Poor Banished Children of Eve: Woman as Evil in the Hebrew Bible

By Gale A. Yee | Go to book overview

7: The other women
in proverbs: My Man's
Not Home-He Took
His Moneybag with Him

Proverbs 1–9 is the first in a series of postexilic theological reflections on God's own wisdom personified as a woman. In some of the rare instances in the Hebrew Bible in which an attribute of the deity is described as female,1 Woman Wisdom is truly an awesome figure. She was present when God created the world and is the sanctioned mediator between the divine and human (Prov 3:19–20; 8:2231).2 By her, kings rule and sovereigns govern justly (8:15–16). Her counsel is better than silver or gold (3:14–16; 8:10). Fathers enjoin their young sons to pursue Wisdom as a lover pursues his beloved, and to cling to her once they have found her (4:5–9, 13; 7:4; cf. Wis 8:2; Sir 24:19–22). She becomes the tree of life for those who embrace her (Prov 3:18).

Woman Wisdom's powerful adversary in Proverbs 1–9 must necessarily be as mythically awesome. Like Wisdom, she is female, but those who embrace her charms are set on the pathways of death, never to return (Prov 2:18–19; 5:5–6; 7:27). Fathers caution their sons to avoid her at all costs, although her seductions are irresistible. She is the 'iššâ zārâ, which I translate as the "Other Woman."3 In Proverbs 1–9 she becomes the evil antithesis of Woman Wisdom personified.4 Her Otherness is embodied in a number of ways that make her a most inappropriate marriage partner for a nice upper-class boy in the province of Yehud. She is the Other Woman in an illicit affair. She is Other because she is already married and therefore oil-limits to any other male. She is Other because of her racial/ethnic foreignness. She is Other simply because "she is not our kind"—"our kind"

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