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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 5

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-20


Here we have started up, and sent leaping over the plain, another of Solomon’s favourites. What elegant creatures those gazelles are, and how gracefully they bound. We shall meet them all through Syria and Palestine, and the more you see of them the greater will be your admiration. Solomon is not alone in his partiality. Persian and Arab poets abound in reference to them. The fair ones of these fervid sons of song are often compared to the coy gazelle that comes by night and pastures upon their hearts. They are amiable, affectionate, and loving, by universal testimony, and accordingly no sweeter comparison can be found than that of Proverbs 5:19.—Thomson’s Land and the Book.


Proverbs 5:2. Discretion, Lit. “reflection,” “prudent consideration.”

Proverbs 5:3. Drop as an honey-comb, “distil honey.” Wormwood. In Eastern countries this herb, the absinthum of Greek and Latin botanists, was regarded as a poison. It has a bitter and saline taste.

Proverbs 5:6. This verse is rendered in two ways. The forms of the two verbs may be in the second person masculine, and so apply to the tempted youth, or in the third person feminine, and so be understood to refer to the harlot. Most modern commentators take the latter reading. Delitzsch translates: “She is far removed from entering the way of life: her steps wander without her observing it.” Stuart: “That she may not ponder the path of life, her ways are become unsteady, while she regards it not.” The rendering in Lange’s Commentary is, “The path of life she never treadeth, her steps stray, she knoweth not whither.” The authorised version is, however, supported by Rosenmuller and Michaelis.

Proverbs 5:9. Honour, or “power,” “bloom,” or “freshness.”

Proverbs 5:11. Mourn, or “groan,” “at the last,” lit. “at thine end.”

Proverbs 5:14. Readings here again vary. Miller translates: “I soon became like any wicked man.” Lange’s Commentary: “A little more, and I had fallen into utter destruction.” The renderings of Stuart and Delitzsch are substantially the same as the authorised version.

Proverbs 5:16. In order to make the idea in this verse agree with those preceding and following it, Stuart and other commentators insert a negative: “Let (not) thy fountains,” &c. Lange’s Commentary considers this needless, and retains the same idea by conceiving the sentence to be an interrogative indicated, not by its form, but by its tone: “Shall thy fountains?” &c. So also Hitzig. Holden, Noyes, Wordsworth, Miller, &c., read as in the authorised version.

Proverbs 5:19. Be ravished, lit. “err,” used in the next verse in a bad sense, and in chap. Proverbs 20:1, and Isaiah 28:7, of the staggering gait of the intoxicated. It seems to express a being transported with joy.



I. A wrong relation. The relationship here forbidden is wrong.

1. Because it is a sin against the tempter. The tempter in Eden had his load of iniquity increased by the yielding of the tempted one to his persuasion. He increased his crime when he made another a partaker of his disobedience. Satan, doubtless, becomes worse each time that he persuades another to sin. The gambler’s guilt and misery is increased in proportion to his success in bringing others to ruin. The young man in the text increases the guilt of the “strange woman” by yielding to her enticements. He burdens her with new guilt and intensifies her iniquity, and therefore helps to treasure up for her a greater remorse when her conscience shall awake and arise from the grave of sensuality.

2. Because it is a sin against a man’s own body. That which is our own is generally valued by us, and there is nothing material which is ours in a more exclusive sense than our bodily frame. It is nearer to us than any other material possession, and to sin against it is to sin against that which stands in the nearest relation to our personal moral individuality. There are sins done in the body by the mind which are purely mental, from which the body does not suffer; but adultery forces the body into a relation which brings misery and disease upon it, and in due season consumes and destroys it like a devouring flame. “Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body” (1 Corinthians 6:18).

3. Because it is a sin against human nature in general, and national life in particular. Human nature is like the human body, every man is linked to his fellow-men as the several members of the body are parts of one whole. This solidarity—this union of interests—is more obvious when considered in relation to a particular community or nation; and, as no member of the human body can be disfigured without bringing the whole frame into a state of imperfection and loss of dignity, so no man can degrade himself without bringing degradation upon the whole race. The fornicator is a plague-spot upon the body of humanity; and although other sinners bring disfigurement upon the body universal, there is none who defiles it as he does. God has written His mark upon the crust of the earth against this enormous sin (Genesis 19:24-25).

