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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 5

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-2


In this chapter Solomon comes back with more details to the corrupt heart, which makes a man forsake the woman of his youth for another one (Proverbs 2:16-:). He demonstrates that that is the way, which demoralizes the whole man. It is a warning from man to man to avoid any sexual relation with an adulteress, literally ‘strange woman’, which is every woman outside the one, own, legal wife.

Discretion and Knowledge

If we assume that in Proverbs 5:1-Joshua : the grandfather is still speaking to the father, we see that David has spoken to his son Solomon about the adulteress or the strange woman. Anyway, it is also a matter which each generation has got to deal with. The sexual desire doesn’t stop after reaching a certain age. Whoever allows himself to be tempted by the strange woman, has turned away from the way of life and goes the way of death. The way of the strange woman terminates in death. Many people deny this. They want, so to speak, to reach life through the way of death. Thereby life has another meaning to them than to God. It is impossible to live the true life through that way.

The father begins again with encouraging his son to give attention to his “wisdom” and to listen to his “understanding” (Proverbs 5:1). “Wisdom” is God’s wisdom, what God has revealed; the “understanding” is what he has acquired by experience and observation. He has more often appealed to listen to him (Proverbs 2:1; Proverbs 3:1Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 4:1Proverbs 4:10; Proverbs 4:20), but here he does that particularly with the view to the temptation with which the adulteress approaches him.

If his son indeed listens, he will “observe discretion” (Proverbs 5:2). He will think carefully before he does something and live cautiously and disciplined. That will keep him from hasty and wrong choices. His lips will “reserve knowledge”, which means that he will speak what he has learnt from his father. That knowledge is the knowledge of God, knowledge which leads to honoring Him and obedience to His commandments. That knowledge will appear from his words (“your lips”). ‘Discretion’ and ‘knowledge’ are the basis of avoiding temptation to commit the disastrous foolishness of adultery.

These verses are the introduction on the teaching of the father to his son about sexuality. Only by giving attention to his wise words, he will be kept from fulfilling his sexual desires in a wrong way. The wrong way is outside of marriage. The father also tells him that can have optimal enjoyment of that inside marriage. Therefore he appeals to his son to listen to his wisdom and his understanding (Proverbs 6:20-Jeremiah :; Proverbs 7:1-Deuteronomy :).

Verses 3-6

The Lips and Feet of the Strange Woman

Proverbs 5:3 begins with the reason giving word “for”, which means that now comes the reason why the father says that he should give attention to discretion (Proverbs 5:2). Without any further introduction he tells him that has got to do with “an adulteress” (lit strange woman). He doesn’t presume it as a possibility, but he puts it as a fact. This will surely happen.

The strange woman is the forbidden woman, the unauthorized woman. First it is here about another woman than one’s own wife. Then it regards a woman who deliberately seeks to tempt. The father has already said something about her, but now he starts to speak of further details about her.

She is an adulterous woman, therefore a woman who is unfaithful to her own husband. The sin of unfaithfulness is the first big sin which happens when adultery is committed. The father tells his son how she operates to tempt him to commit adultery. That unfaithful woman comes to him with words, which are sweet like honey and smoother than oil (cf. Song of Solomon 4:11). She speaks flattering, pleasant words that slide easily in his ear and in his heart.

Her “lips” are in great contrast to those of the young man that reserve knowledge (Proverbs 5:2). He who is trained to speak sound words with his lips, whose lips reserve knowledge, who is used to faith building conversations, will directly notice that her language is corrupt. We will get used to a sound use of language only when we listen to God’s Word and the teaching of it.

The (grand)father unmasks the corruptness that is hidden behind the tempting language (Proverbs 5:4; cf. Psalms 55:21). He directly switches to the consequences, “but in the end she is”. He means by that where it turns out to, what her intention is, what the result is of her corrupt performance. What she says seems so sweet and so pleasant. But where a relationship with her leads to, is so bitter: “bitter as wormwood”. Her tongue is “sharp as a two-edged sword”, literally ‘a sword with more than one mouth’, which causes torment and destruction. The sword represents a devouring monster (2 Samuel 2:26; Isaiah 1:20). The temptress poisons and kills (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:26).

The father pictures the consequences of an adulterous life (Proverbs 5:5). His son must be aware that through the bed of this woman, the bed of sin, he ends up on the path downward, to death. Her footsteps go in the direction of the grave. That is her target. Before we know whether to join someone, we are to know where the other one is going to. Sin always leads to death: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23; James 1:15).

