Monday, April 13, 2009

The Gospel According to Proverbs

Sean Green is blogging through Proverbs one chapter at a time. The last few days I've been reflecting on it as a whole - which is a big task, and maybe the best way to eat an elephant is in thin slices as Sean is doing. Nonetheless...

* Update: 2 page version of this - The Gospel according to Proverbs PDF

A King (Solomon) instructs his son, as he should (Ephesians 6:1-4), about which woman to marry. A kinda inverse of Voddie's book What he must be if he wants to marry my daughter. This is a gospel drama. Two women seek the affections of this son of the king. This is the tale of the two women. One is fruitful and life-giving, her name is Wisdom. In her is knowledge of God and understanding. The other woman sounds amazing, she dresses seductively, she has persuasiv e and sweet words, but the aftertaste is bitter and her path leads to hell, her name is Folly or the Forbidden Woman.

Who can find the woman wisdom? Who can solve this riddle?  The drama climaxes in Proverbs 31 with the portrait of the supreme wife.  Here is the wife, Wisdom. Take hold of her as your wife, my son. This is the gospel I can preach to my son - yes, for which woman he might marry, but supremely to prepare him to marry Wisdom over Folly.

This is a book grounded in creation – wisdom involved in shaping the world and sustaining it. She gives life to the soul. This is a book grounded in the law – it is a shadow pointing to this wisdom. This is a book grounded in the gospel. Christ himself is the wisdom of God – personified here through the perfect wife, and the father’s instruction to his son: marry wisdom.

This might seem strange to us, but if we allow this book to be literature then it works – we’re not saying Jesus is a woman. This is the gospel as preached by a father, to his son as he seeks a wife. The book appears at first to be a random collection of wise sayings but is arranged into five parts, like Moses’ Pentateuch, David’s Psalms, this is Solomon’s Torah. We must view it as a whole book, a piece of literature. We must also remember that as Scripture this is a book about Christ. It is not, as it is often mistaken to be, an encyclopedia of self-help sayings, sanctified fortune cookies for Christians. The sayings are not absolute statements – we find contradictions, even next to one another, like ‘answer a fool according to his folly’ and ‘do not answer a fool according to his folly’. The writer is not stupid. He knows that he writes this. He does it for a reason. This is wisdom, riddles to ponder not a quick-fix tick-box spirituality. A bit like another teacher, another son of David some generations later.

Book 1 – ch1-9 – My son, marry wisdom not folly.
Book 2 – ch10-24 – Contrasting wisdom and folly.
Book 3 – ch25-29 - Contrasting wisdom and folly.
Book 4 – ch30 – Agur (Son of Obedience = Solomon?) asks.. Who can find wisdom?
Book 5 – ch31 – The climax of the drama: Lemuel (Belonging to God = Solomon?) asks... Who can find this supreme wife? Who can solve the riddle...

Pete Sanlon writes very helpfully at Like the rest of Scripture, Proverbs reveals the personal God and calls on us to trust in Him... However for our purposes it will be enough to say that Biblical Theology forces us to read individual proverbs in the context of the book Proverbs, and Proverbs in the light of the whole Bible story. As I have done this in my personal reading, I have rediscovered Proverbs as a book that stirs up trust in the God who is Wisdom, deepening love, fear and knowledge of Jesus, who has become our Wisdom. 

Much work to do yet. These are just initial thoughts. Yours?
* Update: 2 page version - The Gospel according to Proverbs PDF


  1. I wonder if we should see the book as being addressed to Christ, before we can take it as addressed to us? Wisdom is often linked to the rule of kings. Jesus embodies this wisdom in his pre-incarnate state, but he also learns to embody it in his incarnate state (Luke 2).

    It then applies to us, because we become kings in Christ, with our own spheres of dominion over the creation.

  2. Interesting thought Stanton. Probably some mileage in that, trying to think how that would 'work'. I can see more clearly how it can be read to testify of Christ to us... open to suggestion though.