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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Proverbs 7

 

 

Verse 1

1. Keep… lay up my commandments — Treasure them up in thy mind, as in a storehouse. For similar forms see Proverbs 1:18; Proverbs 2:1; Proverbs 6:20.


Verses 1-27

A FURTHER EXHORTATION TO FILIAL OBEDIENCE AND THE CULTIVATION OF WISDOM, AND TO WALK IN THE PATHS OF PURITY, Proverbs 7:1-27.

Such is the importance of the subject discussed in the latter part of the last chapter, as also in the second and fifth chapters, that the teacher continues, with increasing earnestness, to warn his pupils against the seductive wiles of dissolute women. Therefore, after an exhortation, such as we have before met with, to cleave lovingly to wisdom as a preservative against such sins, (Proverbs 7:1-5,) he paints in vivid colors the character of an impudent adulteress in her too successful efforts to ensnare an unsophisticated youth. (Proverbs 7:6-21.) The fatal consequences are exhibited in the subsequent verses.


Verse 2

2. Apple of thine eye אישׁון עיניךְ, (ishon enecha,) the little man of the eye, referring to the reflected image in the eye. The Greeks called it κορη, or κορασιον, the damsel, or little damsel: the Latins pupa, or pupilla, of the same meaning; from whence came our word pupil (of the eye.) The sense is, Guard or keep my instructions, as you do the sight of your eyes. Comp. Proverbs 4:4; Deuteronomy 32:10; Psalms 17:8; Lamentations 2:18; Zechariah 2:12.


Verse 3

3. Bind them upon thy fingers — Supposed to refer to rings with large signets, containing inscriptions of important maxims. Comp. Proverbs 3:3; Song of Solomon 8:6. In later days these were written upon phylacteries, or borders of the garments. Comp. Exodus 13:9; Exodus 13:16; Deuteronomy 6:8; Deuteronomy 11:18; Jeremiah 22:24; Haggai 2:23.


Verse 4

4. My sister… kinswoman — Or familiar acquaintance; that is, respect, love, and cherish her. Cp. Job 17:14; Job 30:29; also, Psalms 55:13; Psalms 88:8.


Verse 5

5. Keep (or guard) thee — This is the special reason why so much attention should be paid to wisdom and discernment.

Strange woman — The vile or voluptuous woman.


Verse 6

6. Casement — Lattice or window-slats, like our Venetian blinds, made to keep out the sun and rain, but to admit the air. The Israelites had no glass.

Looked through — The original implies to bend forward or lean over, as people often do in looking from a window. It describes close and interested watching and listening. Comp. Judges 5:28; Psalms 14:2.


Verse 7

7. And beheld — The Septuagint takes these verbs in the third person singular feminine; she looked, she beheld, etc. The idea is, that the wanton looked forth in order to observe.

Simple ones — The inexperienced, untaught; as opposed to that culture, discipline, and self restraint which the teacher is inculcating.

Youths — Hebrew, sons.

A young man void of understanding — Literally, a boy without a heart; that is, without, or deficient in, intelligence, not, perhaps, naturally so, but as being uninstructed, not having been trained to self-restraint. See note on Proverbs 1:2, word, musar. With the Hebrews the heart was the seat of intelligence as well as of the affections. The word נער, (na’har,) boy, is about equivalent to our word youth, or young man, being used much in the same way; sometimes even of those of full age. So a military officer addresses his command as boys. So the foreman of a body of workmen.

The term is often applied to servants of any age. A like usage obtains in various languages.


Verse 8

8. Street — “Back street.” — Miller.

Near her corner — Where she dwelt. Zockler, “near a corner.

To (or, toward) her house — He was sauntering along towards her house.


Verse 9

9. In the twilight… dark night — A difficult verse, on account of the seeming contrariety of terms. On the one hand, twilight, evening; on the other, the black and dark night, literally, the pupil of the eye of night — midnight. (See Proverbs 20:20, and note there.) The critics pass it over lightly, explaining terms, but doing little to reconcile them. Perhaps the terms may indicate progression. The scene begins in the evening, but continues into the darkness of midnight. Zockler says, “ נשׁ Š, (nesheph,) rendered ‘twilight,’ strictly means the later period of evening darkness, from nine till twelve.” (See Job 7:4; Job 24:15.) The sense of the word is, however, indefinite. Another suggestion: we may understand the teacher thus: “This we may imagine to have occurred either in the twilight of the evening, or in the thick darkness of the night.” “In the twilight, in the evening, when the night began to be black and dark.” — Geneva Bible.


