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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Proverbs 7

 

 

Verses 1-4

CRITICAL NOTES.

Pro . Apple of the eye, the "pupil," literally the "little man" of the eye, referring to the reflected image of a man seen in that organ.

Pro . Bind them "refers to rings with large signets, upon which maxims were inscribed" (Stuart).

Pro . Kinswoman, rather, "an acquaintance, a familiar friend."

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH—Pro

THE SOURCE OF TRUE LIFE, ETC

I. The true life of man depends upon his relation to the Word of God. "Keep my commandments, and live" (Pro ). The life which is given to man upon his entrance into this world is not life in its highest sense, but an existence in which he is to obtain life. "It is not all of life to live." Those who do not keep God's commandments are living existences, but in the moral signification of the word they are dead. It was said by the highest authority—by the Son of God Himself—that "it had been good for Judas Iscariot if he had not been born" (Mat 26:24). Existence is not a blessing, oftentimes a curse, unless a man is "born again," "not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (Joh 1:13). Christ taught the same truth when He said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luk 4:4). Man is not flesh and blood only, he has not a mere animal existence, but moral capabilities and needs, which must be nourished by the thoughts of God. If this is not done, he has no life worth the name.

II. The relation that a man should have to the Word of God is like that which a rich man has to his banked money. "Lay up my commandments with thee." The best place for money which the merchant wishes to use constantly is a safe bank, from which he can draw out at any time of need. So the Word of God must be laid up in the mind ready for constant use. The Word of God must "dwell in us" (Col ). It must be stored up to furnish us with encouragement and admonition in the unceasing warfare with temptation which we are called upon to wage. It must be at hand at the moment of need.

III. It is to be guarded with the same care as the eye is guarded by the eyelid. "As the apple of thine eye." The eye is carefully protected by nature because it is the organ of a most precious sense—of a sense of which we stand in the greatest need—without which we walk through the world in darkness. The revelation of God in the Holy Scriptures is the only light which enlightens us amid the darkness of ignorance and mystery by which we are surrounded. Without it all our future would be darkness indeed. Hence its preciousness, and hence the value we ought to set upon it.

IV. It is to hold to us a relation like that of a pure, and tender, and beloved sister. "Say unto Wisdom, Thou art my sister." The Word of God is the highest wisdom. The relationship of brother and sister, where it is what God intended it to be, is a very tender and pure relationship, involving willingness to undergo self-denial for the sake of her who is loved, to listen to her advice, to seek her welfare. In this light we must regard the wisdom of God as revealed in the word of God if existence is to become life to us. We must exercise self-denial for her sake. "I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in Thy word" (Psa ).

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . As God would have us keep His law as the apple of our eye, so He keeps His people (Deu 32:10), in answer to their prayer, as the apple of His eye (Zec 2:8). We guard the eye as our most precious and tender member from hurt, and prize it most dearly. As we guard the pupil of the eye from the least mote, which is sufficient to hurt it, so God's law is so tender and holy a thing that the least violation of it in thought, word, or deed, is sin; and we are so to keep the law as to avoid any violation of it. The law resembles the pupil of the eye also in its being spiritually the organ of light, without which we should be in utter darkness.—Fausset.

The instruction of the Word is the same to the soul which the eye is to the body. For as the body without the sight of the eyes runneth upon many things that hurt it, and falleth at every little stumbling-block, so the soul most fearfully runneth into sins if it want the light and direction of the Word.—Muffet.

Men are off and on in their promises: they are also slow and slack in their performances. But it is otherwise here: the very "entrance of Thy Word giveth light" (Psa ), and the very onset of obedience giveth life. It is but "Hear, and your soul shall live" (Isa 55:3). Sin is homogeneous, all of a kind, though not all of the same degree. As the least pebble is a stone as well as the hugest rock, and as the drop of a bucket is water as well as the main ocean, hence the least sins are in Scripture reproached by the names of the greatest. Malice is called manslaughter, lust, adultery, etc. Concupiscence is condemned by the law; even the first motions of sin, though they never come to consent (Rom 7:7). Inward bleeding may kill a man. The law of God is spiritual, though we be carnal. And as the sunshine shows us atoms and motes that till then we discerned not, so doth the law discover and censure smallest failings. It must therefore be kept curiously, even "as the apple of the eye," that cannot be touched, but will be distempered. Careful we must be, even in the punctilios of duty. Men will not lightly lose the least ends of gold.—Trapp.

