Lecture 13: Wicked Woman (part a)

Course: Proverbs

Lecture: Wicked Woman 5-7 Part a

I. Review Chapters 1-4 and 7

A. Chapter 1

We looked at the Superscript in Lecture 2 where it talked about the nature of Wisdom Literature and what it was. We looked at what were proverbs and also the author, Solomon and noted that there were a number of authors after the time of Solomon. There was a final author of which we don’t know. We don’t know the date in which these proverbs came together, most likely post exile. Then we looked at the Preamble in 1:3-6. The purpose of the book is to gain wisdom and the difference between that and knowledge; even though wisdom can’t be separated from knowledge but without knowledge you don’t have expert skill. Proverbs is also concerned about social skills that relate to God and to people. We need the knowledge of the Book of Proverbs that gives us that skill. We have also commented on co-referential terms and how that is different from synonymous terms. The word wisdom is morally neutral. The devil uses wisdom toward evil, but you can also use skills toward good and so co-relative term that is inseparable from wisdom is righteousness. And righteousness is serving the community according to the Word of God. This is all in the preamble.

B. Chapter 2

Then we had the first interlude where woman wisdom is at the gate of the city addressing the simpleton, specifically the youth of marriageable age of which there are two groups: those who are open, never having made a commitment. They have made a decision to despise the wisdom of their parents. They are not mockers but not committed, yet they are classed with the fools. She is appealing at the gate to the opened non-committed before they enter the city. Because once they enter the city, it is dangerous where they meet the wicked man who will offer easy money without hard work by taking it from other people, one way or another of which this world is all about. Solomon is trying to influence the masses of humanity as well as the covenant child at home. That wisdom wants to be heard in the market place today. Chapter 2 was the second lecture of the parents to the son. It was a lecture of the key to the book, the physiological dynamic of accepting God’s word, memorizing it with affection, paying attention to it and crying out in prayer for it and diligent study. This enables one to enter into what the Fear of the Lord is and also it gives us both religious education and ethical education. That in turn will safeguard us against the counter voices of the wicked men and woman. That was chapter 2.

C. Chapters 3 & 4

In chapter 3 health, wealth and prosperity was promised by keeping the teachings of Proverbs. But as we have learned, there is the cross before the crown. There is tribulation before the blessings of the kingdom, suffering. This is to deliver us from selfishness and deliver us from immorality. It teaches us to depend upon God; so we don’t experience health, wealth and prosperity immediately. Then we looked at 3:13 to the end of the chapter at the value of wisdom to humanity in general. We saw that it was the silver and gold that people run after and we said that money puts food on the table but not fellowship around it. It will give you a house but not a home. And that is the problem today; we have material things but not love. That was the 3rd lecture. In chapter 4, we have, ‘listen, my sons,’ in plural. I don’t think this is said synchronically but chronologically of the heritage being passed down from generation to generation. So he is not only addressing his son, but his grandson and their sons. So this lecture was, ‘we have received a great heritage’ and don’t squander it.

This next lecture is presenting the major metaphor of ‘way’. That you keep on a certain way. So what does the way represent? In my mind, the metaphor of the way has four ideas to it: one includes your character, your disposition, you orientation and that is something that God has to produce in their heart, a gift of God that gives you that disposition and orientation to the things of God. This is a gift of God as all blessings are a gift of God but the natural man goes astray on his own. The second idea of way in this chapter and in all wisdom literature is the context in which you live; who are the people you associate with, what is your community? All of this is shaping us. As we gather as a church, it is the ‘way’ that gives us direction; it is the community of faith. And that is included in the way. The 3rd idea is conduct which is fundamental. It is what you actually do in life. It is how you behave. The fourth idea is the consequences in which we are going to end up with. It is the way to life, the way to death. Conduct is the way of righteousness and the way of wickedness. Whatever way you are going, that is where you are going to end up and so it certainly includes destiny. So a fundamental idea of wisdom and the ma’at in Egypt is this order of deed and destiny, conduct and consequences, and the metaphor of way epitomizes these fundamental ideas.

