My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. 2 Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. 3 Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and to insight, “You are my relative.” 5 They will keep you from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words. 6 At the window of my house I looked down through the lattice. 7 I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who had no sense. 8 He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house 9 at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in. 10 Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. 11 (She is unruly and defiant, her feet never stay at home; 12 now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.) 13 She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face she said: 14 “Today I fulfilled my vows, and I have food from my fellowship offering at home. 15 So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you! 16 I have covered my bed with coloured linens from Egypt. 17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. 18 Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love! 19 My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey. 20 He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon.” 21 With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. 22 All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose 23 till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life. 24 Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. 25 Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. 26 Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. 27 Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death. (Prov. 7:1-27 NIV)
The Teacher has saved his most vivid images and warnings about the wayward woman for the last. Once more we are encouraged to keep the teachings. Different metaphors are used to emphasise the importance of memorising the teachings. Memorising has fallen out of favour in education in recent times, but it is encouraged here. The learning of wisdom is the way to live. Wisdom is to be like a sister, a relative, the apple of one’s eye. Wisdom is desirable, it is necessary if our lives are to be guarded.
It is not sufficient just to memorise the teachings, they ought to be put into practice. Choosing to treat wisdom like a sister shows that there has to be a living relationship with the teachings.
These teachings are to keep the young man from the seductive woman. The seductive woman could easily represent the whole industry that trades on seductive and alluring words. Television programmes, movies and magazines attempt to normalise and make sex outside of marriage desirable. The volume of seductive words can desensitise us to the dangers. This is perhaps the reason why the Teacher warns us so frequently of the dangers in these first few chapters. It possibly also explains the vividness of the metaphors and the very explicit warnings so that we are left in no doubt as to exactly what he means. On more than one occasion I have had older believers tell me of ministers saying that some parts of Scripture were not suitable for public reading. My response has always been that if the older ministers had read these passages and preached on them then perhaps we would not be in the mess we are in today. If God has written it in Scripture, it is there for reading and teaching. We should not presume to be wiser than God.
As the words of wisdom are memorised and acted upon, so they will defeat the seductive words and keep us from responding to them. Out of the group there was one young person who lacked wisdom and he ventured further.
V6-9 is a sorry sight. The Teacher watches the ‘simple’ walking in the direction of the prostitute’s house. The term ‘simple’ does not describe a person with a learning disability but just someone who has not been taught wisdom. There is a group of young people making their way towards the prostitute’s house. Perhaps out of curiosity, perhaps to see something that might tantalise them. One youth went near the corner where the prostitute would stand to offer herself for sale. The Teacher describes the scene as the onset of a dark night.
An idea that started in his heart caused his feet to walk in the direction of the woman’s house, it was all the wrong choices that he had made. Perhaps he thought he could just have walked on past, but the woman comes out to meet him to lure him in with crafty words and intent. The crafty intent has a very similar meaning to a guarded heart. She had her intentions in her heart and from the heart, her footsteps took her in the direction of the young man.
She takes to the streets and the public square – the same place where lady wisdom had sounded her teachings in earlier chapters. Her venture takes on the character of a hunt. She grabs the unsuspecting youth and kisses him. She is described as having a brazen face meaning that she is hardened in her defiance of social custom. She has no sense of shame.
She uses quasi-religious language to describe how she has fulfilled her vows and offered fellowship offerings. There is meat to eat, a bed to lie on and a secure place because her husband is out of town. She describes her home as a place of paradise. She invites the young man to join her in the meat from the sacrifice she made. He doesn’t realise that he is the next victim to be sacrificed, like an ox going to slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose, or a bird entering a snare. All these animals had no idea of the fate that awaited them. The young man has no idea what the outcome on his venture is going to be. He is described as being stabbed in the liver. This sin will cost him his life.
Again, the Teacher appeals to his student to listen, to be warned. This is a treacherous path to go down. Perhaps he raises his voice to stress the importance of what he is saying, ‘my son, you need to pay attention’. This is a real and present danger. I come from a background in the country, where my grandfather, father, uncles and cousins had shotguns, fishing rods and hunting knives. At age 17 I was able to buy my shotgun. But from an early age, my grandfather taught us about gun safety. How to carry the gun, how to safely go through gaps in the hedge with the gun, basically what to do and what not to do. When I got my own gun to go out hunting, it was almost second nature to be cautious because it had been taught over and over again throughout our early years. The Teacher is employing the same repetitive method of teaching.
The warning about the outcome is graphic.
Lord God Your word has warned us very clearly. Help those who have failed in this area to be able to find a sense of forgiveness. Lord, we pray for our young people growing up in a world that is so different to the one we grew up in. We pray for our children and grandchildren that they will know wisdom and keep their lives from harm, because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.