The Seduction of Adultery | Proverbs 7

My son, keep my words
and treasure up my commandments with you;
keep my commandments and live;
keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;
bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
and call insight your intimate friend,
to keep you from the forbidden woman,
from the adulteress with her smooth words.

For at the window of my house
I have looked out through my lattice,
and I have seen among the simple,
I have perceived among the youths,
a young man lacking sense,
passing along the street near her corner,
taking the road to her house
in the twilight, in the evening,
at the time of night and darkness.

And behold, the woman meets him,
dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. 
She is loud and wayward;
her feet do not stay at home;
now in the street, now in the market,
and at every corner she lies in wait.
She seizes him and kisses him,
and with bold face she says to him,
“I had to offer sacrifices, 
and today I have paid my vows;
so now I have come out to meet you,
to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.
I have spread my couch with coverings,
colored linens from Egyptian linen;
I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
aloes, and cinnamon.
Come, let us take our fill of love till morning;
let us delight ourselves with love.
For my husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey;
he took a bag of money with him;
at full moon he will come home.”

With much seductive speech she persuades him;
with her smooth talk she compels him.
All at once he follows her,
as an ox goes to the slaughter,
or as a stag is caught fast 
till an arrow pierces its liver;
as a bird rushes into a snare;
he does not know that it will cost him his life.

And now, O sons, listen to me,
and be attentive to the words of my mouth.
Let not your heart turn aside to her ways;
do not stray into her paths,
for many a victim has she laid low,
and all her slain are a mighty throng.
Her house is the way to Sheol,
going down to the chambers of death.

Proverbs 7 ESV

 

Having spent three weeks discussing sexual immorality, we return to that subject for the final time in this series. In chapter five, we met the Adulteress and were warned to guard against her. In six, we learned the cost of giving in to her. Now in seven, we read how she seduces those without sense into their own destruction. We know that sin (and sexual sin particularly) is always a temptation, so as we study a temptation in action, let us learn from the follow of the young man in this chapter.

TREASURE THE WORD // VERSES 1-5

Once again, Solomon begins his next paternal speech by reinforcing the importance of being saturated in the Scriptures. By now, this command is quite repetitive. He is, after all, urging the same thing over and over again. Why does the wise king feel the need to continue repeating himself? Repetition means pay attention. He keeps repeating himself because he knows that we are really listening. We hear the commands, understanding them intellectually, but we rarely ever actually apply them to our lives. We hear and murmur our agreement, only to continue living life as normal. Being a book of wisdom, Proverbs is attempting to answer this problem by hitting the same topic again and again. Therefore, instead of wondering why we have to read the same thing again, we should ask ourselves how we can better obey these commands?

Like our last study, Solomon provides a similar lead-up to the primary warning against sexual immorality. Verses 1-4 reissue the command to cling to God’s Word, and verse 5 transitions the discussion by emphasizing again that doing so will keep us from the Adulteress.

The first four verses use similar wordings as seen before. For example, the command to write the commandments on the tablet of your heart is a restatement from Proverbs 3:3. But there is also new language being applied here. Verse 1 pleads for us the treasure the commandments. The word treasure is the same one used in Psalm 119:11 as stored: “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” The idea of these verses is the same. We should store God’s Word within our hearts as though we are hoarding treasure of supreme value. Verse 2 likely continues this thought as well. The phrase apple of your eye is actually the pupil of your eye in Hebrew. The connotation is, therefore, not entirely identical to our English idiom. The apple of one’s eye is someone’s most prized possession. This meaning is certainly found here, as we have seen. But when we think of this phrase as being the pupil of one’s eye, we gain another layer of meaning. The eye is easily one of the body’s most valued organs, but it is also one of the most delicate. We are, then, quick to guard our eyes. In this same sense, we should value and guard God’s Word closely. It is, after all, far more valuable than even our physical vision.

We must keep it as our life: Keep my commandments and live (v. 2), not only, “Keep them, and you shall live;” but, “Keep them as you would your life, as those that cannot live without them.” It would be death to a good man to be deprived of the word of God, for by it he lives, and not by bread alone (Henry, 968).

Furthermore, verse 4 urges us to be intimately acquainted with wisdom. Wisdom being our sister is probably not a reference to a familial relationship but a marital one. In Song of Solomon, we find Solomon frequently calling his bride his sister. Strange as that language may be to us, the connotation was not incestuous at all; instead, it was meant to emphasize the closeness and intimacy of the couple’s relationship. Thus, as with our spouse, we should actively pursue and court wisdom.

In verse 5, Solomon concludes this chapters introduction with a similar statement made in verse 24 of chapter 6, that holding fast and treasuring God’s Word will keep you from the Adulteress. The verse is also nearly an identical reprisal of verse 16 of chapter 2. As Solomon sets a scene for us of how temptation plays out, let us continue to remember that God Himself as revealed in His Scriptures is our only hope of overcoming the temptations of sin in life.

