Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Dame Folly

She's a maneater

Proverbs 9:13-18

1A foolish woman is clamorous;
She is simple, and knows nothing.

14 For she sits at the door of her house,
On a seat by the highest places of the city,

15 To call to those who pass by,
Who go straight on their way:

16 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here”;
And as for him who lacks understanding, she says to him,

17 “Stolen water is sweet,
And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”

18 But he does not know that the dead are there,
That her guests are in the depths of hell


It was the 80’s. 

1982, to be exact: Big hair, neon colors and every kid I knew wanted a Datsun 280Z Turbo. The movie “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” was the box-office blockbuster, the Falklands War raged and the space shuttle Columbia captured the imagination of the world as it made its first flight into space and back. 

On the entertainment scene, music duo Darryl Hall and John Oates released their number one single, Maneater. [Click link for video!] This tune topped the chart for four weeks before being toppled by Michael Jackson’s Halloween hit, Thriller. 

(Hall & Oates's tune is so catchy that it is probable that you even began singing or humming the song when you read the sub-heading to this Deep!)

There is nothing particularly noteworthy about Maneater. The song is a typical secular product of its day: synthesizer music, a sultry saxophone solo and a driving rock beat. It does feature a unique sound with a haunting chorus that urges a harsh warning to the listener:

She'll only come out at night
The lean and hungry type
Nothing is new, I've seen her here before
Watching and waiting
Ooh, she's sitting with you but her eyes are on the door
So many have paid to see
What you think you're getting for free
The woman is wild, a she-cat tamed by the purr of a Jaguar
Money's the matter
If you're in it for love
You ain't gonna get too far

Watch out boy she'll chew you up
(Oh, here she comes)
She's a man-eater

As a kid who was a fan of monster movies–and had recently seen the movie Jaws–this song had me imagining some werewolf-like creature stalking in the darkness outside my house. 

The music video to Maneater only seemed to confirm convictions, for it featured a beautiful woman in a party dress who seems to change into yellow-eyed jaguar using fade-in camera work. 

It was enough to make you eye the family cat with renewed suspicion.

Band member John Oates explained to an entertainment reporter that the song act was:

“…originally written about New York City in the ’80s. It's about greed, avarice, and spoiled riches. But we have it in the setting of a girl because it's more relatable. It's something that people can understand.”

Little did Oates know that he and his songwriting team had actually perfectly captured a character of the Bible. 

The book of Proverbs reveals the wonderfully desirable “Lady Wisdom” who calls to the believer to heed her ways and forsake sin and death. Her counterpart is someone far more sinister: “Dame Folly” also calls to the unaware and in her house resides death and destruction.

As Solomon writes and compiles Proverbs as a word of instruction to his son–and as a teaching tool for other young people–he is urging him to heed the call of Godly wisdom. To pursue her as a young man in love is to obtain her message as a prize. Likewise, for a young woman to see in Lady Wisdom a Godly example, will make her an ideal wife,  mother and companion:

10 Receive my instruction, and not silver,
And knowledge rather than choice gold;

11 For wisdom is better than rubies,
And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.–Proverbs 8:10-11

Enter, Dame Folly:

1A foolish woman is clamorous;
She is simple, and knows nothing.–Proverbs 9:13

The word “clamorous” here describes Folly’s manner. Just as Wisdom can take effort to pursue and develop over time and trial, Folly promises an easy answer and a ready-made reward to those who follow. 

 Where Lady Wisdom goes out into the streets and stands on the corners and calls out to those who pass by (Proverbs 8:1-3), Dame Folly sits lazily before her door and entices the unwary–or those with unguarded hearts–to turn aside and be waylaid:

14 For she sits at the door of her house,
On a seat by the highest places of the city,

15 To call to those who pass by,
Who go straight on their way:

16 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here”;–Proverbs 9:14-16a

Is not this how most sin finds you? You know in your heart you wish to do what is right, to be faithful or to stay fixed on what is good–but somehow you find yourself in the midst of it again: another gossip-filled conversation, another Friday night bar, another flesh-filled website on your phone.

Where Lady Wisdom pursues and calls to you from the busy streets and in the crowded square, Dame Folly sits and waits for she knows you will make your way past her door once more–and turn aside again.

This is how sin and the foolishness of the world entraps, for the Devil knows your ins-and-outs, your triggers and your desires. As Jesus warned Peter that the Devil waited to “sift him like wheat,” (Luke 22:31) so the dark one deploys Dame Folly to entice believers to his snares.