4. Because it makes God, in a sense, to bear the iniquity with the transgressor. The youth who spends the money his father gives him in furthering his own wicked purposes makes his father an unwilling partaker of his crimes, because the money was supplied by him. God made this complaint against sinners in the olden time. The good gifts of the earth which God bestowed upon the Hebrew people were used by them in their debasing idol-worship. God gave them the means of honouring Him, and they used His gifts in dishonouring His name. So God gives to every man power to glorify Him and to bless himself and the world by the formation of right relations. When the power thus given is used in an unlawful manner, God’s own gift is used against Himself. The sinner turns the Divine gift against the Divine Giver; and while in God he lives, and moves, and has his being, he lives and moves but to sin against his Maker. Thus in Scripture language God “is made to serve” with the sinner, while He is “wearied with his iniquities” (Isaiah 43:22-24).

II. The bitter waters which flow from this wrong relation. (Proverbs 5:4.)

1. The loss of honour. (Proverbs 5:7.) To some men this is dearer than life. The captain would rather go to the bottom of the sea with his ship than live with a shadow upon his good name and reputation. The man who has lost his honour in the eyes of others has lost his honour in his own eyes, and the loss of self-honour or self-respect is a calamity that is very bitter to the soul. The man who will indulge in unlawful intercourse, will find that he not only loses the respect of others, but he will be unable to respect himself, and this loss is the greatest that a man can sustain on this side of hell. It is a draught which, although there might be pleasure in the drawing, will be very bitter in the drinking.

2. The loss of manhood’s vigour and opportunities. He will “give his years to the cruel, his strength to the stranger.” The loss of youthful strength and energy is the loss of years, the youth becomes old before he is a man. The vessel or the mansion that is charred by fire before it is completed presents a strange contrast. The newness and freshness of the walls or the timbers that have escaped make the destruction of the rest more lamentable. The building has been marred just upon the verge of completion, the ship has been spoiled when she was all but ready for the voyage. It is sad to see an old tree blasted by the lightning, but it is a greater misfortune when the tree is in its prime, when it is laden with fruit about to come to perfection. But these are faint shadows of the sad spectacle which is presented by a youth who has become prematurely old by unlawful indulgence before he has reached his prime. He is unfit to battle with the sea of life at the very time when he ought to be setting out on his voyage. He falls short of fulfilling the demands of God and man at the moment when he ought to be bringing forth abundant fruit. Surely such a consciousness must be as bitter waters to the spirit.

3. The action of conscience and memory in a dying day. “And thou mourn at the last,” etc. (Proverbs 5:11.) The lamp that hangs from the stern of the vessel throws a light upon the wake of the ship and reveals the path that she has travelled. Memory is such a lamp to the human soul. In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus we find memory throwing such a light upon the past, and enabling him to look back upon the path which had brought him to his present abode. Conscience sat in judgment upon it and united with memory to make his present cup a bitter one. The bitterness that is always mingled with the life of the profligate becomes doubly bitter at its end. Memory throws her light upon his past, and shows him the strength, and honour, and opportunities of life squandered in licentiousness, and conscience anticipates future retribution and makes him feel the truth of the word of warning, “Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4). The bitterness is increased by the reflection that the sin was committed in defiance of counsel to act differently. And thou say, “How have I hated instruction and my heart despised reproof” (Proverbs 5:12). Those who sin against the light of nature only, find a recompense which is terrible, yet which an inspired Apostle declares to be “meet” (Romans 1:27). The sins here mentioned are sins against nature, and nature asserts her right to punish her broken law and leave her mark upon the fornicator. But when revelation, and instruction, and good example are added to the light of nature, the cup contains ingredients of tenfold bitterness. “Whoso breaketh one edge, a serpent shall bite him” (Ecclesiastes 10:8). How much sharper will be the sting if a double—a threefold—hedge is broken through.

III. Sweet waters flowing from a right relationship. The waters are sweet or living—

1. From a consciousness that a chaste wife belongs to him alone (Proverbs 5:15). The profligate can lay no such claim for the woman of his choice; she is, by her own consent, common to all. The husbandman has a very different feeling concerning his own field, which he alone has a right to till, and the common land which is open to all comers. So the true husband has a feeling towards his wife to which the licentious man is an entire stranger.

