Proverbs 6:27-7:23

Proverbs 6:27‑7:23  •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 7
Still more emphatic is the warning here given, which deals with a more aggravated and destructive evil. It is not only the evil woman, or a strange woman, or a whorish woman. It is the wife of another, as in the last clause; and the language rises in severity, for marriage is a divine tie; and God hates its breach and judges those who break it.
“Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his garments not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be scorched? So he that goeth in to his neighbor’s wife: whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent. They do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; and [if] he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house. Whoso committeth adultery with a woman is void of understanding; he [that] doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and contempt shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away. For jealousy [is] the rage of a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance; he will not regard any ransom, neither will he rest content though thou multiplieth gifts” (Prov. 6:27-3527Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? 28Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned? 29So he that goeth in to his neighbor's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent. 30Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; 31But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house. 32But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. 33A wound and dishonor shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away. 34For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. 35He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts. (Proverbs 6:27‑35)).
There is a baseness peculiar to itself, even among the dissolute, for a man to tamper with the wife of another. But lust is insidious on either side; and little beginnings, where that relationship subsists, are apt to go on to great evils. For Satan acts on the flesh, and leads souls which forget God’s presence to venture in the vain hope of escape. But can a man take fire to his bosom, and his garments not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals and his feet not be scorched? That corruption will not escape the fire of human vengeance: How much less of divine judgment? Any approach, however small or passing, is dangerous and evil.
The inspired writer contrasts it with stealing even, though men are extremely sensitive of any loss in their property. If dire need were evident, men extenuate a thief when he steals a little rather than perish of starvation. But what is so senseless, no less than abominably sinful, as adulterous iniquity? Pity mingles with blame in the one case, but nothing can excuse the other. It is the foulest dishonor of the husband; it is the lifelong ruin of the entrapped wife; it is the shame of the house and of its connections; it is the abhorrence of God who judges it. And what must be his resentment who is chiefly wronged? No wonder that the evildoer is said to lack understanding or heart, and to destroy his own soul. The law laid down fines fourfold, fivefold, and sevenfold, for rising guilt in stealing; but death Moses commanded in Jehovah’s name for adultery. If Christendom, pretending to judge the world, betrays its wicked levity by a lenient sentence, it tells its own tale of corruption, which will draw down the strong hand of the Lord God in judgment.
Even in this world, a wound and dishonor will the adulterer get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away, spite of the heathenism which dared to consecrate this enormity and every other — spite of Christendom which did once adopt heathen ways and seems now returning to them, even where Protestant zeal once chased them out in a large measure, though never up to the true Christian standard. Here it regards man’s feelings. “For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.” The overture of any ransom is vain; to give many gifts, contents not him who cannot rest without wrong’s condign punishment.
Proverbs 7 opens with a fresh paternal appeal to his “son” individually (Prov. 7:1-51My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. 2Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. 3Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. 4Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: 5That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words. (Proverbs 7:1‑5)). Then is drawn the graphic picture of a young man void of understanding drawn into the worst corruption by an adulterous woman (Prov. 7:6-236For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, 7And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, 8Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, 9In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: 10And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtile of heart. 11(She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: 12Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.) 13So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, 14I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows. 15Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee. 16I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. 17I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. 18Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves. 19For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: 20He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed. 21With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him. 22He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; 23Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life. (Proverbs 7:6‑23)). The close is a call to the “sons” generally — a terse, earnest, and solemn warning (Prov. 7:24-2724Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth. 25Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. 26For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. 27Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death. (Proverbs 7:24‑27)) of similar character, but deeper still.
In this individual appeal, the value of the word is urged as the great preservative means. “My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee.” There is not only the need of dependence on God when trial comes, but the positive value of the truth and the divine will infusing one beforehand. This is the soul inwardly strengthened within against the snares without, which find the father’s precepts in possession of the field. The words are therefore to be kept, and the commandments laid up.
Therein is the path of life; for it is not by bread alone that man lives, but by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth. Hence here we read, “keep my commandments and live.” Yet the teaching that comes from God, though alone nourishing, is easily injured by self-will, and needs to be vigilantly guarded from a world of evil where defilements abound. Therefore must the teaching be kept as the apple of one’s eye. What more jealously prized as invaluable and irreparable? What more exposed to sudden damage?
Other figures are employed to impress the all-importance of heeding the words which express Jehovah’s will. “Bind them upon thy fingers; write them upon the tables of thy heart.” Old and New Testaments indicate that rings were worn for weighty use and high authority, not mere show or ornaments. Besides, the precepts here were to be written on the heart.
