Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Proverbs 5

Verse 1

Proverbs 5:1 My son, attend unto my wisdom, [and] bow thine ear to my understanding:

Ver. 1. My son, attend unto my wisdom.] Aristotle (a) could say that young men are but cross and crooked hearers of moral philosophy, and have much need to be stirred up to diligent attendance. Fornication is by many of them held a peccadillo; and Aristotle spareth not to confess the disability of moral wisdom to rectify the intemperance of nature; which also he made good in his practice, for he used a common strumpet to satisfy his lust.

Verse 2

Proverbs 5:2 That thou mayest regard discretion, and [that] thy lips may keep knowledge.

Ver. 2. That thou mayest regard discretion.] Or, That thou mayest keep in thy thoughts, as Job did, [Job 31:1] "Why then should I think upon a maid?" "Out of the hearts of men proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications," &c., saith our Saviour. [Mark 7:21] 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. "There is that leviathan, and there are creeping things innumerable." [Psalms 104:25-26] Yea, the hypocrite, who outwardly abstains from gross sins, yet inwardly consenteth with the thief, and partaketh with the adulterer, [Psalms 50:18-19] that is, in his heart and fancy, supposing himself with them, and desiring to do what they do. This is mental adultery, this is contemplative wickedness. So it is also to recall former filthiness with delight. She multiplied her whoredoms in calling to remembrance the days of her youth, wherein she had played the harlot. [Ezekiel 23:21] 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. [Jeremiah 4:14] "The thoughts of the wicked are abominable to the Lord." [Proverbs 15:26] To look and lust is to commit adultery. [Matthew 5:28] Therefore "desire not her beauty in thy heart." [Proverbs 6:25]

And that thy lips may keep knowledge.] As Joseph did in answering his wanton mistress; [Genesis 39:7-9] as he in Augustine did, that replied to his minions, Ego sum - It is I, at ego non sum - but it it is not I.

Verse 3

Proverbs 5:3 For the lips of a strange woman drop [as] an honeycomb, and her mouth [is] smoother than oil:

Ver. 3. For the lips of a strange woman drop.] Take heed therefore how thou exchange any words at all with her. But if thou be first set upon, as Joseph was by his mistress, and as Franciscus Junius (a) was by those impudent queans (harlots) at Lyons, in France (whither he was sent by his father for learning’s sake), who night and day solicited him; then to keep thee from the bitter sweet lips of these enchantresses, "let thy lips keep knowledge"; answer them (as Joseph did) with "the words of truth and soberness"; [Acts 26:25] with "gracious and wholesome words," [1 Timothy 6:3] such as have a cooling and healing property in them; with Scripture language, which the devil and his agents cannot answer or away with. When, therefore, thou art tempted to this or any like sin, say No - I may not, I dare not; for it is forbidden in such a place, and again in such a place, "How then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" [Genesis 39:9] "Lo this is the way, walk in it." Let thy lips keep knowledge, and it shall keep thee from the lips of a strange woman, though they drop as a honeycomb, and seem to have plenty of pleasure and sweetness in them.

Drop as a honeycomb.] But is like that honey spoken of by Pliny that had poison in it, as being sucked out of poisonous herbs and flowers. In the Cadiz voyage, at Alvelana, three miles from Lisbon, many of our English soldiers, under the Earl of Essex, perished by eating of honey, purposely left in the houses, and spiced with poison, as it was thought. (b) How much better is it to be preserved in brine than to rot in honey! to mortify lusts, than to enjoy them! [Romans 8:13] Voluptatem vicisse voluptas est maxima, saith Cyprian, (c) nec ulla maior est victoria, quam ea, quae cupiditatibus refertur. There is no such pleasure as to have overcome an offered pleasure; neither is there any greater conquest than that which is gotten over a man’s corruptions.

Verse 4

Proverbs 5:4 But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a twoedged sword.

