What does Proverbs 8:4 mean?
ESV: “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man.
NIV: To you, O people, I call out; I raise my voice to all mankind.
NASB: 'To you, people, I call, And my voice is to mankind.
CSB: "People, I call out to you; my cry is to the children of Adam.
NLT: 'I call to you, to all of you! I raise my voice to all people.
KJV: Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.
In Proverbs 7 we read about the adulteress who searched for someone who would heed her invitation to do evil. Here, we read that wisdom calls to mankind. The prior verses in this chapter served as an introduction to wisdom, emphasizing how she actively seeks to reach humanity (Proverbs 8:1–3).
This begins a lengthy soliloquy by wisdom in which she invites mankind to heed her call. This invitation previews Jesus' call to mankind to believe on him. He extended his call to everyone by saying, "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28). Near the close of His earthly ministry, Jesus wept outside Jerusalem and said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!" (Matthew 23:37). The Bible closes with a similar invitation: "The Spirit and the Bride say, 'Come.' And let the one who hears say, 'Come.' And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price" (Revelation 22:17).
Proverbs 8:1–11 comes immediately after a potent warning about a promiscuous, seductive woman. Here, Solomon again presents a woman, this time as wisdom personified (Proverbs 1:20). She calls from everywhere to men to learn prudence and sense. She cites the value of learning from her. Her words are noble, right, true, righteous, and honest. Wisdom is far greater than silver, choice gold, jewels, and everything else that can be compared with her.
In this passage, wisdom is once again imagined as a woman who cries out to be heard (Proverbs 1:20–21). Wisdom extols her own truth and value. Wisdom was part of God's creative power long before even the creation of the universe. The chapter again returns to the many benefits of godly wisdom, before completing those declarations at the start of the next chapter.
Thus far in Proverbs, Solomon has spoken about the virtues of wisdom and the need to acquire it and live by it. He has also warned about the dangers of rejecting wisdom. Chapter 7 ended with a description of a promiscuous woman seducing a foolish young man. Now, in chapter 8, he lets wisdom speak, once again personified as a woman. She speaks about her existence before creation and her gift of life to all who find her. This analogy continues into chapter 9.
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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