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What are the seven pillars of wisdom in Proverbs 9:1?

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Question: "What are the seven pillars of wisdom in Proverbs 9:1?"

Proverbs 9:1 states, “Wisdom has built her house; / she has set up its seven pillars.” This is obviously a symbolic description, since wisdom is personified. What are these “seven pillars” that wisdom has erected?

Many explanations exist regarding the seven pillars of wisdom in this passage. One idea is that, since the number seven often expresses completeness in Scripture, the passage communicates that the application of wisdom results in a complete, orderly, well-furnished house, one that lacks nothing.

Some commentators see the seven pillars as describing a traditional banquet pavilion. Understood this way, Wisdom’s call in Proverbs 9:5 is perfectly fitting: “Come, eat my food / and drink the wine I have mixed.”

Some ancient writings described the world as resting on seven pillars. If this was the author’s meaning, it is possible that “her house” in Proverbs 9:1 is parallel in some way with the world. However, this is an unlikely understanding of this particular proverb.

Some have theorized that the seven pillars of wisdom may refer to seven sections of Proverbs in the content previous to chapter 9.

In considering these interpretive options, it is most likely that “her house” and “seven pillars” both refer to a home that is in proper order, with the use of “seven” emphasizing its completeness and all-sufficiency. The following verses continue to describe other aspects of wisdom personified as a woman. She prepares a meal and invites people to attend to gain wisdom: “Leave your simple ways and you will live; / walk in the way of insight” (Proverbs 9:6). Wisdom has much to offer, and she invites everyone to come share her satisfying feast.

In contrast, verses 13–18 describe the way of folly, also personified as a woman. Folly is loud, seductive, and unwise (Proverbs 9:13). She seeks to deceive the simple-minded into stopping at her home to drink stolen water and secret bread (verses 16–17). Those who do find death instead of life (verse 18).

Proverbs chapter 9 is presented in a chiastic structure, meaning the first and last portions are parallel ideas with the main point in the center passage (verses 7–12). These verses emphasize a central truth: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, / and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10). The entire chapter is devoted to the emphasis of seeking wisdom, avoiding folly, and finding this wisdom in the Lord.

Recommended Resource: Proverbs NIV Application Commentary by Paul Koptak

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Related Topics:

Why are both wisdom and foolishness pictured as women in Proverbs?

Why didn’t Solomon follow his own advice on women?

What does it mean to lean not on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6)?

What are the seven things God hates?

How does love cover all wrongs (Proverbs 10:12)?

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What are the seven pillars of wisdom in Proverbs 9:1?

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