The Marriage Supper of Wisdom
Main Idea: If you accept Wisdom’s invitation, you will be made wise.
- Accept the Invitation of Wisdom—Jesus—to Become Wise and Receive Life (9:1-6).
- How You Act Reveals Which Invitation You Have Accepted (9:7-12).
- Reject the Deadly Invitation of Folly—Idols (9:13-18).
Throughout Proverbs, two women have been competing for the son’s affections: Lady Wisdom and the immoral woman. As we have seen, Wisdom will make you wise and grant you life, and the immoral woman will kill you. Proverbs 9 is the climax to the introduction of the book. In this chapter, the immoral woman is personified as Folly. This is the lynchpin to the book of Proverbs. This chapter sums up all that came before and sets up all that comes after. It all comes down to this: Whom will you love? Whom will you marry? It’s a choice between being wise and being a fool—between life and death. The choice you make will determine whether you walk the path of wisdom or foolishness in life.
There are two competing invitations given in this chapter. There is an invitation from Wisdom ( Jesus) to a party, and there is an invitation from Folly (idols or Satan) to a party. Which will you accept? If you accept the invitation of Wisdom ( Jesus), you will be made wise and receive true life forever. On the other hand, if you accept the invitation of Folly (idols or Satan), you will be a fool who wrecks his life and then perishes.
This has huge implications for your life right now—for the nitty-gritty details of your life. If you want to live the wise life and receive eternal life, you must accept Jesus’s invitation. If you are walking in wisdom in your daily life right now, it shows that you have accepted Jesus’s invitation. It reveals that you are walking toward him, walking with him, and trusting in him. On the other hand, if you’re walking in foolishness, it shows that you are walking toward idols (Satan) and trusting in them. This is revealed in the seemingly mundane details of your life according to Proverbs. If you are lazy, quarrelsome, cannot accept correction, cannot pay the bills on time, or your kids run amok, it is because you are acting like an idolater! But if you work hard, can be trusted with secrets, and can correct your kids, then you are acting like a follower of Jesus.
The bottom line is this: If you do not have a relationship with Jesus, you will not be wise because you cannot be wise. If you are not walking in wisdom right now, it shows a problem with Jesus in your life that you need to repent of. The time is now to make this decision because that choice determines whether or not you can follow the wisdom of Proverbs 10–31.
Accept the Invitation of Wisdom—Jesus—to Become Wise and Receive Life
Wisdom built her house, and it is a temple because it’s at the highest point of the city (v. 3). Perhaps Solomon’s temple had “seven pillars” (cf. 1 Kgs 7:17) (Murphy and Huwiler, Proverbs, 42). As we have seen, Wisdom is a personification of Solomon’s wisdom and God’s Wisdom; and this poetic device points to Jesus, so it is natural for Wisdom to dwell in a temple. As we have seen, Wisdom built creation (Prov 3; 8), the tabernacle (Exod 31), and the temple (1 Kgs 7). Wisdom here prepares a marriage feast of meat and wine. As in Isaiah 55, this meal is free. As in Isaiah 25, this meal gives life (Prov 9:6). Through her maids, Wisdom invites everyone in the most public places to come to the party (v. 3), especially those who lack a heart and need a new one. The phrase translated “lacks sense” in verse 4 literally says “lacks a heart.” The inexperienced are those who have not yet made a decision. Wisdom calls to them to turn in at her house, come to her party, eat her feast, and drink her wine. This is very similar to the parables in Matthew 22 and Luke 14, where the kingdom of God is compared to a wedding feast—a banquet. All are ultimately invited to this feast. The servants are sent out to the highways and hedges to invite all. This meal gives life, and those who refuse it will die.
Wisdom is not just offering food and drink. Like Jesus, she is offering herself as food and drink that brings life (cf. John 6) (Leithart, Blessed Are the Hungry, 71–74). Accepting this invitation entails repentance (i.e., turning from your simple ways), receiving life, and walking in the way of understanding (Prov 9:6). In essence, what Wisdom is saying is, “Repent of your foolishness, come to my party, marry me, and I will make you wise and give you an abundant and eternal life. You will live wisely if you know me.” So recognize that you are a fool, marry Wisdom, eat her food, and Wisdom—Jesus—will produce wisdom in you now and give you eternal life.
How You Act Reveals Which Invitation You Have Accepted
There’s a big question to ask about Proverbs 9:7-12: How do these verses fit, sandwiched between the two invitations of Wisdom and Folly? The answer is that they are giving examples of Wisdom’s teachings so that you know how to read the rest of Proverbs. These verses seem straightforward, but they must be read in this context. After all, these verses contrast the two ways (i.e., the two invitations): wisdom and wickedness. These verses show what these two women teach and produce in their followers progressively. The party you choose to go to determines if you keep these. The party that you choose to go to determines how you act in daily life. Whether you act wickedly or wisely reveals which party you chose. Belief always determines behavior, but behavior reveals what you believe. This is a worship issue.
Here is the wise teaching. Do not correct a mocker (ESV, “scoffer”) because you will just get hurt in the process, and the mocker will hate you (vv. 7-8). Correcting a mocker is a waste of time because he will not listen to you. It will have no effect on him. All you will receive are verbal attacks from him in return. You will be humiliated. There are some who will never listen to wise counsel and will never humbly submit to authority. On the other hand, you should correct a wise man. He will love you for it, and he will become wiser (vv. 8-9). A wise man is humble enough to know he needs correction.
