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Trevor Longman: The father addresses this concern with all the rhetorical power that he can muster because the temptation is great. An intimate relationship with a woman outside the bounds of marriage promises great pleasure and satisfaction. The truth behind the appearance, however, is that such liaisons result in tremendous pain. Thus, the father warns the son not to follow one’s desires, but rather to obey the instruction. If the son does not do so, he will deeply regret the ruin that he has brought into his life.

However, the father does not stop with warning about bad behavior; he also encourages the son to proper behavior in the area of intimate relationships. Using quite provocative metaphors, the father tells the son to enjoy intimacy with his wife.

Ray Ortlund: Here is the key concept we must understand, and it applies to all of life: The gospel calls us into both form and freedom, both structure and liberation.  Conservative people love form and restraint and control, especially in sex.  Progressive people love freedom and openness and choices, especially in sex.  Both see part of the truth, but the gospel tells us the whole truth.  And the truth is, God gave us our sexuality both to focus our romantic joy and to unleash our romantic joy.  When this very human joy is both focused and unleashed – having both form and freedom – it becomes wonderfully intensified.  We thrive within both form and freedom.  Sex is like fire.  In the fireplace it keeps us warm.  Outside the fireplace it burns the house down.  Proverbs 5 is saying, “Keep the fire in the marital fireplace, and stoke that fire as hot as you can.”

Jonathan Akin: Sexual sin is so seductive and dangerous because it can start out small and in many cases is seemingly innocent, and then before you know it your life has been ruined. You may think to yourself, “What’s the harm in this relationship? What’s the harm in a little innocent flirting? I’ll never do anything anyway.” You will destroy your life, and you won’t even see it coming.  Sexual sin is appealing; it promises pleasure and happiness and can even deliver it for a little while, but then it kills you. Sexual sin may cause you to walk away from God, or at least redefine “God” as someone who is OK with your sin. Sexual sin may cost you your family, your reputation, and the respect of your children; or it may just warp your ideas of intimacy in marriage and drive a wedge between you and your wife (or your future wife). There are a thousand different ways that sexual sin can destroy you, but make no mistake—it will.

Lindsay Wilson: This chapter sets out a theologically rich and multi-strand rationale for avoiding folly in the guise of the immoral woman. Folly is not only subject to God’s scrutiny, but also deadly, self-destructive and enslaving (vv. 21–23).

Max Anders: MAIN IDEA: An illicit affair may provide short-term pleasure, but the long-range consequences will be disastrous. Stay faithful to your spouse, and you will experience genuine satisfaction—and God will be pleased. You cannot escape the painful results of immorality.

The Dangers of Adultery (5:1-14)

SUPPORTING IDEA: A man should beware of any involvement with an immoral woman because that path leads to death. At the end of the road, you will regret ignoring the advice that could have spared you from ruin.

The Joys of Marriage (5:15-20)

SUPPORTING IDEA: Just as you drink from your own fountain, you should find your fulfillment in the love of your own wife.

The Eyes of God (5:21-23)

SUPPORTING IDEA: God knows all we do, and he will judge immorality.

Paul Koptak: More than any of the other instructions in chapters 1–9, the lectures of chapter 5 address the perennial issue of marital faithfulness and describe the disastrous results of its compromise. The warning against the “strange woman,” the second of four, is the only one to include a positive description of marital fidelity. Although the teaching seeks to discipline the awakening sexual awareness of young males, it is a concern for all, young and old, male and female, just as it has been since ancient days.

Chiastic structure:

A  (5:1–6) Avoid the adulteress—the strange woman

B  (5:7–14) Do not give what is yours to others—lest strangers feast on wealth

B′  (5:15–19) Drink from your own well—do not share with strangers

A′  (5:20–23) Why be captive of the adulteress—the strange woman?

The repetition of terms at the beginning and end of the chapter create a frame or inclusio that links the two A sections. Death and dying as a result of ignoring wisdom teaching appear in 5:5 and 23. The Hebrew terms for “lead” in 5:5 and “hold him fast” in 5:22 come from the same root (tmk), creating a link between being led away to the grave and being held fast in sin. The frame also pairs the words for the woman who “gives no thought” to her “way” (5:6) and the “way” that Yahweh “examines” (5:21). The word “strangers” (5:10, 17) links the two B sections.

