Proverbs 5 – Warning Against Adultery
“This is a tremendous chapter, dealing with a delicate subject daringly, and, with great directness.” (G. Campbell Morgan)
A. The warning against adultery.
1. (1-2) The call for attention.
My son, pay attention to my wisdom;
Lend your ear to my understanding,
That you may preserve discretion,
And your lips may keep knowledge.
a. My son, pay attention to my wisdom: As previously, Solomon knew that his instruction would do most good when it was given attention and ear. Teachers must do what they can to gain, and hold, the attention of their learners.
i. In this chapter wisdom is “A man-to-man warning to avoid liaisons with loose women, a theme that is fairly common in the wisdom literature of the ancient Near East.” (Ross)
b. That you may preserve discretion: Solomon wanted his son to hold on to discretion and to keep knowledge. The idea is that the son started in these things, but must face the challenge of remaining in them throughout life.
i. If we ever gain discretion, it is difficult to preserve. This is especially true in regard to the sexual matters described in this chapter. “Many men’s hearts are no better than stews and brothel houses, by reason of base and beastly thoughts and lusts that muster and swarm there, like the flies of Egypt.” (Trapp)
2. (3) The allure of the immoral woman.
For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey,
And her mouth is smoother than oil;
a. For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey: This explains the reason why it was important for the son to hold on to discretion and knowledge – those things would be tested by the enticements of an immoral woman. Honey is sweet and oil is pleasant, and these represent the temptations of immorality.
b. The lips of an immoral woman: Solomon’s phrasing is poetic and powerful. The figures of the lips and the mouth refer to the words an immoral woman may use in her enticements, and to her alluring kisses.
i. The first steps towards immoral associations are almost always made by what is said or communicated. This speaks to the great need for men and women to guard their speech and communication with the opposite sex.
ii. Oil: “The delightful oil symbolized gladness (Isaiah 61:3) and prosperity (Deuteronomy 33:24), and its absence indicated sorrow or humiliation (Joel 1:10).” (Waltke)
c. Of an immoral woman: Solomon here focused on the immoral woman, but it was not because he thought that men are always moral, or that it is mainly immoral women who seduce and corrupt moral men. Solomon – the author of the Song of Solomon – was far too wise and astute in the ways of romance and sexuality to believe that. Solomon focused on the immoral woman because he wrote this to his son (Proverbs 5:1) and sensed this was his greatest and closest moral danger.
i. In other circumstances, he might have warned against an immoral man, and the principles of seduction he warned about can apply freely to women or men.
ii. Immoral woman: “The ‘adulteress’ of v. 3 is literally the ‘other woman,’ that is, someone other than the man’s wife.” (Garrett)
d. Honey…oil: In Solomon’s day some women had the ability to attract and allure men with the sweetness of honey and the pleasantness of oil. Operating outside the covenant of marriage, some of these women used that ability for their own advantage. They might gain something emotional, something material, something sensual, something romantic, or other potential gains. These women were a danger to be warned against.
i. Our day is like Solomon’s, or perhaps worse. Modern western culture is saturated with images of alluring women and their use of enticement to gain things that are sweet and pleasant to them.
3. (4-7) The danger of the immoral woman.
But in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
Sharp as a two-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death,
Her steps lay hold of hell.
Lest you ponder her path of life—
Her ways are unstable;
You do not know them.
Therefore hear me now, my children,
And do not depart from the words of my mouth.
a. In the end she is bitter as wormwood: Honey is sweet, but wormwood is bitter. The sweetness in the allure of the immoral woman becomes bitter, and her smooth, oil-like pleasantness becomes sharp as a two-edged sword.
i. “It is a change from honey to wormwood, from the smoothness of oil to the sharpness of a sword, from the path of life to the highway of death.” (Morgan)
ii. “The image of the two-edged sword, literally a sword with more than one mouth, signifies that a liaison with this woman brings pain and destruction.” (Ross)
b. Her feet go down to death: The path of the immoral woman leads to death. She promises to add life but ends up taking it away. The wise man will ponder her path of life.
c. Her ways are unstable: The decision to entice someone else into immorality is not a decision made by a stable person who desires the best for either self or the one enticed. Those led into immorality often feel they know the motives of their partner in sin, but Solomon rightly observed you do not know them.
