After a series of posts on Proverbs 6, we conclude the chapter today.
This final section warns us about an important issue, and one which appears more than once in Proverbs – namely, adultery. Do not skip this section though, believing it to be irrelevant to you, as alongside the dangers of adultery, there are also other warnings and wisdom laced in you do not want to miss.
For the commandment is a lamp,
and the law is light.
Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,
24 to keep you from the immoral woman,
from the flattery of the wayward wife’s tongue.
25 Don’t lust after her beauty in your heart,
neither let her captivate you with her eyelids.
26 For a prostitute reduces you to a piece of bread.
The adulteress hunts for your precious life.Proverbs 6:23-26 WEB
I included verse 23 here as it is a joint thought with verse 24. We see, as discussed before, that the Law of the Lord is a lamp to us, showing us the way we ought to go. We discussed this last time in the general sense, but here verse 23b specifically links the reproofs which instruction brings to avoiding the immoral woman. Of course, God’s wisdom and teaching go far beyond this one issue, but it is a key theme given to us. For background here, Proverbs was probably written (at least in part) as a sort of study guide for a group of young men being taught by an elder. References to “immoral women” for example, are not representative of women as a whole but instead indicate the audience to which it is directed. What I mean is, a group of young men are likely to fall prey to such a woman if not careful. Immoral men are just as dangerous and wicked, but the warning here is against temptation of a sexual nature, and no comment on women in general.
Verse 24 warns of the flattery of her tongue, that is a warning against being taken in by her enticing words. Verse 25 warns against the beauty of such women, and the fluttering of eyelids. Young men, typically but not always, are particularly prone to temptation connected to the physical beauty of women so this is an apparent risk. Whether young or old, male or female, we must guard against such physical temptation. It can lead us down paths we do not wish to go, and have severe consequences for our lives and families.
Verse 26 takes the perspective of such an “immoral woman.” She sees her prey – these young men – as nothing but a means to gaining bread. She is hungry, has little means of earning and so relies on her beauty and charm to entice men into bed for financial gain.
27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap,
and his clothes not be burned?
28 Or can one walk on hot coals,
and his feet not be scorched?
29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife.
Whoever touches her will not be unpunished.
30 Men don’t despise a thief
if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry;
31 but if he is found, he shall restore seven times.
He shall give all the wealth of his house.
32 He who commits adultery with a woman is void of understanding.
He who does it destroys his own soul.
33 He will get wounds and dishonor.
His reproach will not be wiped away.
34 For jealousy arouses the fury of the husband.
He won’t spare in the day of vengeance.
35 He won’t regard any ransom,
neither will he rest content, though you give many gifts.Proverbs 6:27-35 WEB
These final verses in the chapter form a cohesive argument.
Verses 28 and 29 essentially warn us of a no doubt familiar turn of phrase – those who play with fire will get burned. The writer of Proverbs asks basically the same question. Can you scoop fire into your lap without it burning you? Can you walk on scorching coals and not burn your feet? No! Of course not! And so, we cannot indulge in adultery without reaping the dire consequences of it.
The point is driven home in verse 29. If you have an affair with your neighbour’s wife, you will find yourself in extremely hot water!
I think verses 30-31 are then set in contrast to the remainder of the chapter. Dropping the subject of adultery for a moment, we turn to theft. It points out that we might have a modicum of understanding for a hungry thief stealing a loaf of bread to stave off starvation, but how little compassion we have on adulterers. The text shows us that even in a situation where we understand the thief’s reasons for stealing, they are still required to pay it back in accordance with the law. There may be “good” reasons to break God’s laws of so we think at times, justifying our actions with excuses or deflection. Yet, to break the law is to break the law and the consequences are the same.
Theft in a situation of hunger is one thing, but having an affair with another man’s wife is quite another. Verse 32 essentially says you are stupid if you do it! You cannot be clearer than that! It will result in wounds and dishonour; reproaches that will never be taken away.
The jealousy of a husband is a terrible thing, verse 34 warns. Such a wronged man is full of fury, seeking vengeance and it may very well cost you your life! Verse 35 tells us that you won’t be able to buy this vengeful man off. He will not accept any ransom, nor can you turn him away with many gifts. If you dare to seduce his wife, you will reap the consequences. I wonder how many men, young or old, have perished at the hands of a jealous husband? We say beware a woman scorned, but no less so a man either.
If you find yourself battling temptation right now, then I urge you to run! Keep well away from its source, and get on your knees and pray that God will help you do what is right. Do not play with fire, and do not indulge your fleshy desires. Be it someone at work, a neighbour or even a digital someone in the form of pornography – stay well away and fix your thoughts on your own spouse, family or better still, on God and His ways.