Proverbs and the charge of sexism

Often we hear that the book of Proverbs is very male oriented.  We hear that it is, because of that and it’s age, quite sexist.  What are we to make of that?

the main teaching of the first 9 chapters is a discussion between a father and son on the lessons of wisdom.  So from at that point the charge has some merit.  Yet, there are several points that mitigate.

It is clear that in several ways, women play a key role in these chapters.  Both Mother and Father are involved in instruction: In 1:8  Mother and Father are in parallel, and also in the father’s recollection of his education in  4:3. 

Women are presented in these chapters as either the personification of Wisdom (1:20-33;3:13-18; 4:4-9; 8:-36; 9:1-6) or as the personification of seduction or folly (2:16-22; 5:3-14; 6:24-35; 7:6-27; 9:13-18).

Yet men can be represented by the various characters we find in the book – the wise, the prudent the diligent worker as opposed to the fool, the simpleton, the scoffer and the thick headed.

In the genre of Wisdom Writings, it is frequent that the format is the father teaching a son, but that does not make the wisdom irrelevant to women.  The dual character of both men and women to be either wise or foolish is depicted in a rather even handed manner.

Proverbs can not be considered a text-book for totaly egalitarianism, yet it does not by that earn the charge of sexism.

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