Verse 10

10. Attire of a harlot — Such persons usually have some means of making their character known. Their dress or manner shows what they are. שׁית, (shith,) rendered attire, means something put on, some particular article, possibly, which indicated her occupation. Comp. Genesis 38:15 ; Genesis 38:19.

Subtile of heart — The idea may be, rather, guarded or reserved of heart; that is, having no affection, though pretending to much. “Wary of mind.” — Stuart. “Hidden in heart.” — Miller. Instead of “attire,” the Geneva has, “behaviour.”


Verse 11-12

11, 12. Loud… stubborn — Or, reckless, turbulent, and refractory; in Hosea 4:16, rendered backsliding. The idea is that of a wild heifer that will not submit to the yoke; this woman will not be restrained, but is ever gadding about — always a bad sign, in woman or man; whereas chastity is associated (Titus 2:5) with keeping at home.


Verse 13

13. Impudent face — Literally, made strong her face; put on a bold, familiar air.


Verse 14

14. Peace offerings with me — Most critics prefer, are upon me, or, have been upon me; that is, are due, or have been due, in the fulfillment of vows. Comp. Leviticus 3:1; Leviticus 3:3; Leviticus 3:6; Leviticus 3:9. Conant prefers peace offerings are by me; the feast is already prepared. Of these peace sacrifices the worshipper partook. The breast and the right shoulder belonged to the priest; the rest of the carcass the worshipper might carry home to enjoy with his friends. It had to be eaten the same day. (See Leviticus 7:15-16.) This vile woman, whether Hebrew, or, as others suppose, Phoenician, pretends to piety and religious vows; that she had that day offered sacrifices, with a portion of which she had made a rich feast in token of her joy and gratitude for the blessings of providence, and only waited some good company to participate in her pleasant cheer.


Verse 15

15. Came I… to meet thee — She either knew who he was, or pretended to do so. She counted herself happy in finding the very man she was seeking!


Verse 16

16. I have decked my bed — Stuart renders, “With coverlets have I strewed my couch; with tapestry of Egyptian thread.” Zockler, “Tapestry have I spread upon my couch; variegated coverlets of Egyptian linen.” Miller, “Striped with the yarn of Egypt.”

Tapestry — Some kind of embroidered cloth, parti-coloured or figured. Egypt was famous for its fine linen, thread, and yarns. The meaning is, that she had ornamented her couch or sofa with the very best and most costly of coverings.

Carved works — Most commentators take these words to mean striped or embroidered coverlets. It is probable that the couch here means the sofa or mattress on which they reclined at meals.


Verse 17

17. My bed משׁכבי, (mishkabhi;) meaning the place to sleep on, as the couch or sofa, of Proverbs 7:16, is the place to recline upon.

Myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon — Our words are nearly the same as the Hebrew; וקנמון מר אהלים, (mor, ahalim, kinnamon.) The fluid extracts are generally supposed to be intended; but Zockler thinks the dry spices, in small bits, were strewed upon the bed. Comp. Psalms 45:8; Song of Solomon 3:6; Song of Solomon 4:4. The love of perfumes is very great in the Orientals, but is here, as in Isaiah 3:24, associated with luxurious vice.

Aloes — Lign Aloes, said to be very resinous and fragrant.


Verse 18

18. Let us take — Literally, let us drink. The verse needs no comment. Our translation is sufficiently literal, and is better than the Septuagint, Vulgate, and others.


Verse 19-20

19, 20. The goodman האישׁ, (haish,) the man, that is, of the house. Geneva Bible, “housband.” She pretends that she has a husband, or father, but that he is out of the way. This is said to assure her paramour of safe and uninterrupted enjoyment.

Gone a long journey — Literally, gone in the way, afar off.

The bag of money — quite a bundle — is mentioned, to correspond with the long journey.

