Proverbs 8:22-31, "Produced me" and "brought me forth"

by Luke Wayne
9/12/16

"Jehovah produced me as the beginning of his way, The earliest of his achievements of long ago. From ancient times I was installed, From the start, from times earlier than the earth. When there were no deep waters, I was brought forth, When there were no springs overflowing with water. Before the mountains were set in place, Before the hills, I was brought forth, When he had not yet made the earth and its fields Or the first clods of earth's soil. When he prepared the heavens, I was there; When he marked out the horizon on the surface of the waters, When he established the clouds above, When he founded the fountains of the deep, When he set a decree for the sea That its waters should not pass beyond his order, When he established the foundations of the earth, Then I was beside him as a master worker. I was the one he was especially fond of day by day; I rejoiced before him all the time; I rejoiced over his habitable earth, And I was especially fond of the sons of men.," (Proverbs 8:22-31, New World Translation).

Jehovah's Witnesses often point to Proverbs 8:22-31 (or individual verses therein) as a prophetic testimony of Jesus as the first creation. They point to references that God "produced" him and "brought [him] forth," and profess that this demonstrates plainly that Jesus was a created being. The first and greatest created being, Michael the Archangel, but a created being nonetheless. Certainly not Almighty God. The problem with this claim, of course, is rather simple. This passage in Proverbs isn't talking about Jesus. It is talking about wisdom poetically personified as a woman. The chapter begins:

"Does not wisdom call, And understanding lift up her voice? On top of the heights beside the way, Where the paths meet, she takes her stand; Beside the gates, at the opening to the city, At the entrance of the doors, she cries out," (Proverbs 8:1-3).

An extended discourse is then given in the voice of wisdom. Halfway through we are even reminded who is speaking:

"I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, And I find knowledge and discretion," (Proverbs 8:12).

In fact, this is a device that the author has used frequently in the chapters before this as well. For example:

  • "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: How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing And fools hate knowledge?" (Proverbs 1:20-22).
  • "Make your ear attentive to wisdom, Incline your heart to understanding; For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; If you seek her as silver And search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will discern the fear of the Lord And discover the knowledge of God," (Proverbs 2:2-5)
  • "How blessed is the man who finds wisdom And the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver And her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; And nothing you desire compares with her," (Proverbs 3:13-15)

And continues on immediately after our passage on into chapter 9:

"Wisdom has built her house, She has hewn out her seven pillars; She has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine; She has also set her table; She has sent out her maidens, she calls From the tops of the heights of the city: Whoever is naive, let him turn in here! To him who lacks understanding she says, Come, eat of my food And drink of the wine I have mixed. Forsake your folly and live, And proceed in the way of understanding, (Proverbs 9:1-6)

The subject is consistent throughout. Wisdom is speaking and is personified as a woman. This is a poetic device, not a prophetic testimony about the pre-incarnate person of Jesus. This is why she says things like:

"By me kings reign, And rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, All who judge rightly," (Proverbs 8:12-16).

Kings, princes, and other rulers judge rightly by wisdom, not by the Archangel Michael. The Jehovah's witness interpretation simply doesn't make sense in the rest of the passage.

Jehovah's Witnesses will claim that Jesus is called the "wisdom of God" in the completely different context of 1 Corinthians 1:24, and so that is enough to say that this is really about Him. This is clearly grasping at straws, but let's examine it further. They have to completely ignore the plain context we have observed in which the text is talking about actual wisdom, and then they further have to get around the fact that wisdom is here personified as a woman. To pull this off, they inappropriately translate all the feminine pronouns as "it" rather than "she" or "her". Speaking of wisdom in this impersonal manner does not really strengthen their case, as Jesus is no more an "it" than he is a "she", but they also give themselves away in one unavoidable inconsistency. In Proverbs 7:4 they are forced to translate:

"Say to wisdom, 'You are my sister,'" (Proverbs 7:4, NWT).

They would certainly not suggest that we say to Jesus, "you are my sister." Wisdom is unquestionably personified as a woman in these passages, not a man and not an archangel. This passage, therefore, is not about Jesus, and so it does not in any way support their unbiblical position.