So according to these verses, wisdom is the discernment to know whom to correct and whom not to correct. You do this by discerning the outcome. How will your correction be received? This is wisdom. Since Jesus is the Wisdom of God, that means being formed into Christlikeness is not just growing in a reduction of sinfulness, although that is part of it. It is also growth in discernment. Being like Jesus means having the ability to see the situation you are in. It means recognizing when to correct people and when not to correct them because it will only make things worse. It also means knowing when not to play the coward and to speak up and say something in the right situation.
There is also the implication in these verses that if you are the kind of person who cannot accept correction, you are a mocker. If you get angry when someone confronts you, you are a mocker. On the other hand, if you can humbly accept correction because you know you have not arrived, then you are wise, and you will love the person who had the courage to confront you. How do you respond to confrontation? Do you automatically get angry? Or do you listen and try to see the truth in it? Do you have any relationship where someone has the freedom to ask you tough questions? Wisdom is the ability to hear and respond correctly to criticism so that you don’t repeat the same mistakes.
The point of Proverbs 9 is that if you cannot accept a rebuke, it is not just because that is your personality type; it reveals idolatry in your life (perhaps worship of self). This is true in all kinds of practical areas that Proverbs touches on. If you are stingy, it reveals an idolatry of money. If you have a porn addiction, it reveals an idol of sex. If you cannot discipline your children, it might reveal that you have made your kids an idol.
The starting point for practical wisdom is a covenant relationship with Yahweh (the fear of the Lord; v. 10). You cannot be wise without this relationship. There is no secular and sacred divide in life. Covenantal faith in Yahweh will lead to balancing your checkbook, cleaning your room at your mom’s request, enjoying being with your family more than making money. If you cannot do these things, it is not just a character flaw; it is a spiritual problem.
This is the last time Wisdom talks. She urges you to pick wisdom, but it’s your choice. If you pick her, it will lead to life (v. 11). She will produce wisdom in you and reward you with longer life. But you are responsible to make your own decision, and how you live reveals which invitation you accepted.
Reject the Deadly Invitation of Folly—Idols
The forbidden woman is now personified as Folly. Woman Folly is the power behind this forbidden woman. Embracing Woman Folly will lead to the same place as embracing the forbidden woman—the grave (5:5; 9:18). The forbidden woman epitomizes folly ( just like the noble wife epitomizes Woman Wisdom; ch. 31). This Woman Folly is a counterfeit who copies but perverts everything Wisdom does. Folly’s house is a temple too because it is at the highest point of the city (9:14). This is how we know that Folly stands for idols (Longman, Proverbs, 222). Turning away from Wisdom was characterized as unfaithfulness to God (1:32). One is unfaithful to God when one is whoring after idols. That’s exactly what’s happening here.
Woman Folly is loud, seductive, ignorant, and lazy (9:13-14). She will produce this in her followers. She invites everyone to her party (vv. 15-16). She calls out to the same crowd as Wisdom—those who lack heart. She says to turn in at her house, come to her party. Her meal is illicit. Her water is stolen, and her bread is to be eaten in secret. This may seem “tasty” (v. 17), but the way that seems right will not end well. Picking up on Proverbs 5:15, where water refers to sex, this seems to be an invitation to an affair. She’s not just offering food and drink; she’s offering herself as food and drink. She’s offering an illicit relationship that will lead to apostasy, to walking away from God. Solomon knows that sexual sin leads to abandoning God. We see that she seduces her victims by giving them half-truths. Yes, this affair will bring temporary pleasure, but she does not reveal the death that awaits them (v. 18). That’s what foolishness is. Foolishness is not seeing the connection between your actions and their consequences. Like a cow walking into a slaughterhouse, you don’t know that you’re about to become filet mignon. Her guests do not realize that accepting her invitation is accepting an invitation to their own funeral. They go into the grave (v. 18; “depths of Sheol”). There may be a destruction now like public shame, loss of family, or loss of money; but all of that is simply a foretaste of what’s to come—hell.
Proverbs 9 is the story of Wisdom sending out her servants to invite us to a meal—a party—that brings life instead of death. Proverbs says that those who eat this meal will be made wise. The New Testament says that Jesus is the Wisdom of God, and he invites us to a meal as well. He invites us to feast on him. Those who eat this meal—those who feast on Christ’s flesh and blood—will live and be a part of his kingdom. Christ’s meal is not for those who think they’re wise; it is for those who know they are fools and who want to grow in wisdom. Have you accepted Christ’s invitation?
Jesus lived a perfectly wise life, yet he took the punishment our foolishness deserved. He went into Sheol—the grave—and came back in victory three days later. He invites you to accept forgiveness from him. If you do, he will transform you into a wise person. The choice is yours! If you are an unbeliever, recognize the foolishness in your life, repent for the first time, and come to Jesus for salvation. If you are a believer, ask the Lord to reveal your foolishness to you, then confess it to him, repent of it, run to Jesus, and ask to be made like him.
Reflect and Discuss
- What does this passage teach us about the nature of wisdom and the way someone can become wise?
- How does your choice of Jesus or idols affect whether or not you walk in wisdom in your daily life?
- In what ways do the details of your daily life—like finishing tasks and controlling your tongue—reveal your relationship with Jesus?
- How do you “marry” Wisdom? What does that look like?
- What are some indicators that a person who will not listen to your correction might be a mocker? What are some indicators that a person might be wise and instructed by your correction?
- How do you respond when you are confronted or corrected? What does that reveal about you?
- What are the consequences of marrying Wisdom? What are the consequences of marrying Folly? How should these consequences affect your pursuit?
- What does this passage teach you about sin?
- What does this passage teach you about redemption in Christ?
- In Christ, how can you obey the commands of this passage? What will that look like in your daily life?