Why does Solomon refer to wisdom as a woman in Proverbs?
The theme of the book of Proverbs is wisdom and Proverbs 2:6 tells us that this wisdom comes from the Lord our God. The word wisdom occurs more often in Proverbs than in any other book in the Bible. But in Proverbs 1:20 and other passages we discover that wisdom is personified and referred to as a woman. Why did this happen?
Wisdom Is Personified
Wisdom is personified as a woman in Proverbs 1:20-21; 2:2-4; 3:14-18; 4:7-8; 8:1-36 and 9:1-12. Each time wisdom speaks. The first time wisdom speaks is in Proverbs 1:20-21.
Wisdom shouts in the street,
She lifts her voice in the square;
At the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings: Proverbs 1:20-21 (NASB)
The Hebrew word for wisdom is hakmot and this noun is a feminine plural. A literal reading would seem to be “Wisdom shouts in the street,” except that the second line is in the singular — “she lifts her voice.” F. C. Cook writes,
In the Hebrew the noun is a feminine plural . . . as though this Wisdom were the queen of all wisdoms, uniting in herself all their excellences.
That is, since Proverbs 2:6 says that God gives wisdom, the wisdom in Proverbs is the queen of all wisdoms. There is no greater wisdom.
For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly . . . Proverbs 2:6-7 (NKJV)
Why Is Wisdom A Woman?
Why did Proverbs personify wisdom as a woman? The answer is we do not know because Scripture never tells us. However, many have speculated why wisdom is personified as a woman by suggesting different ideas, but we are never told. The explanations are merely speculation. It is wrong to state that Proverbs is written from a father to his son and then suggest that wisdom is personified as feminine in order to make wisdom appear attractive to the son when Proverbs 5:15-20 warns men to avoid prostitutes. Such a conclusion is contrary to the teaching of Scripture.
Others suggest that wisdom is feminine because the Hebrew word is assigned the feminine gender. But this conclusion is wrong since the grammatical structure clearly refers to a female such as in Proverbs 3:13-15 and 9:1.
Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
And the man who gains understanding;
For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver,
And her gain than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies,
And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
Proverbs 3:13-15 (NKJV)
Wisdom has built her house . . . Proverbs 9:1 (NASB)
The most likely reason that wisdom is personified as wisdom is that those familiar with the English language do the same. We refer to a car as “she” or ships as “she,” for example. But that does not mean that a car or a ship is a female. It is a figure of speech and nothing more.
Proverbs contains wisdom from God. You are encouraged to read it and obtain wisdom!
1. F. C. Cook. Proverbs. Barnes Notes. Baker Books. 1966. p. 17.