In some bodies, as trees, etc., there is life without sense, which are things animated, but not so much with a soul as with a kind of animation; even as the wicked have some kind of knowledge from grace, but are not animated by it. Or rather the wicked do not live, indeed, for life consisteth in action, and how can he be said truly to live whose words are dead? But keep God's commandments, and live indeed, live cheerfully with the comfort of this life, which makes life to be life; live happily in the life of glory hereafter, which is the end for which this life is lent us.—Jermin.

Pro . Since, O youth, thou delightest in the intimacy of fair maidens, lo! here is by far the loveliest one, Wisdom.—Cartwright.

Wisdom has been represented as a wife, and here she is called a sister. As Didymus says (in Catenâ, p. 104), "Wisdom is called a mother, a sister, and a wife." She is a mother, because, through her, we are children of Christ; she is a wife, because, by union with her, we ourselves become parents of that which is good; she is our sister, because our love to her is chaste and holy, and because she, as well as ourselves, is the offspring of God. Such is the love of Christ, who is the true Wisdom, and who is all in all to the soul. Compare His own words, applied to every faithful and obedient soul: "The same is my brother, and my sister, and mother" (Mar ). "Do thou love the true faith with sisterly love, it shall keep thee from the impure love of the strange women of false doctrine" (Bede).—Wordsworth.

Holiness is positive. Sin is negative. The one is to love God, and also our neighbour. The other is not to love God or our neighbour. The one shows itself in a positive delight in the abstract holiness; the other not in a positive delight in the opposite, viz., in an abstract sin, but a delight in women, a delight in money, a delight in praise, a delight in everything except moral purity, and therefore a delight in things which are innocent when in limits, and that are only guilty when the soul is let in upon them without curb of superior affection. If a man calls Wisdom his kinswoman, then he may love wine or love without moral danger.—Miller.


Verses 6-27

CRITICAL NOTES.

Pro . Simple, "inexperienced."

Pro . Went, "moved leisurely, sauntered."

Pro . In the black and dark night, literally, "in the apple," or "pupil" of the night.

Pro . Literally, "a woman, the attire of a harlot," with no connecting word between, as though the woman were nothing but such a dress. Subtil, "guarded." Wordsworth renders "her heart is like a walled fortress."

Pro . Stubborn, rather "boisterous, ungovernable."

Pro . The offerings here named are those of thanksgiving for blessings received. Of such offering, which, in accordance with the law (Lev 7:16), must be eaten by the second day, the guests partook, so that a rich feast is here offered to the young man under the garb of religious usage.

Pro . With carved works, rather, "variegated coverlets of Egyptian linen."

Pro . The purse, etc., indicating long delay; the day appointed, rather, "the day of the full moon."

Pro . Straightway. "The Hebrew implies that he had at first hesitated, until the fear of his to take the decisive step was overcome by evil appetite, and he now, with passionate promptness, formed the vile purpose and executed it at once, to cut off all further reflection. Here is evidently a stroke in the picture of the profoundest psychological truth" (Lange's Commentary). The latter clause of the verse is literally, "and as fetters for the punishment of a fool." It has been variously rendered. Many expositors read, "As the obstinate fool is suddenly caught and held fast by a trap lying in a forbidden path, so has the deceitful power of the adulteress caught the young man."

Pro . "The liver stands here as representative of the vitals in general as in Lam 2:11, as in some instances the heart, or again, the reins" (Psa 16:7; Psa 73:21, etc.). According to Delitzsch, the liver is here made prominent as the seat of sensual desire. "Since the ancient Greeks, Arabians, and Persians, in fact, connected this idea with the organ under consideration, this view may be received as probably correct" (Lange's Commentary). Knoweth not that it is for his life, i.e. "that his life is at stake."

