Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
“Dame Wisdom” and “Dame Folly”
“Get wisdom; get insight” (v. 5)
Any parent would love to quote Proverbs 4: 1 (“My children, listen when your father corrects you. Pay attention and learn good judgment”) in order to demand unconditional obedience from their children. This verse however, like all other passages in the Bible, needs to be read in thecontext of the theme of that chapter and, indeed, the whole book of Proverbs.While Proverbs is primarily addressed to young men (note the repeated warnings in the book to “my son”), among the young men’s faithful tutors are women. The book distinguishes between women who should be emulated and women who are to be avoided. Accordingly, chapters 1-9 distinguish between two women: “Dame Wisdom” and “Dame Folly”. It is tempting to interpret the message of the Proverbs as theadvice to young men to stay away from women of questionable character andinstead, aspire to gain a “virtuous wife”. In a broader sense however, “Dame Wisdom” and “Dame Folly”are opposing figures and rivals who are engaged in a moral combat for sovereignty. Rather than two persons, the two figures represent two ways of life and indeed, the choices all of us should make in our lives.
Within this larger framework of the book of Proverbs, today’s passage contains valuable paternal instruction (“Hear my child, and accept my words..” v. 10). The focus herehowever, is not so much on the student’s blind obedience to his/her parents as on the need for young people to be open to wisdom and to insight. The instructions of the parents are relevant only to the extent they are true to the wisdom from above. The passagein fact, discusses two terms: wisdom and insight. Is there a difference, or are they synonymous with each other? Scholars point out that probably both the meanings could have been intended. Wisdom could be understood as the power from above and insight, the human response to it. Thegaining of wisdom can be considered the prerequisite for the possession of insight.
In the ultimate analysis, the book of Proverbs is not so much a collection of free-standing, unrelated instructions to the student. Rather, its focus is on the need to cling to wisdom rather than seek one’s own personal advancement. We need to gain and retain “Dame Wisdom” so as not to be swayed by the lures of “Dame Folly”. As Solomon, the writer of Proverbs realized, when oneseeks wisdom, the rest of God’s blessings will follow.
Prayer: Our parent God, we seek your wisdom so that we may make the right choices in our lives. Amen.
Thought for the day:Are parental instructions always synonymous with what is right and proper in God’s sight?
Jesudas Athyal, Carmel MTC, Boston