Gilbert House Fellowship #409: Proverbs 2–3

WE RETURN to our regularly scheduled reading this week with proverbs that are paternal calls for wisdom–and a warning against communing with spirits of the dead.

Contrary to some who seen in these chapters a female deity named Wisdom, perhaps even the consort of Yahweh, the mundane explanation is simply that the word chokhmah (“wisdom”) is a feminine noun. Grammatical gender has nothing to do with biological gender. So, attempts to see in Proverbs a feminine spirit named Wisdom are misguided—an example of eisegesis, reading a desired, predetermined meaning into the text, rather than exegesis, drawing the intended meaning from the text.

We also dig deep into Proverbs 2:18:

[F]or her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed;

We find in the passage what may be a reference to the cult of the dead that surrounded the Israelites. First, the word translated “departed” is rephaim, the spirits of the Nephilim destroyed in the Flood. This is confirmed by the Greek Septuagint, translated about 200 years before the birth of Jesus, which translates rephaim as “giants.”

Further, the Septuagint uses axonas for the word translated “paths,” where three verses earlier the words triboi and trochiai are rendered “paths.” The Brenton translation of the Septuagint renders Prov. 2:18 this way:

For she has fixed her house near death, and guided her wheels near Hades with the giants.

We explain why this is relevant: On the Golan Heights, ancient Bashan, there are literally hundreds of funerary monuments that feature concentric rings of stone around a central tumulus or cairn. The largest is Gilgal Refaim (“Wheel of Giants”), which we visited last March, but there are three others nearly as large that are practically unknown. Gilgal Refaim appears to have been built as a cult site for ritual circumambulation around a sacred central core in which a priest or shaman would descend to make contact with spirits of the netherworld.

In short, Proverbs 2 appears to be a warning against participating in rites that were clearly still taking place in the time of Saul, David, and Solomon (see 1 Samuel 28, Saul’s visit to the medium of En-dor). In fact, based on the writings of the prophets, communing with spirits of the netherworld continued in Israel for at least another three or four hundred years, down to the time of Jeremiah and the Babylonian captivity.

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  1. Thank Y’all for all you do..

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