NOTE ON THE SIGNIFICATION OF THE "STRANGE WOMAN" OF THIS CHAPTER, AND OF MANY KINDRED PASSAGES IN THE BOOK.—Although most modern commentators attach no other meaning to this woman than that which would occur to the general reader, there are some who, as will be seen from the comments, agree with most of the early expositors in attaching to the representation an ideal meaning also. Wordsworth, referring to the original meaning of the word mashal, or proverb (see preface), says, "By a consideration of the proper meaning of this word mashal, used in the title of this book, and by reflecting on the use made of it in the Gospels, we are led to recognise in the Proverbs or Parables of Solomon not only moral apothegms for practical use in daily life, but to ponder deeply upon them as having also a typical character and inner spiritual significance concerning heavenly doctrines of supernatural truth, and as preparing the way for the evangelical teaching of the Divine Solomon, Jesus Christ, in parables on the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven." Following out this principle of interpretation, he continues, "As in Solomon's delineation of Wisdom we recognised Christ, so in the portraiture of the "strange woman," who is set in striking contrast to Wisdom in this book, we must learn to see something more than at first meets the eye. Doubtless we must hold fast the literal interpretation, and must strenuously contend for it;.… but in the gaudy and garish attire and alluring cozenage of the strange woman we may see a representation of the seductive arts with which the teachers of unsound doctrine, repugnant to the truth of Christ, endeavour to charm, captivate, and ensnare unwary souls, and to steal them away from Him. There is a harlotry of the intellect—there is an adultery of the soul, and this harlotry and adultery are not less dangerous and deadly than the grossest sins and foulest abominations. Indeed they are more perilous, because they present themselves in a more specious and attractive form." Hengstenberg, commenting on Ecc , says, "There are strong grounds for thinking that the woman of the Proverbs is the personification of heathenish folly, putting on the airs of wisdom and penetrating into the territory of the Israelites.… The key to Pro 2:16-17, is Jer 3:4-20. In Proverbs 5. the evil woman must needs be regarded as an ideal person, because of the opposition in which she is set to the good woman, Wisdom. If Wisdom in chap. Pro 7:4-5, is an ideal person, her opponent must be also.… In chap. 9. again, the evil woman is put in contrast with Wisdom;.… the explanation is, in fact, plainly given in Pro 7:13. Last of all, in chap. Pro 22:14, we read, "The mouth of the foreigner is a deep pit," etc. That the writer here treats of false doctrine is clear from the mention of the mouth. Nah 3:4, presents an analogous instance of such a personification.… To the woman here, corresponds in Rev 2:20 : "the woman Jezebel," a symbolical person. Miller, as will be seen in the suggestive comments on chap. Pro 2:16, looks upon this woman as an emblem of impenitence.

The following comment is by Professor Plumptre: "The strange woman," the "stranger," may mean simply the adulteress, as the "strange gods" the "strangers" (Deu ; Jer 3:13), are those to whom Israel, forsaking her true husband, offered an adulterous worship. But in both cases there is implied also some idea of a foreign origin, as of one who by birth is outside the covenant of Israel. In the second word used, this meaning is still stronger. It is the word used of the strange wives of Solomon (1Ki 11:1-8), and of those of the Jews who returned from Babylon (Ezra 10.), of Ruth, as a Moabitess (Rth 2:10), of heathen invaders (Isa 2:6). Whatever form the sin here referred to had assumed before the monarchy (and the Book of Judges testifies to its frequency), the intercourse with Phœnicians and other nations under Solomon had a strong tendency to increase it. The king's example would naturally be followed, and it probably became a fashion to have foreign wives and concubines. At first it would seem this was accompanied by some show of proselytism. The women made a profession of conformity to the religion of their masters. But the old leaven breaks out. They sin and "forget the covenant of their God." The worship of other gods, a worship in itself sensual and ending in the foulest sin, leads the way to a life of harlotry. Other causes may have led to the same result. The stringent laws of the Mosaic code may have deterred the women of Israel from that sin, and led to a higher standard of purity than prevailed among other nations. Lidonian and Tyrian women came, like the Asiatic hetaeræ at Athens, at once with greater importunity and with new arts and fascinations to which the home-born were strangers.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Pro

A PICTURE DRAWN FROM LIFE

The woman depicted here has been before us twice before. (See on chap. Pro and Pro 6:24). We will therefore confine ourselves in this chapter to the picture of her dupe. He fully justifies his right to the title here given to him, viz., "a young man void of understanding."

