Happy New Year!
As I do every year, I am making resolutions about who I want to become and what I want to do in 2008. Because I have been reading and writing about the Book of Proverbs for some time now, much of what I am resolving to be and to do draws inspiration from that book. My resolutions have a negative and a positive side to them. Basically, I’m telling myself: This year, don’t be stupid! Be smart!
Unfortunately, stupidity—or, to use the language of Proverbs, foolishness—is the default position of the human race. We act foolishly like water flows downstream. Unless we insistently and persistently choose the path of wisdom, we will unconsciously and unavoidably go down the trail of folly.
Throughout Proverbs, wisdom and folly are portrayed as women who invite young men to embrace them. Remember, most of Proverbs is written as the advice of fathers to their sons, so the portrait of wisdom and folly as women is a natural one. Parents want their sons to marry well, and what better spouse is there than Woman Wisdom? Unfortunately, what worse spouse is there than Woman Folly? Would you want your son to bring home the woman described in Proverbs 9:13-18?
The woman Folly is loud;
she is undisciplined and without knowledge.
She sits at the door of her house,
on a seat at the highest point of the city,
calling out to those who pass by,
who go straight on their way.
“Let all who are simple come in here!”
she says to those who lack judgment.
“Stolen water is sweet;
food eaten in secret is delicious!”
But little do they know that the dead are there,
that her guests are in the depths of the grave.
Notice three things about these verses:
First, at the most obvious level, they are a warning against foolishness. All people, but especially young men, must learn to reject a life of folly and embrace a life of wisdom. This often means rejecting short-term pleasures in favor of long-term goodness, which is not easy.
Second, one of the most dangerous forms of foolishness is sexual immorality, especially adultery. Compare verse 13, which describes Folly as “loud” with Proverbs 7:11, which describes the adulteress using the same word. The Proverbist intentionally uses the personification of Folly as a woman in order to draw the connection between her and the sexually immoral life. Both should be avoided.
Third, without doubt the most dangerous form of folly is idolatry. Notice that Folly’s house is located “at the highest point of the city.” In the ancient world, temples were built on the acropolis. Interestingly, this is also where Woman Wisdom’s house is located (Prov. 9:3). How we live reflects whom we worship. If we worship the God who has revealed himself in the Bible, if we fear him, all will be well with us (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10). But if we worship other gods, then things will go badly in the end.