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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Proverbs 7

Verse 1

"This chapter describes the way of an adulteress, contrasting with Proverbs 8 which sets forth the way of wisdom. It features an eye-witness account of the seduction of a young man by an adulteress. The account is realistic and needs only brief interpretation."[1]

"It is the fearful desolation which adultery causes that does not allow the author of Proverbs to abandon this theme which he has already discussed again and again. Here he reiterates the warning once more, reinforcing it with an illustration that he himself had witnessed."[2] "Here we see how helpless the young simpleton is under the skillful temptation that confronted him."[3] "This is the longest and most elaborate description of the adulteress in the Bible."[4] And this is indeed a classic!

WISDOM VS. THE STRANGE WOMAN (THE THIRTEENTH DISCOURSE)

Proverbs 7:1-5

"My son, keep my words,

And lay up my commandments with thee.

Keep my commandments and live;

And my law as the apple of thine eye.

Bind them upon thy fingers;

Write them upon the tablet of thy heart.

And say unto Wisdom, Thou art my sister;

And call Understanding thy kinswoman:

That they may keep thee from the strange woman,

From the foreigner that flattereth with her words."

"Lay up my commandments" (Proverbs 7:1). "The words, commandments and teachings here are the Torah. These are the words shared by the wisdom literature with the Pentateuch, Prophets and Psalms."[5]

"Keep ... my law, as the apple of thine eye" (Proverbs 7:2). "This is a proverbial expression for anything particularly precious and liable to be injured unless zealously guarded."[6]

"Write them upon the tablet of your heart" (Proverbs 7:3). This is not a reference to the prominent phylacteries ostentatiously paraded by the Pharisees. It simply means, "Whatever you do, do not forget these instructions."

"Say unto Wisdom, Thou art my sister" (Proverbs 7:4). Again we have Wisdom personified; and in this chapter she is presented in contrast to the strange woman in a dramatic challenge concerning which woman the youth will choose, whether Wisdom and life, or the strange woman and death. There is a New Testament counterpart to this. Jesus Christ is our Wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30); "And Christ calls those who do God's will his brother and sister and mother (Matthew 12:50)."[7]

These first five verses set the stage for the confrontation and seduction of the youth next reported.

Verse 6

A REALISTIC PICTURE OF HOW IT HAPPENED

"For at the window of my house

I looked forth through my lattice;

And I beheld among the simple ones,

I discerned among the youths,

A young man void of understanding,

Passing through the street near her corner;

And he went the way to her house,

In the twilight, in the evening of the day,

In the middle of the night and in the darkness.

And, behold, there met him a woman

With the attire of a harlot, and wily of heart.

(She is clamorous and willful;

Her feet abide not in her house:

Now she is in the streets, now in the broad places,

And lieth in wait at every corner).

So she caught him, and kissed him,

And with an impudent face she said unto him:

Sacrifices of peace-offerings are with me;

This day have I paid my vows.

Therefore came I forth to meet thee,

Diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee.

I have spread my couch with carpets of tapestry,

With striped cloths of the yarn of Egypt.

I have perfumed my bed

With myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.

Come, let us take our fill of love till the morning;

Let us solace ourselves with loves.

For the man is not at home;

He is gone on a long journey:

He hath taken a bag of money with him;

He will come home at the full moon.

With her much fair speech she causeth him to yield;

With the flattering of her lips she forceth him along.

He goeth after her straightway,

As an ox goeth to the slaughter,

Or as one in fetters to the correction of a fool;

Till an arrow strike through his liver;

As a bird hasteth to the snare,

And knoweth not that it is for his life."

"I looked forth through my lattice" (Proverbs 7:7). "This ancient window was something comparable to our Venetian blinds."[8]

"I beheld among the simple ones" (Proverbs 7:7). "The word simple is here used in the bad sense for `empty-headed, empty-hearted.'"[9] He was hanging around a place of danger at a time when the pure in heart would have been seeking the security of their home.