I. Because he did not wait for temptation to seek him, but went where he knew it would meet him. Those who carry gunpowder upon their persons ought never to go into a blacksmith's forge, ought never even to approach the door lest some sparks fall upon them. How much more foolish is he who, knowing that there is a tendency to sin within him, seeks out the place where the spark will be fanned into a flame. This young man is found "near the corner" of the house of the temptress, "he went the way to her house."

II. He goes to ruin with his eyes wide open. The woman's character is plainly written upon her dress and upon her face. There is no pretence at disguise. She boasts of her infidelity to her husband. Yet he yields to her invitation; yet he believes her professions of attachment to himself. The most silly fish that swims will not bite if the steel hook gleams through the bait, but this simpleton takes the hook without any bait. The ox resists when he feels that he is being driven to death, but this fool goes deliberately to the house of death. He walks into the snare which he knows has been the death of myriads of his fellow creatures. The remedy for this folly is found in Pro .

OUTLINES AND SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS

Pro . From the earlier and copious warnings against adultery the one now before us is distinguished by the fact, that while chapter 5. contrasted the blessings of conjugal fidelity and chaste marital love with unregulated sexual indulgence, and chapter Pro 6:20-35 particularly urged a contending against the inner roots and germs of the sin of unchastity, our passage dwells with special fulness upon the temptations from without to the transgression of the sixth commandment. It also sets forth the folly and the ruinous consequences of yielding to such temptations, by presenting an instructive living example … Aside from the fact that it is nocturnal rambling that delivers the thoughtless idle youth into the hands of temptation (Pro 7:9), and aside from the other significant feature that after the first brief and feeble opposition, he throws himself suddenly and with the full energy of passion into his self-sought ruin (Pro 7:22, comp. Jas 1:15), we have to notice here chiefly the important part played by the luxurious and savoury feast of the adulteress, as a co-operating factor in the allurement of the self-indulgent youth (Pro 7:14 seq.). It is surely not a feature purely incidental, without deeper significance or design, that this meal is referred to as preceding the central or chief sin; for, that the tickling of the palate with stimulating meats and drinks prepares the way for lust is an old and universal observation (comp. Exo 32:6; 1Co 10:17, as also similar passages from the classical authors).—Lange's Commentary.

Apart from the external blandishments which are portrayed in this passage, there belongs to them a power of internal deception the most fallacious and insinuating—and this not merely because of their strength, and of their fitness to engross the whole man when once they take possession of him, and so to shut out all reflection and seriousness—those counteractives to evil passions; but because of their alliance with, and the affinity which they bear to, the kindly and benevolent and good feelings of our nature. As the poet says—himself a wild and wayward, and most dangerously seductive writer—the transition is a most natural one, from "loving much to loving wrong." Let all such affections be sedulously kept at bay, and the occasions of them shunned and fled from, rather than hazarded and tampered with. Let them never be wilfully encountered, or presumptuously braved and bid defiance to, lest the victory be theirs; and no sooner do they win the heart than they war against the soul.—Chalmers.

Pro . This woman not only represents the harlot and the adulteress literally, but is also a figure of whatever seduces the soul from God, whether in morals or religion, and whether in doctrine and practice, or in religious worship.—Wordsworth.

Strange, indeed, if she alienate us from the very God that made her, and stir the jealousy of the very Being that gives us our power to love her. (Hos ).—Miller.

Pro . God is ever at His window, His casement is always open to see what thou dost.—Jermin.