She deliberately seeks to keep the young man from taking “the path of life” (Proverbs 5:6). Today it is also recognizable in the countless temptations in advertisements, on the billboards and on porn sites. The more a person looks at it and in that way takes it in, the more his conscience is numbed and the path to death is followed. This woman wavers from the one to the other road of death; there is nothing stable in her life; she is so unpredictable. She goes around purposelessly, uncontrollably and indecisively. You see that from her capricious traces, that go from the right to the left and back. She walks like a drunk person. There is neither rest nor direction to be found in her. If the young man lets himself be tempted by her, he will not be aware that he himself is wavering, just like she is doing. He sees her alone and does not pay attention to the way she goes.

With the strange woman is firstly meant a literal danger. But in the application, she also refers to a spiritual danger. In the strange woman we can actually see ‘the foolish woman’ which is the opposite of ‘the woman of wisdom’ (Proverbs 9:1-Joshua :; Proverbs 9:13-Job :). The temptation that comes from the foolish woman, is to drag us from the fear of the LORD. She finds her full application in “the great Babylon, the mother of harlots” (Revelation 17:5), which is a picture of the roman catholic church.

Verses 7-14

The Price of Unfaithfulness

From Proverbs 5:7 the father (Solomon) goes further with the teaching on the danger of the strange woman which he had received from his father (David). That teaching continues until the end of Proverbs 7, with an interruption in Proverbs 6:1-19. The father speaks extensively about this danger to his children, which, as it is said, is a danger for each generation. The addressee is possibly a married son (Proverbs 5:15-Psalms :), but that is not necessary for the teaching. The dangers apply to both the married and unmarried son and remain as long as he lives.

The father introduces his teaching on the danger with the strange woman by calling upon his children to listen to him and not to turn away from the words of his mouth (Proverbs 5:7). He did that also in Proverbs 5:1-Exodus :. The reason why he does that again, is because he wants them to keep their focus on his teaching as long as they live. To turn to a strange woman is to turn away from the teaching of the father.

He begins with the simple argument that the son stays as far as possible from the place of temptation and not to come near the door of her house (Proverbs 5:8). If he comes in her neighborhood, he comes under the hearing of her flattering voice. He has to avoid her, so that he does not hear nor see her. We can and should pray “and lead us not into temptation” (Matthew 6:13), but we can only do that sincerely when we ourselves do not look for that temptation.

From Proverbs 5:9 the motivation follows to stay away from her as far as possible. That is derived from the word “or” in Proverbs 5:9; Proverbs 5:10. When he actually comes under her influence and gets involved with her, he will lose his “vigor”, his good name and reputation (Proverbs 5:9). He will then waste the prime of his life to “others”, like the strange woman to ‘have the joy’ of it. He himself will have lost the joy of it. He will not be able anymore to enjoy his own wife, his own children, his own family. He has immersed himself in the greatest misery.

He will also give the best years of his life and also thereafter to “the cruel one”. The cruel one is the woman. She has taken control over him and makes firm demands to him. Hereby we could also think of blackmail, which is not an unusual phenomenon with marital infidelity.

What is attached to that, is that others will overpower his strength and that everything he earns, he will have to deliver to “a stranger” (Proverbs 5:10). In “the stranger” we could also see best the cruel one of the previous verse, the temptress, the adulteress. We see here that a relation with the strange woman, brings a person in financial trouble. A person who is under the power of such ‘a stranger’, often has to run debts to meet her demands. This is extensively clarified in Proverbs 6:1-Psalms :.

The end result is groaning and being a physical wreck due to exhaustion (Proverbs 5:11). That can for example happen by a sexual disease and aids, diseases which debilitates the body. The body will prematurely become dilapidated and exhausted. It is clear that the price of unfaithfulness due to “passing pleasure of sin” (Hebrews 11:25), is enormously high. Whoever commits this unfaithfulness, burdens himself with an unpayable debt. The path of death leads to the loss of honor, time, money, power and health and to pain, regret and eternal torture at the end of life.

Then the forced recognition comes, which expresses itself in hopeless remorse and a hopeless self-reproach (Proverbs 5:12). ‘How could I have done such a thing? How could I have hated instruction and could my heart have rejected discipline?’ It had been said clearly and severely to him that he should stay far away from the adulteress, but he did not listen and went that way self-willed. “To hate” means to have an aversion. He has responded with aversion to the instruction.

