In Proverbs 7, Boy meets Girl. Bad mistake. It’s the wrong Girl.
Dame Folly is alluring, but the Boy doesn’t recognize the danger. He “is like a bird rushing into a snare. Not knowing it will cost him his life” (7:23).
“Numerous are her victims” (verse 26). Can this young man escape in time to avoid destruction?
First read Proverbs 7, about Dame Folly. It will heighten your attraction to Lady Wisdom in chapter 8.
As in Prov. 1:20-21 (June 7 lesson), Wisdom is on public display in 8:1-5, standing “at the crossroads” of the city. “Beside the gates in front of the town . . . she cries out. . . . ‘Learn prudence; acquire intelligence!’ ”
Imagine this attractive, mature woman under a huge billboard advertising a school for “straight talk, knowledge, instruction, discretion and insight” (8:8-14). Woman Wisdom has all this to give, if only the listeners will pay attention.
Throughout chapter 8, she speaks in the first person: “I walk in the ways of righteousness, along the paths of justice” (verse 20). Her credentials in 8:23-31 are impressive: She’s an original co-creator with Yahweh.
All this is a poetic way of telling teenagers of any gender: Behave yourselves, grow up, love God, do your homework, don’t take drugs, hang with the right crowd.
But beyond this romanticized example, Woman Wisdom has gifts that are valid for anyone at any age and time period.
Jesus identifies as Wisdom incarnate as he applies her sayings to himself in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 11:28-30; Luke 7:35).
Wisdom’s Feast in Prov. 9:1-6 is echoed throughout Luke’s Gospel, as Jesus moves from one meal to another, often with marginalized people.
John’s prologue of 1:1-17 uses Wisdom language to present Jesus as the Logos.
Today Woman Wisdom attracts many Christian women, who see her as the feminine aspect of God.
Yet the gifts of Wisdom may still seem abstract unless we can invite her into our contemporary lives. Among the many situations calling for wisdom in 2020 is the coronavirus pandemic. Since we have not known a contagious killer this monstrous since 1918-1920, many mistakes have been made — necessary supplies unprepared, decisions made that hurt the poorest among us. Incompetence and lack of empathy at the highest levels continue to hamper necessary testing.
Dame Folly also stalks our land in the disinformation and conspiracy theories that fly through the air waves. She lulls leaders to downplay the threat. She politicizes our efforts to control the pandemic. She pits lives of vulnerable people against capitalist economics.
Since God and Woman Wisdom created a universe using scientific laws, we must obey the wisdom of our best medical scientists. (I was relieved when my 19-year-old “invincible” grandson told me, “I go with the science!”)
If ever there was a need for choosing Woman Wisdom over Dame Folly, it is now. For those of us who, like me, are neither political leaders nor experts in medicine and science, it is essential that we pursue the truth and then act in love in our communities and social relationships.
In these times, ironically, to love our neighbors is to stay at home, keep our 6-foot distance, wear a mask in public and support our nurses and doctors. It may mean sewing masks, contributing to food pantries or shopping for essentials for our neighbors.
We hear on the news how this pandemic has exposed the extreme inequalities in America relating to poverty and race. With wise leadership, these sins could be addressed and changes made for the public good. Otherwise, foolish shortsightedness and selfishness will increase the plight of those who already have suffered the most.
Reread Proverbs 8 and 9 with our pandemic in mind. “Learn prudence; acquire intelligence!”
Since retiring from teaching New Testament at Messiah College, Reta Halteman Finger adjuncts at Eastern Mennonite University, is a contributing editor at Sojourners magazine and writes a bimonthly Bible study blog, Reta’s Reflections, at eewc.com.