Pro . Circumstances which give an occasion to sin are to be noticed and avoided. They who love danger fall into it. The youth (as Pro 7:21 shows) did not go with the intention of defiling himself with the "strange woman," but to flatter his own vanity by seeing and talking with her, and hearing her flatteries. It is madness to play with Satan's edged tools.—Faussett.

The beginning of the sad end. The loitering evening walk, the unseasonable hour (Job ; Rom 13:12-13); the vacant mind. "The house was empty," and therefore ready for the reception of the tempter (Mat 12:44-45), and soon altogether in his possession. How valuable are self-discipline, self-control, constant employment, active energy of pursuit, as preservatives under the Divine blessing from fearful danger.—Bridges.

Pro . The first character appears on the scene, young, "simple" in the bad sense of the word; open to all impressions of evil, empty-headed and empty-hearted; lounging near the place of ill-repute, not as yet deliberately purposing to sin, but placing himself in the way of it; wandering idly to see one of whose beauty he had heard, and this at a time when the pure in heart would seek their home. It is impossible not to see a certain symbolic meaning in this picture of the gathering gloom. Night is falling over the young man's life as the shadows deepen.—Plumptre.

Pro . He thought to obscure himself, but Solomon saw him; how much more God, before whom night will convert itself into noon, and silence prove a speaking evidence. Foolish men think to hide themselves from God, by hiding God from themselves.—Trapp.

Pro . A careless sinner shall not need to go far to meet with temptation. The first woman met with it almost as soon as she was made, and who meets not everywhere with the woman Temptation?—Jermin.

Pro . Though I indulge in amours, do not think I am averse to the worship of God; nay, I offer liberally to Him: He is now therefore appeased, and will not mind venial offences.—Cartwright.

It is of course possible that the worship of Israel had so degenerated as to lose for the popular conscience all religious significance; but the hypothesis stated above (see note at the beginning of chapter), affords a simpler explanation. She who speaks is a foreigner who, under a show of conformity to the religion of Israel, still retains her old notions, and a feast-day is nothing to her but a time of self-indulgence, which she may invite another to share with her. If we assume, as probable, that these harlots of Jerusalem were mainly of Phœnician origin, the connection of their worship with their sin would be but the continuation of their original cultus.—Plumptre.

An awful portraiture of the mystery of iniquity. It is applicable also to corrupt churches, especially to the spiritual harlot described by St. John in the Apocalypse. She professes zeal for God's house and service, while she is offending Him by heretical doctrine, and insulting Him by the fascinations of idolatrous worship, with which she beguiles unwary souls to commit spiritual fornication with her. (See Rev ; Rev 18:9). As Bede says, following in the steps of Basil and others: All the description which is here given is true, in a literal sense, of the meretricious allurements of an adulteress; but it is to be interpreted also spiritually. False doctrine tricks herself out with the embellishments of worldly rhetoric and spurious philosophy, and is ever lurking at the corners of the streets, to allure and deceive the simple, and to caress them with her embraces; and she makes religious professions. She has her couch adorned with heathen embroidery, and yet sprinkled with the odours of spiritual virtues; but Christ says of her in the Apocalypse, "I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds" (Rev 2:22).—Wordsworth.

The immoral devotionist.

1. The absurd conduct of those who indulge in immorality, and think to compound with God for so doing, by paying Him outward forms of worship.

2. All external observances vain and useless unless they are accompanied with purity of heart, and real goodness of life. True religion is an end, and all external observances are only means leading to that end. (See Mic ). Agreeably to this St. Paul assures us that the end of the Christian revelation is to-teach men to "live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world" (Tit 2:12). And Christ assures us that no ceremonious method of atonement without practical goodness will entitle us to the rewards of Christianity (Mat 7:21). All duties enjoined by God can be enjoined by Him only for the good they do us. "Can a man be profitable unto God, as he that is wise is profitable to himself?" (Job 22:2). And in which way can we possibly conceive how an immoral man can reap any benefit from the mere forms and ceremonies of religion. Is there any reason to think that God will accept this religious flattery instead of purity of life? No, rather it is an aggravation of his crimes. (See Isa 1:11.)—N. Ball.

