Sunday, June 13, 2010

Pr 9:13-18 for Feb 16

The "woman of folly" (in the Jerusalem Bible of 9:13, "Dame Folly," which personifies folly) practices what is sacrosanct and near universal in most societies: the association of like with like, the concept that birds of a feather flock together. She, being naive (13), calls out to the naive (16); like, calling to like, to get together.

This is in contrast to wisdom, which also calls out to the naive, as we have recently read (Pr 9:1-6). Other contrasts: wisdom is inviting us to "understanding" (9:6). Folly "knows nothing" (13). If people are "making their paths straight" (15), wisdom calls them to go forwards, to "proceed" (9:6), but folly calls those people to make a turn (16).

Wisdom and folly are both calling out. There has been lots of ink spilled over the extent to which an invitation is a quid pro quo, an "in order to, you must" idea. This is not supported. Folly says "let him turn in here" (9:16). Wisdom says, "let him turn in here" (9:4). Both wisdom and folly have the same target: the naive person. Both are in direct competition in the city (9:3; 9:14). However, wisdom is at "the tops of the heights of the city" (3), whereas folly "is on a seat by the high places of the city." (14). Perhaps there is an allusion to the exalted location of wisdom, compared to that of the woman of folly.

The passage has many comparisons to convince the reader which is better. Although both wisdom and folly have the same target, they have opposite locations for those who turn in to them. For wisdom, it is life (9:6), living. For folly, it is Sheol, the realm of the dead (9:18).

The offers are also of different quality: wisdom offers prepared food, and wine (9:2). Folly offers bread and water (17). The reader is invited to conclude (in response to folly's claim that "bread eaten in secret is pleasant," etc) that what folly offers ... still tastes like bread! and that folly's "water" after stolen, still tastes like water! This is implicitly compared to what wisdom offers, the prepared food and the wine.

Thus not only are the endpoints contrasted (life and death), but what the offers are in themselves are also contrasted. That is the advantage of the Wisdom books. They invite us by other ways than just prohibition and command. They invite us to analyze what things themselves are, and what they provide. Religion is a bigger thing than command and prohibition only. It is knowledge and wisdom along the way, and that, of course, by invitation.

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