Ver. 4. But her end is bitter as wormwood.] The pleasure passeth, the sting remaineth; for in the froth of this filthy pleasure is bred that hell worm of guilt that never dieth. (a)

Principium dulce est, sed finis amoris amarus:

Laeta venire Venus, tristis abire solet. ”

Diana of the Ephesians was so artificially portrayed, that she seemed to smile most pleasantly upon such as came into her temple, but to frown at those that went out. So doth sensual pleasure. Heus tu scholastiae, dulce et amarum gustulum carpis, &c., said the harlot to Apuleius; hark, scholar, it is but a bitter sweet that you are so fond of. (b) Plus aloes quam mellis habet; { c} knowest thou not that there will be bitterness in the end? The chroniclers (d) have observed of our Edward III that he had always fair weather at his passage into France, and foul upon his return. Such is the way of the harlot; the sin committed with her is as the poison of asps. When an asp stings a man, it doth first tickle him so as it makes him laugh, till the poison by little and little get to the heart, and then it pains him more than ever before it delighted him. See Luke 6:25; Luke 16:25, Hebrews 12:15-16, Job 13:26, Ecclesiastes 7:27-28.

Verse 5

Proverbs 5:5 Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.

Ver. 5. Her feet go down to death.] The Romans were wont to have their funerals at the gates of Venus’s temple, to signify that lust was the harbinger and hastener of death, saith Plutarch. As for whores, they were of old shut out of the city, and forced to seek places among the graves. Hence they were called Maechae bustuariae. De scortis dictum inter busta prostrantibus, saith Turnebus. (a) {See Trapp on "Proverbs 2:18"}

Her steps take hold on hell.] Whither she is hastening, and hurrying with her all her stallions and paramours, {See Trapp on "Proverbs 2:18"} {See Trapp on "Proverbs 2:19"} and where, "by how much more deliciously they have lived, by so much more they shall have of sorrow and torment." [Revelation 18:7]

Verse 6

Proverbs 5:6 Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are moveable, [that] thou canst not know [them].

Ver. 6. Lest thou shouldest ponder,] q.d., Lest thou shouldest persuade thyself that thou mayest embrace the bosom of a stranger, and yet lay hold upon the paths of life by repenting thee of thy folly - this was Solomon’s error sometimes [Ecclesiastes 1:17; Ecclesiastes 2:3] - thou art utterly deceived herein, for her ways are moveable, so that thou observest not whither she tendeth; she wanders here and there (and thou with her), yet not so wide as to miss hell; lo, that is the centre whereunto she is rolling, that is the rendezvous for all her associates in sin.

Verse 7

Proverbs 5:7 Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth.

Ver. 7. O ye children.] See Proverbs 4:1. Shechem, though at ripeness of age, yet is called a child. [Genesis 39:19] Neque distulit puer. And the young man, or the child, deferred not to do the thing. A child he is called, that is, a fool, quia non ratione sed affectu rapitur, saith an interpreter, (a) because not reason but lust overruled him. "As for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel," said she to her libidinous (b) brother Amnon. [1 Samuel 23:13]

Verse 8

Proverbs 5:8 Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house:

Ver. 8. Remove thy way far from her.] The Jesuits boast (but believe them who will) that they can dally with the fairest women without danger. But he that would not be burnt must dread the fire; he that would not hear the bell, must not meddle with the rope.

Quid facies facies Veneris cum veneris ante?

Non sedeas, sed eas; ne pereas, per eas. ”

"Chambering and wantonness," is a deed of darkness and dishonesty. {Romans 13:13 Exodus 23:7}

Come not nigh the doors.] Keep thee far from an evil matter, saith Moses. The plague (and worse) is at the harlot’s house; stand off, αφισπασο. [1 Timothy 6:5] To venture upon the occasion of sin, and then to pray, "Lead us not into temptation," is all one, as to thrust thy finger into the fire, and then to pray that it may not be burnt. Was not he a wise man that would haunt taverns, theatres, and whore houses at London all day, but yet durst not go forth without prayer in the morning, and then would say at his departure, Now devil do thy worst? (a)

Verse 9

Proverbs 5:9 Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel:

Ver. 9. Lest thou give thine honour,] i.e., Whatsoever within thee, or without thee, may make thee honourable or esteemed, as the flower of thine age, the comeliness of thy body, the excellency of thy wit, thy possibility of preferment, that good opinion that the better sort had of thee, &c. How was David slighted by his own children and servants after he had thus sinned! Compare 1 Samuel 2:30 with 2 Samuel 12:10. Chastity is a man’s honour. (a) [1 Thessalonians 4:4]

And their years,] i.e., According to some, Thy wealth that thou hast been many years in gathering; πλουτος quasi πολυετος.

