Week 97: Proverbs Part 6
A biblical theme
This use of women as symbols is not unique to Proverbs. In the Book of Revelation there are two women – a filthy prostitute and a pure bride. The prostitute is called Babylon and the bride is called Jerusalem. So this theme runs through the whole Bible. Which woman is going to be your companion and your partner – folly or wisdom?
The Bible often presents us with choices, and this is the case in Proverbs. Will we choose life or death, light or darkness, heaven or hell?
Moral or mental?
Furthermore, Proverbs depicts wisdom and folly in another way: it tells us that they are moral choices rather than mental ones. When the world speaks of fools, it means people whose IQs aren’t very high. But in the Bible someone who is very intelligent can be very foolish. Someone can be mentally clever and morally silly.
I once heard of a country yokel down in Somerset many years ago who had a strange reputation. If you offered him a sixpence or a £5 note, he always took the sixpence. Thousands of tourists heard about this man and tried the trick on him. The poor, foolish man always took the coin, never the note. But really he was no fool – he made a fortune out of it!
Folly and wisdom have nothing to do with qualifications. In Psalm 14 the psalmist said, ‘The fool says in his heart, “There is no God”’. The devil told Eve that eating the fruit would lead to wisdom, but in fact it only led to independence from God, the source of all wisdom. Worldly wisdom seeks to find the most profitable option, but biblical wisdom seeks what is best for your character. It is based not on knowledge of the world, but on knowledge of God.
This idea is backed up by a verse from chapter 29 that is often misunderstood: ‘Where there is no vision the people perish’ (AV). It is used when church leaders want to convince the congregation that their particular scheme should be followed. But in more modern translations the Hebrew word translated as ‘vision’ is more correctly translated as ‘revelation’, and the word ‘perish’ as ‘cast off restraint’ or ‘become a fool’. So the verse is actually saying, ‘If God isn’t revealing things to you, you will become a fool.’ So wisdom is practising God’s presence in every area of life. We will need his Spirit’s help if we are to understand his mind.