Wisdom is famously personified in Proverbs 8 as a lady who calls out for the simple to sit at her feet and learn from her righteous words. But as wisdom has an opposite in foolishness, so does Lady Wisdom find a personified antagonist in the book of Proverbs. Her name is Woman Folly, and we meet her in Proverbs 9:13–18.
Loudness is the first characteristic that today’s passage attributes to Woman Folly. This is no surprise, for is it not true that those who are the most foolish often make the most noise? Certainly, those who have much to say are in many cases those who are the least worth listening to. Other proverbs talk about the “babbling fool” and the destruction that he brings (10:8). Fools, we read, love to flaunt their folly (13:16). This is the picture that Proverbs 9 paints of Woman Folly, giving us the image of one who is insistent and yet has nothing positive to offer. In fact, the more worthless her speech, the louder she becomes. Matthew Henry comments on today’s passage that “the less she has to offer that is rational the more violent and pressing she is, and carries the day often by dint of impudence.” Among other things, we learn from this imagery that the loudest speakers and those who get the most recognition in culture are not necessarily the paragons of wisdom. The loud majority is not necessarily right or wise simply because it is made up of the most people or makes the most noise.
As the negative counterpart to Lady Wisdom, Woman Folly also calls out for men and women to heed her. But Woman Folly makes an illegitimate claim to leadership, sitting on the “highest places of the town” (9:14), which is an allusion to a position of authority. Many who follow her do so because they believe foolishness has rightful claim over their lives, but folly is a usurper. We were made to live by divine wisdom, but in Adam we forfeited that precious birthright and enslaved ourselves to foolishness. Only God’s wisdom—Jesus Christ Himself—can set us free (1 Cor. 1:30).
Finally, today’s passage links Woman Folly with sexual immorality. Stolen water and bread eaten in secret are images of illicit sexual relations (v. 17). Forbidden relationships promise life, but they bring destruction, death, and divorce. Woman Folly entices people to Sheol—to death—with her false promises. Only Lady Wisdom, the personification of what God has revealed is right, will bring us life.