A SEDUCTION OBSERVED // VERSES 6-23

The contents of this chapter are fitting for Solomon’s final treatment on sexual immorality within Proverb’s introductory chapters. These verses, which form the bulk of the chapter, present before us a scenario of a man falling into the Adulteress’ trap. We are, thus, able to watch the temptation happen and glean warnings to help us fend off sin whenever it comes for us. We should also note that while Solomon is particularly exemplifying the temptation toward sexual sin, the principles and ideas here apply to all temptation to sin.

Verses 6-9 set the scene. Solomon is envisioning himself as watching this scenario play out in the street below his home. Windows in that time were typically reserved for the second flood in order to dissuade burglars. He sees a young man, who is presently among the simple (recall that the simple are not yet wise or foolish), but he lacks sense. He walks near her corner, passing by her house, in the dark cloak of night. This is not a man who is lost. He knows who she is. He knows where to find her. He knows her reputation. He is not coming in the middle of the day when he might be seen. No, he is covering himself in darkness. He has removed the natural barriers against his sin, taking away the precautions around him.

This is often how we find ourselves in sin. We look back in disbelief that we could ever commit such acts, but temptation rarely comes out of thin air. Most frequently, whether conscious or not, we place ourselves into the path of temptation. We flirt the line, wondering how close we can get without actually sinning, yet the flirtation with sin is sin. It still reveals the depravity and wickedness of our hearts. We are often like this young man. We pray for the LORD to give us deliverance from our sin, but we keep walking by her house at night. We refuse to forsake our comforts in the war against sin. Jesus warned that sin is serious enough to warrant severing your own arm or gouging out your eye to stop it. Of course, Jesus is not issuing a literal command or else none of us would have hands or eyes anymore, and yes, we know that the battle is ultimately waged in the heart. But Jesus’ point is to actually fight your sin! Cut it off at the source. If you keep falling into internet pornography, maybe you don’t need the internet for awhile. If you can’t control your appetite, it might be wise to avoid snack food for a time. If you wrestle with reading the Word, try putting the Bible on the nightstand instead of your phone. Sin is ultimately a problem of the heart, but we should still fight it in action wherever that might be. Bring it into the light of day and fight it.

Verses 10-20 describe the actual act of seduction. Loud, seductive, and dressed as a prostitute, she comes to greet the young man. She grabs him and immediately kisses him. She then invites him to come into her home, explaining that everything is ready and that her husband will not be home for some time.

There are plenty of observations to note from these verses. First, notice that she is the doing all the actions and speaking. Lest we are tempted to think of the young man as a victim, we would do well to recall that he was looking for this whenever he consciously passed by her home. Sin did not just happen to him; he put himself in this situation. We cannot place ourselves in the path of sin, and then believe ourselves innocent whenever it grabs hold.

Second, the Adulteress claims to have just returned from offering sacrifices (v. 14). There is some debate regarding whether these sacrifices were made to the LORD or to idols. Given the seduction aspect of the passage, it seems evident that she offered a kind of peace offering to the LORD as described in Leviticus 7:11-18. This type of sacrifice would be fitting here since the leftover meat was supposed to be eaten on the same day. Therefore, she is not only assuring him that she is in good standing with God, but she is wooing him to her home with a feast. Beware of those who use religion as a pretense to lure others into sin.

Third, she flatters him by saying that she has been eagerly seeking him (v. 15). This flattery is deceptive at every level. She has not been looking for him specifically, but for anyone like him who lacks sense. Sin often promises exclusivity. It promises us that we are different and special. Sin feeds our ego and pride. God, on the other hand, repeatedly reveals our sins and faults. Why then would we not flee God and run to sin? The great irony is that sin promises to make us into gods but ultimately robs us of our humanity, while God glaringly reveals our humanity in all of its faults but still proclaims us to be the bearers of His image.

Fourth, she covers her couch in fine linens and scented them with costly perfumes (vv. 16-17). The linens and perfumes serve two functions: first, to make the young man feel as special as royalty and second, to further please his senses. The first function continues the flattery of verse 15, and the temporary pleasantness of sin has been discussed in our study of Proverbs 5:1-6.

Fifth, she pleads with him to delight with her in their love (v. 18). I find this verse one of the most fascinating in our entire study of Proverbs 1-9. The concept of love is quite popular today. Upon hearing the Obergefell decision, social media exploded with #LoveWins. Rob Bell questioned the existence of hell based upon the same phrase. The Beatles were all to prophetic when they said that love is all you need. The phrase love is love continues to pop up, representing the idea that love is the inherent and ultimate good of humanity. For Christians who strongly value love, this all should be great. God is love, right (1 John 4:8)? And didn’t Paul say that love is greater than even faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13)? Indeed. Unfortunately, what keeps us from participating in the revelries of love is that the Christian concept of love is quite different from the world’s.