David Hubbard: Scripture Outline

Beware the Wanton’s Wily Words (5:1–6)

Beware the Dire Result of Adultery (5:7–14)

Practice Fidelity with Joy (5:15–20)

Negative Concluding Summary (5:21–23)



A.  (:1-2) Valuable Lesson

  1. (:1) Pay Attention

My son, give attention to my wisdom,

                     Incline your ear to my understanding

David Hubbard: The call to attention (vv. 1–2; see 1:8–9; 4:1, 10, 20) carries a note of urgency. It forces the student (“my son”) to choose between the teacher’s manifold “wisdom,” whose splendor gleams in the three additional synonyms (see 1:2–6), and the saccharine (refined “honey”) and lubricious (filtered olive “oil”) speech of the “immoral woman,” whose ways were foreign to teachings of the covenant (see 2:16–17), though she may or may not have been a native Israelite. To hear the teacher is to muffle the call of the temptress and vice versa. Refusal to answer her or responding with a forthright “no” is the way that “lips keep [or guard] knowledge” (v. 2).

  1. (:2) Live Wisely

That you may observe discretion,

                     And your lips may reserve knowledge.”

Trevor Longman: Usually one’s lips are associated with speech, so on the surface it appears that the father is telling the son to act in a certain way in order to preserve his ability to speak wisely. However, as we see in the next verse, there may be a double meaning here, since lips are used not only to speak but also to kiss.

B.  (:3-4) Deceptive Allure — Sweet as Honey … But Bitter as Wormwood

David Hubbard: The teacher’s insistence is supported with strong reasons, introduced by “for” (vv. 3–6).

  • First, to listen to her is to be poisoned by “wormwood” (v. 4) always a symbol of bitterness in the Bible (Lam. 3:19; Amos 6:12) and also in Shakespeare, where Juliet’s nurse reminded her ward of the weaning process accomplished by dabbing on her breast wormwood, distilled from a shrub Artemisia absinthium, to squelch the young girl’s desire to suckle.
  • Second, to listen to the immoral woman (v. 3) is to be mutilated as her words take on the sharpness of “a two-edged sword” (v. 4; lit., “two-mouthed” as though the sword ate alive its victim).
  • Third, to walk with her is to embark on the “path” to “death” and “hell” (v. 5), Sheol, the grave and the abode of the dead in Old Testament parlance.
  • Fourth, to consort with her is to share her disorientation intoxicated as she is by passion, and to wander (as “unstable” means) off the path of life, the pattern of conduct that leads to survival and success, and to be hopelessly lost with her (v. 6).
  1. (:3)  Sweet as Honey

For the lips of an adulteress drip honey,

                     And smoother than oil is her speech.”

Max Anders: Solomon moves without a pause into his warning against the wiles of an immoral woman. It is her words, not her physical attractiveness, that pose the greatest danger. Her lips drip honey, the sweetest substance in the ancient world, and her words are smoother than oil, the smoothest item in the Israelite household. Her flattery is designed to inflate the young man’s ego and signal her availability, opening the way for him to turn his thoughts into action.

Lindsay Wilson: The image of her lips dripping honey refers not to untidy eating habits, but is a sensual depiction of something that initially seems sweet and satisfying. The parallel description of her speech being smoother than [olive] oil also has rich and stimulating associations. The combined picture is of enjoying a rich banquet, a feast that promises no end to enjoyment. Of course, the reality is quite different from this projection. Her words are bitter and sharp, not just in their aftertaste, but in their very essence.

  1. (:4)  Bitter as Wormwood

But in the end she is bitter as wormwood,

                     Sharp as a two-edged sword.”

C.  (:5-6) Potential for Disaster

  1. (:5)  Destined for Death and Destruction

Her feet go down to death,

                     Her steps lay hold of Sheol.”

  1. (:6)  Opposed to Life and Stability

She does not ponder the path of life;

                     Her ways are unstable, she does not know it.”

Charles Bridges: One feature of the tempter’s wiliness is most remarkable.  She winds herself in a thousand crooked . . . paths, so that everyone’s different moods and circumstances can be met.  She works on every weakness; she seizes every unguarded moment.  She has one overriding intention in mind.  Not only does she give no thought to the way of life, she is determined that nobody else should either.  She knows that the checks of conscience must be diverted.  No time must be allowed for reflection.  The intrusion of one serious thought might break the spell and open the way of escape.