2. Because such a life is in harmony with the rights of society. The brooks and rivers of the land cannot be pure if the springs are defiled. The social life of a nation can only be healthy while the purity of the marriage relation is maintained. God has written his doom whenever and wherever this sacred bond has been violated. The consciousness of being a blessing to the world swells the stream of satisfaction which arises from a faithful observance of this relationship.

3. Because a true marriage is a man’s completion. The sinless man in Eden felt a want until Eve was given to him, even though God had created him in his own image. How much more does man now feel the need of a “helpmeet for him,” such as he finds only in a faithful wife.

4. The waters are further sweetened by the reflection that this relationship is used to symbolise that existing between Christ and His Church. Christ is the Head of His Church for her good. The true husband feels that he is the head of the wife for the same end. The relationship becomes doubly blessed when looked at from this point of view.


Proverbs 5:1-2. When the Word of God enters the heart, it will banish all pollution from the tongue.—Lawson.

Perhaps painful experience (1 Kings 11:1-8, Ecclesiastes 7:26) had given the wise man wisdom and understanding. Therefore let us attend to it with fear and trembling.—Bridges.

God allows us to call that knowledge ours which originally is His.

1. Because God give it us, and he that gives a man land allows him to call it his.
2. Because it is given for our good as well as other men’s. We are not like the builders of Noah’s ark, that could not be preserved in it.—Francis Taylor.

Proverbs 5:3. The “strange woman” occurs so often in this book, that it is not probable she is introduced simply to denounce licentiousness. Indeed, she so stands twin picture to wisdom, that we come to a firm belief that she is introduced as the picture of impenitence.—Miller.

To hear her one would suppose that she was possessed of the most generous and disinterested spirit. Her tongue is taught by him who betrayed Eve to paint the vilest sin with the most beautiful colours.—Lawson.

Proverbs 5:4 : The wise counsel of the father puts those things together, in his words, which the folly of sinners putteth far asunder in their thoughts, the beginning and end of lustful wantonness. He that by foresight shall taste the bitter end will never lick the honeycomb. He that by a wise consideration shall feel the sharp edges of the issues of it, will never delight to smooth himself with the flat sides of the sword.—Jermin.

Proverbs 5:5. Possession of hell is taken by the wicked before they come into it; the devil giveth them that when he by wickedness possesseth their hearts. There is no more to be done than to set up their abode in it.—Jermin.

Proverbs 5:6. The words, if taken to refer to the woman, describe with a terrible vividness 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 its defiant mirth, ignoring the dreadful future.—Plumptre.

Proverbs 5:7. Let no one think what he will do when he is in danger, and how he will get from her, when once she hath got him to her, but hear now what ye are to do to keep out of danger.—Jermin.

Proverbs 5:8. The devil will tempt you enough without your own help. To tempt is his business. As you love your life and your own soul, give him no assistance in the work of destruction.—Lawson.

He that is farthest from fire is safest from the burning of it; he that is most remote from the way and course of the river is in less danger from the overflowing of it. It argues too much mind to be in the house, for anyone to come near the door of it. It is more safe not to be in danger of perishing, than being in danger not to perish. Chrysostom, speaking of Joseph, saith, “It doth not seem so wonderful to me, that the three children in the furnace overcame the fire, as that Joseph, being indeed in a more grievous furnace than that of Babylon, came forth untouched.”—Jermin.

1. Because of thy proneness to evil. Straw will quickly take fire. Gunpowder is no more apt to take fire than our corrupt nature to be provoked to this sin.
2. Because flight is the best fight here. No struggle comparable to a safe retreat.—F. Taylor.

Proverbs 5:10. It is said that Demosthenes gave this answer to a harlot who desired to seduce him from the path of virtue, and demanded a hundred talents for her hire: “I will not buy repentance so dear.”—Jermin.

One keenest torment of the damned will be to find that they are working hard in the very pit of the universe; submitting to the sentence (Matthew 25:28), “Take, therefore, the talent from him and give it to him that hath ten talents.” The adulterer might make himself a bankrupt, and get himself sold for his transgression; but that is a trifle compared with the sweeping surrender that must be made of all by the finally impenitent.—Miller.

