The Two Women of Proverbs

Considering the book of Proverbs and the themes that run through it, the “compare and contrast” war that Solomon engages in extensively can be readily observed by the reader. One of the most fascinating discussions in Solomon’s proverbs is the contrast he points out between two women.

Most of the time, when speaking of women and the book of Proverbs in the same sentence, the mind goes to “the virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31 which was penned by King Lemuel. However, Solomon speaks more at length on the subject of women prior to the virtuous woman; in fact, speaking in general, the first nine chapters (about one-third of the entire book) is about women. Two women to be exact, whom Solomon tells stories about to his son whom he wishes to impart wisdom. The discussion of these women is longer than our discussion but I’ve selected from the text a few portions for us to consider.

One of these women is described very well in Proverbs 7:5-27. The first thing Solomon does here is provide us with her name: “the immoral woman,” and “the seductress.” Solomon makes use of a story to expose the truth about this woman to his son. The story begins with an average evening and a young man devoid of understanding walking the streets. He chooses to take the way past the house of a woman who is the wife of a husband who is away for work. She appears before him in the attire that a harlot would wear, she attracts him in a sexual manner, kissing him. She makes the situation appear safe for him both physically (v. 19-20) and spiritually (v. 14). She paints over the sin with a picture of delight and pleasantness (v. 16-18). And she makes him feel wanted and desired (v.15). The result of this is twofold, he “immediately” makes the rash decision to go with her, “as an ox goes to the slaughter;” and the husband comes home ahead of schedule, only to find this young man in his bed. The husband sent an arrow through the heart of this young man. Solomon closes with a solemn statement worthy to be placed first on his gravestone: “He did not know it would cost his life;” a statement that should be placed on the many gravestones of men and women who give their life to immorality.

But this is not the only woman engaged in the battle to win over the young man! There is another woman that Solomon describes to his son who is also an enticer. She is mentioned in Proverbs 3:13-18. We are immediately told, in verse 13-14, that this woman is a personification of wisdom. She is really not a literal woman at all, and honestly, neither was the first woman we considered. They are both representations; one represents the life of immorality and its ending result; the other represents the life guided by godly wisdom and its ending result. The only comparison I see in the two is that they both entice the young man to come their way. Other than that, there is a significant contrast between the two. The words that describe the one who follows after Lady Wisdom are “happy,” “length of days,” “riches and honor,” “pleasantness,” and “peace.” Solomon’s statement that “all the things you may desire cannot compare with her,” is significant in the understanding of the man Solomon, who indeed had all that he desired. And, although we haven’t seen in this text Lady Wisdom actively enticing like we saw with the immoral woman, we can see this idea expounded upon in Proverbs 1:20-33.

Solomon certainly spends a great deal of time talking about Lady Wisdom; chapter eight of Proverbs is dedicated to her. Therein, she speaks for herself, calling and inviting all to dwell with her. Her speech is directed not to the wise, the godly, and the prudent, but rather to the simple, the fool (v. 5). The foolish and ungodly of this world are those whom she desires to dwell with. Therefore, they are not to be seen as hopeless and helpless. If they, at some point in their lives, would accept the invitation to abide with Lady Wisdom, then surely there is help and hope for them. Wisdom is learned, the gospel is taught, and neither of the two are understandings that we are born with. Further, one thing of importance in the eighth chapter is the readiness and willingness of wisdom. She does not whisper her invitation from a dark corner, she cries aloud. She is found on a hill overlooking the place where the travelers cross, and then we see her again at the entry gate of the city. She has not made herself scarce. Her presence is demanding attention from all. The eighth chapter of Proverbs is positive proof that no man will have an excuse when God pronounces His Judgment upon them. Wisdom has given her invitation, but many have rejected her cries to go their own way.

Another thing of great importance in the eighth chapter is the subject of the creation of the world. Verses 22-31 is a tremendous passage that demonstrates from the highest argument the vast difference between the two women. The immoral woman is as a blade of grass that sprouts forth and is gone before the next season. Her strength fails quickly; her death is sudden and inevitable. There is no glory, nor honor to be found in her life, just corruption. But what of Lady Wisdom? Solomon explains that she is eternal, enduring forever, from everlasting to everlasting. Even at the beginning of the creation, Lady Wisdom testifies that she “was beside” God “as a master craftsman,” and His “delight daily” (v. 30). She also testifies that “the LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old” (v. 22). Just picture that! The same wisdom that was in the sole possession of God before the world was is the same master craftsman that God delighted in and used in the designing of all things. This same wisdom is that which cries aloud to the simple, with a ready invitation for them to possess her as God has since everlasting.

At the close of Solomon’s discussion of the two women of contrast, we reach chapter nine, which records the final chance of both women to entice the simple to their ways. The chapter begins with Lady Wisdom’s invitation (Proverbs 9:1-6). The text shows how wisdom has built and furnished her house. She has put great effort into the preparations of a visitor. After the preparations are complete, she goes once again to where we have seen her before, up to the highest places where one can’t help but see her and hear her invitation. Her invitation is this: come, eat of my bread and drink of the juice I have mixed. Forsake foolishness and live, and go in the way of understanding.” This is the food and drink of wisdom, knowledge, discretion and understanding that she invites the simple to come in and partake. Unfortunately, the immoral woman is not done, but comes back on the scene in verses 13-18. Unlike Lady Wisdom, who is strong and knowledgeable, one who built her house, hewn out her pillars, slaughtered her meat and was a well-prepared host; the immoral woman is only lazy and unprepared. She is depicted as one who sits. She sits at the door of her house, and she sits at the high places of the city. The image of her sitting at the high places of the city certainly shows the fact that she has made some intentions to be noticed and heard by the passerby. Her call is by no means similar to the call of wisdom, it is as follows: Whoever is simple, let him turn in here; and as for him who lacks understanding, she says to him, stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. The secret bread and the stolen water is an allusion to sexual immorality and the unfaithfulness of adultery. The immoral woman calls these things “sweet” and “pleasant.” But wisdom knows the truth behind these things, and Solomon, immediately following her call, says “but he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell.” Which of the two women have you decided to dwell with?

Article by Tanner Campbell