The Witless and the Ruthless (Proverbs 7:6-23)


 
The Book of Proverbs contains three extended discourses on the perils of adultery (5:1-23, 6:20-35, and 7:1-27). What makes Proverbs 7:1-27 unique is that its warning is based primarily on observation, rather than commandment or common sense.
 
In verses 6-9, the father sets the stage:
 
At the window of my house
I looked out through the lattice.
I saw among the simple,
I noticed among the young men,
a youth who lacked judgment.
He was going down the street near her corner,
walking along in the direction of her house
at twilight, as the day was fading,
as the dark of night set in.
 
Is this young man looking for an adulterous liaison? The text does not say. But it tells us three things about him. He is a fool who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. (How often could we avoid sin simply by being smart about what we do with our time, and where?)
 
In verses 10-13, a prostitute takes an instant liking to this rube. (What hungry lioness can resist a slow wildebeest?)
 
Then out came a woman to meet him,
dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.
(She is loud and defiant,
her feet never stay at home;
now in the street, now in the squares,
at every corner she lurks.)
She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said…
 
The young man might not be looking for trouble, but trouble is certainly looking for him. The father’s description of this woman makes it clear that she has no sense of propriety whatsoever. She kisses first, talks later.
 
 And what does she say (verses 14-20)?
 
“I have fellowship offerings at home;
today I fulfilled my vows.
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 my bed
with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
Come, let’s drink deep of love till morning;
let’s enjoy ourselves with love!
My husband is not at home;
he has gone on a long journey.
He took his purse filled with money
and will not be home till full moon.”
 
The mention of “fellowship offerings” and “vows” could imply that this woman is a pagan shrine prostitute. But it is more likely that she is an errant wife with a lot of food left over from her fellowship offering at the Temple. (Unfortunately, many people are rigidly religious but loosely moral.) What she offers the young man is good food, a nice bed, all-night sex, and no interference from her spouse.
 
And he likes what she’s offering (verses 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.
 
These verses make the prostitute out to be the bad girl. But don’t pity the young man too much! He didn’t seek wisdom, and the witless will fall to the ruthless every time.

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