Paul Koptak: In sum, the instruction of Proverbs 5:7–14 warns that if the young man chooses the words of the adulteress over the instruction of the teachers, he will lose all that he might have kept: strength, wealth, and social standing. In this way, the choice to love folly instead of wisdom is symbolized as a rejection of wisdom and her gifts of life, riches, and reputation. The parental teacher imagines what the young man will say when the truth is known, hoping that the young man’s own voice will prove to be persuasive. The son’s regrets clearly state the sages’ view: Adultery is not only a sin that exacts payment, it is the ultimate symbol of the fool’s pathway.

A.  (:7) Pay Attention

Now then, my sons, listen to me,

And do not depart from the words of my mouth.”

Allen Ross: (:7-14) A Father’s Warning to Avoid Ruin and Regret

B.  (:8) Don’t Flirt with Sexual Temptation

Keep your way far from her,

And do not go near the door of her house.”

George Mylne: May not a man be permitted to talk with her, merely by way of amusement? Is it unlawful to drink a glass in her house, and to satisfy our curiosity by observing what passes in it, and by what arts she contrives to seduce those who are less established in virtue than ourselves? Yes, it is unlawful to have the least interaction with her.

By the requirements of the ceremonial law, no man was to be in the same house with a leper. The moral law forbids us to enter into a house full of the leprosy of sin. Her house is full of snares, and her hands are as iron bands. The devil glances in her smiles, and lurks in her dress and in her motions. He is there, ready to discharge at you his fiery darts of temptation! And to aid his efforts, you have much combustible material in you.

Dare you then delude yourself that the fire of licentious passion shall not be kindled, and blown up into a flame that you cannot quench! The devil will tempt you enough, without 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.

C.  (:9-14) Terrible Consequences of Infidelity

  1. (:9)  Sacrificing Vitality and the Fullness of Life

Lest you give your vigor to others,

And your years to the cruel one.”

David Hubbard: The dire results of adultery are listed first as loss of what every sane person values (vv. 9–10): “honor” and respect in the community; “years” of building up one’s reputation for integrity and reliability, only to have it tarnished by a cruel person who will take vengeful delight in public exposure; “wealth” (lit., what gives one “strength” to cope with life’s needs), which may be lost from the family inheritance and squandered, perhaps by blackmail, into the hands of the harlot and her comrades; “labors” of a lifetime and all that they have allowed a person to accumulate, as they fly out the window and settle in a place where they do not belong—the house of a foreigner, which may refer also to the place where the adulteress resides.

Max Anders: These verses [:9-10] list the losses that crouch in the path of those who toy with lust. They will lose their strength, a reference to their health, honor, or self-respect. They will lose their years, either by a shortened life or by one composed of wasted years. They will lose their wealth to others, whether through blackmail, judicial penalty, or heavy spending on the lover.

Warren Wiersbe: When you read verses 9–14, you hear the words of a suffering sinner lamenting the high cost of disobeying God’s laws, because the most expensive thing in the world is sin. He discovers that the woman’s husband is a cruel man who demands that he pay for what he’s done, so the adulterer ends up giving his strength to others and toiling away to pay his debt. Instead of luxury, the sinner has misery; instead of riches, poverty; instead of success, ruin; and instead of a good reputation, the name of an adulterer. He looks back and wishes he had listened to his parents and his spiritual instructors, but his wishes can’t change his wretched situation. Yes, God in His grace will forgive his sins if he repents, but God in His government sees to it that he reaps what he sows.

Lindsay Wilson: All of verses 9–11 depict how a relationship with an immoral woman results in all your wealth, time, energy and hard work being used up in such a way that brings no benefit to you and your family (see vv. 15–20).

  1. (:10)  Financial Hardship

Lest strangers be filled with your strength,

And your hard-earned goods go to the house of an alien.”

  1. (:11)  Physical Dissipation

And you groan at your latter end,

When your flesh and your body are consumed.”

  1. (:12-13)  Emotional Regret

And you say, ‘How I have hated instruction! 

And my heart spurned reproof! 

And I have not listened to the voice of my teachers. 

Nor inclined my ear to my instructors!’”

  1. 5. (:14)  Complete Disaster and Embarrassment

I was almost in utter ruin

in the midst of the assembly and congregation.”

David Hubbard: The shattering, soul-destroying effect of adultery is the point. It can rarely be kept secret, and its perpetrators are damned if it is and damned if it is not. Kept hidden, it grinds on the spirit and conscience of those who practice it until exposure seems a kind of relief. And many a person has deliberately left traces of a sin for others to discover, as a desperate plea for rescue from enslaving behavior. Made public, adultery brings personal shame, humiliation to loved ones, and loss of respect in the larger community. In recent times, a number of politicians and religious leaders could be summoned to verify the accuracy of the teacher’s words.



