In the first 9 chapters of the book of Proverbs, there are these long speeches from the perspective of or warning about one of four characters. Two of them represent God’s wisdom: The Wise King, and Lady Wisdom, and two of them represent man’s desires: the Wicked Fool, and Folly the Harlot. These character archetypes represent God’s ways vs the world’s ways.
When growing in Christ and even searching for a spouse we should actively compare ourselves and others to these characters. Does our conduct heed the warnings of the Wise King and Lady Wisdom, or do we follow the passions of the Wicked Fool and Folly the Harlot? When pursuing a potential spouse, are we pursuing the Fool/the Harlot or are we pursuing the King/the Lady?
Lady Wisdom is a personification of God’s wisdom, and the “Proverbs 31 woman” is practically a human version of Lady Wisdom herself. She calls out in the streets to warn fools and encourage the upright. She is the auntie, motherly, and sisterly figure that embodies everything God stands for. One last, note: Proverbs 8:35 says, “For whoever finds me [Lady Wisdom] finds life and receives favor from the Lord.” Meanwhile, Proverbs 18:22 says, “The man who finds a wife finds a treasure, and he receives favor from the Lord”. These verses end the same way and both reference a woman that brings favor, the first is Lady Wisdom and the second is a wife. When we put them together one can see that the ideal wife a man should seek is Lady Wisdom.
Prov 1:20 (NLT) Wisdom shouts in the streets. She cries out in the public square. 21 She calls to the crowds along the main street, to those gathered in front of the city gate: 22 “How long, you simpletons, will you insist on being simpleminded? How long will you mockers relish your mocking? How long will you fools hate knowledge? 23 Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise. 24 “I called you so often, but you wouldn’t come. I reached out to you, but you paid no attention. 25 You ignored my advice and rejected the correction I offered. 26 So I will laugh when you are in trouble! I will mock you when disaster overtakes you— 27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone, and anguish and distress overwhelm you. 28 “When they cry for help, I will not answer. Though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me. 29 For they hated knowledge and chose not to fear the Lord. 30 They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them. 31 Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way, choking on their own schemes. 32 For simpletons turn away from me—to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency. 33 But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear of harm.”
Prov 8:1 Listen as Wisdom calls out! Hear as understanding raises her voice! 2 On the hilltop along the road, she takes her stand at the crossroads. 3 By the gates at the entrance to the town, on the road leading in, she cries aloud, 4 “I call to you, to all of you! I raise my voice to all people. 5 You simple people, use good judgment. You foolish people, show some understanding. 6 Listen to me! For I have important things to tell you. Everything I say is right, 7 for I speak the truth and detest every kind of deception. 8 My advice is wholesome. There is nothing devious or crooked in it. 9 My words are plain to anyone with understanding, clear to those with knowledge. 10 Choose my instruction rather than silver, and knowledge rather than pure gold. 11 For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with it. 12 “I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment. 13 All who fear the Lord will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech. 14 Common sense and success belong to me. Insight and strength are mine. 15 Because of me, kings reign, and rulers make just decrees. 16 Rulers lead with my help, and nobles make righteous judgments. 17 “I love all who love me. Those who search will surely find me. 18 I have riches and honor, as well as enduring wealth and justice. 19 My gifts are better than gold, even the purest gold, my wages better than sterling silver! 20 I walk in righteousness, in paths of justice. 21 Those who love me inherit wealth. I will fill their treasuries.
The Wise King is a loving father, who emulates the heavenly Father by passing down wisdom to his children and training them up the way they should go.
Prov 3:1 My child, never forget the things I have taught you. Store my commands in your heart. 2 If you do this, you will live many years, and your life will be satisfying. 3 Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. 4 Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation. 5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. 7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the Lord and turn away from evil. 8 Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones. 9 Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce. 10 Then he will fill your barns with grain, and your vats will overflow with good wine. 11 My child, don’t reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t be upset when he corrects you. 12 For the Lord corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights. 13 Joyful is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding. 14 For wisdom is more profitable than silver, and her wages are better than gold. 15 Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. 16 She offers you long life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left. 17 She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying. 18 Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold her tightly.