"And he went the way to her house" (Proverbs 7:8). "Like meets like; the seduction is complete,"[10]

"In the twilight, in the evening ... in the middle of the night ... in darkness" (Proverbs 7:9). The mention of these different times suggests that the young man continued to walk up and down in front of the woman's house. "Also, there is a symbolical meaning in these pictures of the advancing gloom. As the shadows deepen, night is also falling over the young man's life."[11]

"A woman with the attire of a harlot" (Proverbs 7:10). This woman was not a professional harlot; she was merely taking advantage of her husband's absence to gratify her lust; and her bold aggressiveness in this suggests that this kind of conduct on her part had become habitual. "The fact of this woman being married technically distinguishes her from the harlot proper who was unmarried."[12]

"Now she is in the streets, now in the broad places" (Proverbs 7:12). "It is no common street-walker who is designated here, but the licentious married wife who is no better than such a strumpet when she walks about searching for a lover."[13]

"Sacrifices of peace-offerings are with me; ... I have paid my vows" (Proverbs 7:14). "This woman here uses the technical words of Leviticus 3:1 for peace-offerings."[14] This type of offering was required to be shared with the priest and the worshipper, the worshipper being required to eat his portion on the day it was offered. What the woman was saying here was that she had a lot of good food that needed to be eaten at once. Of course, this also was mentioned in order to cast a religious aroma over the evil deed she contemplated. "The law required that the peace-offering was to be eaten on the day of the offering (Leviticus 7:16)."[15] Thus, the very first part of this temptation was the offering of a sumptuous meal in the woman's house. "She is alluring the young man by saying that her refrigerator is full, that the man of the house is out of town; that they can have their fling and no one will ever know. No one except God!"[16]

It is uncertain whether this woman was an Israelite or not. "She need not be an Israelite."[17] Oh yes, she mentioned `paying her vows' and certain peace-offerings; but there is a real possibility that the vows mentioned here, "Refer to the proceeds of sacred prostitution associated with pagan cults, and vowed to some goddess of fertility."[18]

Tate accepted this suggestion and pointed out that, "This woman was the very most dangerous threat possible for this young man. She was a religious threat because of her connection and practice with the fertility cults; she was not the ordinary prostitute, but a wealthy and presumably respected woman. She was the very paradigm of the seductive promiscuous woman."[19] Tate gives us this sketch of the seductive woman here, an account that he credited to McKane:

"She was the wife of a well-to-do merchant, a man who traveled away from home for long periods of time on business. She, like her husband, was likely a foreigner and probably a devotee of an Astarte cult, passionate, lonely, restless, and careless of her reputation."[20]

"For the man is not at home" (Proverbs 7:19). "There seems to be a note of scorn here; the woman did not say `my husband,' but `the man.'"[21]

"He goeth after her ... as an ox to the slaughter" (Proverbs 7:22). Harris gives his own paraphrase of this: "The obstinate fool is suddenly caught and held fast by a trap lying in a forbidden path, so has the deceitful power of the adulteress caught the young man." The young man does not know that it will cost him his life. As the ox led to the slaughter is unaware of what will happen, so those who violate God's law are often unaware of the ultimate consequences.

Verse 24

FINAL WORD OF WARNING - THE EPILOGUE

"Now therefore, my sons, hearken unto me,

And attend to the words of my mouth.

Let not thy heart decline to her ways;

Go not astray in her paths.

For she hath cast down many wounded:

Yea, all her slain are a mighty host.

Her house is the way to Sheol,

Going down to the chambers of death."

"The defense advised here is threefold. (1) Guard your mind. One is in danger as soon as his mind wanders in her direction. (2) Keep away. Avoid all contact, literally, as well as mentally. (3) Look past her, farther down the road, to the countless slain, to the chambers of death."[22]

"Her slain are a mighty host" (Proverbs 7:26). "We think of Samson, and David, and Solomon, mighty men indeed, who were victims of illicit love and suffered for it."[23] "The house of the evil woman is here compared to a field of battle strewn with the corpses of the many slain."[24]

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Proverbs 7". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/proverbs-7.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.