A final contrast between Wisdom and Folly is described in this chapter. The figure of the previous chapter is still used. Wisdom is likened to a prudent woman inviting the traveler to enter her home, where true knowledge is given to all who sincerely seek it. Folly takes her stand in a similar way, urging all to turn in to her. She offers “the pleasures of sin for a season” to those who yield to her entreaties.
The Word of God as a whole, and Proverbs in particular, is Wisdom’s temple. Abundant provision has been made for the instruction and blessing of those who enter. All that man requires for his guidance through the mazes of his life on earth can be found here. A well-furnished table is spread before all who desire spiritual sustenance and cheer. Millions have feasted there, yet the supply is still inexhaustible.
Nor does Wisdom wait for men to seek her out. In the present dispensation of grace God is using His ambassadors to beseech men to be reconciled to Himself; He does not wait until they begin to pray, but actually condescends to implore them to turn from their sin to His beloved Son. So, here, the handmaids of Wisdom are found in public places, entreating those who lack true character to turn in and partake of the bread that strengthens and the wine that cheers. The happy man who obeys the gracious invitation and forsakes the way of the foolish lays hold of true life.
Only the truly exercised will heed the call of Wisdom. It is useless to plead with the empty, pompous, and self-satisfied scorner. He pursues his own way until the judgment he ridiculed falls at last, and he is crushed beneath it.
The more shallow and empty a man is, the less willing he is to listen to godly counsel; whereas, the truly wise are glad to learn from any who can correct and instruct. As a rule, the less a man knows, the more he thinks he knows. The more he really does know, the more he realizes his ignorance and his limitations. Hence the value of godly counsel from those who seek to be exercised by God’s Word. Reproof will only be wasted on the scorner. He will delight in ridiculing all who endeavor to turn him from his folly, however pure their motives.
These three verses would seem to be parenthetical, explaining the reason why the invitation of Wisdom’s maidens meets with such opposite responses.
In these verses we read the continued call of Wisdom. The scorner may idly boast of advanced knowledge because he is free from godly restraint. But true wisdom can only be found in the fear of the Lord and true understanding in the knowledge of holy things. (The word holy is in the plural.) This alone makes for what is really life. Apart from the knowledge of God, life is mere existence at best, with eternal darkness beyond it.
Men do not put God in their debt by answering the call of Wisdom, as though they were condescending to do so. If they are wise, it is for their own advantage—not His. He is seeking their happiness and blessing. God finds joy in the gladness of His children; nevertheless, it is for their own good that men should heed the call of Wisdom.
Nor will God be the loser if the scorner persists in his senseless and foolhardy course. Both in this life and the next, the folly of this foolish one will be made known to himself and others.
The unhappy contrast to the call of Wisdom is described in the rest of the chapter. Folly also has her temple, and many are devoted to her. Men are so ready to give heed to Folly that she does not need anyone to entreat them to enter her house. She is represented as sitting at the entrance, enticing passersby to turn in to her abode of sin and shame. Many guests enter but few return: for her house is but an entryway to the pit. “The dead are there; and… her guests are in the depths of hell” (18). Illicit pleasures charm for a time and ensnare the simple. Yet in the end the anguished soul must bow in bitterness that will never be alleviated. He will be forced at last to confess his dreadful mistake of turning from the call of Wisdom to seek the deceitful allurements of Folly.
One who tried the way of Folly wrote before he died:
My days are in the yellow leaf;
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the canker, and the grief
Are mine alone.