Proverbs 1:20-21 "Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying..."
In the first seven verses of Solomon’s Proverbs, he referenced wisdom six times as he declared his reason for writing. In the next twelve verses, he exposed and warned against wisdom’s greatest threat in the life of a young person – peer pressure from an evil crowd. After that, Solomon introduced wisdom through a favorite literary tool of the Holy Ghost – personification. Wisdom and Understanding in the Old Testament, Charity in the New Testament, the Spirit of God personifies virtue in the Scriptures.
When Solomon personified wisdom, it is important to note that he did so in feminine terms. This choice of personification should in no way surprise the careful reader of Proverbs 1. While the book is applicable for all readers of all ages and of all genders, the historical context is primarily to his young son. He addressed his son on three different occasions in chapter 1 – verses 8, 10 and 15 – with the phrase, “my son” being used a total of twenty-three times throughout the book. This father chose to personify wisdom in feminine terms for two reasons: (1) because he wanted his son to look for wisdom and (2) when he found “her,” he wanted him to listen to “her.”
Men look for women more than women look for men. Young men especially are constantly surveying their surroundings for prospective young ladies. Solomon wanted to give his virtue of choice a feminine identity so as to make it more mentally attractive to his son. He was connecting with his son’s young and natural mindset. By declaring wisdom “without” and “in the streets” in verse 20, Solomon was playing to a young man’s curiosity. By declaring wisdom “in the chief place of concourse,” “in the openings of the gates” and “in the city,” Solomon was provoking an interest for wisdom in his young son. Essentially, he was telling his son, “She’s out there – go get her!” Remember, Solomon’s primary purpose for writing the book was for his readers “to know wisdom” (vs. 2).
In addition to the visual purpose for personifying wisdom in feminine terms, Solomon saw an audible purpose. Not only do women find favor in the eyes of men, but they also find favor in the ears of men. God designed men to like what they see and what they hear from women. Men don’t like disrespectful and contentious speech from men or women but conflict aside, men would prefer to hear a woman’s voice over a man’s voice. Men respond to the voice of a woman better than they do to the voice of a man. From a young age, boys respond better to the nurturing voice of their mother than they do to the less comforting voice of a father. The natural fondness of a woman’s voice and preference over a man’s voice stays with a man throughout the course of his lifetime. It is for this reason that fathers and grandfathers so easily give in to the voice of their daughters and granddaughters. It is for this reason that a man is more likely to do something when asked by a woman than when asked the same thing by a man.
Recent studies support Solomon’s ancient wisdom. Stanford University Professor Clifford Nass, “It’s much easier to find a female voice that everyone likes than a male voice that everyone likes.” He went on to say, “It’s a well-established phenomenon that the human brain is developed to like female voices.” Technology has followed Solomon’s wisdom. When giving its products a voice, Apple chose to give Siri a woman’s voice by default. Amazon has given its products a feminine voice. Google and Samsung have both chosen to do the same. Garmin and other GPS companies give their electronic products a woman’s voice by default as well. High-tech companies were not the first to implement such wisdom. The use of female voices in navigation devices dates back to World War II, when women’s voices were used in airplane cockpits. For decades, telephone operators have traditionally been female. When they started putting automated voice prompts in cars decades ago, Automakers in their consumer research found that people overwhelmingly preferred female voices to male ones.
Solomon’s choice of gender in personifying wisdom was much less about romance and much more about virtue. He wasn’t highlighting man’s attraction to women; he was using man’s natural attraction to women to highlight wisdom. He wanted his young son to view wisdom as he viewed women. He wanted Rehoboam to look for wisdom as he would look for a young woman – easily and often. He wanted Rehoboam to listen to wisdom as he would to the sweet voice of a beautiful young woman – carefully and tenderly. Virtue, not romance, was this father’s desire for his son. Wisdom, not women, was this father’s emphasis for his son.
Understanding the personification of wisdom in these verses is important but it is not as important as understanding the teaching of Solomon in these verses. He used the personification of wisdom in feminine terms to charge his son’s senses toward the presence of wisdom. Wisdom speaks loudly throughout life.
Wisdom crieth WITHOUT.
Wisdom uttereth her voice IN THE STREETS.
Wisdom crieth in the chief place of concourse.
Wisdom crieth in the openings of the gates.
Wisdom uttereth her words IN THE CITY.
Wisdom was not reserved for the classroom or for the textbook. Wisdom was not confined to the Temple or to the Torah. Solomon was telling his son that wisdom was available everywhere in life and that he was to look for “her” in every opening, on every street, in every meeting place and in every city. He wanted young Rehoboam to look for wisdom in every place and in every situation. He wanted his son to listen for her voice wherever he went.
Male or female, let us all embrace the instruction of Proverbs 1:20-21. Young or old, let us all listen to the Holy Scripture. God has made wisdom available for us at every turn and in every path. Wisdom is not confined to Sunday school or to seminary. Wisdom is not relegated to the past or to the ancient. Wisdom is available by observation. It is available by meditation. It is available by application. Wisdom is available wherever, whenever, whatever and however. God is the giver of true wisdom, of the heavenly wisdom James mentions in his epistle. If we long for wisdom, He will place it all throughout life in the paths that we trod. It is our job only to look for and listen to the wisdom God gives.
James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”