The scene in this chapter is more practical and grounded than some of the previous chapters about wisdom. The focus is on a man’s union with a woman. However, this is analogous to the student’s/son’s union to Lady Wisdom. And so the two are situations are tied together. Faithfulness to one’s wife and faithfulness to Lady Wisdom go hand-in-hand; the women are reflections of each other and faithfulness to one is faithfulness to the other.
In Proverbs there seems to be this strong connection between women and Wisdom (as well as women and Folly). The connection seems to be one of being careful with who you are united to and intimate with, the good of being faithful, nurturing the relationship, and the productivity, power, and beauty of the female.
Vv. 1-6 – Lips
From the father’s lips comes wisdom. It does not seem alluring; and yet, the son must be drawn to it. Yes, the path might seem narrow, but it leads to life (see Matthew 7:13-14).
“Wisdom, again, is not merely the craftiness or skill for quickly getting what we want; it is the fear of the Lord that grants endurance, which is necessary for pursuing blessing in the proper order and thereby avoiding disastrous consequences: “Now since our life in this world is known to be, as it were, a road, it is necessary for us to reach rest as the result of our labor rather than labor as the result of rest” (Caesarius of Arles, Sermon 231.6, in FC 66.188–89).” (Treier, 1319).
The son is to learn to keep hisown lips unavailable to what is not wisdom. Or, perhaps, as Hubbard offers: “Refusal to answer her or responding with a forthright ‘no’ is the way that ‘lips keep [or guard] knowledge’ (v. 2)” (Hubbard, 91).
The adulteress’s lips are sweet and smooth, plump and red. There is real allure here; but the deception is deep. The result of indulging is bitter and utterly wretched. The allure is over-the-top, inciting lust rather than inspiring stability and faithfulness. Though she promises life to the very full, in here past and future is only chaos and death.
The father teaches the son so that the son is able to prepare himself for such times of deceptive temptation: “Say no to the deceptive, false good, so that you might really live and not die.” Yet, we wonder if there is any real hope for the son, for how can the teaching that proceeds from the lips of the father compete with the smooth, wet kisses of the seductress.
Vv. 7-14 – Sapped, Squandered Vitality
The father’s advice: stay far away from the adulteress – the one with sweet, smooth lips and words. Stay clear or die. If you go near, you will be among the “walking dead,” your life wasting away for others, with bitter regret. The warning is stark.
“Biblical exemplars abound regarding the frequent need to reject instant gratification. Moses, preeminent as a faithful son in God’s house until the revelation of the Messiah (Heb. 3:1–6), chose “rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (11:25). Joseph too stands in the Old Testament background with his self-sacrificing refusal of Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39)” (Treier, 1296).
“5:8 warns people not to flirt with disaster—not even to go near the adulteress’s house. If this command (and it is a command, not mere advice) strikes contemporary readers as legalism, building an arbitrary fence around the law so that people do not cross the actual boundary, then we ought to realize that some fences do make good neighbors!” (Treier, 1304-1312).
The adulteress’s lips, which initially seemed so overly delightful turned bitter. And the father’s wise instruction and reproof which seemed bitter are now seen to have been the way to true delight.
In this section and the next (verses 15-20), the main idea is that you must love and cherish your own home. You are one with your spouse, and to betray her is to betray yourself. To give yourself to another is not here some good thing; it is folly leading to iniquity. Here, the sacrifice is to that which enslaves, leads to chaos, saps strength, leads to death.
There are many contemporary stories where lives have been destroyed when people’s sins have come out into public view. And in their situation it would have been likely that children would be born out of wedlock, etc. Divorce might ensue; your picture might be cut out of the family picture. In any case, what happens is not simply about my own life, but about a family, community, even nation. And it is not just about the here and now, but makes ripples – or tidal waves – throughout time and generations.
[I wonder how much easier it is to be tempted in a culture where birth control has become so effective? … ]
But chaos end the scent of death result even from “small” sins, if there is such a thing. All sin comes with consequences that sap life, the lead to death. They all are like quicksand on the path of true life.
