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Proverbs 8:12-21 (ESV):

12 “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. 13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. 14 I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength. 15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; 16 by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly. 17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. 18 Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. 19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver. 20 I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice, 21 granting an inheritance to those who love me, and filling their treasuries.

How should we interpret verse 17? What do "seek" and "find" mean in this context?

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In Jesus' final sermon to His disciples on the night He was betrayed gave similar instruction to that in Prov 8:17 which is recorded in John 14:15, 21 -

15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. ... 21 Whoever has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me. The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and reveal Myself to him.”

That is, it is only the doer of God's commands who enjoys God's companionship and service that can truly understand the mind and love of God.

Matthew Poole observes:

I love them that love me; I do not despise their love though it be but a small and inconsiderable thing to me but I kindly accept it, and will recompense it with my love and favour.

That seek me early, i.e. with sincere affection, and great diligence, and above all other persons or things in the world; which he mentions as the effect and evidence of their love; for otherwise all men pretend to love God.

The Pulpit Commentary observes:

Verse 17. - I love them that love me. So Christ says (John 14:21), "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him" Love attracts love. "Magues amoris est amor." They who love virtue and wisdom are regarded with favour by God. whoso inspiration they have obeyed, obtaining grace for grace. So Ben Sira says, "Them that love her the Lord doth love "(Ecclus. 4:14); so Wisd. 7:28, "God loveth none but him that dwelleth with Wisdom." The Septuagint changes the verbs in this clause, though they are parts of the same word in the Hebrew: Ἐγὼ τοὺς ἐμὲ φιλοῦντας ἀγαπῶ. This reminds one of the passage in the last chapter of St. John (John 21:15-17). where a similar interchange is made. Those that seek me early shall find me (see the contrast in Proverbs 1:28). "Early" may mean from tender years; but more probably it is equivalent to "earnestly," "strenuously," as people deeply interested in any pursuit rise betimes to set about the necessary work (comp. Isaiah 26:9; Hosea 5:15). The Septuagint, "They who seek (ζητοῦντες) me shall find." So the Lord says (Matthew 7:7), "Seek (ζητεῖτε), and ye shall find;" Ecclus. 4:12, "He that loveth her loveth life; and they that seek to her early (οἱ ὀρθρίζοντες πρὸς αὐτὴν) shall be filled with joy" (comp. Luke 21:38).

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  • In short: "seek" means "obey God's commandments" and "find" means "enjoy God's companionship"? Dec 17 '20 at 22:27
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator - to seek God is to earnestly endeavor to to do God's will.
    – Dottard
    Dec 17 '20 at 22:58
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The verse 19 in particular

My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.

reminds me of Proverbs 3:13-14 (NASB)

13 Blessed is a person who finds wisdom, And one who obtains understanding. 14 For her profit is better than the profit of silver, And her produce better than gold.

In other words, what we should seek/find is wisdom (which is also shown in the verse 12 of the passage you're sharing).

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  • Good point, but what does "wisdom" mean in this context? Verse 17 says "I love those who love me [...]", is wisdom a being with the capacity to love people? Or is wisdom being used metaphorically to mean something else? Jan 17 at 15:13
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Neither of these options. "I love those who love me" and the very next "those who seek me diligently find me" incites the reader to seek for wisdom but not seeking just for seeking... seeking with love. Jan 17 at 17:23
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How should we understand the concepts of “seek” and “find” in Proverbs 8:17?

Jesus, came to earth to reveal to us this practical wisdom. To follow him and to imitate his course is to have good sense and to find that which is truly desirable along with everlasting life. Personified as wisdom, he invites us to use and increase our reasoning powers when he says:

Proverbs 8:12-19 (ESV):

12 “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. .............17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. 18 Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. 19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver. 20 I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice, 21 granting an inheritance to those who love me, and filling their treasuries.

True wisdom is readily available to all, but not all find it. Some reject it or avoid it, even when it is at their doorstep. " I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. "(Proverbs 8:17) Wisdom is accessible only to those who seek it in earnest. Obviously the seeker must spend time to study God’s Word; learn His commands, laws, reminders, and counsel; consider the history of God’s acts and doings; then apply these in his life.

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The author of this passage employs the literary technique of personification, when an idea or thing is given human attributes. Here wisdom is presented as a woman who calls out and raises her voice:

  • “Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?” (Pr 8:1)

In this persona, wisdom speaks of herself in the first person:

  • “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence.” (Pr 8:12)

Wisdom goes on to describe her own attributes, e.g., prudence, truth, righteousness, justice and hatred of evil, pride, and arrogance (Pr 5-14).

In verse 17 she states that those who diligently seek her, that is, who seek wisdom, will not be disappointed:

  • “Those who seek me diligently find me.” (Pr 8:17)

Thus wisdom is not meant for a select few, but rather something attainable by all who “seek” or who pursue it with diligence. It is important to note that the author is apparently referring, not to the conventional definition of wisdom, but to the wisdom of God, which is evident in all the works of his creation:

  • When he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker. (Pr 8:30-31)

And more than just encouraging the seeking of wisdom, the author emphasizes the importance for each to find it:

  • For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD; but those who miss me injure themselves. (Pr 8:35-36)

For an example of how to seek wisdom, we can look to Solomon himself. He petitioned God directly for the gift of understanding, and God granted his wish because Solomon’s intentions were deemed to be pure:

  • Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right. (Kg 3:9-11)

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