· If the sexual immorality is desired out of a perceived impulse of love, maturity and stability would say, “If I really loved this person I would not act against their interest and my own. I will reject this immorality because I do in fact love them and will express my love only in ways that would honor God and His people.”
· If the sexual immorality is desired out of desire for pleasure or adventure, maturity and stability would say, “My desire for pleasure and adventure must not reign supreme in my life. Whatever good I may think would come of this, it is not good and will not bring good.”
d. Hear me now, my children: We sense the serious nature of Solomon’s appeal. Perhaps he understood how adultery brought disaster to his father, King David (2 Solomon 11).
4. (8-14) The ruin adultery brings.
Remove your way far from her,
And do not go near the door of her house,
Lest you give your honor to others,
And your years to the cruel one;
Lest aliens be filled with your wealth,
And your labors go to the house of a foreigner;
And you mourn at last,
When your flesh and your body are consumed,
“How I have hated instruction,
And my heart despised correction!
I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers,
Nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!
I was on the verge of total ruin,
In the midst of the assembly and congregation.”
a. Remove your way far from her: Solomon didn’t advise his son to stay in the immoral woman’s presence and test his ability to resist her seductions. The best defense was distance; to not even go near the door of her house.
i. The Apostle Paul would write much later: Flee also youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22). The longer one stays in the presence of such enticement to evil, the worse the danger becomes.
ii. We must remove our way far from her not only in presence, but also in heart and mind. We must put away the pornography and enticements common to our day and work for a mind set on things above (Colossians 3:1-2, Philippians 4:8).
iii. “The New Testament echoes this practical, if seemingly unheroic, advice (2 Timothy 2:22; Matthew 5:28, 29), which could mean, in terms of detailed decision, e.g. ‘change your job’, ‘change your newspaper’, ‘break with that set of friends.’” (Kidner)
iv. “Yea, the hypocrite, who outwardly abstains from gross sins, yet inwardly consenteth…in his heart and fancy, supposing himself with them, and desiring to do what they do. This is mental adultery, this is contemplative wickedness…. Surely as a man may die of an inward bleeding, so may he be damned for these inward boilings of lust and concupiscence, if not bewailed and mortified.” (Trapp)
v. “He that would not be burnt must dread the fire; he that would not hear the bell, must not meddle with the rope.” (Trapp)
b. Lest you give your honor to others: Solomon will describe many things that are lost through sexual immorality, and he began with honor. There is a valid sense of honor that the one who stays pure can have.
i. “People who commit sexual sins think their problems are solved (‘She understands me so much better than my wife does!’) and that life will get better and better. But disobedience to God’s laws always brings sad consequences and sinners eventually pay dearly for their brief moments of pleasure.” (Wiersbe)
c. And your years to the cruel one: Adultery and sexual immorality ruin lives. God’s command that our sexual relationships remain only in the covenant of marriage was not given to take away from our life and enjoyment, but to add to it.
d. Lest aliens be filled with your wealth: In the modern world, many men know what it is like to lose their wealth because of adultery.
i. “The self-inflicted punishment of involving oneself with the unchaste wife is as bad as if the outsiders plundered the house (cf. Proverbs 1:10-14; Psalm 109:11b). Although sexual immorality today may not lead to slavery, it still leads to alimony, child support, broken homes, hurt, jealousy, lonely people, and venereal disease.” (Waltke)
ii. “This sin is a purgatory to the purse, though a paradise to the desires.” (Trapp)
iii. And you mourn at last: “The mourning here spoken of is of the most excessive kind: the word naham is often applied to the growling of a lion, and the hoarse incessant murmuring of the sea.” (Clarke)
iv. At last: “The young man dreamed of pleasure, in wanton dalliance he hoped to find delight; but when the lamp or “At the last” began to shine, he saw rottenness in his bones, filthiness in his flesh, pains and griefs and sorrows, as the necessary consequence of sin.” (Spurgeon)
e. When your flesh and body are consumed: Sexual immorality leads to disease and breakdown of health. Even the stress of living a double, deceptive life is enough to take away one’s health.
