Keep Far Away from an Adulteress[a]
1 My son, pay close attention to my wisdom,
and listen carefully to my discernment,
2 so that you may always act prudently
and your lips may safeguard knowledge.
3 The lips of an adulteress[b] drip with honey
and her mouth is smoother than oil,
4 but in the end she is as bitter as wormwood[c]
and as sharp as a two-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death;[d]
her steps lead directly to the netherworld.
6 Far from following the path of life,
she unknowingly wanders off in different directions.
7 So now, my son, listen to me,
and do not stray from the advice that I offer.
8 Keep far away from her
and do not go anywhere near the door of her house,
9 lest you turn over your life to others
and your years to one without mercy,
10 lest strangers grow prosperous on your wealth[e]
and your arduous toil enrich another man’s house.
11 Then, at the end of your life, you will groan
when your flesh and your body are consumed.
12 You will say, “Why did I despise discipline
and allow my heart to spurn correction?
13 Why did I fail to heed the voice of my teachers
and refuse to listen to my instructors?
14 Now I am at the brink of utter ruin
in the midst of the public assembly.”[f]
Rejoice in the Wife of Your Youth[g]
15 Drink the water from your own cistern,
fresh water from your own well.[h]
16 Do not allow your springs[i] to overflow,
gushing forth water into the streets.
17 Let them be for you alone
and not be shared by strangers.
18 May your fountain be blessed,
and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth:
19 a lovely deer, a graceful fawn—
let her affection fill you with delight
and ever hold you captive.[j]
20 Why then be seduced by another man’s wife, my son,
and succumb to the embraces of an adulteress?
21 For each man’s ways are observed by the Lord,
and he examines each man’s paths.
22 The wicked man will be ensnared by his own iniquities
and held fast in the bonds of his sins.
23 He will perish for lack of discipline,
condemned by his own excessive folly.
- Proverbs 5:1 The tone becomes lyrical in order to restrain the man who is captivated by the charms of women other than his wife. The seductresses are enticing, but woe to the man who lets himself become entangled with them! This first part of the Book of Proverbs insists on the temptation of other women but barely speaks of prostitutes. Could it be that morals had been relaxed to the point of favoring adultery, which was so severely condemned by the law, or was it the presence of foreign women coming from other religions and nations that had become a risk to purity of faith?
- Proverbs 5:3 Adulteress: see note on Prov 2:16. The words of an adulteress are “soothing” (Ps 55:22) but laden with flattery (Prov 29:5) and treachery (Ps 5:10).
- Proverbs 5:4 Wormwood: a bitter herb (see Deut 29:17; Lam 3:15, 19; Am 6:12). Two-edged sword: a fearful weapon (see Jdg 3:16; see also Pss 55:22; 149:6; Heb 4:12; Rev 1:16).
- Proverbs 5:5 Her feet go down to death: her immorality hastens the end of the adulteress (see note on Prov 2:18).
- Proverbs 5:10 Strangers grow prosperous on your wealth: the man who has consort with an adulteress loses all (see Prov 29:3) while the man who adheres to wisdom is enriched in every way (see Prov 3:16-18).
- Proverbs 5:14 The man who gave in to an adulteress was wont to suffer financial as well as physical ruin; his action brought him “beatings and contempt” (Prov 6:33) and possibly a condemnation to death (see Deut 22:22).
- Proverbs 5:15 True fidelity knows how to rediscover the happiness of first love. Proverbs has a beautiful idea of marriage.
- Proverbs 5:15 Your own cistern . . . your own well: a reference to the wife. Wells and cisterns were privately owned and had great value (see 2 Ki 18:31; Jer 38:6).
- Proverbs 5:16 Springs: these also refer to the wife as does “fountain” in verse 18 (see Song 4:12, 15).
- Proverbs 5:19 The author alludes to the joys of marital love (which in Song 4:10 is described as better than wine).