in contrast to a secret snack in Madam Folly’s hostel (Proverbs 9:13-18)
- Wisdom’s home (Proverbs 9: 1-12)
Its wholesome features include:
- A sense of permanence (Proverbs 9:1); it is well structured and ‘spacious’ (New Living Translation) with its ‘seven pillars’ – the biblical symbol for fullness. It is no mere woodman’s hut, but a palace built by ‘Christ the wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:24).
- Thoughtful food preparation (Proverbs 9:2a-b); meals are lovingly cooked and baked in the kitchen.
- Caring table presentation (Proverbs 9:2c), suggesting the warm welcome awaiting guests in the dining room; ‘she has set her table’ with its finest porcelain plates, silver cutlery, finger bowls, embroidered linen serviettes and crystal wine goblets.
- A public proclamation, as well as personal invitations (Proverbs 9:3-4) – ‘She has sent out her maidens; she cries on the highest places of the city’ (The Interlinear Hebrew & Greek Bible). And those especially invited are not the wealthy and influential but ‘the simple’ (‘naïve’, New American Standard Bible), the gullible (‘he lacking heart’ literal Hebrew) – people without core convictions, and aimless in life’s byways; ‘those without good judgement’ (NLT); the Hebrew root here means ‘open’, literally ‘without pause’, implying those who never stop to think things through about where they are headed and, therefore, ‘open’ not only to be taught but also to be misled by fraudsters.
- Nutritious provision (Proverbs 9:5); ‘bread and wine’ was a common phrase like our ‘food and drink’. But for disciples of Christ it has undertones of the memorial meal he instituted at his last supper with his original trainees – symbols of the total self-sacrifice of his body and blood for our salvation that we thus regularly recall.
- Necessary participation, which will produce in us (Proverbs 9:6): (i) vitality (‘live’ life to the full) and (ii) vision (‘the way of insight’).
’Table talk’ – Proverbs 9:7-12 makes clear that such benefits depend on the diners’ healthy appetite, as Jesus later insisted in his seminar on the mount: ‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they [emphatic pronoun] shall be satisfied’ (Matthew 5:6). Intensity of desire is insufficient of itself – a starving man might gnaw shoe leather and drink soapy water in his desperation. Integrity of desire is important, too; ‘for righteousness’ indicates a longing to live in ways that please God. That paragraph also makes clear that no cynic (‘scoffer’) will be satisfied.
- Folly’s hostel (Proverbs 9:13-18)
This is the complete opposite of all the above. Here no reference is made to her place, but only to her person – a most unflattering pen picture: she is a bawdy (‘loud’) airhead (‘she knows nothing’, Proverbs 9:13; ‘she is ignorant and doesn’t know it’, NLT) and a temptress (‘she is seductive’). Worldliness gives no sense of permanence, preparation or aesthetic presentation. Her menu only offers ‘instant’ snacks of warmed up leftovers; her fayre is second-hand and basic (‘stolen water’) to be consumed in some obscure corner, behind a screen outside of business hours (‘eaten in secret’). And worst news of all, the food is so unwholesome that diners die prematurely from it – ‘But the men don’t realise that her former guests are now in the grave’, Proverbs 9:18 NLT). If her food thrills, it also kills. We shun drugs and drink, porn and promiscuity, fortunes of ill-gotten gain and misspent fortunes, but we must also avoid smug, self-righteous religiosity, mediocre apathy and sheer unbelief (see Matthew 25:24-30)!