i. “Consumed by those manifold diseases which filthy and inordinate lusts bring upon the body, of which physicians give a very large and sad catalogue, and the bodies of many adulterers give full proof.” (Poole)
ii. “The point of these verses is clear: The price of infidelity may be high; for everything one works for—position, power, prosperity—could be lost either through the avaricious demands of the woman or the outcry for restitution by the community.” (Ross)
f. How I have hated instruction! One great price of sexual immorality is regret. When we see how empty the promises of sin are and how great the price for those sins is, deep sorrow and regret is a logical response. Many men and women, fallen into the snare of sexual immorality, have wondered: “How did I ever end up here? How could I be so foolish? How could I give up so much for what amounted to so little?”
i. Matthew Poole thought that these were not sincere words of repentance: “Which are not the words of a true penitent mourning for and turning from his sin, but only of a man who is grieved for the sad effects of his delightful lusts, and tormented with the horror of his own guilty conscience.”
ii. John Trapp thought it could describe a true repentance: “Oh, what a wretch, what a beast, what a maddened devil was I, so woefully to waste the fat and marrow of my dear and precious time, the flower of mine age, the strength of my body, the vigour of my spirits, the whole of mine estate, in sinful pleasures and sensual delights! Lo, here is a kind of repentance which, though late, yet, if it were true, would be accepted,”
g. In the midst of the assembly and congregation: What the adulterer thought would remain secret was exposed. He entered his sin thinking, no one will ever find out. When it was exposed in the midst of the assembly his foolishness, betrayal, and lack of self-control were all public.
i. “I, who designed and expected to enjoy my lusts with secrecy and impunity, am now made a public example and shameful spectacle to all men, and that in the congregation of Israel, where I was taught better things, and where such actions are most infamous and hateful.” (Poole)
ii. “No unclean person can have any assurance that his sin shall always be kept secret, no, not in this life. The Lord hath oft brought such – sometimes by terror of conscience, sometimes by frenzy – to that pass, that themselves have been the blazers and proclaimers of their own secret filthiness.” (Trapp)
B. Find satisfaction in your own wife.
1. (15-19) God’s provision in marriage.
Drink water from your own cistern,
And running water from your own well.
Should your fountains be dispersed abroad,
Streams of water in the streets?
Let them be only your own,
And not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice with the wife of your youth.
As a loving deer and a graceful doe,
Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
And always be enraptured with her love.
a. Drink water from your own cistern: Solomon reminded his son that God had provided his wife for his sexual needs. Instead of neglecting what God had given, he should renew his gratitude and focus upon what God has blessed.
i. “‘Water’ in v. 15, as in Song of Solomon 5:1, stands for quenching one’s sexual thirst. Satisfying the sexual drive is likened to taking in solid food in Proverbs 30:20 and water and food in Proverbs 9:17.” (Waltke)
ii. “Lust makes the heart hot and thirsty: God therefore sends men to this well, to this cistern.” (Trapp)
iii. “Be satisfied with thy own wife; and let the wife see that she reverence her husband; and not tempt him by inattention or unkindness to seek elsewhere what he has a right to expect, but cannot find, at home.” (Clarke)
b. And running water from your own well: God’s provision for sexual need is found in the marital bed, which is pure before Him (Hebrews 13:4). It is like a pure, fresh spring (running water). Though some are dissatisfied with what God provides in marriage, that dissatisfaction is more a reflection on them than their spouse.
i. Ancient or modern, an over-sexualized culture promotes the idea that sexual satisfaction is mainly a physical sensation. While only a fool would deny the physical enjoyments of sex, a more mature mind sees that intimacy – the open, unhindered revelation, reception, and sharing of one’s self with another – is also a great reward in a sexual relationship. When sex is reserved for the Biblical boundaries of marriage over the years and decades it says:
· I am here for you, and you are here for me.
· I am my beloved’s and he is mine.