A.  (:15) Find Sexual Satisfaction With Your Own Wife

Drink water from your own cistern,

And fresh water from your own well.”

David Hubbard: The contrast between the harlot’s honey that goes bitter (vv. 3–4) and the wife’s water that stays sweet (“running”) is the point of the whole chapter.

Trevor Longman: In teaching such as we have in this chapter (as well as in the Song of Songs), we observe the very positive attitude of the Bible toward sensuality and sexuality, when enjoyed in the context of marriage. This, we maintain, goes back to Gen. 2:23–25, which provides the foundation for marriage.

B.  (:16-17) Jealously Guard Your Own Wife

Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? 

Let them be yours alone, And not for strangers with you.”

Max Anders: This verse answers the question of verse 16. Your water sources should be for the exclusive use of your household, not open for foreigners to consume. In the same way, physical intimacy should be strictly for one’s own spouse, not wasted on strangers. This verse forbids any form of marital infidelity.

Lindsay Wilson: Verse 17 sets out the idea of exclusivity, but with a twist suggesting that you lose rather than gain by seeking to go outside the marital boundaries. In this context variety is not the spice of life, and more is not better. Verse 18a is simply the language of praise and delight in your spouse (your fountain). The church needs to rediscover and promote such a positive view of marital sexuality as an antidote to a sex-obsessed but not satisfied world.

C.  (:18-19) Potential for Erotic Love With Your Own Wife

Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. 

As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;

Be exhilarated always with her love.”

D.  (:20) No Need to Look Elsewhere

For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress,

And embrace the bosom of a foreigner?”

David Hubbard: The final admonition and its follow-up question (vv. 19–20) add warmth and tenderness to the whole speech. They 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.



A.  (:21) God is Watching

For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord,

And He watches all his paths.”

Trevor Longman: However, the father has saved his most powerful argument for last. Thus far he has warned concerning quite human dangers. He has told his son that a liaison with another woman looks good but has bitter consequences. The relationship leads to death, not life. It saps strength and vitality and resources. But the ultimate motivation for not entering into an illicit relationship is because “the eyes of Yahweh are on the paths of humans, observing all their courses.” God is watching, and so the punishments of vv. 22–23 (ultimately death) are not a matter of chance, but certainty; the implication is that no matter what particular form the punishment might take, God will assure that it will happen. The sin of the adulterers will come back and harm them (v. 22). If they are not inebriated by the love of their wife, then they will be inebriated by their own stupidity, and that will result in their death.

B.  (:22) Sin is a Snare

His own iniquities will capture the wicked,

And he will be held with the cords of his sin.”

Max Anders: Those who promote self-indulgence often proclaim their commitment to freedom, but sin takes away a person’s freedom, trapping him and binding him to his vice. Because he refused discipline (v. 12), his pathway ends in death. He made the choice of short-term pleasure, too intoxicated (led astray is the same Hebrew word as “captivate,” vv. 19-20) to realize his foolishness.

Warren Wiersbe: It’s impossible to sin without being bound. One of the deceitful things about sin is that it promises freedom but only brings slavery. “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34 NKJV). “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16 NKJV).

C.  (:23) Foolishness is Fatal

He will die for lack of instruction,

And in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.”

Lindsay Wilson: The final verse brings us back to the issue of character. The evildoer has made the wrong foundational choice – folly rather than wisdom. He is led astray (the same verb šgh translated be intoxicated in vv. 19–20) because he has chosen the path that leads to death not life. He will die because he has refused to have his character shaped by the discipline or character formation offered by wisdom.

David Hubbard: The final verse (v. 23) echoes three notes from the whole composition:

(1)  death is the expected result of sexual immorality, since life is robbed of its roots in love and loyalty; physical life may struggle on but the guilt, compromise, and failure of adultery are a walking death (see v. 5);

(2)  rebellion against “instruction,” the disciplined self-control that bears suffering and learns from it, is a mistake from which it is hard to recover (see v. 12);

(3)  one should be intoxicated with the love of a spouse (v. 19) not the love of an immoral woman (v. 20); where the latter is the case, it is tantamount to being intoxicated (“go astray” is the same verb as “enraptured” in vv. 19–20) or overdosed with massive folly; the outcome is lethal.