Nor does this suffice the care with which grace forearms those exposed to temptations suited to a fallen nature. In Old Testament times little was known of a new life from God. Still it was there, and implied if not clearly taught. Hence the new call: “Say to wisdom, Thou art my sister, and call intelligence kinswoman.” For the reception of God’s Word made this true. In contrast with one born of the flesh, “that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” We are begotten by the word of truth, and thus become a sort of first fruits of His creatures. Our new relationship is with wisdom and understanding, as near of kin, suited, beloved, and necessary.
Thus does God work in His goodness to keep one “from the strange woman, from the stranger that flattereth with her words.” That she was a “stranger” who sought familiarity is enough for any soul with the fear of God. So is man constituted that it should ever be a signal of danger. When formed originally, there was no strangership; but out of the man was she built who was meant to be his wife, his counterpart. How much greater the peril when, in a fallen condition, “the strange woman” abandons the propriety of her sex, and appeals with flattering words to the vanity, the pride, or the lusts of man!
In the closeness of the Christian relationship, where all are brought by the grace of Christ into the endearing tie of God’s children, the danger is enormously increased. For the “neighborhood” of Israelites mutually was a comparatively distant connection, and a man’s “brethren” meant less in every way than “brethren” in a Christian’s life — a term that included sisters as well as brothers. Undoubtedly there are the deepest moral principles in the gospel, and the church; where the law was partial, obscure, and feeble, truth is brought clearly and graciously to view in Christ Himself for those whose it is to walk in the light as God is in the light. But if we are not in the flesh through the deliverance Christ has wrought and given us, the flesh is still in us, and is ever ready by Satan’s wiles and the world’s influence to ensnare us into self-gratification. Only each walking in faith as having died and as crucified with Him, in continual self-judgment and lively sense of His loving me and Himself given for me, are we kept by God’s power. Where this has been forgotten, what dismal falls have been even to the strong! What sad gaps every now and then, where few know the dark histories which lie at their back!
Next is given a graphic sketch of the evil against which the son is warned earnestly. It is a picture divinely drawn from life.
On the one side is a young man, idle and thoughtless rather than of evil or profligate habits; on the other is a woman given up to shameless immorality; and when a woman abandons all pretension to modesty, who can be so recklessly corrupt or seductive? But the warning impressed is all the more telling because in the youth there is no purpose of lust, any more than of passion in particular, no thought or room for sapping the moral principles generally, no old undermining of the barriers which warded off improper advances. A weak character, hitherto harmless, as men say, vain and self-pleasing, is seen in the way of temptation, and gradually verging near the point of danger, as the twilight grows and the darkness favors shameful deeds. For his youth and inexperience make him the more attractive prey to the woman who is sunk to the lowest depths, as regardless of human order as of God the Judge of all.
The “strange woman” has even the attire of a harlot, with a heart more subtle still, yet clamorous and ungovernable. Her house is no home; her unsatisfied will drives her feet into the streets and the broadways; and at every corner she lies in wait. The heedless youth fixes her choice; and giving him the fullest credit for a vacant heart, for a void of understanding, she scruples not at once to storm one so unarmed and unestablished. She caught and kissed him, and strengthening her face to the utmost effrontery, she tells him of her peace offerings, her vows paid that day. He was the delight of her eyes and soul. Him she came to meet (whom she probably never saw before); his face was diligently sought; and now she had found him. Providence smiled on them, and the feast upon a sacrifice was a happy omen. None could deny that she was a religious woman; she must pay her vows duly when she ventured on a delicate affair of the heart. Yet she, the wanton, did not blush to speak of the utmost lengths without disguise. “I have decked my bed with tapestry coverings, with variegated cloths of yarn from Egypt; I have perfumed my couch with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us revel in love until the morning; let us delight ourselves with loves.” How terrible and how true is this picture of ritualism and luxury in league, prostituting the name of love to illicit amours and debauchery more guilty than the most brutal!
Nor does she fail to quiet the fears which might cow even the most thoughtless and audacious. For she declares that the man, the husband, was away from home, gone on a long journey, provided with ample funds, and not to return before full moon. It was not a Joseph that listened, but a match for Potiphar’s wife that enticed. Who can wonder that the foolish youth, spite of conscience, surrendered! But oh, what pathos in the language which describes him giving himself to ruin of soul and body! “He goeth after her suddenly.” He does not dare to think of Jehovah, or of his own relation to Him. nor yet of father and mother, of brothers or sisters; of the irreparable wrong to the absent husband; of his own sin and crime, to say nothing of yielding to so vile a paramour, or of the affront to society, degraded and godless as it is. It is truly “as an ox goeth to the slaughter, and as in fetters to his correction the fool; till a dart strike through his liver, as a bird hasteth to the snare and knoweth not that it is for its life.”