I have been pondering Jake’s sermon on Proverbs 5 and Wisdom for a couple of weeks now, chewing on it and trying to put it into a context that I can deal with. Here’s where I stand in this endeavor at this point.
I was instantly bothered by the format of a father warning his son to stay away from the adulteress who was seeming lurking around every corner. It sounded like little Shimron could hardly walk to the 7-11 to buy a couple of fig cakes and some new wine in a new skin without at least a couple or three adulteresses hitting him up on the way home for a little hanky-panky.
What I couldn’t help feeling is that it would probably be far more necessary to issue such warnings to daughters than to sons, when you consider the precarious position of women in that patriarchal society. Now to be fair, women enjoyed far greater status in Hebrew culture than they did among the surrounding peoples, from being declared to be created in the image of God in Genesis 1, to gaining legal rights in Numbers 27 (the Daughters of Zelophehad) to being treated equally with men by Jesus.
Still, nobody can reasonably say that women were likely to be the sexual aggressors in Israel in Solomon’s day, or for that matter anything like equal. So that issue bothered me from the beginning and perhaps distracted me somewhat from the main points of the sermon. That left me to fill in my own gaps, which is always a dangerous thing.
But I did just that, and this is the result. So far. My first move was to put down my twenty first century lenses and stop trying to view the Bible as if I was a twenty year old sophomore at Harvard fleeing to a safe space. Proverbs 5 was written at the beginning of the last millennium before the birth of Jesus and the Middle East was then, as it continues to be to this day, a male world. So if it sounds a little androcentric, like, duh!
What struck me though, once I began to consider the book for what it is, is that the woman who really counts is Wisdom; Sophia. She is wise, she is ancient, she is almost omnipresent, if not indeed omnipresent. She was present at the creation of things and danced with joy as God the Father did Their work. Wisdom is calling to you, ready to give you insight that will benefit you in every way if you will only come to her. In fact, it seems as if she is more likely to waylay you on your way to the 7-11, and try to knock some sense into your head before you buy any of those hot dogs that go round and round in the little countertop ovens. You know, maybe she should be called She; She is sort of like a feminine Jesus, but I don’t know about my theological foundation on that one.
What I’ve decided, however, is this: Chapter 5 of Proverbs is providing a contrast; the Way of Wisdom and the way of folly. Both ways are presented in a female form; it’s not like “Be like the Smart Dude and stay away from the Ho.” No, to me its more like “Take the smart road and not the stupid one,” and nothing more than that.
Something I haven’t quite sussed out for myself however is whether or not God used the feminine gender for His portrayal of both wisdom and folly in Proverbs 5 in order to hint to the very masculine culture of the day (and just about all succeeding cultures to this day) that their androcentric views might be off of God’s tracks a little bit. In that chapter both the Way of Wisdom and the way of folly are female; there’s no Great Male Way offered. Was this an early act of God, pressing forward the process of reconciling men and women in equality and respect, a process that is taking a distressingly long time to bear fruit? I don’t know. I’ll have to think about that some more.