“The blessings offered by wisdom—long life and significant status (5:9), wealth (5:10), and physical health (5:11)—are systematically denied to the victim of the adulteress” (Treier, 1312).
Vv. 15-20 – Wells
Keep your own life and vitality. Deeply enjoy your very own wife. love and cherish your own home. You are one with your spouse, and to betray her is to betray yourself.
[1Corinthians 7. Reminiscent of John 4. And other well stories.
“The use of water imagery in relation to life is common in the OT and has its background in the climate of Canaan. For most of the year it is arid, and fertility depends heavily on the seasonal rains which replenish the cisterns, which collect and store the run-off, and the underground aquifers, which feed the wells and springs. It is not surprising that the woman, as a source of life, is spoken of in the Song of Songs as ‘a garden fountain, a well of living water, and flowing streams from Lebanon’ (4:15)” (Lucas, 70).
But we would be wrong to not treat the metaphor more fully, for the picture painted here is intentionally sensual. Though the Father’s lips at first seemed like gravel, these verses pique the senses. The idea here is to fight deathly pleasure with the even greater pleasure that comes from marital fidelity.
For, there is enjoyment to be had in the marital relationship and on the marital bed. “The wicked person who disregards this, as John Chrysostom states, ‘perished through folly, not through desire…’” (Treier, 1327).
“The metaphor of intoxication—so disastrous if it occurs at the hands of the adulteress (Prov. 5:20)—portrays positively giving oneself over to a spouse without inhibition (5:19). Whatever one concludes about other biblical teaching, here sexual pleasure is integral to the moral calculus by which fidelity is enjoined upon the youth. And 1 Cor. 7:9 faithfully echoes the theme with its aphorism that “it is better to marry than to” (Treier, 1351).
Verses 18 and 19 “… portray marital loyalty as an experience of fondness as well as fertility and fidelity. The young man, with the rest of our male species through the centuries, is exhorted not just to a steely willed commitment or to a paternal pride but also to a single-hearted, impassioned affection for his bride” (Hubbard, 94).
Vv. 21-23 – Eyes
God watches. He sees all that a man does.
What a man does will capture him and pull him and lead him to a final destination.
Following folly leads to stumbling into sin. Union with sin means chaos; union with sin means you will be drawn into the place of the dead even before your death
“The ultimate motivation for not embarking on the wrong path is that God is watching and upholds the moral order. Verses 22-23 indicate that this generally happens through people reaping the consequences of their own decision and actions” (Lucas, 70).
Let it be noted, however, that “reaping the consequences” comes by God’s doing, by His command and in His timing. So, it is the fear of the Lord that scares us from the wrong path.
So it is to the Lord that we must go for our remedy! Put an end to suffering by coming to God more quickly and repenting. See Psalm 32.
Parents, do not let schools educate your kids, nor assume churches will. It is your job to teach and train your child in every area – including sex. “Proverbs presents such instruction as a crucial dimension of the parental task, essential for ensuring the life and joy of children” (Treier, 1327).
Teach by the way you speak to and treat your spouse. Does your child know that you not only respect, but cherish your spouse?
Find some way to make practical steps to follow wisdom into ever increasing light and joy, and to avoid the slippery slope of folly that leads to chaos and death. “… people must take responsibility for the life-choices that they make. It is hypocritical to pray, ‘Lead us not into temptation’ and not take active steps to avoid it (v.8) and to resist it (v.15)” (Lucas, 70-71).
Pursue life! Chase after fullness of life in Christ. Focusing on the big picture of fullness of life in Christ and the joys of eternal life with God should overwhelm our hearts and be the channel that our passions run and thrive in. Where have I settled for less? Lord, forgive me, and renew my passion for Your way of true life!
How much do I want to be free from evil and folly? And how passionate am I to pursue the way of real life?
“The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7). This is the kind of decision that flows from the heart: “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
Now, go and give your spouse a passionate kiss.