Our world’s conception of love is intimately tied acceptance and approval. They view love through a humanistic lens, where the supremacy of individual autonomy is primary dogma. An individual’s concept of self is the highest good; therefore, only things which affirm your identity are loving. Urban Dictionary’s most popular definition for the phrase love is love displays this mentality well: “It’s not about the sex or gender of the person but how they treat you! So, as long as you’re getting the love and affection that you need to be happy in love then it doesn’t and/or shouldn’t matter what gender is loving you.”

This flies in the face of biblical love. We uphold that God is love, but love is not God. This means that God is ultimate, not love. Love proceeds from God, and He gives it its form and definition. Love is simply an attribute of God; therefore, we cannot know or have love apart from the One who perfect embodies love. How then does God love? God’s love is most gloriously displayed in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. On the cross, the LORD’s steadfast love was made known as Jesus died in our place. Although completely without sin, Jesus took our sin upon Himself, no matter how heinous. The love of God as displayed in the cross, therefore, is utterly selfless. Jesus poured Himself out for us, even though we absolutely did not deserve it. As imitators of God, we are called to love with this same sort of selfless love. God’s love places other’s needs above one’s own. This is the complete opposite of our present culture.

It is also important to note that contrary to the popular opinion, God does not ultimately desire our happiness, personality, or self-actualization. Instead, God’s love is longs for us to experience the true joy of knowing Him rather than the fleeting and damning pleasures of sin. God’s Word (as we continue to see in Proverbs) is full of warnings against sin. God loves us by rescuing us from sin by the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. To divorce the love of God from the declaration that sin is sin tramples upon the gospel. Godly love cannot affirm that which kills.

Unfortunately, many Christians have forsaken the biblical love for today’s cultural love. Proverbs repeatedly warns against the sinful foolishness of refusing loving reproof and discipline. “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you” (9:8). “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid” (12:1). “Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored” (13:18). “Whoever ignores instruction despises himself, but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence” (15:32). Cultural love refuses to bend self for anyone; biblical love is always teachable, ready to submit to God’s will in all things.

This verse, however, should remind us that the redefinition of love is not new. The Adulteress reassures the young man that they are only loving one another. She is using a twisted conception of love to justify her sin. Truly Solomon was right to say later in his life that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).

Sixth, she completes her seduction by calming his fears of being caught (vv. 19-20). Obviously, his primary concern would be to have the Adulteress’ husband find them. He would be furious and “not spare when he takes revenge” (6:34). But her husband is away until full moon, so there is no need to worry. Sin thrives under the veil of secrecy, but God sees (5:21).

Verses 21-23 describe the actual committing of the sin. Her seductive speech pays off. She compels him to follow her. Solomon then presents us with three analogies of the young man. He is like an ox being led to the slaughter. He is like a stag caught in a trap until it is slain with an arrow to the liver. He is like a bird trapped in a snare. The message is clear: just as the ignorance of animals leads to their slaughter, so the fool kills himself with sin. He may intellectually know that sinning will cost him his life, but he has no applied knowledge, no wisdom. He voluntarily kills himself.

A FINAL WARNING AGAINST THE ADULTERESS // VERSES 24-27

Tied to the final statement of verse 23, Solomon issues one final warning against the Adulteress. Do not turn aside to her! Do not stray into her paths! The young man is not her first victim, nor will he be the last. A mighty throng have been slain by the Adulteress. Do not think, therefore, that you are exempt from falling into her wiles and charm. Her way goes to Sheol. Sin never fails to lead directly to hell.

The only way to escape from sin is by remembering its ultimate destination, and to do this, we must be attentive to God’s Word. A seminary professor named Howard Hendricks did a two-year study of full-time clergy who fell into an adulterous relationship (Kell). After interviewing 246 men, he narrowed down “four common characteristics of their lives: 1) None of the men was involved in any kind of real accountability, 2) each of the men had all but ceased having a daily time of personal prayer, Bible reading, and worship, 3) more than 80 percent of the men became sexually involved with the other woman after spending significant time with her, often in counseling situations, and 4) without exception, each of the 246 had been convinced that sort of fall ‘would never happen to me.’”

Each of those four characteristics is significant, but the one I find most telling is their lack of time in the Word and in prayer. They ceased being attentive to God’s Word, and they fell into sin. This is what Solomon is warning against. Treasuring and storing the Scriptures in our heart helps to keep us from falling into sin (Psalm 119:11). The Adulteress devoured the young man, but the psalmist gives him the way out: “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:9-11). Notice that the psalmist puts his ultimate hope in God’s ability to preserve him from sin, but he intends to actively commit himself to God’s Word. This must be our response to sin. Only God can keep us from sin, but we are still not excused from devoting ourselves to the Scriptures.

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