Lady Wisdom, by contrast, works and prepares a table with a sumptuous meal, and then sends out her maidservants into the city to deliver her message to all who will hear and heed:

“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him,

“Come, eat of my bread
And drink of the wine I have mixed.

Forsake foolishness and live,
And go in the way of understanding.–Proverbs 9:4-6

This is reminiscent of Jesus’s parable of the great feast in Luke 14, when the master sent his servants to “Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” (Luke 14:23b)

Dame Folly sits and waits and offers stolen goods to entice the heart:

And as for him who lacks understanding, she says to him,

17 “Stolen water is sweet,
And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”–Proverbs 9:16b-17

The imagery here is twofold. In one way, the idea of “stolen bread” that is “sweet” and “eaten in secret” is an allusion to an adulterous affair. This is how sexual temptations entrap: it seems so exciting and forbidden–until your life unravels with pain and heartache to follow.

The great commentator Matthew Henry notes that the heart is a small space where passion and reason do battle:

…when passion is upon the throne, reason is out of doors, and is neither heard nor spoken.–Matthew Henry

Dame Folly is more than just the harlot, however. Part of Solomon’s image here is to show how the foolishness of this world is build on stolen capital.  Tim Keller, in his book God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life refers to Raymond C. Van Leeuwen’s insight:

Folly and sin are always parasitic of the good that God by Wisdom has made. Folly takes the goods and destroys their goodness by ripping them their proper place in the coherence of things…Folly has not built her house; she has stolen it.–Raymond C. Van Leeuwen, “Book of Proverbs”

In this modern age, Dame Folly offers her stolen capital of false righteousness. You live in a culture where virtue is valued but it has been divorced of its holy source. You are called to purge your heart of racism, sexism and other “-isms” in order to be accepted as “holy” to your fellow men.

This is a false righteousness, one that upholds the good but not the godly.  

Dame Folly today entices you to a faith that is relativistic and unreligious that lives on the stolen wealth of ancient faith and the treasure of scripture.  Dame Folly offers morality without God–a sense of well-being and faith with a dark eternal destination:

18 But he does not know that the dead are there,
That her guests are in the depths of hell.–Proverbs 9:18

The Hebrew here is nephiam (רְפָאִ֣ים) and, though of uncertain derivation, it is used eight times in bible and refers to “spirits of the departed” or “the grave.” 

Dame Folly is a maneater in the truest sense in that she offers what is not hers to those who readily take it–only to be consumed and doomed for all eternity. She can be fancifully thought of as the "Queen of the Zombies" and "Mistress of the Walking Dead." 

Are you enticed by Dame Folly? It may be more than base desire for a neighbors’s wife or a simple conversation sharing juicy rumors at someone’s expense. Dame Folly calls you to take the easy path of faith, to pursue “being good” in the eyes of others, or trying to “live the Gospel instead if believing the Gospel” and following the path of holiness before God–a path that begins with the completed work of Christ on the cross. 

Author Michael Horton captures Dame Folly’s modern message well: 

If we think the main mission of the church is to improve life in Adam and add a little moral strength to this fading evil age, we have not yet understood the radical condition for which Christ is such a radical solution.–Michael Horton, “Christless Christianity”

Dame Folly appeals to your sense of righteousness and desire to “do good,” but as the prophet Isaiah warns: 

 6 But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;–Isaiah 64:6

Lady Wisdom offers her banquet to all who will listen and pursue her call. As she works to warn of deadly foolishness and pleads for all to pursue God’s word, the message of Christ is revealed. Christian artist Michael Card beautifully describes this path of following Jesus in an age of folly in his song “The Way of Wisdom:"  

The Way of Wisdom starts out
With a step of holy fear
That's only the beginning
And there's much more that is clear
The path leads on to love
And love is fearless in its ways
For Love Himself was not afraid
To die that we'd be saved 

And the Way of Wisdom is living
The Path of Peace is forgiving
Behold the Man of Meaning
Behold, He is the Lord–Michael Card, “The Way of Wisdom”


Will you stray into the “red light district” of Dame Folly and her message of easy faith or will you hear the call of Lady Wisdom and grasp her urgent hand to dine at the banquet table of the King of Kings?


The Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay and this Saturday Deep is written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

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