Proverbs 9:18

But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.
– Proverbs 9:18

This makes the fourth time Solomon has reached this conclusion in his warnings (Proverbs 2:18-19; 5:5; 7:26-27; 9:18). We have already noted the general trend in Proverbs that wisdom tends to life and folly tends to death. The various aspects of death in Proverbs call for a much larger treatment than in the brief comments here. The ancient Semitic worldview in the Old Testament viewed death more in terms of a realm than a single event that ends life. They thought in terms of a conflict between the realm of the living and the unseen realm of the dead. The foolish guests of the foolish woman have entered in the way of death and consort with that realm as the words for the dead and the depths of hell indicate. The fools do not understand that going that way means they are unlikely to be recovered (Proverbs 2:19; 7:25-27).

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Proverbs 9:17

Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.
– Proverbs 9:17

The invitation is laid bare here for its foolishness, and yet it is still appealing to the simple. The stolen and secret aspects give an artificial tinge of taste and excitement. It is not lasting and the end is far worse (Proverbs 20:17). In contrast to the well prepared feast of wisdom, folly only offers what is common and bland dressed up with a false covering to seem sweet for a little while.

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Proverbs 9:16

Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,
– Proverbs 9:16

Folly’s invitation is like wisdom’s in the beginning of the chapter. This is deliberate and deceptive. The simple are gullible and easily led astray (Romans 16:18). She targets the simple and uninformed as a prey. Wisdom appeals to them to help them. The invitation is to turn in, and so leave one path for another. It is wise to recognize that many voices call out and commend their own way, but there is only one way that leads to life and peace (John 14:6).

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Proverbs 9:15

To call passengers who go right on their ways:
– Proverbs 9:15

The foolish woman sits in a prominent place so as to call to all who pass by, as passengers signifies. She spreads her net wide and indiscriminately to catch all she can. The word for right means straight and some have supposed the intent is to speak of moral straightness. This would mean folly is particularly looking to ensnare those who are in a good way. That idea artificially limits the scope and does not agree with the next verse, which describes them as simple and wanting understanding. The meaning is that the passersby are going about their own business and not looking for folly’s feast, but she tries to entice and catch them. Wisdom would teach us to be wary.

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Proverbs 9:14

For she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city.
– Proverbs 9:14

Folly imitates wisdom and the unwary discern little difference. Everything about wisdom was high and noble, from her seven-pillared house to her maidens to her expertly prepared feast. Everything about folly is common and ill-prepared. There is nothing about her preparations for a feast, which fits with the character of fools and their empty talk (Proverbs 14:23). She sits and calls whereas wisdom stands (Proverbs 8:2).

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Proverbs 9:13

A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing.
– Proverbs 9:13

Verses 13-18 finish this chapter with the foolish woman and her feast of sweets that lead to the grave. The foolish woman’s despicable character is drawn against that of the lady Wisdom. The word for clamorous means roaring like the Niagra River going over the falls. It indicates a high volume in both loudness and quantity of spoken words. Solomon elsewhere marked the character of the fool as “full of words” (Ecclesiastes 10:14). To put it indelicately in modern speech, she is mouthy. Fools are known for emptying five gallon buckets of words (Proverbs 15:2) and they rather enjoy it (Proverbs 18:2). She is foolish, simple, and knoweth nothing. She is no better in terms of wisdom than the foolish simpletons she calls out to.

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Proverbs 9:12

If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it.
– Proverbs 9:12

Verse 12 concludes the section on the two responses to wisdom’s call. It is an individual and personal application of what has gone before. The verse emphasizes the individual benefit or detriment of either receiving wisdom or scorning wisdom. The point is not that your choice has no effect on others, but rather the primary effect is to your own life and soul. Wisdom can be neither received nor scorned by proxy. You must encounter wisdom and seek and receive or else scorn and suffer the consequences of folly. While your choice will affect others (Proverbs 10:1), your own soul is in the balance (Luke 9:25).

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Proverbs 9:11

For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.
– Proverbs 9:11

The issues of wisdom and folly are often cast in terms of life and death in Proverbs. This is an example of general truism in wisdom literature. Wisdom tends to longer life and folly, or wickedness, tends to shorter life (Proverbs 3:2, 16; 10:27). It is not absolutism so that every wise person lives to be 100 years old and a wise person is never cut off in youth to middle age. Life and death in relation to wisdom and folly also has a spiritual dynamic pointing to more than mortal life on earth (Proverbs 11:7; 14:32). In the immediate context here, days and years being lengthened is the reward of departing from folly and turning in to wisdom. Wisdom provides what is needed for a long, productive, and flourishing life.

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Proverbs 9:10

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
– Proverbs 9:10

The beginning, or commencement, of wisdom is the reverent fear of God. This is thematic in Proverbs (Proverbs 1:7) and is taught elsewhere as well (Psalm 111:10). Wisdom is to hate evil and through the fear of the Lord we depart from it (Proverbs 8:13; 16:6). Holy fear leads to satisfaction and contentment (Proverbs 19:23). It brings us to safety and blessing (Proverbs 29:25; 28:14). The holy is interpreted variously by commentators and scholars. The Hebrew word is in the plural and is a term applied to God, angels, and saints. From the context, it seems sensible to understand it as referring to God here so that you have both the fear and the knowledge of God to be wisdom and understanding.

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