Proverbs 5:12. The climax goes on. Bitterer than slavery (Proverbs 5:9); poverty (Proverbs 5:10); disease (Proverbs 5:11) will be the bitterness of self-reproach, the remorse without hope, that worketh death.—Plumptre.

Though in respect of God’s infinite mercy, it be never too late in this life, yet take heed how we stay too long. It is true that the thief on the cross found mercy at the last hour; but it hath been well remarked, “It was not the last hour, but the first, of the thief’s knowing God; as soon as he knew Christ he was converted. If, therefore, thou hast long known Christ, and has not repented, do not presume too rashly of mercy at last.—Jermin.

There are no infidels in eternity, and but few on a death-bed.—Bridges.

Proverbs 5:11-12. Dying regrets.

I. The subject of these regrets. It is a man who has disregarded through life the means employed to preserve or reclaim him. What instructors has a man living in a country like this? First, Your connections in life. You may have been a member of a pious family, or had an instructor or a reprover in a brother, friend, or religious neighbour. Second, The Scriptures. Third, Ministers. Fourth, Conscience. Fifth, Irrational creatures. Can you hear the melody of the birds and not be ashamed of your sinful silence? Can you see the heavenly bodies perform unerringly their appointed course and not reflect on your own numberless departures from duty? Sixth, The dispensations of Providence. God has chastened you with sickness. You have stood by dying beds.

II. The period of these regrets. It is a dying hour. It is “at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed.” Such a period is unavoidable. The last breath will expire, the last Sabbath will elapse, the last sermon will be heard. Such a period cannot be far off. “For what is our life? It is a vapour that appeareth for a little time and then vanisheth away.” It is a flood. It is a flower. It is a tale that is told. It is a dream. Such a period may be very near. Such a period is sometimes prematurely brought on by sin.

III. The nature of these regrets. This mourning is

(1) dreadful. A dying hour has been called an honest hour. The world then recedes from view. The delusions of imagination give way. Criminal excuses vanish. Memory goes back and recalls the guilt of the former life, and conscience sets the most secret sins in the light of God’s countenance.

2. It is useless. Not as to others, but as regards the individuals themselves. We are to describe things according to their natural and common course, and not according to occasional exceptions. And in this case exceptions are unusual. And we are borne out in this assertion

(1) By Scripture. There we find only one called at this hour.

2. By observation. We have often attended persons on what seemed their dying bed; we have heard their prayers and their professions; we have seen their distress and their relief, and, had they died, we should have presumed on their salvation. But we have never known one of these, who, on recovery, lived so as to prove the reality of his conversion! We have often asked ministers concerning the same case, and they have been compelled to make the same awful declaration.—Jay.

Proverbs 5:14. In a spiritual sense this may be applied to those who “hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18), and who, although they dwell in the midst of holy men in the Church of God, set their example at defiance by evil lives.—Bede.

Proverbs 5:15. Desire after forbidden enjoyments naturally springs from dissatisfaction with the blessings already in possession. Where contentment is not found at home it will be sought for, however vainly, abroad. Conjugal love is chief among the earthly gifts in mercy granted by God to His fallen creatures.… Whatsoever interrupts the strictest harmony in this delicate relationship, opens the door to temptation. Tender domestic affection is the best defence against the vagrant desires of unlawful passion.—Bridges.

Do not steal water from others. Although the strange woman saith, “Stolen waters are sweet,” yet remember that the dead are there (ch. Proverbs 9:17-18). The wife is called a vessel in 1 Peter 3:7. These words also have been expounded by ancient interpreters in a spiritual sense, which may well be present to the reader’s mind; and they have been applied to the pure waters of Divine wisdom, a sense which is suggested by Jeremiah 2:13.—Wordsworth.

If God had laid all common, certainly
Man would have been th’ incloser: but since now
God hath impaled us, on the contrary,
Man breaks the fence, and every ground will plough.
O what were man, might he himself misplace!
Sure to be cross he would shift feet and face.

George Herbert.

