Here’s how The Passion Translation renders Proverbs 8:22-31.
(22) ‘In the beginning I was there, for God possessed me [or ‘had me’, as an expectant mother when delivered ‘had a baby’] even before he created the universe.
(23) From eternity past I was set in place, before the world began. I was anointed [or ‘appointed’, New Living Translation; literally ‘poured out’] from the beginning.
(24) Before the ocean depths were poured out, and before there were any glorious fountains overflowing with water, I was there, dancing!
(25) Even before one mountain had been sculpted, or one hill raised up, I was already there dancing [Hebrew ‘kicking and twirling’].
(26) When he created the earth, the fields, even the first atoms of dust, I was already there.
(27) When he hung the tapestry of the heavens and stretched put the horizons of the earth, (28) when the clouds and skies were set in place and the subterranean fountains began to flow strong, I was already there.
(29) When he set in place the pillars of the earth and spoke the decrees of the seas, commanding the waves so that they wouldn’t overstep their boundaries, (30) I was there, close to the Creator’s side as his master artist [= text, or ‘architect = margin, or ‘craftsman’ New International Version]. Daily he was filled with delight in me as I playfully rejoiced before him. (31) I laughed and played, so happy with what he had made, while finding my delight in the children of men.’
This piece of Scripture is pure poetry; its waves of repetition encourage the reader to relax and imagine this truly timeless scene. Let us ask some very basic questions about this passage – who? where? what? how? and why? – starting with the time aspect – when?
But, first, let’s notice its context – namely chapters 1 – 9 of the book of Proverbs. After the title verse (1:1) and the introduction to the theme and purpose of proverbs – which is to encourage ‘the fear of the Lord’ (1:2-7) – mostly we hear Solomon addressing his heir[s] (‘my son[s]’ seventeen times). But in the 247 verse that follow he occasionally lets ‘Lady Wisdom’ speak directly to the reader – in 48 verses, including the ten verses of our selected section [1:22-33; 9:4-6, and especially 8:4-36]. But ‘Ms. Folly’ is only permitted to voice her absurd ideas in 7:14-20 and a final two-verse summary in 9:16-18 – ten verses in total.
So much for the technical context; now for those basic questions.
Question 1. When did all this occur?
There’s plenty of time-reference vocabulary: ‘beginning’, ‘before’, ‘when’, ‘eternity [or ‘ages’] past’, and ‘daily’. These words refer not to recent or even historical times but to an era ‘before … oceans’ (24), ‘mountains’ (25), ‘soil’ (or ‘dust’ 26), ‘clouds’ 28a) and ‘springs’ (28b).
As Professor Albert Einstein demonstrated scientifically, time is relative and not absolutely fixed. Astronomers can view very distant stars as they explode and die, although it actually happened so long ago due to the limited speed of light. And within human experience time has often ‘stood still’; for instance during the trauma of a major accident everything is experienced in slow motion.
Question 2. Who is testifying here?
The person or personification of ‘wisdom’ was ‘appointed’ (23 NLT, or ‘set up’ KJV) as ‘architect’ (28a NLT and The Passion Translation – but not KJV). In the light of the New Testament, Christ is the wisdom of God. ‘God made him [= ‘Christ Jesus’] to be wisdom itself’ (1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT). ‘In him [= ‘Christ himself’] lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’ (Colossians 2:3 NLT). Six times in our selected reading in Proverbs wisdom affirms that ‘in the beginning I was there’ (22, 24, 25, 26, 28 and 30). So, from this point in our study we can refer to Wisdom as ‘he’ rather than ‘she’.
Question 3. Where was ‘there’?
He (Christ) was ‘close to the Creator’s side’. (Compare John 1:1-4 and Hebrews 1:1-2.)
Question 4. What happened to him there?
He was ‘appointed’ and ‘anointed’ to reign (compare Hebrews 1:3).
Question 5. How did he behave?
He acted as an ‘artist’ or an architect’, or ‘craftsman’ (30) planning and designing creation. And the prospect filled him with great joy, inspiring him into ‘dancing’.
Question 6. Why is all this important?
The purpose of Solomon’s visit to eternity is very practical as is made plain in the final paragraph of the chapter (8:32-36). ‘And so, my children,’ pleads Wisdom, ‘listen to … my instruction and be wise’ (32-33 NLT).
* What should be our response to all this revelation?
Let us (34) ‘wait at wisdom’s doorway’ morning by morning, longing to hear a word for every day’, and ‘joy will break forth within you as you listen for what I’ll say.’ Why? (32) ‘for nothing will bring you more joy than following my ways.’ May ‘the joy of the Lord’ set our feet dancing too!