EXHORTATIONS TO CHASTITY, Proverbs 5:1-14.
In this chapter the royal sage renews his exhortations to acquire wisdom, (Proverbs 5:1-2;) and, as there is nothing which is more pernicious in general, and more detrimental to the acquisition of wisdom in particular, than the unlawful indulgence of sexual desires, he earnestly dissuades his pupil therefrom by showing the character of a dissolute woman, and the ruinous consequences of attachment to such. These miserable effects are a loss of honour, time, health, and wealth, and at last a bitter and unavailing repentance, (Proverbs 5:3-14.) Therefore, for the avoidance of this evil, the teacher commends, like the apostle, (1 Corinthians 9:9 and 1 Timothy 4:3,) the chaste and moderate enjoyments of married life, and even a passionate love for one’s own wife, whom he describes, allegorically, as a domestic fountain, (Proverbs 5:15-19.) He closes the whole by repenting the warning against the “strange woman,” and exhibiting the fearful consequences of unlawful gratification, (Proverbs 5:20-23.)
1.Understanding — Discernment. Compare Proverbs 6:20; Proverbs 7:1.
2.Discretion — Or, counsels.
That thy lips may keep — Thy lips shall keep.
3.Strange woman — See note on Proverbs 2:16. The terms lips and mouth are, of course, used tropically — speech, words. She uses persuasive, delusive, and fascinating arts and modes of speech. Compare Proverbs 7:14, etc.
4.Bitter as wormwood — As the accursed or poisonous herb or root. The ancients regarded this herb, whatever it was, as poisonous. There are sundry passages referring to it as noxious. See Deuteronomy 29:18; Hebrews 12:15; Revelation 8:10-11. “Wormwood,” says Zockler, “is a plant about two feet high, belonging to the genus artemesia, (artemesia absinthium,) which produces a very firm stock with many branches, grayish leaves, and small, almost round, pendent blossoms. It has a bitter and saline taste, and seems to have been regarded as a poison.” It was a fitting popular emblem of the results of illicit love. Such love is full of poison, and in the end will be as destructive as a double-edged sword. This is more plainly stated in the following verse.
5.Down to death — Intercourse with her leads to certain destruction.
Hell — , (sheol,) the under world, according to the conceptions of the ancients. The place of departed spirits. Compare Proverbs 1:12; Proverbs 2:18; Proverbs 7:22.
6.Her ways are movable — She continually varies her allurements.
Thou canst not — Or dost not.
Know them — It is impossible to conceive all the tricks and arts of her infernal trade. Beware of them. The verse is obscure, owing to the fact that in the Hebrew verb the form of the third person singular feminine and the second person singular masculine are the same, and it is difficult in this case to determine whether to translate she or thou. Zockler renders, “The path of life she never treadeth; her steps stray, she knows not whither.” Stuart, “That she may not ponder the path of life, her ways are become unsteady while she regards it not.” To the same purpose others. Conant, “That thou mayest not ponder, etc., her paths waver ere thou knowest.” “She weigheth not the way of life; her paths are movable; thou canst not know them.” — Geneva Bible. “For she goes not upon the paths of life; but her ways are slippery, and not easily known.” — Sept. The words describe with a terrible vividness the state of heart and soul which prostitution brings upon its victim; the reckless blindness that will not think, tottering to the abyss, yet loud in defiant mirth, ignoring the dreadful future. Our English version, however, is supported by some good authorities.
7.Hear me — Compare Proverbs 7:24.
8.Come not nigh the door of her house — Lest thou fall under her enchantments. These creatures know how to excite impure and irregular passions.
9.Thine honour — , thy vigour, bloom, strength; the glory of thy manhood. “Lest thou sacrifice the flower of thine age and thy precious time to one that doth not love thee a jot, but could see thee perish without pity.” — Patrick. Though all the blandishments of love dwell on the tongue, and excessive fondness appear in the whole demeanour of harlots, they will rob and murder those who give their strength and wealth to them.
10.Lest strangers — Those of another family, perhaps of another country, satiate their lusts at thy expense, and furnish their house and table with the fruits of thy labour. Some suppose the allusion is to the prosecution of the adulterer, and the sale of him as a bondman.
11.Thy flesh and thy body — The original words seem to imply a wasted body — the remnant or remains of thee — what is left after a life of licentious habits, putrid with the diseases which follow debauchery.
12, 13.How have I — The repentance and lamentation here exhibited are of the bitterest kind. “In the line of my duty,” says Dr. A. Clarke, “I have often been called to the deathbeds of such persons, whose groans and shrieks were incessant through the jaculating pains in their bones and flesh.” Let youth beware; once entered on this foul course, recovery is almost hopeless.
