You will recall from previous posts that Proverbs 1:1-9:18 contain the prologue of the book, and the first 7 verses contain introductory material. Beginning in 1:8 and extending to 9:18 are 12 separate poems.
In the last post we considered the first poem (vv. 8-19).
Today’s post focuses upon the first interlude where woman Wisdom appeals to gullible youth.
The Choice Before the Youth – Seeking Wisdom and its Rewards 1:20-33
Solomon introduces the woman Wisdom (vv. 20-21)
20 Wisdom calls aloud outside; she raises her voice in the open squares. 21 She cries out in the chief concourses, at the openings of the gates in the city she speaks her words:
In verses 20-21 wisdom is personified as a woman. This personification is completely appropriate. Some people think of wisdom as a synonym for knowledge – simply a list of impersonal facts or truths. Wisdom gives those who are rightly related to God the ability to skillfully live life in a way which pleases God – therefore, wisdom, properly defined, comes from God and only those who are rightly related to Him can gain wisdom. Since wisdom is an extension of God’s character and since wisdom enables those who are rightly related to Him to properly apply God’s truth to life, it is wholly appropriate that wisdom is personified.
Furthermore, since wisdom seeks to attract the wise man in order to protect him from the allurements of the evil woman (2:16; 5:3, 20; 6:24; 7:5, 10; etc.), it is appropriate that wisdom is personified as a woman.
In verses 20-21 Wisdom is given “omnipresent” characteristics – she appears everywhere (“outside…open squares…chief concourses…gates”) seeking for students to learn from her. Wisdom is beneficial in all situations and circumstances of life. Waltke’s quote (p. 202) of Aitken (p. 22) is great:
Lady wisdom…is no gentle persuader. She shouts, pleads, scolds, reasons, threatens, warns, and even laughs…Pulpit bashing and hell-fire preaching if ever there were! All quite unladylike; and nowadays also quite unfashionable, even frowned upon.
Woman wisdom travels around imploring listeners to heed her words. In verses 22-27 we have her invitation recorded.
Her sermon (vv. 22-27)
In this particular case, Wisdom is not calling out to the wise, but rather she is scolding those who are unresponsive to her invitations. The following verses are a dire warning who refuse to follow Wisdom (to walk in God’s wise counsel).
Her rebuke of the unresponsive (vv. 22-23)
22 “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge. 23 Turn at my rebuke; surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.
Just like sinners can “invite” young people to participate in unrighteous lifestyles (vv. 11-19), so Wisdom sends out her alternative invitation to the youth to learn to live in wisdom. In verse 22 three specific people are mentioned. These three represent different levels of response to God’s wisdom. Clearly, the “simple ones” are being warned not to be like “scorners” nor “fools.”
Kidner said (p. 39) that the simple one is one who is easily led, gullible and silly. These naïve ones are void of wisdom, simple-minded, and have a tendency of not wanting to know. The Book of Proverbs seems to hold out some hope for the simple. In 1:4 we find the purpose of the book was to give prudence to the simple. Sometimes, the simple one can only learn through the punishment of others (19:25), but if he does not learn his lessons he digresses to a more serious condition from which there seems to be no remedy (14:18). Kidner states: “the simple…is no half wit; he is a person whose instability could be rectified, but who prefers not to accept discipline…” (p. 39).
“Scorners” (scoffers) share some of the same characteristics as the fool mentioned below. Because of his mocking of God and truth, he, like the fool, is virtually incurable. He is has a desire to know but cannot receive truth because of his disposition (14:6). Those who seek to reprove scorners earn dishonor themselves (9:7). Ultimately, God will mock at the calamity of the scorner (3:34). The only useful thing about a scorner is that he provides a means by which the simple ones are warned about their own directions in life (19:25).
A “fool” is not necessarily one who does not believe in God, but rather, one who rejects God by ignoring His truth and seeks to understand life by divorcing God from his life. Though there are 3 different Hebrew words translated as “fool” they all essentially mean the same thing. The fool is one who is obstinately opposed to God, just as the Psalmist said that a fool says there is no God (14:1). Fools are those who despise wisdom (1:7) and knowledge (1:22), and they laugh at the idea of sin (14:9). So insensible is he to wisdom and knowledge, that not even physical punishment can turn him from his foolish ways (17:10). Proverbs holds virtually no hope for a fool – he is set in his ways – unless it is caught very early on in the child’s developmental years (22:15). Those who neglect in correcting their foolish children early, must be prepared for a life of misery and shame (17:21).
Wisdom is graciously calling out to the simple and warning the simple not to be like the scorner who mocks at truth or the fool who hates knowledge. However, though an invitation goes out, the verse has a note of pessimism. Therefore the consequences of not listening are fully justified. This is hinted at in verse 23. Wisdom calls out for the simple to respond to her correction (reproof).
Wisdom’s appeal was given with a promise. Those who seek wisdom will find it. However, the gullible ones are gullible and believe anything, even the words of scoffers and fools. This leads the simple into the path of progressive hardening, which is seen in the “scorners” and the “fools.”
The simple one’s refusal to heed Wisdom’s call results in Wisdom’s denunciation.
