Waltke overreaches when he claims that “In 4:5 the grandfather puts [Wisdom’s] identification beyond reasonable doubt by placing personified Wisdom in parallel with the “words of my mouth” (87). According to Waltke, Lady Wisdom is a personification of the grandfather’s words. Here is the relevant text (4:5-6):
אַל תִּשְׁכַּח וְאַל תֵּט
do not forget, do not stray
from the words of my mouth.
Do not abandon her, and she will protect you,
love her, and she will watch over you.
But all this passage proves is that the words of a godly parent are a privileged means by which Wisdom may be received. The passage adds nothing to Prov 1:1-2 with respect to the question at hand, where the words of Solomon as described as “for attaining knowledge of wisdom,” not as a personification of wisdom.
According to 8:12, 14-16, Lady Wisdom inhabits all genuine knowledge and cunning. By her all kings and judges rule:
וְדַעַת מְזִמּוֹת אֶמְצָא
לִי עֵצָה וְתוּשִׁיָּה
בִּי מְלָכִים יִמְלֹכוּ
וְרוֹזְנִים יְחֹקְקוּ צֶדֶק
בִּי שָׂרִים יָשֹׂרוּ
וּנְדִיבִים כָּל־שֹׁפְטֵי צֶדֶק
I am wisdom,
I inhabit shrewdness,
cunning knowledge I attain.
Mine are counsel and resourcefulness,
I am understanding,
courage is mine.
By me kings rule,
prefects decree justly.
By me princes govern,
nobles, all just judges.
This passage demonstrates once again the need to make a distinction between the contents of the book of Proverbs and Lady Wisdom. She is described as inhabiting wisdom, not as personifying the wisdom to be gained by reading the book of Proverbs. She is the source, not the personification of, the wisdom by which kings and judges rule, with or without knowledge of the Biblical proverbs.
According to 8:4-5, Wisdom calls out to all human kind. Whatever she reveals to people in general - dolts included (8:5) - can only be called “general revelation.”
אֲלֵיכֶם אִישִׁים אֶקְרָא
וְקוֹלִי אֶל־בְּנֵי אָדָם
הָבִינוּ פְתָאיִם עָרְמָה
וּכְסִילִים הָבִינוּ לֵב
To you, o men, I cry out,
with a loud voice, to human kind.
Simpletons, learn shrewdness,
dullards, instruct your minds!
To be sure, all teaching vouchsafed to us in the scriptures of Israel may be referred to as special revelation. Lady Wisdom, who reveals herself to Israelites and non-Israelites alike, is the source of all genuine wisdom instruction.
It is also true that said special revelation includes examples of general revelation. For example, as noted above, it is well-known that “the words of the wise” found in Prov 22:17-23:11 are largely based on the Egyptian “Instruction of Amenemope.”
According to 8:31, Wisdom rejoices in the habitable world and in human kind in particular.
מְשַׂחֶקֶת בְּתֵבֵל אַרְצוֹ
וְשַׁעֲשֻׁעַי אֶת־בְּנֵי אָדָם
Frolicking on the strand of his earth,
my joy derived from human kind.
It is forced to think of the contents of the book of Proverbs as frolicking on the strand of God’s earth and delighting in humankind, though we would have to think that way if Wisdom is a personification of the book of Proverbs.
In fact, it is clear from 8:22-31 that Wisdom pre-exists humanity and therefore pre-exists its wisdom, including the wisdom of Solomon. The pre-existence of Wisdom suggests that she transcends all individual examples of wisdom bestowed on human beings. But if that is so, it is misleading to say that she is a personification of a set of examples of words of wisdom.
Wisdom of which Lady Wisdom is the source is the universal. Solomon’s wisdom is the particular. It is proper to say that so-and-so is the personification of evil. It is not proper to say that evil is the personification of so-and-so. For this reason alone, it is appropriate to say that Lady Wisdom in the book of Proverbs is not a personification of the wisdom of Solomon preserved for us in Proverbs.
Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs 1-15 (NICOT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004).