Home » Advanced Search » Proverbs 8:23

Proverbs 8:23

Proverbs 8:23
View Download and Print Options

Proverbs 8:23, “Ages ago I was set up [or, “poured out”], at the first, before the beginning of the earth.”

The word that the ESV translates as “set up” in verse 23 is used 26 times in the Old Testament and 23 of those times, it has to do with the outpouring of an offering. Of course, the final meaning of a word will be determined by its context, and one might argue that Wisdom being poured out as a drink offering before time began does not fit the context….but I would argue that it does.

The heart of Wisdom is the fear of YHWH (Prov.9:10), that is to say, acknowledgment of Who He Is. In this light, it makes sense that, from all eternity, the ground of Wisdom’s being is a sort of oblation to YHWH….Why does this make sense? Well, what is “fear of YHWH” when there is no sin or wrath to “fear” (in the common sense of the word)? If fear of YHWH is right recognition and right response to YHWH, then “primordial” fear of YHWH is LOVE to YHWH, love that gives itself wholly and unreservedly in joyful consent to all that YHWH is. And this love—within the Trinity—manifests as an outpouring of the self, a whole-self giving to YHWH. Thus, “Primordial Wisdom” is, at its most fundamental level, an outpouring of the self as an offering of praise to YHWH. Wisdom is the unreserved giving of the self to YHWH as an outpoured oblation of love.

This fits with the context of Proverbs which understands the essence of Wisdom as the fear of YHWH. Further, such an interpretation fits with progressive revelation that will eventually teach us that the shadowy figure understood here as “Wisdom” is perfectly manifest in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crucified and risen (1 Cor. 1:23-24). That is not to say that Wisdom in Proverbs is Jesus (or is God the Son), but that Proverbs’ personification of Wisdom anticipates and prefigures the reality who is God the Son. Since the Son truly IS the Wisdom / Logos / Name of God, to follow true wisdom—such as we find in Proverbs—is eventually to come to Wisdom Himself, He who is the archetype for the personification in Proverbs.

[[NOTE: I think this is presented symbolically and beautifully in 9:5-6, where Lady Wisdom calls the simple to come and eat of her bread and wine…..here we see a true image: As we obey the precepts of Wisdom as they are found in the OT, “she” will lead us to and teach us to feed by faith upon the True Food and Drink, the Flesh and Blood of Him who is truly Wisdom incarnate—Christ, crucified and risen.]]

So, when Proverbs 23 says that Wisdom was poured out as a drink offering to YHWH from all eternity, it is—at one level—affirming that the ontological heart of Wisdom is the fear of YHWH….Wisdom is the pouring out of self in love to the Lord. However, at a deeper level—and with the retroactive illumination afforded by the resurrection of the crucified Lord—we can see how deeply true these words are. He who is Wisdom itself—the Logos and Name and Word and Radiance and Son of God—He exists, from all eternity, as the outpouring of His whole self in adoration of the Father. His being IS the reciprocal self-giving of Himself in love to the Father in the Spirit. This self-giving of God in love to God is the life of God, and therefore must also be supreme wisdom, since wisdom is ultimately conformity to God (this is not to deny that wisdom is the fear of God, since to fear God *is* to conform to Him on the creaturely level).

And now we can see a bit more clearly how Paul calls Christ crucified the Wisdom of God. The crucifixion is an external, temporal, spatial, incarnate manifestation of the life of the Triune God…it is the historic instantiation of the eternal self-outpouring of God to God which IS the life of God, which IS the Love of God, which IS the Wisdom of God.

Yes, when the Son pours Himself out as an oblation of Love to the Father on the cross, WISDOM—the Wisdom of the Eternal Life of the Triune God—WISDOM is disclosed to creation. On the cross, the Son merely embodies the truth that has always been Himself….that “ages ago” (v.23) was true of Him….He merely manifests the glory that He had with the Father before the world began (John 17:5), the glory that is His own life, the glory of giving Himself wholly and unreservedly in a response of love to the Father’s own self-giving in love to the Son. That is what happens on the cross, as the Son—who eternally pours Himself out in love to the Father within the Trinity—offers Himself  within time and space as an oblation of love to the Father, through the Spirit who is Himself the bond of their eternal unity (Hebrews 9:14).

And the Wisdom of God on Calvary is cursed and ugly because, in His Wisdom, God has gathered sinners to Himself. Supreme Wisdom (ie, the cross) is ugly within fallen creation because Wisdom bears the ugliness of its enemies in itself……thus, at the cross, we learn that Wisdom is actually Love. There is nothing wiser than to love…..There is nothing more like the uncreated Wisdom of God, who is the Son, than to give oneself in unreserved love to God and to neighbor (which includes all people, friends and enemies alike). That is Wisdom, that is Love, that is who YHWH is.

So…in today’s picture, I’ve tried to depict a representation of the Son’s eternal outpouring of Himself to the Father in the Spirit, which is itself a response to the Father’s eternal outpouring of Himself to the Son in the Spirit….and to show that this internal Trinitarian life of God is the wellspring of creation and the eternal reality that we see manifest on the cross.