Prov 2:1 My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands. 2 Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. 3 Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. 4 Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures. 5 Then you will understand what it means to fear the Lord, and you will gain knowledge of God. 6 For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity. 8 He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him. 9 Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. 11 Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe. 12 Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted. 13 These men turn from the right way to walk down dark paths. 14 They take pleasure in doing wrong, and they enjoy the twisted ways of evil. 15 Their actions are crooked, and their ways are wrong. 16 Wisdom will save you from the immoral woman, from the seductive words of the promiscuous woman. 17 She has abandoned her husband and ignores the covenant she made before God. 18 Entering her house leads to death; it is the road to the grave. 19 The man who visits her is doomed. He will never reach the paths of life. 20 So follow the steps of the good, and stay on the paths of the righteous. 21 For only the godly will live in the land, and those with integrity will remain in it. 22 But the wicked will be removed from the land, and the treacherous will be uprooted.
The Wicked Fool is a man who seeks to kill, steal, and destroy in order to gain what he desires and entices others to follow is path by promising riches.
Prov 1:11 They may say, “Come and join us. Let’s hide and kill someone! Just for fun, let’s ambush the innocent! 12 Let’s swallow them alive, like the grave; let’s swallow them whole, like those who go down to the pit of death. 13 Think of the great things we’ll get! We’ll fill our houses with all the stuff we take. 14 Come, throw in your lot with us; we’ll all share the loot.”
Prov 2:12 Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose words are twisted. 13 These men turn from the right way to walk down dark paths. 14 They take pleasure in doing wrong, and they enjoy the twisted ways of evil. 15 Their actions are crooked, and their ways are wrong.
Folly the Harlot is a woman who is promiscuous and an adulteress. She will seduce and use men to get her way and teach other women to do the same.
Prov 9:13 The woman named Folly is brash. She is ignorant and doesn’t know it. 14 She sits in her doorway on the heights overlooking the city. 15 She calls out to men going by who are minding their own business. 16 “Come in with me,” she urges the simple. To those who lack good judgment, she says, 17 “Stolen water is refreshing; food eaten in secret tastes the best!” 18 But little do they know that the dead are there. Her guests are in the depths of the grave.
Prov 5:8 Stay away from her! Don’t go near the door of her house! 9 If you do, you will lose your honor and will lose to merciless people all you have achieved. 10 Strangers will consume your wealth, and someone else will enjoy the fruit of your labor. 11 In the end you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body. 12 You will say, “How I hated discipline! If only I had not ignored all the warnings! 13 Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers? Why didn’t I pay attention to my instructors? 14 I have come to the brink of utter ruin, and now I must face public disgrace.” 15 Drink water from your own well— share your love only with your wife. 16 Why spill the water of your springs in the streets, having sex with just anyone? 17 You should reserve it for yourselves. Never share it with strangers. 18 Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love. 20 Why be captivated, my son, by an immoral woman, or fondle the breasts of a promiscuous woman?
Prov 7:7 I saw some naive young men, and one in particular who lacked common sense. 8 He was crossing the street near the house of an immoral woman, strolling down the path by her house. 9 It was at twilight, in the evening, as deep darkness fell. 10 The woman approached him, seductively dressed and sly of heart. 11 She was the brash, rebellious type, never content to stay at home. 12 She is often in the streets and markets, soliciting at every corner. 13 She threw her arms around him and kissed him, and with a brazen look she said, 14 “I’ve just made my peace offerings and fulfilled my vows. 15 You’re the one I was looking for! I came out to find you, and here you are! 16 My bed is spread with beautiful blankets, with colored sheets of Egyptian linen. 17 I’ve perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. 18 Come, let’s drink our fill of love until morning. Let’s enjoy each other’s caresses, 19 for my husband is not home. He’s away on a long trip. 20 He has taken a wallet full of money with him and won’t return until later this month.” 21 So she seduced him with her pretty speech and enticed him with her flattery. 22 He followed her at once, like an ox going to the slaughter. He was like a stag caught in a trap, 23 awaiting the arrow that would pierce its heart. He was like a bird flying into a snare, little knowing it would cost him his life.