Inwardly, in his “heart”, he has rejected “discipline”. He has resisted it instead of bowing down to it and receiving it. He did hear the instruction and discipline, but did not want to obey to it. Now his conscience is judging him, while he realizes too late that he has ignored the teaching and instruction. The hell will be full of people who again and again will say remorsefully: ‘I wish I had …’

He then will have to admit that it is his own fault, because he did not listen to “my teachers” and “my instructors” (Proverbs 5:13). These people, with whom especially his father and mother will be meant, have given him private teachings (the son speaks twice about “my”). They have taught him intensively how he could make the right choices. They have trained him therein and made him get used to it. And yet he has rejected their teachings and has been disobedient to the commandments that they have presented him. He found himself wiser than them, he was wise in his own eyes (Proverbs 3:7). This makes his sin extra great.

The father is saying this all to his son, as an urgent appeal to listen to his warnings. Then he will be kept from total ruin and endless remorse as a result of a wrong choice.

The sin of adultery leads to a lot of other sins. The young man has to admit to his shame that he has been “almost in utter ruin” (Proverbs 5:14). He will also become aware that his fornication is not only a personal sin, but the whole assembly has been defiled because of him (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:1-1 Chronicles :). In the Old Testament there is no substitutionary sacrifice for this sin, but only the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22). In the New Testament committing this sin is followed by the discipline of the church, which means that such a person should be removed from the midst of the church (1 Corinthians 5:3).

Verses 15-23

The Joy of Faithfulness in Marriage

The alternative to escape from the temptation of the adulteress or the strange woman is not a compulsory abstention or celibacy (1 Timothy 4:3). The father points his son to his own wife. The desire for forbidden delight comes forth from dissatisfaction with the blessings that a person has. He tells him that his own wife should be enough for him (Proverbs 5:15). In his own house he has a source that can quench his thirst. He means his wife by that. In that way by him “marriage can be held in honor and the marriage bed undefiled, for fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).

She satisfies his sexual desires, just like water satisfies a person who is thirsty. He does not need to look for someone else for the satisfaction of those desires (1 Corinthians 7:2-Deuteronomy :). The comparison with a water cistern and a well indicates the refreshment that sexuality gives. Having water in the dry Israel is a valuable provision, which gives great joy.

That is a different presentation of sexuality from what is sometimes given, that all sexual experience should be restrained and that it should only happen with a view to reproduction. Sexual desires, it is argued, are much too dangerous, those flowing waters are much too powerful. But that is not the language of the Bible. God has put in man the desire for sexuality as something good. Sexual intercourse can and is allowed to be enjoyed to His honor in the bond of marriage.

God has given the enjoyment of it in marriage as a source of deep joy (Deuteronomy 24:5; Ecclesiastes 9:9; Genesis 24:67). We see that in these verses. Thereby we are allowed to see in the light of the New Testament, that it is about a mystery that speaks of Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:25-Micah :). Therefore it is clearly an experience which is sanctified by God’s Word.

The sexual desires are allowed to be developed, but indeed for and together with one’s own wife. Is it necessary to point this out? Yes, it is necessary, also in case we have been married already for a while or for a long time. We should avoid every desire to another than one’s own wife and ‘channel’ as it were all desires to our own wife. It is about one direction only, that of one’s own wife. That goes also for the wife towards her husband.

The authority or entitlement to the body of one another (1 Corinthians 7:4) is not to be misused. That will not happen when the husband bears in mind that he needs to love his wife just as Christ has loved the church and still does (Ephesians 5:25). It is important that the husband lives with his wife in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7). Therefore husband and wife should learn to know each other by communicating with each other. It is also important that they can touch one another without sexual excitement, a touch that can happen in the company of other people. Then also the sexual touch will be an expression of love and not an abuse of the other person’s body.

Proverbs 5:16 is a verse which is hard to translate wherefore the explanation is also not easy. “Should your springs be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets?” An explanation that fits within the framework of the verse before and the verse after it, is as follows. When the husband leaves his house and his wife to go to a strange woman, he goes “abroad”, to “the streams of water in the streets”. The sources that are outside, the woman that seduces him, are available to everyone, however much the woman wants to convince him that she is for him alone (Proverbs 7:15).

