Victor Avigdor Hurowitz, «Nursling, Advisor, Architect? Nwm) and the Role of Wisdom in Proverbs 8,22-31», Vol. 80 (1999) 391-400
Scholars explain Nwm) in Prov 8,30 as nursling, advisor, or architect. Analysis of Prov 8,22-31 shows that Wisdoms autobiography contains exclusively "life cycle" terms relating to gestation, birth, and maturation. Accordingly, the only contextually valid meaning of Nwm) is "nursling". Difficulties perceived in this interpretation are contrived and of no substance. The interpretation defended here is proven decisively by the previously unnoticed existence of "transitive association" indicating a bonded conceptual pairing between Nwm) and My(#(#. Although "nursling" is the only valid primary meaning of Nwm) in this context, it is slightly possible that other interpretations are legitimate secondary meanings, on the level of intentional wordplays and double entendres.
This article will study Proverbs 8,22-31 and the perennial crux interpretum Nwm) in verse 30. It will attempt to choose the primary meaning of the word from among the various possibilities afforded by the evidence and supported by various scholars, and will demonstrate conclusively that the principal connotation of Nwm) in this passage is nursling, fledgling, novice, ward, or the like. It will also examine the possibility that the author alludes simultaneously to several roles in his portrait of Lady Wisdom.
The interpretation of Nwm) in verse 30 has long been subject of debate, which continues unabated even among the most recent modern scholars 1. Three basic explanations are currently under consideration. These meanings correspond to those of the root Nm) in other biblical passages, Aramaic, and Phoenician inscriptions on the one hand and a like sounding Akkadian word on the other. Each is possible on linguistic grounds and able to draw on support from comparative evidence 2.
1. The word has been read )a4mu=n (cf. Lam 4,5) and associated with Nmw) or tnmw) meaning nurse or child tender, so Wisdom is seen as Gods young nursling, ward, and the like. Several scholars have pointed to Maat, the Egyptian goddess of justice and cosmic order (?), as a parallel to the child-like character of Wisdom in this chapter. This interpretation, with a variation, has been defended by Michael Fox 3. Following the medieval grammarian Ibn Janah and exegete Moshe Kimhi, Fox parses the word not as a substantive but as an infinitive absolute meaning "being raised" or