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In Proverbs 8:12, who is "Prudence" with whom "Wisdom" dwells?

YLT Pro 8:12 I, wisdom, have dwelt with prudence, And a knowledge of devices I find out.

Related:

Who is Wisdom in Proverbs

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The Hebrew text of Pro. 8:12 states,

יב אֲנִי חָכְמָה שָׁכַנְתִּי עָרְמָה וְדַעַת מְזִמּוֹת אֶמְצָא

The syntax is noteworthy because there is not a preposition preceding עָרְמָה (“prudence”) to justify the translation “with.” Furthermore, after reviewing the approximately 123 occurrences of the verb שָׁכַן, I did not encounter any other instance where it is used in the sense of an entity dwelling with another entity. The most similar notion I encountered is an entity (e.g., Yahveh) dwelling “among” other entities, but in such instances, rather than the prepositions אֵת or עִם (or perhaps even בְּ), the author uses the preposition בְּתוֹךְ—“among; in the midst of.” For example,1

מה וְשָׁכַנְתִּי בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

45 And I will dwell among the children of Israel.

Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm Gesenius describes the verb שָׁכַן being followed by an accusative indicating the place the subject inhabits. He wrote,2

Gesenius, p. 823, §3, שָׁכַן

Hence, the following occurrences: הוּא מְרֹומִים יִשְׁכֹּן—“he inhabits the heights”3; סוֹרֲרִים שָׁכְנוּ צְחִיחָה—“the rebellious inhabit a dry land”4; יְשָׁרִים יִשְׁכְּנוּ אָרֶץ—“the upright shall inhabit the land.”5

Similarly, in his commentary on Pro. 8:12, Franz Delitzsch wrote,6

Delitzsch, Commentary on Pro. 8:12, p. 177

Accordingly, the phrase חָכְמָה שָׁכַנְתִּי עָרְמָה would be translated as “wisdom inhabits prudence,” rather than “wisdom dwells with prudence” (as though they were two entities dwelling with one another).

Gesenius does not appear to identify any cases of the verb שָׁכַן being used in the sense of an entity dwelling with another entity. On the other hand, the verb יָשַׁב is used more than four hundred times in the sense of “to dwell,” including with prepositions אֵת or עִם preceding the object of the preposition indicating with whom the subject dwells. For example: וְאִתָּנוּ תֵּשֵׁבוּ—“and you shall dwell with us”7; וַיֵּשֶׁב עִמּוֹ חֹדֶשׁ יָמִים—“and he dwelt with him for a month.”8


References

Delitzsch, Franz. Commentary on the Old Testament. 1900. Reprint. Trans. Easton, M. G. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986.

Gesenius, Heinrich Friedrich Wilhelm. Gesenius’s Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Trans. Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux. London: Bagster, 1860.

Footnotes

1 Exo. 29:45
2 p. 823, §3
3 Isa. 33:16
4 Psa. 68:7 (68:6 KJV)
5 Pro. 2:21 cp. Pro. 10:30; Psa. 37:29
6 p. 177
7 Gen. 34:10
8 Gen. 29:14

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  • So what does it mean that "wisdom inhabits prudence"? Is prudence a place name? – Ruminator Oct 1 '17 at 14:20

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