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Bible: The Old Testament

Literature
  • Study Guide
Summary

Proverbs

Summary Proverbs

The importance of women and femininity in Proverbs is unusual in the context of the Old Testament. In most Old Testament narratives, women play a role secondary to that of men. However, Proverbs suggests that women can use wisdom within a male-dominated society to assert their strength and independence. The final chapter gives license to the “good wife” to do everything from selling merchandise to performing home repair, and Solomon notes earlier that it is the “wise woman who builds her house” (14:1). Interestingly, the young men throughout Proverbs wander aimlessly, searching for the correct path but falling prey to seduction. Wisdom, personified as a woman, stands fast, stationed at the city gates or in the streets delivering messages as an oracle or soothsayer. The juxtaposition of feminine Wisdom with God alters the vision of God from previous biblical books, in which God appears as an angel, a group of men, or in thunder and fire. The Book of Proverbs does not suggest that God is a woman or a being with a gender. Nevertheless, the feminine voice of Wisdom claims to be an integral part of God. Wisdom notes, “The Lord created me at the / beginning of his work. . . . [T]hen I was beside him, like a / master worker” (8:22–30). Wisdom also affirms, “For whoever finds me finds life / and obtains favor from the Lord” (8:35). Wisdom is the source of life, a helper in creation, and a mediator between God and humankind. By assigning Wisdom a feminine quality, Proverbs suggests that femininity, in addition to masculinity, should be an important way in which we think about the order of the world.