· I know you more than anyone else and yet I love you.
· You know me more than anyone else and yet you love me.
· Our children and home life are protected and safe.
· We are not slaves to our sexual desires; we live by principles greater than our sexual impulses.
· We will remain together and supportive of each other as we grow old.
ii. Individually, and especially collectively, these are benefits far greater than the experience of orgasm. This is sex with meaning, not only pleasure. The world, the flesh, and the devil do a masterful job in selling humanity the lie that sex focused only on pleasure is greater than what God promises in obedience to His plan: sex with meaning.
iii. “Strict fidelity is not an impoverishing isolationism: from such a marriage, blessing streams out in the persons and influences of a true family.” (Kidner)
c. Should your fountains be dispersed abroad: Here the image changes, and the idea is that Solomon’s son should regard his sexual activity to be like a supply of life-giving water that should be set in the right channel. It is for the satisfaction of his wife, and not for strangers with you.
i. Different interpreters take different approaches to this image of both the cistern and the fountains dispersed abroad. Some take it as a picture of fathering children outside of marriage or similar ideas. The best approach seems to be a contrast between private and public. God meant for sex to be enjoyed and celebrated in the privacy of marriage, not in the public or even commercial sphere.
ii. Let them be only your own: “The jussive let them be continues the admonition to find the sources of sexual pleasure from the privacy of marriage, not from springs with the common rabble. The privacy of conjugal love is underscored by for yourself alone.” (Waltke)
iii. “What is at issue is private versus common property. The images of a cistern, well, or fountain are used of a wife (see Song of Songs 4:15) because she, like water, satisfies desires. Channels of water in the street would then mean sexual contact with a lewd woman.” (Ross)
iv. “Solomon compares enjoying married love to drinking pure water from a fresh well, but committing sexual sin is like drinking polluted water from the gutter or sewer…. To commit sexual sin is to pour this beautiful river into the streets and the public squares. What waste!” (Wiersbe)
d. Rejoice with the wife of your youth: Solomon alluded to God’s plan for marriage, even if he did not follow it himself (1 Kings 11:3). God’s best for humanity is for a man to marry a wife in his youth and for him to rejoice with her for the rest of his days. Life circumstances mean there will be many different ways this is lived out, but when a man does marry a woman in his youth, God’s best is for him to rejoice in her until death parts them.
i. The exhortation to rejoice with the wife of your youth means there is an element of choice involved. There are times when a husband (or wife) needs to choose to rejoice in their spouse. Our affections are much more affected by where we choose to focus them than people realize.
ii. We have no record that Solomon committed adultery, according to the technical definition of that sin. Solomon’s 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3) were all legal partners. Yet he obviously fell far short of God’s plan for one man to be married to one woman and to find satisfaction in the wife of his youth. Solomon wrote about this ideal in the Song of Solomon, but never enjoyed it or did so only for a relatively brief time. Solomon’s failure in this area shows that if a man is not satisfied with one woman – the wife of his youth – then he will not be satisfied with 1,000 women. If a man is not satisfied with the wife of his youth, the blame almost always is upon him and not upon the wife.
iii. “Common sense would say that such brief liaisons with strangers give no time for intimacy—that requires a lifelong bonding with the wife of one’s youth.” (Ross)
iv. “The adulterer watches the river turn into a sewer, but the faithful husband sees the water become wine!” (Wiersbe)
e. Let her breasts satisfy you at all times: Again, the point is made that God has provided a place for a man to satisfy his sexual needs – in the marriage, with the wife of his youth. It is easy to feel that real sexual satisfaction must be found outside the marriage, but this is an illusion and a deception.
