This is day nine in this thirty-one day journey through Proverbs. This chapter provides one final call for wisdom, contrasted with the call of folly, before the book turns to the Proverbs of Solomon which will extend nearly to the end of the book. Chapter ten begins to provide the short, contrasting statements for which this book is best known.
“Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” To him who lacks sense she says, “Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight”” (1-7). As we have seen several times in previous chapters, wisdom once against makes an appearance as a woman, inviting people to turn to her to learn. She sends out her servants to the high places so that everyone can hear this call and have an opportunity to heed it. It is a universal call that is open to each person.
Her invitation is for anyone who is simple, lacking wisdom, and whoever is lacking sense, without the ability to think and act rightly. To these people she extends an invitation to sit and dine with her, to eat and to live. What she offers to those who will turn to her is life itself.
The passage turns to a contrast of the wise and the foolish, both at the point of their decision to heed the call of wisdom or folly, but also through lives dedicated to wisdom or foolishness. “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it” (8-12).
We are first warned about the uselessness of trying to correct a scoffer – one who has deliberately made a decision to do and follow evil. A scoffer will not listen to reproof, but will instead strike out with anger and abuse. But contrasted to this is the wise man, who will listen to rebuke and love the one who had the courage and insight to put him back on the path to wisdom. A wise man knows that he is not fully wise and a righteous man knows he has not attained perfect righteousness. Thus these people are eager to receive insight and to be challenged that they may be wiser still.
The final six verses speak of the call of Folly, the personification of all that is foolish and unrighteousness. “The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing. She sits at the door of her house; she takes a seat on the highest places of the town, calling to those who pass by, who are going straight on their way, “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” And to him who lacks sense she says, “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol” (13-18).
Where Wisdom sends forth her servants to seek out those who desire to learn insight and understanding, Folly merely sits by her door or mimics the actions of Wisdom to seduce whomever she can. While she is seductive, she is ignorant, knowing nothing of true wisdom. Her appeal is sensuous, offering nothing pleasing to the wise heart and mind.
Folly teaches those who follow her that stolen water is sweet, which speaks of whatever is forbidden. Our fallen nature tells us this all the time – that what is forbidden to us is what we want most. We feel a sick satisfaction when we do or take something that is forbidden to us. In childhood this may be something as seemingly innocent as taking a cookie and gobbling it down in the closet so no one can see, but in adulthood this sin manifests itself in all sorts of gross sins, and most notably, sexual sins.
Folly offers temporal satisfaction, but as we have come to expect, she leads her followers directly to death – a kind of living death on earth and then finally eternal death. Those who reject God through their lifetimes will go to a place where they will never again have the possibility of choosing Him, or following wisdom.
In this politically correct culture, reproof has largely become taboo. We are so often afraid of offending people and have so often heard “judge not!” that we are afraid to challenge others even when they have gone far astray. This is a sure sign of how Folly has infiltrated the church, pushing aside Wisdom. A mark of those who have consciously chosen to follow Wisdom’s ways is that they are eager to be corrected, for their desire to follow God is more important than their own feelings of comfort and shame. Derek Webb has suggested that the best thing that could happen to any of us would be to have our sins broadcasted from the rooftops for the entire world to hear, for that would give us the motivation to finally deal with them. While that is true, Proverbs gives us the opportunity to examine ourselves and see where we have strayed from Wisdom’s ways. Even the wisest of us should be open to and even desire reproof and correction, both from God’s Word and from God’s people.