D. Chapter 4:20-23

The poem at the end of chapter 4 breaks the body of the person into individual body parts. A critical body part is the heart and we have discussed the anthropological term heart, which occurs again and again in the book. It may be good for us to understand what is meant by heart. You can see that the heart in chapter 4 is at the center of everything. This is shown in 4:20 and 23: ‘My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight; keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.’ Biblical anthropology is not scientific; they thought of the heart what we would think of the brain. The heart is the direction of everything and they thought that the heart gave direction to everything. Everything flows from that. Your heart determines what way you will be taking. Remember when Abigail told Nabil that she had befriended David, contrary to his will and we are told that his heart died and his body became as stone and ten days later he died. For us if the heart dies, we are dead. But here when Nabil’s heart died, his body stopped moving; it became like stone. So in their minds, the heart governed all activity and when the heart dies, you are stone but you are not dead. So that gives you an idea of how the heart animates everything that we do. That is in the physical realm, but it is also in the psychological realm as well. So, above all, it really determines the way in which you are going. You set your heart on a certain way, it is fundamental in the psychology of the Bible. So it entails what gives direction both spiritually and psychologically; what you are thinking and what you are reading and who you are listening to and what you are hearing. It involves all your senses that are influencing your heart. So the ears are the receptive organs which are influencing the heart and that give expression to itself out of the mouth. Jesus said that what comes out of the mouth that defiles the man, not what comes into it because he sees the connection between the heart and the speech. The heart is what you are thinking, feeling above all, what you are deciding. It is the debate within you considering what is right and what is wrong and which way will I decide. So that the fundamental idea of the heart. We don’t have any other way of thinking about this; except that we think in terms of the brain doing these things but yet we still refer to it as our hearts.

So how do we guard our hearts? To a large extent in what we read and what we see and watch. In other words, it is our senses that are going to inform your heart. This is the danger of TV. The more we watch evil, the more additive it becomes and eventually we see the triumph of evil over good. Evil eventually transforms what was good in us to the evil of the devil if we don’t protect our hearts from it. The more we take in evil, the less offended we become by the violence and the sex. We get accustomed to it. This is the great danger of not protecting the heart in what we listen to and observe.

E: Chapter 7

We are now in chapter 7; his father takes him into the red light distinct of the prostitutes. She was dressed like a prostitute which is so garish I don’t understand how it attracts anybody. It is the same today. She is unruly and defiant walking everywhere with a brazen face. She took hold of him and kissed him. Here are her smooth words, ‘with a brazen face she said, today I fulfilled my vows, and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.’ She had just made an offering to a Canaanite god. That offering was made at New Moon so it will be two weeks before he comes home. Of course, this is not a faithful person, not to her husband. The situation continues in verse 21-23, with persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life. So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you! I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. I have perfumed by bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.’ Here, she appeals to his pride and to his smell. The myrrh is of the balsam tree from Southern Arabia while the aloes are from the eaglewood tree of Southeast Asia and India and the cinnamon was from Shri Lanka. . She has invested all this effort and expense for one night of pleasure. When she tells him that her husband wasn’t at home; this is Satan’s lie, you will not die. The liberal lie here is that there is no judgement; there is no eternal death. That’s the lie. So he is thinking with his glands, not his brain. He is like an ox, a handsome stag. His liver is like a seat of life and like a speedy bird. At the end of the book, it is God who upholds this moral order. So that was chapter 7 and that is where we ended.

II. Folly of Sex Outside of Marriage

A. Translation

Proverbs 5:1-23; my son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may guard knowledge. For the lips of the unchaste wife drip honey, and her palate is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet are going down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths meander aimlessly, but she does not know it. Now then, sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your splendor to others and your dignity to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your strength and your toil enriches the house of another. And at the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, how I hated instruction! How my heart spurned correction! And I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors. I was soon in serious trouble in the congregation and assembly. Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets? And your streams of water overflow in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and get pleasure from the wife of your youth. A lovemaking doe, a graceful mountain goat -- may her breasts drench you at all times, may you ever be intoxicated with her caresses. Why, my son would you want to be intoxicated with an unchaste wife? Why embrace the bosom of an unfaithful woman? For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths; his evil deeds will ensnare them; with the cords of his sins he will be held fast. For lack of instruction he will die, led astray by his own great folly.

B. Folly of Adultery

Next, we will cover the Folly of Sex outside of marriage and then that will run through to verse 14 and then it is going to deal with the wisdom of sex within marriage from verse 15- 20. For a man’s ways is in full view of the Lord and he is one going to uphold this and that is why the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom because you know that he will uphold this moral order. God has bound himself to punish evil, yet at the same time, he has obliged himself to reward good. God cannot deny himself. We may emphasize the punishment of sin, but we also need to emphasize he will reward righteousness which is as certain.

