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In Mishlei / Proverbs 9, we are told Chakemot (חָכְמוֹת) resides in a House built on 7 Pillars.

Proverbs 9

[1] Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. (חָכְמוֹת בָּנְתָ֣ה בֵיתָ֑הּ חָצְבָ֖ה עַמּוּדֶ֣יהָ שִׁבְעָֽה)

What are the 7 Pillars of Beytah (בֵיתָ֑הּ)?

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We are not told what the seven pillars are but here are a few suggestions:

  • Seven pillars represent the completeness/perfection of God's wisdom and thus suggests His omniscience - this view is held by Banson, Barnes, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary.
  • Seven pillars represent harmony and unity plus other architectural features as per the Pulpit commentary.
  • Reminiscent of the poles of a tent as per the Cambridge commentary.
  • Seven pillars "Suggestive of the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit (Isaiah 11:2 Revelation 1:4), typified by the seven-branched candlestick of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:37)."

If the last suggestion is correct then it may also be an allusion to the implied seven spirits of God as enumerated in Isa 11:2, namely:

  1. The spirit of the LORD
  2. The Spirit of wisdom
  3. The Spirit of understanding
  4. The spirit of counsel
  5. The spirit of strength
  6. The spirit of knowledge
  7. The spirit of the fear of the LORD

However, this is rather speculative. I personally prefer the simpler idea as aptly stated by Benson about the seven pillars:

hewn out her seven pillars That is, many pillars, the number seven being put for any perfect number. Hereby the beauty and stability of the building are signified.

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Another option could be from the text just before in Proverbs 8:22 and on. We see that Wisdom was God’s first acquisition at the beginning of creation. There are allusions to the Genesis 1 creation story.

Proverbs 8:30-31, I was beside him, like a master worker;[e] and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.

The seven pillars could also be the seven days of creation. There is an interesting take on the hebrew language. Since it only has the imperfect and perfect tenses (and no past/present/future tenses) that something like the seven days of creation represent a kind of static image that is not really perceived as a causal sequence.

The 2016 movie Arrival with Amy Adams is based on this interpretation of the Hebrew language. In that movie, she is a linguist who must learn about the acausal language of an alien race. As I understand it, the author was basing this on Ancient Hebrew (ancient Egyptian also shares this structure). It changed the way she perceived reality. I am not suggesting that hebrew gives you super powers.. just that it views the world fundamentally different than we do in our causal action languages.

Viewed from this perspective, and that wisdom had just described her role in creation, we might see the seven pillars as the seven days of the week which are the seven days of creation. Her house is the whole world and the beings in it.

I think it is interesting that wisdom is “purchased” by God at the beginning of his path in Proverbs 8:22. The verb here is the same one used to describe Cain and from which his name is derived in Genesis 4:1.

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I think the accepted answer is the best starting point. The number 7 has a nice established meaning in the bible, and there is not an obvious explanation in proverbs of what the individual pillars could be.

However, assuming that the author of proverbs wouldn't expect people to ask this question, seems to be assuming he was, in a sense, unwise. I think a more useful way of seeing the text is that like a university level text book, it gives you a lot of principles and ideas - but periodically gives the reader a puzzle that it doesn't answer.

I would suggest that this kind of style in the text is quite normal in the bible - for example some of Daniel is quite clear, some requires you to do a lot of work outside the text. Similarly some of Jesus parables are very clear (the prodigal son/the widows talents), others are hard to interpret (the shrewd manager).

I am also quite happy with Gus Ls reading of the text (pillars = the days of creation, house = the world), you could also envisage a christian reading where Christ is wisdom and the house is the church and the seven pillars are the lampstands of revelation and link back to the spirits of God in Isaiah or similar.

I’m used to rabbis reading this as a refereance to the seven books of the torah

I have also heard people arguing that there are 7 sections within proverbs and each of these is one of the pillars, but I find that hard to justify.

The answer I find most compelling is offered in James 3:17 and 18 where the author lists 7 atributes of wisdom:

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is

  1. first of all pure;
  2. then peace-loving,
  3. considerate,
  4. submissive,
  5. full of mercy and good fruit,
  6. impartial
  7. and sincere."

Part of what is interesting is that the passage eschews attributes like "self-consistent" or "sound" that we would associate with philosophies, in favour of virtues and character traits that we would associate with a person. This is of course exactly what we see in proverbs 8 and 9 where wisdom is presented not as a group of facts, ideas and values, but a person.

Part of what is interesting here is that he is also taking the things we would most associate with the character of Christ (compare phil 2:5-9) and then using to understand wisodm.

Whilst this certainly isn't an exegesis of proverbs 9, it is fun- because creation is founded on the character of God; the laws of the Torah create justice, order and mercy- reflecting Gods character; old testament wisdom is seeking after Gods nature; and the New Testament Church is founded on gods character revealed through Christs sacrifice, so this conception of the seven atributes of wisdom we seee in james seems to work as a foundation for all of the "houses" we could think of as wisdom building.

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