To the cruel.] That is, To the harlot and her bastardly brood, whom thou must maintain. The Hebrews expound it of the devil. To the cruel - i.e., principi gehennae, saith Solomon; angelo morris, saith another; to the Prince of Hell, to this Angel of Death. Aczar, the Hebrew word, properly signifies, saith one, "the poison of the asp," [Deuteronomy 32:33] which paineth not at first, but is deadly.

Verse 10

Proverbs 5:10 Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours [be] in the house of a stranger;

Ver. 10. Lest strangers be filled.] This sin is a purgatory to the purse, though a paradise to the desires. How soon had the prodigal {Aσωτος, Luke 15:13, quasi ασωστος} wasted his portion when once he fell among harlots, those sordida poscinummia, those crumenimulgae. "Ask me never so much gift, and I will give it," said Shechem. [Genesis 34:12] "What pledge shall I give thee? and she said, Thy signet, thy bracelets," &c., [Genesis 37:18] and if she had asked more, she might have had it. "Ask what thou wilt, and it shall be given thee," said Herod to his dancing damsel; nay, he sware "to her that whatsoever she should ask, he would give it to her to the half of his kingdom," [Mark 6:22-23] so strongly was he enchanted and bewitched with her tripping on the toe and wanton dancing. (a) This detestable sin is able to destroy kings, as Solomon’s mother taught him. [Proverbs 31:3] And surely Solomon by the many women that he kept, was so exhausted in his estate (for all his great riches) that he was forced to oppress his subjects with heavy taxes and tributes, which occasioned the revolt of ten tribes. The whore "lyeth in wait for a prey," [Proverbs 23:28] and "by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a morsel of bread" [Proverbs 6:26] - to extreme beggary.

Verse 11

Proverbs 5:11 And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed,

Ver. 11. And thou mourn at the last.] Heb., And thou roar; as being upon the rack of an evil conscience, and in the suburbs of hell, as it were: while "the just Lord" [Zephaniah 3:5] makes thee, even here, possess the sins of thy youth, and writes bitter things against thee. The word signifies, To roar as a lion, or as the sea, (a) or as the devil doth. For the devils believe and tremble, or roar. [James 2:19] Grecians ascribe the original, φρισσουσι, to the roaring of the sea. (b)

When thy flesh and thy body.] By the word here rendered body, there are those who understand the radical humour, the natural moisture that maintains life, and is much impaired by this sensual sin. (c) Avicenna doubted not to say, that the emission of a little seed more than the body could well bear, was a great deal more hurtful than the loss of forty times so much blood. Gouts, palsies, epilepsies, &c., oft follow upon this sin: but the French disease is the natural fruit of it, such as will stick by men when their best friends forsake them. "Jezebel is cast into a bed, and they that commit adultery with her, into great tribulation." [Revelation 2:20] The Popish libidinous (d) clergy are smitten with ulcers. [Revelation 16:11] Their pope, Paul the Fourth, died ex nimio veneris usu, saith the historian, (e) by wasting his strength in filthy pleasure, as the flame consumeth the candle.

Verse 12

Proverbs 5:12 And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof;

Ver. 12. And say, How have I hated, &c.] When cast out with the prodigal, and hath nothing left him but a diseased body, a distressed soul, then, all too late, he fills the air with doleful complaints of his former folly, and cries out, as he did, Totum vitae meae tempus perdidi, quia perdite vixi. (a) 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, (b) The mole, they say, begins to see when he dies, and not till then. Oculos incipit aperire moriendo, quos clausos habuit vivendo. (c) But it is a rare thing, and seldom seen, that any whoremonger doth truly repent. "One such man among a thousand have I found," saith Solomon - perhaps he meant himself - "but a woman among all those have I not found." [Ecclesiastes 7:28] And yet Scultetus tells us that Dr Speiser, minister of Ansborough, in Germany, preached there so powerfully, that the common harlots, there tolerated, left their filthy trade of life, and became very honest women. (d)

And my heart despised reproof] Experience shows that they that are once given up to this sin are more graceless, profane, and incorrigible than others, deriders and contemners of all good counsel, having lost even the very light of nature, and so set in their sin, and so wedded and wedged to their wicked ways, as that they cannot be removed but by an extraordinary touch from the hand of Heaven.

Verse 13

Proverbs 5:13 And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!

Ver. 13. Nor inclined mine ear.] I would not so much as hear them, nmch less obey their voice. Intus existens prohibet alienum. The songs of those syrens had so enchanted him, that it was past time of day to give him counsel. If you speak against his sweet sin, and dissuade him from that, he shrinks back into the shell, and lets his hood hearken. All that is of ‘Davy Dutton’s dream,’ as the proverb is, and therefore, Surdo fabulam, he will in nowise give ear to you.