The Folly of Adultery falls into two parts: first is the social and economic loss to foreigners (5:7-10) and the second is the social and economic lost in the community (5:11-14) and especially to the Canaanite’s woman’s family. But in verses 11-14 refers to him being in trouble with the assembly, his own community. So in verses 7-10, ‘Now then, sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your splendor to others and your dignity to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your strength and your toil enriches the house of another.’ Notice again that it is plural and this is chronological succession. One weak link in the tradition, in the family, can lose and squander everything that went before it. Now then, sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your splendor to others and your dignity to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your strength and your toil enriches the house of another. This seems to indicate that he has become a slave to the husband of a woman who has acted unfaithful sexually. Strangers are going to feed on his strength; so he has lost his freedom, he is not working for himself or his own family. He is expending all of his energies. We can turn to chapter 6:20-35 and see the high price of adultery. Let’s read that.

C. Warnings of Adultery

Chapter 6:20-35: My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you. For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life, keeping you from your neighbor’s wife, from the smooth talk of a wayward woman. Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes. For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another man’s wife preys on your very life. Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished? People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house. But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away; for jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse a bribe, however great it is.

This is a new message as it has a typical introduction, warning and motivation. And so by form criticism that is how we can identify this sermon. I don’t understand how in whoever divided the chapters missed these separation points. It puts us in the middle of the chapter. In binding them on your heart, literally, you can’t do that. Not unless you have a placard over the heart. I think this is metaphorical with the idea of binding them on your fingers and forehead. There needs to be radical symbolization which is what Paul did at Corinth as to his identity because he took the Nazarite vow and by having long hair as a Nazarite everybody knew immediately who he was. That is radical symbolization. My brother who was on an aircraft carrier in the Navy slept in hammocks hung five high. My brother always use to knell down and pray at nights. So that knelling down was a radical symbolization. And he was not tempted for everyone knew what he stood for. So you need to immediately identify yourself where people know who you are. Having memorized them, they will guide you as you walk. This will give you light in where you go and expose the danger that is about you. Thus memorization of Scripture becomes a moral light to see where you are with correction and teaching being a way to life. There is a command here of not lusting after her beauty or her captivating eyes. So she has to get his attention first with her eyes; his point here is not to make eye contact. Don’t look at her; look away. This is a practical instruction on how to avoid evil. The word lust is chamad in Hebrew and it means to covet. The spontaneity of lust in inedible; we all have experiences of lust, but that is not sin as far as I understand it. It is when you entertain the lust that it becomes sin. You live with it in imagination and that is what produces the sin. As soon as I realize this is happening, I appeal to Proverbs 28:12 that if we confess and renounce our sins, we obtain mercy. In James, we have, ‘But each of you is tempted when you are dragged away by your own evil desires and enticed. Then after the desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin and sin when it is fully grown gives birth to death. Don’t look at sin, for it will lead you to it and once you make eye contact, you are in trouble.

He makes an argument with the first in 6:26 being very severe. For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread but another man’s wife preys on your very life. In other words adultery is far worse than prostitution. The husband of an adulteress is called a Cuckold. The penalties are much more severe, but he not advocating prostitution. Later on he says that this adultery is worse than a thief. This is true in this historical context. For example, with Judah, he gives her a goat and that was it, but when you get involved with another man’s wife, it is not simply a goat; your whole life is going to be ruined by it. Furthermore, the penalty is unescapable. In 6:27, it says, ‘Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; the one who touches her will go unpunished? The word scorched means branded; branded for life by such actions. God is going to punish adultery because God upholds the moral order. 6:30-33, ‘people do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house. But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself. Danger and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away. Sevenfold means full compensation, it is not to be taken literally, because according to the law, you had to restore injustice; you would have to return it plus another one. For example, if you stole a cow you would have to return that cow plus another one. This is absolute justice and if he had sheep and I stole it and ate it; I would have to return four sheep. So the sevenfold just means you have to make full restitution according to the law. However, you can compensate thievery but you can’t compensate for another man’s pride, emotions and his sexual identity. You cannot buy that off with money or anything. It is the Cuckold for the husband of the adulteress. 6:35 He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse a bribe, however great it is. We live in a very different culture than we see here in Proverbs, but we certainly can see something of it even in our culture. But, even today, you get involved with sex; you are playing with fire if you have any scruples whatsoever.

In chapter 5:11-14 the Folly of Adultery deals with physical and social loss in your own community. There is or could be public denunciation, confiscation of property and then even flogging and a trial. Even today, it could involve divorce and count action. It brings personal shame and humiliation of loves ones and loss of respect in the larger community. This is the folly of being involved in adultery.