Pro . O how diligent is wickedness, thinking that thing never done soon enough which is too soon done at any time! O how diligent a helper is Satan of wickedness, administering all opportunities for it! And, therefore, as the harlot seeketh diligently, so she findeth readily. Which is the shame of religion in many that profess it, and who are so slow in the performance of religious duties, as if they were both servants and masters, and had the commandments of God at their own command, to do them at their pleasure; which is a great reason that they are so ill observed. But if they would use their own diligence, they should find God much more diligent to give a blessing to it.—Jermin.

Pro . Her coverings of tapestry could not cover her naughtiness, her carved work could not embellish her own deformed work, her white Egyptian linen could not make white her black Egyptian soul.—Jermin.

Pro . This might have minded the young man that he was going to his grave, for the bodies of the dead were so perfumed. Such a meditation would much have rebated his edge—cooled his courage.—Trapp.

Pro . But what if death draw the curtains, and look in the while? If death do not, yet guilt will.—Trapp.

Pro . Instead of saying, "My husband," she contemptuously calls him "the goodman," as though he were unconnected with her.—Fausset.

Man may not be at home, but God is always at home, whose house is the world: man may be gone a far journey, but God's journey is at once to be everywhere; His farthest off, to be present always.… She talketh that the goodman was not at home, but the good woman was not at home rather; she saith that her husband was gone a far journey, but she herself was gone much farther from her duty. If she had been at home, to have heard her conscience the home reprover of wickedness, the goodman, though not at home, had not been so much wronged; if she had not gone far from her covenant, her husband, though gone far, had still been near and present in her heart.—Jermin.

Our hearts must be guarded against the admission of sin by stronger motives than the fear of detection and disgrace, for artful solicitors to evil will easily baffle such restraints as these. Joseph might have expected his master's favour by complying with the wishes of his mistress, but the motive that induced him to decline her company was irresistible,—"How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"—Lawson.

Pro . He goeth to the slaughter when he thinketh he goeth to the pasture; or as those oxen brought forth by Jupiter's priests, with garlands unto the gates, but it was for a slain sacrifice (Act 14:13).—Trapp.

The butcher's yard would show the meaning of this first similitude. In every sort of way the ox may be coaxed, or, in turn, may be desperately beaten, and apparently to no purpose. But though he may stand, ox-like, like a rock, yet the experienced herdman knows that he will suddenly start in. This is his nature. One inch may cost a hurricane of blows; but at a dash, as the butcher expects, he will suddenly rush in to his doom.—Miller.

Pro . Cut off the beginnings of desire. The first trickling of the crevasse is the manageable, and, therefore, more culpable, period of the difficulty.—Miller.

Pro . As Solomon himself subsequently was (Neh 13:26). So Samson and David previously. It is better to learn by the awful example of others than by our own suffering. Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other.—Fausset.

The house of the harlot had been compared before to the grave, to the world of the dead; now it is likened to a battle-field strewn with the corpses of armed men. The word speaks rather of the multitude than of the individual strength of those who have perished.—Plumptre.

In a figurative sense, some of the greatest teachers of Christendom have been seduced by the allurements of heresy, and have been cast down from their place in the firmament of the Church, like stars falling from heaven.—Wordsworth.

The valour of men hath oft been slaved by the wiles of a woman. Witness many of your greatest martialists, who conquered countries, and were vanquished of vices. The Persian kings commanded the whole world, and were commanded by their concubines.—Trapp.

The secret thought that one can saunter toward her house (Pro ), and at any time turn back, is cruelly met by most discouraging examples. The whole passage is the more impressive, if we consider it as a warning against confidence in strength, and particularly grand, if we mark the second clause … All men are strong, and strong in the most substantial sense. All men, saved, are princes (Rev 1:6); and they are offered the second place in God's kingdom (Isa 61:7). All men are bone of Christ's bone; all men are born with a birthright to be kings and priests, if they choose to be, and brothers of Emmanuel.—Miller.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Proverbs 7:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/proverbs-7.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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