Verse 14

Proverbs 5:14 I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly.

Ver. 14. I was almost in all evil.] Abraham Ben Ezra reads it in the future tense, Brevi ero in omni malo, I shall shortly be in all evil; and so his repentance here appears to be poenitentia sera, Iscariotica, such as was that of Judas and of those popelings, [Revelation 18:19] a desperate repentance, and not "toward God," [Acts 20:24] not a repentance for sin, as it is offensivum Dei, et aversivum a Deo, an offence against God, and a turning away from him. Such a repentance in this man had been, as the Romans said of Pompey, (a) Eχθρου πατρος φιλτατον τεχνον, a fair and happy daughter of an ugly and odious mother - of his sin I mean, the sight whereof had sent him to Christ.

In the midst of the congregation.] That is, Openly, and before all men. And this he brings as an aggravation of his misery, that there were so many eye witnesses thereof. 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 filtifiness. Yea, observe this, saith one, (b) in them that are the most cunning in this sin, that, though nobody peradventure can convince them evidently of the fact, yet everybody, through the just judgment of God, condemns them we for it. As the Lord seeth their secret villanies, even so ofttimes he testifieth agaiust them, accordins to that which he threateneth, "I will be a swift witness against the adulterers." [Malachi 3:5]

Verse 15

Proverbs 5:15 Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.

Ver. 15. Drink waters out of thine own cistern.] After other preservatives from fornication, as not to think of or speak with the harlot, not to come near the doors of her house, &c., but to consider the many mischiefs that follow upon it - a diseased body, a damned soul, a poor purse, &c. - here the wise man prescribeth wedlock as a remedy properly ordained by God for that end. [1 Corinthians 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:9] And because not the having of a wife, but the loving of her keeps a man honest; therefore it follows, [Proverbs 5:19] "Let her be as the loving hind," &c.

And running waters.] Heathen writers also set forth a wife by waters: as Hesiod (a) bids men not to pass over a running water without prayers to the gods - that is, not to render unto their wives due benevolence till they have sought God, as Johannes Grammaticus interprets it. A pious precept: marriage, as well as food, must be sanctified by the word and prayer, and God be called in to bless this physic to the soul. Lust makes the heart hot and thirsty: God therefore sends men to this well, to this cistern. Compare Isaiah 65:1. The Hebrews call a woman נקבה, i.e., perforata [Genesis 1:27]

Verse 16

Proverbs 5:16 Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, [and] rivers of waters in the streets.

Ver. 16. Let thy fountains be dispersed.] "Thy fountains," that is, thy children. Let thine end in marrying be, that thou mayest have a numerous offspring, that may be as an infantry to the kingdom of heaven. Lawful marriage is usually blessed with many children; and the contrary. [Hosea 4:10] Erasmus tells of one Combe, a young woman in Euboea, that being married to one whom she liked, became mother and grandmother to a hundred children. (a) The same author tells of an Englishman, a cripple, that married a blind woman, lived very lovingly with her, and had by her twelve lusty boys, that had no defect or deformity. (b)

Verse 17

Proverbs 5:17 Let them be only thine own, and not strangers’ with thee.

Ver. 17. Let them be only thine own.] Sint, vel erunt; Let them be, or they shall be. It is both an exhortation and a promise; q.d., Far be it from thee to be a pander to thine own bed, as the Lituanians, of whom Maginus relates that they have their connubii adiutores, their coadjutors in wedlock, and prize them far above all their acquaintance. God also will bless thee with an honest wife, that shall be true to thy bed, and not obtrude upon thee children to keep that are not thine. St Paul gives charge, "that no man go beyond, or defraud his brother in the matter". - that is, in re venerea, in the matter of the marriage bed, as some (a) expound it, but that "every one possess his vessel," - that is, say they, his wife, that "weaker vessel" - in sanctification and honour. [1 Thessalonians 4:4-6]

Verse 18

Proverbs 5:18 Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.

Ver. 18. Let thy fountain be blessed.] Or, Thy fountain shall be blessed, thy wife shall be fruitful, as Psalms 128:3, that psalm for Solomon, whose many wives brought him but few children. We read but of one son that he had, who was none of the wisest neither, and two daughters, both of them subjects. Our Henry VIII, though blameworthy for women too, was more happy in King Edward his son, that orbis deliciae, and his two daughters, both sovereigns of an imperial crown.