Spiritual Self-helpfulness.—
I. Man has independent spiritual resources
. He has a “cistern,” a “well” of his own. First: He has independent resources of thought. Every sane man can and does think for himself. Thoughts well up in every soul, voluntarily and involuntarily. Secondly: He has independent resources of experience. No two have exactly the same experience. Thirdly: He has independent powers of usefulness. Every man has a power to do a something which no other can—to touch some soul with an effectiveness which no other can. Wonderful is this well within—inexhaustible and ever active.

II. Man is bound to use these resources. “Drink waters out of thine own cistern;” do not live on others. Self-drawing—First: Honours our own nature. Secondly: Increases our own resources. Self-helpfulness strengthens. The more you draw from this cistern the more comes. Thirdly: Contributes to the good of the universe. The man who gives only what he has borrowed from others adds nothing to the common stock. The subject—First: Indicates the kind of service one man can spiritually render another. To priest, rabbi, sectary, I would say—Man does not require your well; he has a cistern within. What he wants is the warm gospel of love to thaw his frozen nature, and to unseal the exhaustless fountain within, to remove all obstructions to its out-flow, and to make it as pure as the crystal. The subject—Secondly: Suggests an effective method to sap the foundation of all priestly assumptions. Let every man become self-helpful, and the influence of those who arrogate a lordship over the faith of others will soon die out. The subject—Thirdly: Presents a motive for thankfully adoring the Great Creator for the spiritual constitution He has given us. We have resources not, of course, independent of Him the primal fount of all life and power, but independent of all other creatures. We are not like the parched traveller in the Oriental desert, who, because he cannot discover water, dies of thirst. Spiritually, we can walk through sandy deserts bearing an exhaustless spring within.—Dr. David Thomas.

Proverbs 5:18. It is not only to feed and clothe her, and refrain from injuring her by word or deed. All this will not discharge a man’s duty nor satisfy a woman’s heart. All the allusions to this relation in Scripture imply an ardent, joyful love. To it, though it lie far beneath heaven, yet to it, as the highest earthly thing, is compared the union of Christ and His redeemed Church. Beware where you go for comfort in distress, and sympathy in happiness. The Lord Himself is the source of all consolation to a soul that seeks Him; yet nature is His, as well as redemption. He has constructed nether springs on earth and supplied them from His own high treasures; and to these He bids a broken or a joyful spirit go for sympathy. To “rejoice in the wife of thy youth”—this is not to put a creature in the place of God. He will take care of His own honour. He has hewn the cistern, and given it to you, and filled it, and when you draw out of it what He has put in, you get from Himself and give Him the glory.—Arnot.

Proverbs 5:19. In a spiritual sense, this imagery, derived from the limpid fountains and beautiful animals of the natural world, is regarded by the ancient expositors as descriptive of the delicious refreshment and perfect loveliness of Divine truth, and the infinite blessings which it bestows on those faithful souls which are united to it in pure and unsullied love.—Wordsworth.

Proverbs 5:20. A rare instance in which a canto does not begin with “My son,” but with “Why.” The question is intended to be pressed. The commerce with “the strange woman” is so plainly mad that the rightly educated impenitent cannot possibly answer the wise man’s question.—Miller.

Verses 21-23


Proverbs 5:21. Pondereth, or “marketh out.”

Proverbs 5:22. Shall be holden, rather “is holden.”

Proverbs 5:23. Without, “for lack of.”


These verses contain three reasons why the way of sin should be avoided, and the way which God has appointed should be followed.

I. Because there is no place secret enough to commit sin. The sinner often comforts himself with the thought that what he has done, or is in the habit of doing, is not known—that the actors of the deed were the only persons privy to it. The text declares that there is no such thing as a secret place, because there is no place where the eyes of the Eternal do not penetrate. God is a witness of every crime committed in secret. He is not only a witness after the deed, but of the deed. Therefore there is no place secret enough to be a place of sin. The thought of the ever-present God should deter the sinnner.

1. Because the Divine presence is a pure presence. People who are in the habit of committing the sin against which the whole of this chapter is directed, would possibly shrink from being guilty of it in the presence of a pure man or woman. How much more should they be deterred by the fact that the eye of the pure and holy God is upon them.

