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Finding Answers in Wisdom
by Meghan A. Neumeier

Signs of autumn are everywhere - green leaves are transforming to rich orange and red hues, coffee shops are featuring pumpkin spiced lattes, small towns are holding contests for the biggest grown pumpkin, and at home, I’m cooking with apples and butternut squash. And, I’m beginning to think of Thanksgiving. Although Thanksgiving is an American holiday that has only been around for a few centuries, one could say that it has its roots in the Bible.

Proverbs 9:1-6 describes dressing meat, mixing wine, and spreading a table. If that doesn’t sound like Thanksgiving to you, then consider this invitation found a few verses later: “Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine I have mixed.” Is Thanksgiving not about sharing our abundance with others?

Proverbs 9:1-6 is not simply about preparing food and inviting guests to a feast. To understand what is going on underneath the surface, we need to first consider why the Book of Proverbs was originally written.

Like the Book of Job, the Psalms, and other books in the Old Testament, Proverbs is classified as wisdom literature. At its heart, wisdom literature is about finding the right path to take in order to guarantee personal well-being in one’s daily life. At the time the Book of Proverbs was written, people in ancient Israel were struggling to know the right way to live. They were also yearning for contact with God. Wisdom, who is personified in the Book of Proverbs as a female divine messenger who has been with God since the beginning of creation, was able to fulfill this void. Through Wisdom, God was able to communicate His will. 

In the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom stands on a street in a busy marketplace and extorts passersby to follow her ways (in other words, God’s ways). “Wisdom is better than jewels,” personified Wisdom counsels in Proverbs 8:11, “and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” And again, in Proverbs 8:13, she advises, “The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” In Proverbs 9:1-6, Wisdom woos her followers. By inviting the wise and foolish alike to her feast, she is essentially saying, “Eat my food, drink my wine, and abandon folly, and you will be on your way to a good life!” 

In the Jewish tradition, Proverbs 9:1-6 pointed to the Messianic banquet to be enjoyed at the end of time. Meat and mixed wine were served only at major festivals such as Passover, so the feast offered by Wisdom is nothing ordinary. In the Christian tradition, this passage is linked to New Testament verses such as John 6:35, where Jesus says, “I am the bread of life,” and John 4:14, where Jesus tells the Samaritan woman at the well, “Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

What does all of this mean to us today? The ancient Israelites thought they could discern God’s will through Wisdom. Human nature hasn’t changed much since ancient times. Today, we still seek guidelines for how to live, and we still yearn for a connection with God. Proverbs 9:1-6 teaches us that we can find our answers, and God Himself, by using a little wisdom and maybe even gathering with friends and family for a feast of meat and wine.


 


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