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.
"growing up". This solves the grammatical difficulty and obviates the slight emendation to the vocalization.
2. The noun Nmw) ()u=ma4n)
means artisan (cf. Cant 7,2) or architect, so Wisdom has been taken to proclaim that she
is a chief craftsman who assisted God in creating the world. Avi Hurvitz has supported
this interpretation on morphological grounds, preserving the Massoretic vocalization, and
claiming that the noun form qa4t[o
3. The word has been associated with Akkadian umma4nu and Aramaic cognates meaning advisor and designating important court officials. This interpretation has been discussed at length by Henri Cazelles, who has adduced much comparative evidence about royal court advisors in Mesopotamian literature and in Ahiqar 6. This is the only interpretation that has not been challenged because of morphological difficulties.
When confronting a polyvalent word the ultimate task is to determine which single meaning best suits the context in which it appears. All other options, interesting as they may be, are beside the point. This implies that in order for an ambiguous lexeme to be interpreted definitively the entire passage must be read as to its overall meaning, temporarily leaving the questionable word unexplained. Only then may the reader choose an explanation of the problematic term that is most appropriate. So let us first examine the larger literary unit to clarify the context.
Prov 8,22-31 is the concluding passage of a long paean of self-praise by Lady Wisdom, occupying all of chap. 8. However, whereas in the previous verses Wisdom boasts of the many benefits she holds out to mankind, and the ruling class in particular (vv. 15-16), in this concluding passage she claims as much as to be a boon even to YHWH Himself. Also, the chronological framework changes. In vv. 1-21 Lady Wisdom speaks in the present, telling how she benefits mankind now, while in vv. 22-31 she reverts to the hoary past.
There are two basic elements in this passage. On the one hand, Wisdom refers to YHWHs acts before, during, and after the creation of the world, thereby accounting for the origin and maintenance of cosmic order. Quantitatively this is the dominant component of the pericope. However, all this material appears in adverbial uses, and secondary, subordinate clauses marking it as background. The backbone and main part of the speech, expressed in a chain of finite verbs in past tense, is a description