2. Because the presence of God is the presence of One who has authority to punish. The presence of the chief magistrate of a nation would be sufficient to prevent the most hardened criminal from committing crime. A thief would not steal before the face of the man whom he knew could punish him. The presence of God is the presence of the highest authority in the universe, of One who is irresponsible to any other for His acts (Job 9:12), of One who hast power most terrible, of One who has always visited this sin with penalty. The presence of such an Authority ought surely to make the adulterer quake at the very thought of his sin.

II. Because, though the sinner may not be apprehended by human law, he shall be laid hold of and bound by his own deeds (Proverbs 5:22). Many sinners of this kind go at large in the world, and are never reached by human law. No officer of justice will ever lay his hand upon them, and no material chains will ever bind them. But they are already taken and imprisoned by their own evil habits, which have bound them in chains of increasing thickness as the acts of sin have been repeated. This is a thraldom from which escape can come in only two ways. A man must either cease to be, or he must repent, before he can be free. Annihilation would set him free, because in ceasing to be he would cease to sin. But the repentance demanded by God is the only thing which will break his chains and permit him to retain his existence. We have no proof that there will ever be any way of escape by the first means, but we have abundant proof that the second is open to all men on this side of death.

III. Because the unrepentant adulterer will die as he has lived—a fool (Proverbs 5:23). A fool is a man without knowledge, one who acts from impulse rather than from reason. The sinner here pourtrayed is not a fool because he has not had instruction, but because he has not heeded it. Nature, History, Revelation and Conscience were his instructors, but he has disregarded them all. If he had listened to them he would have gained an experimental knowledge of the blessedness of godliness and purity, of which he must now go out of the world as ignorant as he entered it.


Proverbs 5:21. Practical atheism is the root of human depravity. The eye, even of a child, is a check upon a man, but the thought of an all-seeing God inspires no alarm.—Bridges.

The sin is not against man, nor dependent on man’s detection only. The secret sin is open before the eyes of Jehovah. In the balance of His righteous judgment are weighed all human acts, this not excepted. There is a significant emphasis in the recurrence of the word used of the harlot herself in Proverbs 5:6 : “She ponders not, but God does.”—Plumptre.

Because the ways of a sinful man are not before his own eyes, therefore are they before the eyes of God; because sinful man doth not ponder his goings, therefore the Lord pondereth them; because man doth not look on his ways with the eye of care, therefore the Lord looketh on them with the eye of wrath; because man doth not weigh his goings in the balance of due consideration, therefore God doth weigh them in the balance of severe justice. The opening of our eyes over our sins is the shutting of God’s eye towards them; the shutting of our eyes upon them is the opening of God’s eyes against them. For though we hide our ways from ourselves, we cannot hide them from God. We hide Him from ourselves; we do not hide ourselves from Him.—Jermin.

The meaning is, that directly in God’s eyes are the ways of every man, as though there were no other creature in the universe; as though the wise man were saying, “Why, because the way seems smooth, and you seem helped in your folly, do you go on in your impenitency, and embrace the bosom of this wanton?” “For” the way of every man is directly in the sight of God. He takes the most emphatic interest in our schemes, whether we are doing well or ill. He helps us either in sinning or doing right, for “He levels all (one’s) paths” (see Critical Notes). Not that we are to involve Him in the folly of any sin, but if a man desires to drink, He levels the way for Him. If he wishes liquor, He gives it; if he desires to steal, He gives the eye and the nerve.… The Divinity seems to help the struggling, whether saint or sinner, but the impenitent must not therefore imagine that it is righteous to go on.—Miller.

Proverbs 5:22. The licentious flatter themselves that in old age, when the passions are less fiery, they will easily extricate themselves from the dominion of their lusts, and repent and seek salvation. But Job 20:11 declares that the old sinner’s “bones are full of the sins of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust.” Augustine, after experience, says: “While lust is being served the habit is formed, and whilst the habit is not being resisted necessity is formed.”—Fausset.

Proverbs 5:23. Surely it is most just that he who lived without following instruction should die without having instruction; he that in his life would not do as he was instructed, deserveth that at death he should not be instructed what to do.—Jermin.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 5". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/proverbs-5.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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