14.In all evil — The common interpretation is, The gratification of my lusts by degrees led me into nearly all kinds of wickedness; not merely in secret, but openly; in the assembly of God’s people even, in the presence of the magistrates and judges. Such persons, however sacred the place, have eyes full of adultery, which cannot cease from sin. Compare Numbers 25:7; Numbers 35:12. But very respectable critics interpret differently, namely, that the adulterer was exposed to punishment for his crime, and this punishment usually terminated in his being sold into slavery — probably to a cruel master. Proverbs 5:9. If the injured person prosecuted the adulterer, he might insist on the punishment of death, (Deuteronomy 22:22,) but if he chose he might act more leniently, and sell him into bondage, the price obtained being accepted as a mulct for the crime. What a slave earns by his toil goes into the house of his master, and becomes his wealth. Proverbs 5:10. By the assembly (Proverbs 5:14) is understood the magistrates and judges — the sanhedrin, which surrounded him to condemn and punish him by stoning to death. Understood thus, the all evil of the verse would mean the great evil, the extreme danger, to which he was exposed. See Stuart in loco; also Zockler, who translates, “Well nigh had I fallen into utter destruction, in the midst of the assembly and the congregation.”
EXHORTATION TO CHASTENESS AND PROPER CONJUGAL DUTIES, Proverbs 5:15-23.
15-17.Drink waters — Waters often stand for posterity. Numbers 24:7. Fountains, wells, and cisterns, in the East were regarded as of great importance. Hence they were largely used metaphorically for that which is noble, desirable, and even sacred. Compare Psalms 68:26; Isaiah 43:1; Song of Solomon 4:12; Genesis 26:15-20; Jeremiah 18:14. These verses, under an allegory, contain an exhortation to restrain the sexual appetite within the boundaries of thine own married life. The figure is eminently Oriental and vivid, but chaste; and the subject is treated with the utmost delicacy of language and purity of thought. By the fountains of Proverbs 5:16 is commonly understood lawful issue, of which a man need not be ashamed, but, on the contrary, lead them forth into the streets as his joy and pride. But some versions have a negative before the word fountains. Let NOT thy fountains, etc. Fountains then would mean our sexual gratifications, and they are forbidden here to rove. The sense would then harmonize well with the next verse, where the same thought is, after the Hebrew manner, presented under a fuller form. Zockler translates interrogatively: “Shall thy streams flow abroad as water in the streets?” So, also, Conant. There is no sign of the interrogative, but this is sometimes omitted, as in Psalms 56:7.
18.Let thy fountain be blessed — That is, with offspring, so much desired in the East, as they ought to be everywhere.
Wife of thy youth — This seems to imply and sanction early marriages, though the words may be no more than a Hebraism for thy young wife. (Comp. Proverbs 2:16.) Let thy young wife, to whom thou art fitly mated, bring thee joy by a vigorous and numerous progeny. This would not be the case if he spent his strength in unlawful gratifications with harlots. For “wife of thy youth,” compare Deuteronomy 24:5; Ecclesiastes 9:1.
19.The loving hind and pleasant roe — Animals which were much prized and petted on account of their beauty and affectionate dispositions. They were kept in palaces and courts, and adorned with chains and garlands, and highly esteemed for their graceful playfulness. This seems to indicate the characteristics of a good wife, and also the endearing fondness with which she should be treated. The latter part of the verse may express this sentiment, If thou art entranced with love, let it be with thine own wife. This is not to be understood as a license to excess, but as a prohibition of unlawful indulgence. Zockler translates: “The lovely hind, the graceful gazelle, let her bosom charm thee always. In her love delight thyself evermore. Fitly chosen images,” he remarks, “to illustrate the graceful, lively, facinating nature of a young wife.” Stuart: “A lovely hind and a graceful doe,” etc. There are numerous passages from Eastern poets which show the popularity of this figure in Oriental poetry. “These pretty animals,” says Thomson, “are amiable, affectionate, and loving by universal testimony, and no sweeter comparison can be found.”
THOMPSON, Land and Book, volume i, page 252.
20.Why’ be ravished — For why shouldest thou be fascinated with the love of a strange woman? a strong and affectionate remonstrance against such folly, as an unnecessary and baneful indulgence.
21.The ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord — Who marks all his movements; and he who has ordained marriage for the comfort and benefit of mankind and the preservation of society will not let the abuse of it go unpunished. This verse gives the strongest reason for the remonstrance of the preceding.
He pondereth — Though the harlot and her paramour do not. See Proverbs 5:6; Proverbs 5:22. Clarke’s note is unsurpassed: “Most people who follow unlawful pleasures think they can give them up whenever they please; but sin, repeated, becomes customary; custom soon engenders habit; and habit, in the end, assumes the form of necessity. The man becomes bound with his own cords, and so is led captive by the devil at his will.” Comp. Proverbs 1:31-32; Proverbs 11:5; Proverbs 18:7; Proverbs 29:6; Psalms 7:15; Psalms 40:12; John 8:34; 2 Peter 2:19.
23.In’ his folly — In his manifestation of lack of wisdom and his actual sin.
Go astray — The same word is rendered ravished in Proverbs 5:19-20. It conveys the idea of one drunk or delirious, who insensibly reels to destruction.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 5". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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