Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars. She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her maids, and she calls from the highest point of the city. ‘Let all who are simple come in here!’ she says to those who lack judgment. Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed." Proverbs 9:1-5
Food serves our bodies and our relationships. The nutritional value of the food sustains our bodies and gives them strength. The relationship value of food sustains our bond with family and friends when we dine together. Mealtime provides opportunity for being vulnerable, sharing stories, enjoying fellowship, healing past wounds, and eagerly anticipating future banquets together.
So important is this latter function of sharing a meal together to build and sustain relationships that the Bible draws upon the experience to illustrate higher realities beyond the meal itself. Proverbs 9:1-6 is an example of that.
Two meals are served in Proverbs 9, the first by an industrious host commonly referred to as Woman Wisdom. This woman built a house requiring seven pillars, indicating it is wide and spacious, thus able to accommodate many guests. She set a luxurious table of meat and wine. Meat was a special treat for many ancient people, and the wine was mixed, meaning she probably added special spices to create a unique and satisfying flavor. After the meal was ready Woman Wisdom sent her servants out to the highest point of the city to cry out, "Let all who are simple come in here ... Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed." Those who attend this banquet will find nourishment for their bodies, but they will find even more. The fellowship value of this meal means that those who dine here will be able to "walk in the way of understanding."
Meanwhile, another woman in Proverbs 9 is inviting guests in to her meal as well. This hostess is known as Woman Folly. Unlike Woman Wisdom, this second lady in not industrious with her house or her meal. In fact, she is loud, undisciplined and foolish. Instead of working hard she sits in the doorway of her house and calls out to those passing by, "Let all who are simple come in here!" She invites the same people Woman Wisdom does! In fact, they both proffer their invitations at the highest point of the city, a place of great significance, and they invite the same people, those who are simple and gullible. But whereas the first lady served fine meat and wine, the second serves stolen water and food. "Stolen water is sweet," she says, "food eaten in secret is delicious." The enticing element of this second meal is not the nutritional value of the food, but the excitement of the erotic and forbidden nature of the meal. It is secretive, and those who dine here do not nourish their bodies, but revel in pleasures that are improper. In fact, any pleasures experienced by those who fill themselves on this meal will be short lived. "Little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of the grave." (Prov. 9:13-18).
Obviously, something is taking place here that is larger than the meal itself. The Sage is using food and meal as a metaphor for paths of life. Woman Wisdom, the grand and industrious lady who serves a fine meal and whose diners become wise, is issuing her call from God. She is inviting the simple to come follow the ways of divine wisdom and godly ethic. She calls the gullible to leave the world and enter relationship with God.
Woman Folly, on the other hand, represents any competing thought, personality or system to the great God of heaven. Like Woman Wisdom, Woman Folly is positioned at the highest point of the city, the place where temples were built in ancient society. Whereas Woman Wisdom represents God, Woman Folly would represent the false idols and religions that plagued Israel. Today, she would represent anything that calls us away from godly living with its promise of sweet, forbidden drink and pleasure.
God has served a meal, rich, succulent, hearty and nutritious. It feeds more than our bodies; it feeds our lives, character and souls. In the immediate context, the meal is the wisdom of Proverbs. In the larger context, the meal is the whole Bible, from which we learn of the invitation to salvation in Jesus and a relationship with God.
The father calls us. "Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have fixed. Leave your simple ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding (Prov. 9:5-6). Dinner is served. Will you come?
Note: Please read Laries review of Roaring Lions, Cracking Rocks and Other Gems from Proverbs on her blog, My Heart Speaks.