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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 5

Coffman's Commentaries on the BibleCoffman's Commentaries

Verse 1

Jamieson’s short summary of this chapter is: “Here is a warning against the seductive arts of wicked women, enforced by considering the blessings and advantages of chastity, and the miserable end of the wicked,”(F1)

Walls subdivided the chapter as follows:

(1) the teacher’s appeal for strict attention (Proverbs 5:1-2),

(2) a description of the loose woman (Proverbs 5:3-6),

(3) an injunction to avoid her (Proverbs 5:7-8),

(4) a warning of that which befalls her victims (Proverbs 5:9-14), a call to cherish holy love in marriage (Proverbs 5:15-19), a reminder that adultery is a sin against God (Proverbs 5:20-23).”(F2)

Verses 1-2


“My son, attend unto my wisdom; Incline thine ear to my understanding: That thou mayest preserve discretion, And that thy lips may keep knowledge.”

This solemn plea for strict attention indicates the importance of the severe warning against adultery that is about to be given, a subject briefly mentioned in 2:15-19. “The writer, in addition, will return to this subject again in the latter part of Proverbs 6 and in all of Proverbs 7.”(F3)

The emphasis given this subject in Proverbs is significant. “If a young man would take to heart the warnings and prohibitions in Proverbs and add those qualities mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount, he would be a perfect man. In Proverbs, the sins of the flesh, gluttony, wine-bibbing and fornication are presented in graphic detail with clear and specific warnings against them.”(F4) There is a possibility that Solomon, the author of these warnings, gave them such overwhelming emphasis because these were the very sins that ruined him.

Verses 3-6


“For the lips of a strange woman drop honey, And her mouth is smoother than oil. But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; Her steps take hold on Sheol; So that she findeth not the level path of life: Her ways are unstable, and she knoweth it not.”

“The lips of a strange woman” “This is any woman who is not thine own, whether Jewess or heathen.”(F5)

“Drop honey” This is a metaphor to describe the attractive proposals by which a prostitute solicits her victim. “Her suggestions sound reasonable, and what she is offering appears desirable; but such indulgence leads to remorse and death.”(F6) “Her very strangeness and looseness make her exciting and tempting. Such a person presents the young man, yes, any man, with a powerful sexual attraction.”(F7)

“Her mouth is smoother than oil” “David used the very same words of the metaphors found in this and in Proverbs 5:4 to describe the treachery of his friend Ahithophel in Psalms 55:21.”(F8)

The words of his mouth were smoother than butter, but war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet were they drawn swords. - Psalms 55:21 AV.

“In the end she is bitter as wormwood” The terrible consequences of sinful gratification of sexual desire are plainly stated in this chapter. “She may seem like honey; but those who have dealings with her find the abiding taste is wormwood, an insecticide exceedingly bitter.”(F9) “Wormwood comes from a shrub of bitter taste, used in the preparation of absinthe, which is traditionally used as medicine for deworming (whence the name).”(F10) “In Revelation, Wormwood became an eschatological abstraction Revelation 8:10-11,”(F11) standing for the unspeakable sorrows falling upon the rivers and fountains of earth.

“In the end” Yes, indeed, there is an end that follows sinful sexual gratification “There is an end (KJV), an afterward; and Proverbs does not allow us to forget it”!(F12) No human activity should be judged merely upon the basis of its initial result; it is the ultimate consequences, the final result, that must also be considered. And when such judgment is applied to this vice, only a fool could willingly indulge in it.

“Her feet go down to death… Sheol” Sinful sexual relations literally bring death to myriads of mankind. Such diseases as syphilis and aids are almost exclusively acquired through illicit sex contacts; and it is simple truth that the prostitute’s (one of the offenders in this passage) feet go down to death, and her steps take hold of Sheol. “The word Sheol here is used as a synonym for death. The KJV renders this word as hell; but the New Testament word for the lake of fire is Gehenna, which does not appear in the Old Testament.”(F13)

“She findeth not the level path of life” “This verse may refer either to the pupil (as in KJV) or the adulteress (as in ASV), for the Hebrew does not distinguish.”(F14)

“Her ways are unstable, etc.” Cook noted that, “This verse describes the state of heart and soul which prostitution brings upon its victims: - the reckless blindness that will not think, tottering on the abyss, yet loud in defiant mirth, ignoring the dreadful future.”(F15)

Verses 7-8


“Now therefore, my sons, hearken unto me. And depart not from the words of my mouth. Remove thy way far from her, And come not nigh the door of her house.”

There are some temptations that must be avoided in order to be successfully resisted; and fornication, adultery and related vices are in that category. The New Testament echoes the same admonition. “Flee youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22). “Obedience to this injunction might very well require that we should change our job, break with a set of friends,”(F16) or renounce certain entertainment.

Verses 9-14


“Lest thou give thine honor unto others, And thy years unto the cruel. Lest strangers be filled with thy strength, And thy labors be in the house of an alien. And thou mourn at thy latter end, When thy flesh and thy body are consumed, And say, How have I hated instruction, And my heart despised reproof; Neither have I obeyed the voice of my teachers, Nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me! I was well-nigh in all evil In the midst of the assembly and congregation.”