Rejoice with the wife of thy youth.] As Isaac did, who was the most loving husband that we read of in Holy Writ. 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.

Verse 19

Proverbs 5:19 [Let her be as] the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.

Ver. 19. Let her be as the loving hind, &c.] The hind and the roe are the females of the hart and roebuck, of which creatures it is noted that of all other beasts they are most enamoured, (a) as I may so speak, with their mates, and even mate again in their heat, and desire after them. This being taken in a good sense, may set forth the ardent affections that husbands should bear to the wives of their bosoms; so they are called, too, because they should be as dear to them as the hearts in their bosoms. A wife is the most proper object of love, [Colossians 3:18] above parent, friend, child, or any other, though never so dear to us.

And be thou ravished always.] Heb., Err thou always in her love: velut extra te sis et rerum aliarum obliviscare. (b) It implies, saith one, a lawful earnest affection, so as, first, to oversee some blemishes and defects. Love is blind. In facie naevus causa decoris erit. (c) Secondly, so highly to esteem her, and so lovingly to comport with her, that others may think him even to dote on her. Howbeit mulierosity must be carefully avoided, as a harmful error, and that saying of Jerome duly pondered and believed, Quisquis in uxorem ardentior est amator, adulter est. As a man may be drunk with his own drink, and a glutton by excessive devouring of his own meat, so likewise one may be unclean by the intemperate or intempestive abuse of the marriage bed, which ought by no means to be stained or dishonoured with sensual excesses.

Verse 20

Proverbs 5:20 And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger?

Ver. 20. And why wilt thou, my son?] The premises considered, there is no reason for it, but all against it. Nothing is more irrational than irreligion, and yet nothing more usual with the devil than to persuade his vassals that there is some sense in sinning, and that they have reason to be mad. And, truly, though there were no devil, yet our corrupt nature would act Satan’s part against itself; it would have a supply of wickedness - as a serpent hath of poison - from itself. It hath a spring within to feed it. Nitimur in vetitum semper, petimusque negata. Nothing would serve the rich man’s turn but the poor man’s lamb. If Ahab may not have Naboth’s vineyard, he hath nothing. The more God forbids any sin, the more we bid for it. [Romans 7:8] ‘Nay, but we will have a king,’ said they, when they had nothing else to say why they would.

Verse 21

Proverbs 5:21 For the ways of man [are] before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings.

Ver. 21. For the ways of man, &c.] Turpe quid acturus te sine teste time. (a) A man that is about any evil should stand in awe of himself; how much more of God, since he is πανοφθαλμος, all eye, and beholdeth the most secret of thine actions. The proverb is, Si non caste, saltem caute, Carry the matter, if not honestly, yet so closely and cleanly that the world may be never the wiser. How cunningly did David art it to hide his sip! But it would not be. "There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed." [Luke 12:2] "If I make my bed in hell," said he, [Psalms 139:8] - as indeed the places where fornicators use to lodge are little better, - "behold thou art there." This God allegeth as a forcible reason against this sin. "I have seeu the lewdness of thy whoredoms"; [Jeremiah 13:27] and, "Even I know, and am a witness, saith the Lord." [Jeremiah 29:23]

Verse 22

Proverbs 5:22 His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.

Ver. 22. His own iniquities shall take the wicked.] As so many sergeants set on by God; who will surely hamper these unruly beasts, that think to shift and escape his fingers, with the cords of their own sins, binding them hand and foot, and bringing them to condign punishment. So that, say the adulterer be not punished by the magistrate, or come off by comnmtation, yet he shall feel himself in the gall of bitterness and bond of perdition; he shall find that he hath made a halter to hang himself. Nobody can be so torn with stripes as a mind is with the remembrance of wicked actions. Tiberius felt the remorse of conscience so violent, that he protested to the senate that he suffered death daily. (a)

Verse 23

Proverbs 5:23 He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.

Ver. 23. He shall die without instruction.] To spend the span of this transitory life after the ways of one’s own heart, is to perish for ever. But, oh, what madmen are they that bereave themselves of a room in that city of pearl for a few dirty delights and carnal pleasures!

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Proverbs 5". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jtc/proverbs-5.html. 1865-1868.