Mirror Reading in Proverbs 9

If “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder” it is too bad that so many scholars, Bible commentators and students behold so little Scriptural beauty! This state of affairs perhaps exists because they spend minimal time in the biblical languages and much if not most of their time investigating what others say about the Bible.

Proverbs 9 exemplifies poetic beauty. The author crafted this chapter utilizing macro and micro mirror readings. The macro reading focuses on two kinds of women. Verses 1-12 describe a woman called “wisdom;” verses 13-18 depict a “foolish woman.”

Repetition in each section justifies the “mirror reading” concept:

  • verse 3 replicates verse 14.
  • verse 4 is repeated in verse 16.

Beyond simple repetition lie conceptual parallels as well:

  • wisdom invites the naïve to a meal (verse 5).
  • the foolish woman likewise suggests the naïve eat her meal of stolen water and secretly-eaten bread (verse 17).
  • wisdom celebrates a long and happy life (verse 11).
  • the foolish woman entertains death (verse 18).

The “transition point” between verses 1-12 and verses 13-18 presents most clearly and beautifully the “micro mirror reading” to those looking at the Hebrew text. The author has a clear expectation that the reader will compare and contrast the two women. The last word of verse 12 and the first word of verse 13 “leap off the page:” תשׂא/אשׁת. Fold the former word over the top of the latter to see the “mirror reading.” Artistic beauty in poetic composition reveals itself here! What a shame that so few students of the Bible ever see it!

The Bible is a work of art. Artistic achievement and beauty displays itself magnificently, but benefits only those who read it in the original languages. May Proverbs 9, and תשׂא/אשׁת in particular, be an incentive to search for other elements of beauty scattered throughout the Old and New Testaments.

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