Her denunciation (vv. 24-25)
24 Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, 25 because you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke,
In these verses, we find the “tables turned.” Verses 24-25 describe the situation as if the simple ones have already made their decisions and have refused Wisdom’s counsel. Though she “called,” they “refused;” though she “stretched out” her hand to them, “no one regarded.”
Wisdom’s denunciation is followed by just consequences.
The consequences (vv. 26-27)
26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes, 27 when your terror comes like a storm, and your destruction comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.
Verses 26-27 describe the consequences of a stubborn refusal to walk according to God’s wisdom. Calamity will befall those who reject God’s wisdom. In the end, Wisdom will laugh. The parallel description of their calamity being like a “storm” and a “whirlwind” shows that such calamity will come swiftly and have catastrophic effects. This means the simple will be caught off guard (they are shocked such calamity befell them) and not have opportunity to remedy the situation (1:27).
Wisdom’s warning goes out to the simple to avert disaster; however, the simple refuse to listen, and when disaster strikes, they are stunned, without just reason.
Wisdom’s call and warning are to be heeded when they are given, because after calamity comes, the simple will not be able to make corrections, as can be seen in verses 28-33.
Her reflections on her sermon (vv. 28-33)
The certainty and finality of their judgment (vv. 28-31)
28 Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. 29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 They would have none of my counsel and despised my every rebuke. 31 Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled to the full with their own fancies.
Not only will Wisdom laugh when their calamity comes, but she will not “answer” when they “call” to her during that late hour (1:28). They will all of a sudden “seek” wisdom “diligently,” but will be unable to “find” her (1:28). They will have lost their opportunity because they “hated knowledge” and did not choose to walk in the “fear of the Lord” (1:29).
Verses 30-31 simply restate the truths in verses 28 and 29, though in reverse order. Because they were unrepentant (“would have none of my counsel…despised by every rebuke”) they would face certain judgment (“eat the fruit of their own way…be filled…with their own fancies”). The supreme justice of the situation is seen in the fact that their very source of pleasure turned to their destruction (“they shall eat the fruit of their own way”).
In verses 32-33 Wisdom reflects on the contrasting destinies of the fools and wise.
Summarizing reflection on the destinies of fools and the wise (vv. 32-33)
32 For the turning away of the simple will slay them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; 33 But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.”
Verse 32 begins by speaking about the “turning away” of the simple. When the simple disregard God’s wisdom and turn away from it, there are serious consequences. Waltke said (p. 212), “A false sense of security leads the apostates to their eternal death.” When the simple refuse to take wise counsel and instruction, and when fools are complacent and refuse to follow wisdom, their decision leads them to their own destruction.
In contrast, “whoever listens” to Wisdom (i.e. the wise) will “dwell safely…be secure, without fear of evil” (v. 33). Those who find security are those who are willing to listen and live by God’s wisdom.
The question that needs to be asked at this point is: “How does one recognize whether he is a fool, a scorner, a naïve or a wise person?” The answer is that he simply needs to look at how he responds to God’s wisdom recorded in His Word. Wise people change when they are rebuked for their sin – they accept the reproof and use it for their correction. Those who are indifferent, complacent, or even hostile to God’s truth are those who are either simple, scorners, or fools. Those who resist God’s truth are those who are complacent (smug, self-satisfied) in their own positions and do not believe there are consequences for wrong living (v. 32) (see also 1:5; 9:8, 9; 10:8, 14; etc.).
Furthermore, the wise person in Proverbs is parallel to a “saved” person in the New Testament. Those who have been born again by the Spirit of God have the Holy Spirit residing within them. The Holy Spirit is the one who causes the believer to hear, learn and accept truth (1 Corinthians 2:14). Believers are characterized as those who listen and follow the voice of God (John 10:4-5). The proof of salvation is seen in the person’s reception of and obedience to God’s Word. This reception and obedience does not make a person saved, the reception and obedience to God’s truth is merely a demonstration that that person has been saved. Similarly, the wise person in the Book of Proverbs is not necessarily a person who knows everything, but is open to wisdom and willing to learn (1:5). This willingness to learn is only a result of the Holy Spirit residing within.
Therefore, “saved” people may start out in a position of naivety, however, they slowly learn and grow out of such gullibility. Lost people also start out as simple people. But when they do not receive truth, they move into the “scoffer” or the “fool” category. Saved people are not simple, nor scoffers, nor fools (as a specific designation of their character). However, this does not mean that a saved person could not occasionally act in a naïve manner or in a scornful way, or even in a foolish manner.
Here is the value of this passage to a believer: As a believer witnesses the end of those who reject truth, he is challenged to be vigilant in receiving truth that he might grow by it. God uses the truth that “whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Gal 6:7) for the purpose of instructing those who listen to Him to walk in the ways of wisdom.
Have you received Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour? The first step to becoming a wise person is being rightly related to the God of Truth by receiving His salvation which He offers through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 1:12-13; Rom 10:9, 13; 1 John 5:11-13; etc.).
Next week: the happy results of acquiring wisdom (2:1-22).
 The other 11 occurrences of this word are found in Hosea and Jeremiah, and always refer to Israel’s apostasy, faithlessness, and backsliding (Waltke, p. 212).