Who was at the beginning of the cosmos with God? God’s Spirit, God’s word, or Lady Wisdom? Rich with ties to the creation narrative, the book of Proverbs contains important insights for how we understand both God's relationship to his creation and who Jesus is. Join Tim, Jon, and Carissa as they explore Proverbs 8.
In Genesis 1, when is there something emerging out of God’s own being to go out into the void and participate in the ordering and the carving up of chaos? It’s his word and his Spirit. There’s no way this is unconnected [to Proverbs 8]. This is the author of Proverbs’ way of reflecting on the word and the Spirit, but in the slot of word and Spirit in Genesis 1 comes God’s wisdom. Yeah, they’re different ways of imagining the same thing. It’s God’s wisdom, so it’s divine, but yet it’s the aspect of God that he used to create something other than God’s own self. Wisdom is both distinct from God and divine at the same time.
In part one (0:00-8:30), Tim, Jon, and Carissa discuss the next installment of our Visual Commentary series following the literary theme of creation with a look at Proverbs 8.
Proverbs 8 explores the topic of creation from the perspective of Lady Wisdom. When we think of the book of Proverbs, what often comes to mind are the multitude of catchy two-line sayings. But Lady Wisdom, a literary personification of God’s own wisdom, is a prominent character in the opening chapters of Proverbs.
Proverbs 8 was a key resource for the apostles in their first attempts to describe Jesus in both his humanity and deity.
In part two (8:30-21:00), the team surveys the literary structure of the entire book of Proverbs. Tim is convinced the book’s repeated mention of Solomon is the key to understanding the book as a whole.
Solomon’s name appears at three points that signify the book’s three primary developments. The first section doesn’t actually contain proverbs, but poetic speeches. The second section, beginning in chapter 10, contains hundreds of two-line proverbs. The third section starts with chapter 25 and contains proverbs of Solomon, collected generations later by King Hezekiah, as well as wisdom from other people entirely (Agur and Lemuel) in chapters 30-31.
The overarching theme of the whole book is that whenever any human rules creation wisely, they are, knowingly or unknowingly, ruling according to God’s wisdom. That wisdom has both masculine and feminine qualities. Proverbs is clear: when humans walk in God’s wisdom, they most closely exemplify the image of God as they were intended to, and it brings them great joy.
In part three (21:00-36:00), Tim, Jon, and Carissa turn their attention to the first section of Proverbs, chapters 1-9, which is itself divided into three parts centered around speeches by Lady Wisdom.
Proverbs 8 opens with Lady Wisdom at the city gates, inviting people to choose wisdom through a series of connected speeches (starting with Proverbs 8:4-11). The audience addressed in this section is “the son,” which refers to the line of David. Lady Wisdom’s opening lines consider “upright” speech versus “crooked” speech––a throwback to the Genesis 1-3 narrative based on dialogue between Adam, Eve, God, and the serpent.
Lady Wisdom uses the terms “wisdom,” “understanding,” and “knowledge,” which are all slightly different. Wisdom refers to practical or social know-how. Understanding refers to mental comprehension or discernment. Knowledge refers to knowing and being known by Yahweh.
In the worldview of Proverbs, becoming wise isn’t just about living strategically but about desiring the right things in God’s eyes.
In part four (36:00-52:00), the team examines the next portion of Lady Wisdom’s speech, particularly the rich ties between Proverbs 8 and Genesis 1-2.
The foundation for the many-layered connections between Proverbs 8 and the creation narrative is this picture of wisdom emanating from God to bring order to the cosmos, just like God’s Spirit. Wisdom is the very relationship between God and his creation.
In part five (52:00-end), Tim, Jon, and Carissa explore the connections John makes to Proverbs 8 in his own retelling of the creation account in John 1.
I was beside him, growing up.
And I was his daily delight,
celebrating before him the entire time,
celebrating the inhabited world of the land,
delighting in human beings!
The phrase “growing up” comes from the Hebrew word āmôn and carries a double meaning between the imagery of wisdom growing up like a child and a related Hebrew word meaning “constantly” or “faithfully.” However, the one being brought forth (growing up) is not a created being––wisdom is essential to God’s own being. The birth imagery is a metaphor for the birthing of creation. As God carves the cosmos, wisdom is part of all he does.
The apostle John picks up the father-child imagery from Proverbs 8 in the opening chapter of his gospel account. John uses all the same categories as Proverbs 8 in John 1 but refers to the word instead of to wisdom. He expects his readers to be familiar with both Genesis 1 and Proverbs 8. Jesus is not merely some incarnation of Lady Wisdom or of God’s speech in Genesis 1, but both are part of the imagery John calls on to describe Jesus.
Wisdom is an integral part of who God is, and it’s through wisdom that God has reached out to his creation. God wants his creation to share in his wisdom.
How fortunate the human who listens to me,
by watching at my doors daily,
to keep at the door of my entrance.
Because the one who finds me, find life,
and obtains favor from Yahweh.
And the one who forfeits me, harms themselves.
All who hate me, love death.
Interested in more? Check out Tim’s library here. Michael V. Fox, Proverbs 1-9
Show produced by Dan Gummel, Zack McKinley, and Cooper Peltz. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder.
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