In Proverbs 5:17 the answer comes to the question of Proverbs 5:16. The source of refreshment must be his own wife only. It is no option that his love goes also to a strange woman.

A spiritual application is that the Lord and He alone is enough for us. He loves us unconditionally and exclusively and also counts on our unconditional, exclusive love (2 Corinthians 11:2). The true satisfaction of every desire that we have, is only to be found in Christ’s love. When we grow older, our love for our wife will not grow less, but will increase, just as our love for Christ.

The father wishes his son to have a blessed relationship with his wife in their marriage (Proverbs 5:18). This shows that the sexual joy in the marriage is given by God and that he may enjoy it. The young man is appealed to “rejoice in the wife of his youth”. It is a joy that should continue until the old age (Ecclesiastes 9:9). It is a complete folly when a husband and his wife say that they have gotten ‘bored with’ each other and because of that the husband starts a relationship with ‘a strange woman’. It is a lie and a disobedience, for God calls upon the husband to rejoice in his wife, just as He appeals upon the husband that he should love his wife.

In the confidential relationship of the father with his son, he says to him that he will find the satisfaction of his desires with his own wife (Proverbs 5:19). He points his son at the behavior of the beloved wife, which he compares with “a loving hind and a graceful doe”. These animals move elegantly and gracefully. That’s the way he may look at his wife. Her breasts may delight him, they may exhilarate him and intoxicate him.

He is allowed to wander ceaselessly in her love, which means that he is allowed to let himself to ‘be caught’ by it and be fascinated. He is allowed to be delighted in her continually, to be very fond of her. It is an appeal and also an instruction to focus on one’s own wife for the satisfaction of sexual desires.

In Proverbs 5:20 the father asks some rhetorical questions. When the son has a good sense, he will not “be exhilarated with an adulteress (lit strange woman)” for a brief relationship with a passing pleasure of sin. Here the same word ‘exhilarated’ is used like in the previous verse, but there it is a continuous and permitted exhilaration. With a strange woman there is no room nor time for intimacy. Intimacy demands a lifetime relationship with the wife of one’s youth.

The sin of adultery always takes place in secret, it is a work of the darkness (Job 24:15-Nehemiah :). But nothing is hidden for God (Proverbs 5:21; 2 Chronicles 16:9; Job 31:4; Job 34:21; Proverbs 15:3 Jeremiah 16:17; Jeremiah 32:19). He is not a human inspector who at times comes along to check something or somebody. He sees and weighs all the traces that an adulterous husband leaves. The behavior of such a man becomes a worn-out habit. The path to the strange woman has become a well-trodden path. We can also think of the traces of misery that are being left as the consequences that such a conduct may cause to the children and other family members.

Apart from the fact that God sees everything, He also is righteous. He knows the weight, the seriousness, of adultery and will therefore judge the adulterer (Hebrews 13:4). ‘To weigh’ means to test, what He will do according to His measure, the law, especially with reference to the seventh commandment. “You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14).

The awareness that there are no secrets for God will help us not to do anything that daylight cannot stand. An open and intimate relationship with God is an important means to keep our human relationships clean and pure. The key to self-control is the awareness that we are never alone, but that God sees us everywhere.

Due to a lack of self-control in the area of sexual satisfaction, the wicked one becomes a captive of his iniquities (Proverbs 5:22). Many people think that they will be able to stop with a certain sin after a course of time. They, however, are not aware that a sin which is repeated frequently, has an addictive effect and takes away every resistance to break it.

We see an example with Samson (although he was not wicked) who is being kept captive by Delilah (Judges 16:19-Ecclesiastes :). He is entangled in sin and is kept there and cannot liberate himself from it. This is how he is led to destruction. When the young man is not ‘chained’ by his own wife, but comes under the power of a strange woman, his own iniquities will chain him and he will be led to destruction.

The path of the adulterer ends up in death (Proverbs 5:23). He dies “because of the lack of instruction”, which means that he listened to no instruction he was given. It can also mean that he had a lack of self-chastisement and self-discipline. He who does not listen to instruction to stay far away from an adulteress, will go astray in the “greatness of his folly”. This folly is indeed great.

For the believer, fornication or adultery is not just a sin, but a particular sin: “Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Corinthians 6:18-Psalms :). Whoever commits “the greatness” of the folly of fornication or adultery, departs from the right path and will hopelessly go astray and die.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 5". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/proverbs-5.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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