Biblical References: Proverbs 8-9
Leading Question: Proverbs celebrates wisdom. But can wisdom become dangerous?
In popular thinking, education is often seen by ordinary people as something that puts faith at risk. But we should distinguish between education and knowledge on the one hand, and wisdom on the other. In the Old Testament, wisdom is always positive, whereas knowledge without wisdom can be volatile and dangerous.
In Proverbs “Wisdom” is depicted as a woman of great worth. But in Proverbs 8 and 9 she has an alluring counterpart named “Folly.” They both set up housekeeping in the best location in town and seek to entice the “simple.” Is the choice between them difficult?
8:1 Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? 2 At the highest point along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; 3 beside the gate leading into the city, at the entrance, she cries aloud: 4 “To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind. 5 You who are simple, gain prudence; you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.
9:3 She has sent out her servants, and she calls from the highest point of the city, 4 “Let all who are simple come to my house!”
9:13 Folly is an unruly woman; she is simple and knows nothing. 14 She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, 15 calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way, 16 “Let all who are simple come to my house!” To those who have no sense she says, 17 “Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” 18 But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.
The Presence of the Lord. Note the places in chapters 8 and 9 where Proverbs deliberately introduces the LORD. Would these points be where humans are most vulnerable?
8:13 To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.
8:35 For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord. 36 But those who fail to find me harm themselves; all who hate me love death.”
9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
Note: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” is found in 1:7 and 9:10, but the companion line differs. In 9:10 (cited above) the second line presents a synonymous parallel; but in 1:7, the second line presents a contrast:
1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (NIV)
Question: From a pedagogical perspective, which is more effective, two positives as in 9:10 or a positive and a negative as in 1:7? Would some respond better to one than the other? And would it be possible that in some cases a double negative might actually be most effective?