title: Pr 9.10-12 The entry point and initialization for wisdom is fear for self-preservation's sake
Proverbs 9:10–12 (LEB) Foolishness’ Banquet 10 The start of wisdom is fear of Yahweh, and knowledge of the Holy One, insight. 11 For by me your days shall increase, and years of life shall multiply for you. 12 If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, alone you shall bear it.
Proverbs 9:10–12 (LHB) 10 תְּחִלַּ֣ת חָ֭כְמָה יִרְאַ֣ת יְהוָ֑ה וְדַ֖עַת קְדֹשִׁ֣ים בִּינָֽה׃ 11 כִּי־בִ֭י יִרְבּ֣וּ יָמֶ֑יךָ וְיוֹסִ֥יפוּ לְּ֝ךָ֗ שְׁנ֣וֹת חַיִּֽים׃ 12 אִם־חָ֭כַמְתָּ חָכַ֣מְתָּ לָּ֑ךְ וְ֝לַ֗צְתָּ לְֽבַדְּךָ֥ תִשָּֽׂא׃
Verse 10 is clear the fear of Yahweh is the initialization/starting point of wisdom, however, it’s context is enlightening. Why fear Yahweh?
In a parallelism, the second clause of verse 10 calls Yahweh קְדֹשִׁ֣ים(ke-DOH-sheem), the Holy/Clean One. Why is fear being connected to holiness/cleanness? Because holiness/cleanness is being connected to what is driving Yahweh’s agenda for creation. Yahweh’s agenda and modus operandum is being presented here as integrally bound up with BEING HOLY/CLEAN. Specifically Yahweh’s active maintenance of creation and the actions and reactions he ordains within creation will be geared towards achieving/maintaining cleanness. Fear comes in because humans are agents that can oppose this ultimate agenda, and suffer harm.
But the fear spoken of here is not a vague fear of the person of Yahweh. But rather an acquainted knowledge that his agenda of holiness can lead to harm of self if you oppose it or find yourself on the wrong side of it. Wisdom actually begins specifically with a fear of Yahweh acting in accord with holiness and oneself being harmed. Self-preservation in the face of Yahweh’s holiness is genesis of this fear. The desire to preserve oneself precedes the fear spoken of here.
Yahweh’s/Wisdom’s role of being the ultimate shot-caller is what is used to explain the fear in verses 11-12:
Because I’m the determiner of the length of your days, and your outcomes and what you’ll have to bear, AND BECAUSE YOU ARE CONCERNED WITH SELF-PRESERVATION IN LIGHT OF THIS, be wise.
Wisdom is NOT about being concerned with the outcome of others. It is solely concerned with the outcome of self, and is self-oriented by definition. (as a quick aside: self-preservation in this moral schema/paradigm/landscape IS NOT SINFUL, but right and just and fair).