At the day appointed — Many of the best critics prefer, at the full moon. Comp. Psalms 81:3.


Verse 21

21. Much fair speech — Literally, her much taking; a word sometimes rendered learning, as in Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 4:2; Proverbs 9:9. Miller quaintly says, “Her taking ways.

Caused him to yield — The idea is, that she played the orator with him, effectually arousing his passions and leading him captive.


Verse 22-23

22, 23. He goeth after her — The participle הולךְ, (holekh,) goeth, involves its own nominative, which may as well be an indefinite one, he who, or whoever; and the teacher may not so much intend to give historically the fate of this particular youth, as the general results of such indulgence. Such a conclusion to a poetic narrative — a sudden transition from the particular to the general — is altogether in the Hebrew manner. See Judges 5:31 . These verses are somewhat involved, and obscure as to the particular meaning and relations of the several clauses. But the general meaning is plain enough, which is, that unexpected and terrible evils will speedily overtake him that yields to unlawful hast. Miller renders the last clause, “And knows not that he is in its very throat.” Compare Isaiah 5:14; and Habakkuk 2:5, in the original. There is a general impression among the critics that these verses have somehow been disturbed. By the aid of the versions something like the following has been proposed as approximating to the true reading: —

1. He goeth after her straightway, —

2. As an ox goeth to the slaughter, 3. As a dog goeth to the halter, 4. As a stag, till a dart pierce his liver, 5. As a bird hasteth to the snare, — 6. And knoweth not that it is for his life.

The first and sixth lines form a parallelism, and state the proposition. If these be read consecutively, the sense and connexion will be perceived: —

He goeth after her straightway,

And knoweth not that it is for his life.

The intervening four lines give the illustrations or similes. Such artistic constructions occur elsewhere in the Hebrew poets. Psalms 84:6-7, is regarded as a similar example of a six line stanza, the first and the last forming a parallelism or continuous sense; and the intervening lines showing the progress from the beginning to the end of the action.

The progress of the motion in this passage may be observed: With her much fair speech or “taking ways” she bent his will: with the flattering of her lips she forced him to go after her, slowly, (1) as the ox to the slaughter; (2) as a dog to his chains; (3) as a stag with greater swiftness to the place where the arrow pierces him; (4) and lastly, as a bird flying with greater rapidity into the snare.

This arrangement of the passage is made by a comparison of various Versions, the Septuagint, Chaldee, Syriac, Arabic, etc. It does not receive the sanction of critics generally.

The paraphrase of good Bishop Patrick is quaint and characteristic: “He made not the least objection, but away he went immediately, and followed her, like a great calf (as we speak in our language) or a stupid ox, that fancies he is led to the pasture when he is going to be killed, or like a fool who takes it for an ornament when the stocks are brought for his correction, to be clapt upon his legs.”


Verse 24-25

24, 25. Hearken, etc. — These verses contain an earnest and affectionate exhortation by the teacher to avoid the evils on which he has been discoursing.


Verse 26

26. For she — That is, such women. She is taken representatively. The sentiment is: Innumerable mighty men, or mighty hosts, have thus been brought to ruin. If the strong are slain, how can you escape, if enticed into the snare? Miller, “For mighty men, when polluted, she has hurled down,” etc. “The most valiant heroes, the most puissant soldiers, that never yielded, but stood undaunted against all other assaults, have generally been vanquished, and frequently destroyed, by the allurements of women.” — Hammond. The fall of Hannibal’s army in Italy is an example in point. Compare Numbers 22:5, etc.; Proverbs 25:1, etc.


Verse 27

27. Her house is the way to hell שׁאול, (sheol,) the infernal world. It is the way par excellence — the surest and most direct road to perdition. Comp. Proverbs 2:18 ; Proverbs 9:18; Proverbs 16:25. Miller renders, “The ways to sheol are at her house.”

Commentators generally regard this woman as the representative of the adulteress. It is more probable that she is the type of dissolute women in general. Her tricks and ways are rather those of the open harlot than of the secret adulteress. True, she speaks of the man of the house as being absent, as if she had a husband, but this may be only a specimen of the artifice commonly used to give assurance of safety.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 7:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/proverbs-7.html. 1874-1909.

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