13 Folly is an unruly woman;
she is simple and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house,
on a seat at the highest point of the city,
15 calling out to those who pass by,
who go straight on their way,
16 “Let all who are simple come to my house!”
To those who have no sense she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet;
food eaten in secret is delicious!”
18 But little do they know that the dead are there,
that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.
This chapter began with lady Wisdom offering life to all who will heed her call. Here we have her rival folly, also a woman, but that is where their similarities end. While wisdom is noble, folly is unruly, the virtues of wisdom are countered by the vices of folly. “She is simple and knows nothing,” but that does not hinder her work of temptation, which relies not on knowledge but on desire. And this is her great advantage, because desire is a powerful force, even for those who know wisdom. She makes her imitation of wisdom in form, but not in substance. She too takes the highest point in the city (cf. v.3), but she does not concern herself with the nourishment of her visitors. Neither does she “send out her servants,” as wisdom does, to make her invitation known – relying instead on temptation to draw them in. What good will come to those who visit her?
While one offers truth, the other deceives. Listening is an important skill, but it must be done with discernment. Folly will not be silenced, but she can be ignored. Do not be distracted by her empty promises and worthless flattery, when you hear her voice go straight on your way. Sometimes what you ignore is just as important as what you listen to. Folly steals Wisdom’s words, in her attempt to rob the futures of the simple. Wisdom offers her own wine, while Folly speaks of stolen water. Wisdom nourishes her guests with food she has prepared, while Folly uses hunger and thirst to entice them to theft and secrecy.
Wisdom promises life and insight to those who leave their simple ways; Folly promises pleasure with no mention of the cost. Some laugh as they pass by and others pause in curiosity, but very few realize the danger before them. She makes a joke of her lawlessness, passing it off as just a bit of fun. Nothing to be taken seriously, of course! But she is tinged with the scent of death, beneath her flippancy there is a ground note of despair. We have been told that “to fear the Lord is to hate evil.” That is, to take it seriously – no matter how well it is dressed up and offered as fun.