, "constituted me as the head of creation." The verb occurs twelve times in Proverbs with the meaning of ‘to acquire’; but the Greek and the Syriac versions have the meaning ‘create.’ Although the idea is that wisdom existed before creation, the parallel ideas in these verses (‘appointed,’ ‘given birth’) argue for the translation of ‘create’ or ‘establish’ (R. N. Whybray, ‘Proverbs 8:22-31 and Its Supposed Prototypes,’ VT 15 [1965]: 504-14; and W. A. Irwin, ‘Where Will Wisdom Be Found?’ JBL 80 [1961]: 133-42).”  (Footnote of the NET translation on Proverbs 8:22 at www.bible.org)
___________

Proverbs 8:30  Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;

 

Contextually, Wisdom is still spoken of as being “brought forth” later in the passage. Proverbs 8:24 -- “When there were no depths, I was brought forth.”

“Brought forth” in Hebrew means exactly what it says, i.e. “to be brought forth, to be born.”

The commentary continues its discussion of the word "brought forth"… "The third parallel verb is … "I was given birth." Some translate it "brought forth"--not in the sense of being presented, but in being "begotten, given birth to." Here is the strongest support for the translation of hn´q* as "created" in v. 22." (Footnote of the NET translation on Proverbs 8:24 at www.bible.org)

Wisdom was indeed “brought forth” and this helps us to understand the context and meaning of this chapter and especially what “possessed” in verse 22 means.

Proverbs 8:30, "Then I was by him, as one brought up (Strong's #525 -- "artificer, architect, master workman, skilled workman") with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him”

Not only can the word "possess" in this context can have the meaning of "create" as the Septuagint and Syriac translate it, but we also see that Wisdom was brought up, was trained, and was the master workman of God’s creative works.

Jesus truly is the master workman of God’s creative works! He was the first of Jehovah’s creative acts, and it was with his assistance that all else came into being. Truly, this great being who plays so many important roles in the great plan of the ages is worthy of our adoration and worship!