i. Let her breasts satisfy you: “The word her breasts (daddeyha) originated in infant’s babble…it is associated with erotica in its only other uses (Ezekiel 23:3, 8, 21).” (Waltke)
ii. “It is highly important to see sexual delight in marriage as God-given; and history confirms that when marriage is viewed chiefly as a business arrangement, not only is God’s bounty misunderstood, but human passion seeks (cf. verse 20) other outlets.” (Kidner)
iii. “God created sex not only for reproduction but also for enjoyment, and He didn’t put the ‘marriage wall’ around sex to rob us of pleasure but to increase pleasure and protect it.” (Wiersbe)
f. And always be enraptured with her love: The phrasing of this implies there is an element of choice involved. We usually think that being enraptured with her love is something that can happen to a person from the mystical force of love. Yet, we love what we choose to put our affections on and a husband can choose to be enraptured with love toward his wife, even if he fears love has diminished or died.
i. Enraptured: “The husband should be ‘captivated’ by the love of his wife. The word shagah signifies a staggering gait and so here expresses the ecstatic joy of a ‘captivated’ lover. It may even suggest ‘be intoxicated always with her love.’” (Ross)
ii. The emphasis is on the singular, on one woman for one man. Though Solomon strayed far from this ideal (1 Kings 11:3), at least at one time in his life he recognized the value of it. “Sensual man can find a satisfaction from his wife that no other woman can give him. Marriage is here thought of as strongly monogamous.” (Waltke)
iii. “Ezekiel’s wife was ‘the delight of his eyes’; he took singular complacency in her company. This conjugal joy is the fruit of love, which therefore he commendeth to all married men, in the next words.” (Trapp)
2. (20-23) The destiny of the man given to adultery.
For why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman,
And be embraced in the arms of a seductress?
For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord,
And He ponders all his paths.
His own iniquities entrap the wicked man,
And he is caught in the cords of his sin.
He shall die for lack of instruction,
And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.
a. Why should you, my son, be enraptured by an immoral woman: Solomon just described how God provided for a husband’s sexual needs in marriage. That being the case, it makes no sense for a man to fall into the trap of the immoral woman. He should not fall into her trap or her embrace.
i. “In view of the better way of conjugal bliss with the blessed wife, involvement with the unchaste wife is absurd.” (Waltke)
b. For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord: This is an important reminder for any man dealing with the temptation of an immoral woman. It is human nature to think that such a sin may be excused if it is never made public. We often think sin can be excused if it is undiscovered, and many have been exceptionally tempted by what they think is a “risk free” opportunity. Solomon rightly reminds us that God sees all our ways, and before Him no sin is hidden. God ponders all his paths.
i. “Here, as everywhere, wisdom consists in recognizing that human life is ever under the observation, and within the government, of Jehovah.” (Morgan)
ii. The ways of man: “Goings (King James Version), or paths (Revised Standard, Revised Standard Version) (21b), are literally the (waggon-) tracks made by constant use; a better everyday term would be ‘habits’.” (Kidner)
c. He is caught in the cords of his sin: Sexual sin – especially the violation of the marriage covenant – is a sin that entraps and destroys. It brings death, not life (he shall die for lack of instruction). It is God’s care and compassion that gives us His instruction for our sexual conduct and expression.
i. In the cords of his sin: “Most people who follow unlawful pleasures, think they can give them up whenever they please; but sin repeated becomes customary; custom soon engenders habit; and habit in the end assumes the form of necessity; the man becomes bound with his own cords, and so is led captive by the devil at his will.” (Clarke)
ii. “The lifelong occupation of the ungodly man is to twist ropes of sin. All his sins are as so much twine and cord out of which ropes may be made. His thoughts and his imaginations are so much raw material, and while he thinks of evil, while he contrives transgression, while he lusts after filthiness, while he follows after evil devices, while with head, and hand, and heart he pursues eagerly after mischief, he is still twisting evermore the cords of sin which are afterwards to bind him.” (Spurgeon)
iii. “In other words, if the young man is not captivated by his wife but becomes captivated with a stranger in sinful acts, then his own iniquities will captivate him; and he will be led to ruin.” (Ross)
iv. Will die: “Refers to eternal death in opposition to the eternal life of the righteous, not merely to either a premature death (see v. 11) or clinical death.” (Waltke)
v. In the greatness of his folly: “Oh, what madmen are they that bereave themselves of a room in that city of pearl for a few dirty delights and carnal pleasures!” (Trapp)
(c) 2020 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org