16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.
The lady wisdom is here shown holding in her right hand what was formerly offered to the obedient. While it is indeed wise to obey God’s commands solely based on their source, wisdom illuminates them further, helping us to see that obedience is in fact the best of all options. Riches and honor are held in her left hand, signifying their secondary importance, and her abundant generosity to all who truly know her. Without wisdom any of these things is as likely to be a curse as a blessing, in achievement as well as pursuit.
“Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace.” Those who follow wisdom’s paths are offered long life and prosperity in a remarkably different way than all other paths. There is no moral compromise needed, no striving, no manipulation and no anxiety. Demands, of course, will be made, but they are not the kind that lead to regret. Indeed she is worth following for her protections alone, if not also for her provisions.
“She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her; those who hold her fast will be blessed.” While it is a popular thing today to embrace yourself in search of happiness, it is those who embrace wisdom that find it. But there is much more to the tree of life than mere happiness, it is also an image of stability, refreshment and sanctuary. The key is not just to know wisdom but to take hold of her – and hold fast through good times as well as in bad.