"Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; love her, and she will watch over you"
This proverb takes the collective actions, statements, and choices of wisdom and groups them together as if they were a person. This collective wisdom is then seen as a woman. Solomon is trying to get us to realize that like a spouse, there are two specific actions that we can take toward wisdom that will be very positive and beneficial to our life. In a sense he is saying that we should act like we are married to this collective body of wisdom, and that we want a growing relationship with her.
There are two actions we must take, and there are two benefits that will come from the growing relationship with wisdom.
The first action is to stay faithful or not to forsake her. Forsake is the Hebrew word azab which means to depart, to abandon, to lose. Wisdom is not to be something that we date occasionally, but the greatest benefit will come to our lives if we make a permanent commitment to go after the triple-win solution all the time. To, in a sense, say "I will make sure wisdom is pleased with my choices and actions." In the same way that a great marriage has two people who really seek to please each other in how they act and how they live, so with wisdom. Business marriages ask the question what do I want to do or what will she/he allow me to get away with. This kind of thinking sees the other person as a restrictor on your life instead of one of the center energizers of your life.
Great marriages do not try and get away with selfishness that their spouse will allow; they try and please their spouse and find their connection to joy and pleasure through their spouse.
Too many people treat wisdom as an occasional date. This time I will date wisdom and make a wise choice, but I want my freedom to be selfish anytime I want. This type of thinking is what Solomon is trying to rule out. In one sense Solomon is saying, "Before you ever get married to a person, get married to wisdom!!" And do not cheat on her.
The benefit of staying faithful to wisdom is that she will guard you. The word guard means exercise great care over. It is this idea that is a mirror image of the marital relationship that seems to be in view here. The benefit of faithfulness is greater connection and attention from wisdom. There is an idea here – and in other places in Proverbs and in the Old Testament – that wisdom has a cumulative effect in which a safe zone is built around you where some level of the accumulating problems of life and civilization, in general, will not reach you. The idea is that if you consistently make the wise choice which promotes the good for God, others, and yourself, you will have strong allies and people who will want you to succeed. The sum total of the wisdom that you have done over time will rise up and protect you. This is not true if you only occasionally date wisdom. In other words, if you occasionally do a wise thing but do not adopt a wise lifestyle, you will not see this cumulative "force field" of wisdom protecting you.
love her, and she will watch over you
This is a second action and benefit, but it is really a mirror image of the first. Solomon is not just saying, “Stay committed to wisdom and don't be unfaithful.” He is saying, “Find your joy in serving wisdom. Go after wisdom as the center of your life. Seek to please wisdom with your choices and actions.”
Great marriages are produced when both parties think through the decisions they are about to make and/or actions they are about to do and ask themselves: Will this please my spouse? Will this meet the needs of my spouse? Does this allow me to connect more closely to my spouse? Regular marriages and okay marriages do not have this focus.
It is this kind of thinking that Solomon is asking us to engage in with wisdom. It is like looking over at this person called wisdom and seeing if she would be pleased before you make a decision. Would she be delighted with what you are about to do?
When you act selfishly and, therefore, foolishly, you are being unfaithful to wisdom and trampling on the growing relationship with wisdom.
The Hebrew word translated watch over is the word nasar which means watch, guard, keep. It is very similar to the word guard from the first part of this proverb. The idea is that when a strong relationship is built between wisdom and the individual – wisdom as a growing accumulation in the individual's life attends to the person, interacts with the individual, and keeps them out of trouble. Wisdom provides a buffer around them so that trouble does not reach them.
I see one type of this result regularly in the news. A shooting occurs at a night club – if the person had not been at the night club, they would not have been shot. There is an altercation at a bar or other undesirable place – if they had not been at that place, it would not have occurred. There is usually a choice to be selfish or foolish at some earlier point that got them to the place where harm could come to them. Now it is not that the wise person sits in a locked, protected room all the time; but their thoughts are oriented to wisdom, to pleasing others, to pleasing God, and not just themselves. The places they go and the things that they do are different.