Wisdom and Poetical Books
Is gender an issue in the book of Proverbs?
Yes. The proverbs were written by old men for the edification of young men. The proverbial view of women is split. Part of the time women are seen as a snare: “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; for a prostitute’s fee is only a loaf of bread, but the wife of another stalks a man’s very life.” (NRSV, Proverbs 6:25–26) And: “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a contentious wife.” (NRSV, Proverbs 21:9)
The rest of the time, women are lauded for their wifely virtues: “Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is worth more than precious rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.” (NLT, Proverbs 31:10–11) And: “The man who finds a wife finds a treasure and receives favor from the LORD.” (NLT, Proverbs 18:22)
The female gender has another role in Proverbs as well. Wisdom is personified as a woman: “Happy is the person who finds wisdom and gains understanding. For the profit of wisdom is better than silver, and her wages are better than gold.” (NLT, Proverbs 3:13–14) Another proverb reads, “Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights, beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries out: ‘To you, O people, I call, and my cry is to all that live. O simple ones, learn prudence; acquire intelligence, you who lack it.’” (NLT, Proverbs 8:1–5)