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Proverbs 8

The word for wisdom in Hebrew is Chokhmah, which is a feminine noun. In this poetic chapter of Proverbs, God's wisdom is personified as an actual woman, a custom which is found in other ancient Jewish literature [1].

Read Proverbs 8:1-5

  • What are your initial observations about this poem?

    • What does it mean that wisdom is 'calling out' to everyone?

  • What do you think wisdom actually is? How would you define it? [2]

Now we are ready to listen to what Lady-Wisdom has to say:

Read Proverbs 8:4-21

  • How valuable does Wisdom say she is? (v10-11; 18-19)

    • Is wisdom that valuable in your life? Why/why not?

  • What sort of morals does wisdom invoke here?

    • Does it surprise you how important doing the right thing is to Wisdom?

Now the poem turns to examine the Wisdom of God Himself:

Read Proverbs 8:22-36

  • What is the significance of wisdom's pre-existence here? [3]

  • How are the fingerprints of God's Wisdom seen in the world He created?

  • What does it mean that Wisdom 'rejoiced' in the creation, especially the creation of humanity? (v30-31)

  • If Wisdom is so vital and important to the very fabric of creation, how should we value it in our own lives?

If you have time, watch the following video from The Bible Project about this chapter:

  • What extra details of this passage were illuminated for you in the video?

The New Testament has a few references to this chapter which help us to identify Lady-Wisdom. We will examine one key passage, in John 1:

Read John 1:1-18

The word 'Word' in this passage ('Logos') is closely related to the idea of Wisdom (in Greek, 'Sophia'). Most scholars agree John is intentionally alluding to Proverbs 8 here, as well as to the other ancient Jewish literature that personified God's Wisdom this way. [4]

  • What similarities with Proverbs 8 do you notice here?

  • How do you feel about the idea that the Lady-Wisdom of Proverbs 8 is being identified here with Jesus?

We have been examining these 'feminine' images of God: God giving birth to wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-25, and Jesus as the Proverbs 8 Chokhmah, God's Wisdom/Word brought forth as the human man, Jesus. The Holy Spirit is also sometimes described in feminine terms - in fact the word for Spirit in Hebrew, 'Ruach', is a feminine noun, even though the bible refers to the Spirit as 'He' throughout.

  • What does it mean to you that God is sometimes described in feminine ways?

  • How might your concept of God's character be broadened as you contemplate his femininity?

  • Spend some time in quiet reflection on the character of God that we have been examining tonight.

  • Pray for one another that He would expand our understanding of His character as we contemplate His revelation to us in the bible.

[1] In the Apocrypha (found in Roman-Catholic and Orthodox bibles), The Wisdom of Solomon 7 and Ben-Sira 24 (aka 'Ecclesiasticus') both include good examples of this.

[2] "Dictionaries define wisdom as the ability to make sound judgments on what we know, especially as it relates to life and conduct. The wise do not value the quantity of knowledge by itself, but the ethical and moral dimensions of how we evaluate human experience and act on it. The sages of Israel lived in a time of much less scientific knowledge of the universe and its operations, and depended more heavily on traditional understandings and ways of acting than modern society does, so that they worked from a somewhat broader concept of wisdom. On the one hand, they saw wisdom as a serious intellectual pursuit of knowledge about the world and its rules of order and the dynamics behind its mysterious operations; on the other, they sought the proper human response to all dimensions of this world, especially in terms of understanding themselves in relation to their human nature and to God the Creator. To the ancient mind, the universe was profoundly interpersonal, and all things were the product of either the personal will of the deity or of human decisions." - Lawrence Boadt, Eerdmans Dictionary

[3] The language of verses 22-25 describe the birth of Wisdom. Even the word in verse 22 translated variously as 'brought forth', 'formed' or 'possessed' is the word qana, which literally means 'get' or 'possess', is also used of giving birth (like the English phrase, to 'have' a baby). None of this should imply that God created Wisdom before creating the rest of the universe; rather that he possessed Wisdom already, eternally, and at the beginning of creating the universe He brought Her into the world like a woman giving birth to a child that was already within her.

[4] “The Logos of the Prologue, found to be influenced at almost every turn by Sophia speculation, proves to be a useful cover employed by the Fourth Evangelist to effect the switch of gender from Sophia to Jesus … John has intentionally presented us with Jesus as Jesus Sophia Incarnate.”

- James Scott, Sophia and the Johannine Jesus


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