Being Wisdom


[Depiction of Sophia, the ancient Greek personification of  Wisdom]

She opens her mouth with wisdom,

and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.

Proverbs 31:26

As we’re wrapping up our time in with the most admired AND (wrongly) resented woman in the Bible, I feel the need to reflect on the big picture. Why a whole chapter on marrying a woman with certain attributes? The book as a whole has advice to give regarding business, being a good neighbor, NOT being a fool, hanging out with honest people, reigning in your tongue, and on and on. But finding the right woman, literally and figuratively, take up the most space of any other topic!

Proverbs begins with an admonition to gain wisdom, which is personified as a woman. In chapter 1, wisdom cries out in the street, she raises her voice in the market. The opening verses told us that wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord, and the book ends with our girl, full of wisdom, teaching kindness to the next generation.

It makes me wonder, Why does a woman represent wisdom? In fact, the Hebrew word for wisdom is feminine. But this is not unique to the the Hebraic understanding of wisdom; wisdom is typically personified as a woman, across time and culture. And in the very same cultures that denied women an education (though there is much more to wisdom than education), the ideal of wisdom was still represented by a feminine form.

Now you might say, that given the options, of course a woman represents wisdom. Snort! I don’t know that ancient Jews would have found the humor in that, but the fact remains! Perhaps wisdom was as illusive as a virtuous woman? Just a thought…

In the first chapter of Proverbs, a young man receiving advice is encouraged to seek wisdom, to answer her call in contrast with the call of the seductress, the evil woman (chapter 6), the forbidden woman (chapter 7), and the woman “Folly” (chapter 9). Solomon knew that his son would be strongly tempted to make a woman besides Wisdom his companion.  And Solomon would know a thing or two about this kind of temptation! As good as wisdom is, her opposite is very attractive, especially in a moment of weakness.

So all throughout Proverbs, wisdom, itself, is embodied as a virtuous woman. Chapter 31 is the climax of the understanding of what she looks like. And looking at Proverbs in total, the major themes of the book are to seek wisdom above all else, trust God, choose a virtuous woman and remain faithful to her. So, this woman, being her and choosing her, is of the utmost importance!

When I think about what it means to be a woman in our culture, I see some of the Proverbs 31 woman. I see a woman that works outside the home, which many, if not most women do at some point in their lives. She’s also a volunteer in her community. She only wants the best for her family and will sacrifice her own interests for them. This is commonly seen. But the temptation for women in our culture is to try to personify the seductress, even while maintaining a virtuous appearance when it is advantageous to do so.

It is ennobling to realize that as a woman, holding onto virtue at the expense of the temptation of the moment is the embodiment of wisdom. It makes me think differently about my decisions and my behavior. As much as the young man to whom this chapter is addressed, I too want to choose this woman, choose to BE her. ~ Joni


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IMG_7616Joni Butler has called the ‘Ham home since 2012. Officially, she’s here for employment but has found a home here at Breath. Though an avid diarist for years, this is her first writing gig. Jesus is her best friend and she loves pursuing Him passionately.  You can read more about Joni in her Breath Bio. 



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