1Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn her seven pillars. 2She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. 3She has sent out her servant-girls, she calls from the highest places in the town, 4"You that are simple, turn in here!" To those without sense she says, 5"Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. 6Lay aside immaturity, and live, and walk in the way of insight."
Hebrew Bible Overview
As we mentioned last week, the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible has three main sections:
1. Torah or Pentateuch, the first five books, sometimes called Books of Moses, not because Moses could have written them, but because parts of them focus on Moses as liberator of God's people.
2. Prophets include Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings—the former prophets; and the writing prophets or latter prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel plus the Book of the Twelve or the Minor Prophets that are minor in length but not minor in content.
3. Writings, a miscellaneous collection that includes Psalms, Proverbs, Chronicles, Job, Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, Song of Solomon...
1, 2. Pentateuch and Prophets both carry a sense of an authoritative, revelatory Word of the Lord; Pentateuch brings us creation accounts, stories of patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, God's people Israel in mired Egyptian slavery, their exodus or departure from Egypt, Ten Commandments twice, journey to the edge of the Promised Land. Prophets bring us disruptive words from heaven, promises of a future, of death and resurrection. Pentateuch and Prophets emphasize God's covenanting with humanity and with all creation.
3. Writings are not a coherent body of literature; the official canonical content even varied some over the years. Among other angles, they bring us human words to God and human speech about God. They have a sense of discerning God's work in the world from observing creation and social structures, a sense of what we learn from living daily life. Some books report narrative events (Chronicles, Nehemiah, Ezra, Esther for example) or address God in temple or another worship context as the Psalms do.
Although the Proverbs belong to Israel's religious literature, they're not about covenant or temple, but for the most part they're practical advice for living with integrity or wholeness in community. The Proverbs reveal structure, order, continuity of creation and of all life. The book's 31 chapters contain short essays like the one we'll read and hear today, metaphors, similes, memes/ cultural pieces of different types; poems.
Some bibles say King Solomon wrote the Proverbs; most likely they're from many different authors over a span of 400 years. In a similar way to Moses' connection with liberation, Israel correlated Solomon with wisdom, and some of the content of Proverbs probably is from the united kingdom monarchy of Saul, David, and Solomon. Wisdom in Proverbs and in the other scriptural wisdom books of Job and Ecclesiastes isn't so much head knowledge as it is heart- and foot knowledge—the sense of how life comes together people often gain after they've journeyed for a while.
During this year of grace, we'll read several selections from Proverbs, so I'll probably repeat this basic outline.
Today's reading from Proverbs aligns with Jesus' declaration that he is the Bread of Life. As Barbara pointed out, sometimes we try to read too much into simple passages of scripture. The woman in this story is not vegetarian.... but just as Jesus does, she offers radical, fully inclusive hospitality and welcome to everyone without exception. In both Hebrew and in Greek, the noun for wisdom is feminine. We have the biblical number 7 in this reading.