“The evil results of relations with the strange woman fall into three divisions. (1) Loss of wealth and position (Proverbs 5:9 f), (2) physical deterioration (Proverbs 5:11), and (3) certain legal penalties.”(F17)

The thrust of the whole passage is that unlawful and promiscuous sex destroys the participant socially, financially, morally, and even physically. Such activity is a sin against society, against the family, against one’s own body, against the church and against God Himself.

“Lest strangers be filled with thy strength” The AV has `wealth’ instead of `strength,’ which makes better sense. Such activities as prostitution and adultery “bring poverty”;(F18) and there are many ways in which this is brought about. Severe legal penalties accompany violations in this sector; but evil men prefer to blackmail offenders rather than penalize them. Prostitutes are victimized by crooked policemen who charge them `protection money.’ Etc. The schemes are unlimited.

“When thy flesh and thy body are consumed” Yes, the physical destruction that is identified with this sin is epic in its proportions. In this writer’s boyhood, the strongest youth in the community could tear a deck of cards in two, chin himself with either hand, and perform other amazing things; but he went to work in the oil fields, indulged his lust with prostitutes, contracted syphilis, and returned in a wheel-chair (“locomotor ataxia”), and to an untimely death. Almost invariably the fatal disease of aids is directly the result of indulging in this sin. “Then (when Proverbs was written) as now, terrible disease was the result of this sin.”(F19)

“And say, How have I hated instruction” Even more terrible than other results of this wickedness is the bitter remorse that tortures the violator in his latter days. “Even more bitter than slavery, poverty and disease will be the bitterness of that self-reproach, and the hopeless remorse that works death.”(F20)

“Neither have I obeyed the voice of my teachers” “The profligate admits that he was not without teachers and advisers, and that he gave no heed to their warnings and reproofs.”(F21)

“I was well nigh in all evil” “This vice, like a whirlpool, sweeps all others into its vortex.”(F22) Falsehood invariably, and murder occasionally are directly associated with this evil. As DeHoff wrote, “This vice leads one into all others. Every sin has a group of cousins who always come to visit.”(F23) We might add that they stay a long time!

Verses 15-19


“Drink waters out of thine own cistern, And running waters out of thine own well. Should thy springs be dispersed abroad, And streams of waters in the streets? Let them be for thyself alone, And not for strangers with thee. Let thy fountain be blessed; And rejoice in the wife of thy youth. As a loving hind and a pleasant doe, Let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; And be thou ravished always with her love.”

“Here the teacher passes to positive instructions on the sacred joy of a pure and happy marriage in terminology similar to the Song of Solomon.”(F24) “These verses are the heart of the chapter. They exalt the marriage relationship.”(F25) This emphasizes the God-given purpose of sexual powers and God’s containment of this blessing within the context of the family and his absolute prohibition of its promiscuous and sinful use otherwise. “Thou shalt not commit adultery” is God’s commandment in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

“Thine own cistern… thine own well… thy fountain” All of these metaphors are for one’s wife; and the “springs” and “streams” of Proverbs 5:16 are metaphors for one’s children. The adulterer’s children are “dispersed abroad” and found in the streets (Proverbs 5:16). He never knows where or how many they may be. “Promiscuous and unlawful sex relations throw doubt upon the paternity of children.”(F26)

“The language here is frankly erotic, a rare emphasis in Scripture, but it is highly important to see sexual delight in marriage as a God-given blessing; and history confirms that when marriage is viewed merely as a business arrangement, not only is God’s bounty misunderstood, but human passion seeks other outlets.”(F27)

“As a loving hind and a pleasant doe” Here we have other figurative references to a loving wife. “In the whole cycle of Arabian and Persian poetry the antelope (deer) and the gazelle are the chosen images of beauty.”(F28) Acts 9:36 tells us of a Christian woman named Dorcas, which means `gazelle’; and Tabitha is the Aramaic version of the same name.(F29)

Verses 20-23


“For why shouldest thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, And embrace the bosom of a foreigner? For the ways of man are before the eyes of Jehovah; And he maketh level all his paths. His own iniquities shall take the wicked, And he shall be holden with the cords of his sin. He shall die for lack of instruction; And in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.”

“Why… be ravished with a strange woman” In the previous verse the pupil is commanded to, “Be ravished always with her love”; and Tate identified this word (ravished) as the, “Key word in the chapter.”(F30) He defined it as “infatuation”; but “intoxicated” is also said to be a synonym.

“The ways of man are before the eyes of Jehovah” “Here the teaching assumes a higher tone, rising above the lower law that regulates fidelity on the basis of personal attraction to that higher Law which brings the husband’s conduct into relation with that duty that he owes to God.”(F31)

When Joseph was sorely tempted by Potiphar’s wife, he refused, saying, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God”? (Genesis 39:9). We noted earlier that there is a recoil from this particular “great wickedness” against society, against one’s spouse, against the family, against the church, against one’s own body, etc.; but over and beyond everything else, IT IS A SIN AGAINST GOD! “This will be examined and judged by the Universal Judge, and will bring with it its own Nemesis and retribution.”(F32)

“His own iniquities shall take the wicked… in the greatness of his folly, he shall go astray” It is important to note that, “These verses place the blame where it belongs, not particularly upon the woman, but upon the man whose wickedness is spelled out”!(F33)

“He shall die for lack of instruction” “In this verse, the Revised Standard Version is much to be preferred. It reads, `He shall die for lack of discipline.’“(F34) Instruction he had; discipline he had not; and in that condition his death was assured.

Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 5". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/proverbs-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
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