Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,
she raises her voice in the public square;
on top of the wall she cries out,
at the city gate she makes her speech:
“How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?
How long will mockers delight in mockery
and fools hate knowledge?
Repent at my rebuke!
Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,
I will make known to you my teachings.
But since you refuse to listen when I call
and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,
since you disregard all my advice
and do not accept my rebuke,
I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;
I will mock when calamity overtakes you—
when calamity overtakes you like a storm,
when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,
when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
“Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me,
since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the LORD.
Since they would not accept my advice
and spurned my rebuke,
they will eat the fruit of their ways
and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm.”
The Holy Bible : Today’s New International Version. 2005 (Pr 1:20–33). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
In English, most nouns are neuter–that is, they do not carry any sense of gender. We do not think of trees as either he or she. A bouncing rubber ball is neither male nor female. But with Hebrew, the language that the Old Testament was written in, every noun is either masculine or feminine. Trees are male, for instance, as are balls. The Hebrew word for wisdom happens to be feminine, as is the word for folly. Therefore, it is only natural for the author of Proverbs to then personify Wisdom (and later Folly) as women, to turn them into characters and give them some role to act out. In this section, Wisdom acts like a merchant, standing in the public square, wandering the city, offering her wares. Her product is guaranteed to make the lives of her customers better, to offer them true hope for the future, to change them–unlike most of the gewgaws we more regularly pick up at the local department store.