When reading Proverbs chapters 1-9 pay close attention to what is being taught. These lessons continue through the rest of the book with a series of individual proverbs, but these characters do not go away entirely. Echoes of the wisdom of Lady Wisdom and the Wise King are in the proverbs of Chapters 10-29 themselves and they advise against the desires, actions, and behaviors of the Fool and the Harlot. At the end of the book, in Chapters 30 and 31 we see a return of the Wise King and Lady Wisdom but in the form of humans that personify who they are.
Chapter 30 starts by saying these are the words Agur the son of Jakeh and proceeds with wisdom on how to be a man of God starting with humility and reverence for who God is. It even warns of the ways of foolish men and adulteress women.
Prov 30:7 O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. 8 First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. 9 For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.
Prov 30:11 Some people curse their father and do not thank their mother. 12 They are pure in their own eyes, but they are filthy and unwashed. 13 They look proudly around, casting disdainful glances. 14 They have teeth like swords and fangs like knives. They devour the poor from the earth and the needy from among humanity.
Prov 30:17 The eye that mocks a father and despises a mother’s instructions will be plucked out by ravens of the valley and eaten by vultures.
Prov 30:20 An adulterous woman consumes a man, then wipes her mouth and says, “What’s wrong with that?” 21 There are three things that make the earth tremble— no, four it cannot endure: 22 a slave who becomes a king, an overbearing fool who prospers, 23 a bitter woman who finally gets a husband, a servant girl who supplants her mistress.
Proverbs 31 embodies lady wisdom as a real woman in the life of a man. It starts with the wise mother of a king and then speaks of a woman who functions as the ideal wife for a man of God. The first 9 verses are about King Lemuel, who is echoing wisdom taught to him by his mother, the first lady wisdom of his life.
Prov 31:1 The sayings of King Lemuel contain this message, which his mother taught him. 2 O my son, O son of my womb, O son of my vows, 3 do not waste your strength on women, on those who ruin kings. 4 It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine. Rulers should not crave alcohol. 5 For if they drink, they may forget the law and not give justice to the oppressed. 6 Alcohol is for the dying, and wine for those in bitter distress. 7 Let them drink to forget their poverty and remember their troubles no more. 8 Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. 9 Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.
Then the rest of the chapter teaches us about the Godly woman who makes the best wife. Previously passages like Proverbs 21:9, 21:19, and 27:15 warns us about the contentious woman, saying it’s better to live in the wilderness or stand on the corner of the roof than to be with a contentious woman who is as annoying as a continuously dripping and stopping her is like trying to stop the wind. But Proverbs 31 describes the opposite of that kind of woman. She is a hard worker, creative, compassionate, and diligent. The conclusion is that physical beauty and a charming personality can fade or be deceptive, but the inner beauty of a woman who has reverence for God will last and be greatly praised.
Prov 31:10 Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is more precious than rubies. 11 Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life. 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. 13 She finds wool and flax and busily spins it. 14 She is like a merchant’s ship, bringing her food from afar. 15 She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household and plan the day’s work for her servant girls. 16 She goes to inspect a field and buys it; with her earnings she plants a vineyard. 17 She is energetic and strong, a hard worker. 18 She makes sure her dealings are profitable; her lamp burns late into the night. 19 Her hands are busy spinning thread, her fingers twisting fiber. 20 She extends a helping hand to the poor and opens her arms to the needy. 21 She has no fear of winter for her household, for everyone has warm clothes. 22 She makes her own bedspreads. She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns. 23 Her husband is well known at the city gates, where he sits with the other civic leaders. 24 She makes belted linen garments and sashes to sell to the merchants. 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. 26 When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. 27 She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. 28 Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: 29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised. 31 Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.