My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee.
Verses 1-27. - 13. Thirteenth admonitory discourse, containing a warning against adultery, treated under a different aspect from previous exhortations, and strengthened by an example. In this chapter and the following a contrast is drawn between the adulteress and Wisdom. Verse 1. - My son, keep my words. The teacher enjoins his pupil, as in Proverbs 2:1, to observe the rules which he gives. Lay up, as a precious treasure (see on Proverbs 2:1 and 7). The LXX. adds here a distich which is not in the Hebrew or in any other version, and is not germane to the context, however excellent in itself: "My son, honour the Lord, and thou shalt be strong, and beside him feat no other." With this we may compare Luke 12:5 and Isaiah 8:12, 13.
Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.
Verse 2. - Keep my commandments, and live (see on Proverbs 4:4). As the apple of thine eye; literally, the little man (ishon, diminutive of ish) of the eye; so called from the miniature reflection of objects seen in the pupil, specially of the person who looks into another's eye. It is a proverbial expression for anything particularly precious and liable to be injured unless guarded with scrupulous care (comp. Psalm 17:8, Zechariah 2:8). Similarly the Greeks called this organ κόρη, "damsel" or "puppet," and the Latin, pupilla.
Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart.
Verse 3. - Bind them upon thy fingers. Wear my precepts like a ring on thy finger, so that they may go with thee, whatever thou takest in hand. Others think that the so called tephillin, or phylacteries, are meant. These were worn both on the hand and the forehead, and consisted of a leather box containing strips of parchment, on which were written four texts, viz. Exodus 13:1-10; Exodus 11-16; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:13-21. The box was attached to a leather strap wound seven times round the arm three times round the middle finger, and the remainder passed round the hand (see (Exodus 13:9, 16; Jeremiah 22:24). Write them upon the table of thine heart (see on Proverbs 3:3 and Proverbs 6:21; and comp. Deuteronomy 6:9). Vers. 4 and 5 contain earnest admonitions to the pursuit of Wisdom, which is worthy of the purest love.
Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman:
Verse 4. - Say unto Wisdom, Thou art my sister. Wisdom is personified, and the connection with her indicated by the relationship which best expresses love, purity, confidence. In the Book of Wisdom 8. she is represented as wife. Christ calls those who do God's will his brother, and sister, and mother (Matthew 12:50). Call Understanding thy kinswoman; moda, "familiar friend." Let prudence and sound sense be as dear to thee as a close friend.
That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words.
Verse 5. - That they may keep thee from the strange woman (see on Proverbs 2:16 and Proverbs 6:24). When the heart is filled with the love of what is good, it is armed against the seductions of evil pleasure or whatever may entice the soul from God and duty. Septuagint, "That she (Wisdom) may keep thee from the strange and evil woman, if she should assail thee with gracious words."
For at the window of my house I looked through my casement,
Verses 6-23. - To show the greatness of the danger presented by the seductions of the temptress, the writer introduces no mere abstraction, no mere personification of a quality, but an actual example of what had passed before his own eyes. Verse 6. - For. The particle introduces the example. At the window of my house. He gives a graphic delineation of a scene witnessed outside his house. I looked through my casement; eshnab, "the lattice," which served the purpose of our Venetian blinds, excluding the sun, but letting the cool air pass into the room (comp. Judges 5:28). A person within could see all that passed in the street without being himself visible from without (Song of Solomon 2:9). The Septuagint reads the sentence as spoken of the woman: "For from the window glancing out of her house into the streets, at one whom she might see of the senseless children, a young man void of understanding."
And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding,
Verse 7. - And beheld among the simple ones. Though it was night (ver. 9), there was light enough from moon or stars or from illuminated houses to show what was passing. "The simple" are the inexperienced, who are easily led astray (see on Proverbs 1:4). Looking forth into the street on the throng of young and thoughtless persons passing to and fro, among them I discerned... a young man void of understanding; a fool, who, without any deliberate intention of sinning, put himself in the way of temptation, played on the borders of transgression. The way of escape was before him, as it is in all temptations (1 Corinthians 10:13), but he would not take it. Such a one may well be said to lack understanding, or heart, as the Hebrew expresses it (Proverbs 6:32, where see note).
Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house,
Verse 8. - Near her corner. He kept near the corner of the house of the woman for whom he waited. Another reading gives, "near a corner;" juxta angulum. Vulgate; παρὰ γωνίαν, Septuagint; i.e. he did not take to the broad, open street, but sneaked about at corners, whence he could watch the woman's house without being observed by others. He went the way to her house. He sauntered slowly along, as the verb signifes. Septuagint, "Passing by a corner in the passages of her house (ἐν διόδοις οἴκων αὐτῆς)."
In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night:
Verse 9. - In the twilight, in the evening of the day. So termed to distinguish it from the morning twilight. The moralist sees the youth pacing to and fro in the early evening hours, and still watching and waiting when the darkness was deepest (comp. Job 24:15). In the black and dark night; literally, in the pupil of the eye of night and in darkness. We have the same expression in Proverbs 20:20 (where see note) to denote midnight. Its appropriateness is derived from the fact that the pupil of the eye is the dark centre in the iris. Septuagint: the youth "speaking in the darkness of evening, when there is the stillness of night and gloom."
And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.
Verse 10. - And, behold, there met him a woman. His long watch is rewarded; the woman comes forth from her house into the street - a proceeding which would at once show what she was, especially in the East, where females are kept secluded, and never appear at night or unattended. With the attire of an harlot. There is no "with" in the original, "woman" and "attire" being in apposition: "There met him a woman, a harlot's dress" (shith, Psalm 73:6); her attire catches the eye at once, and identifies her (comp. Genesis 38:14). In Revelation 17:4 the harlot is "arrayed in purple and scarlet, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls;" and in the present case the female is dressed in some conspicuous garments, very different from the sober clothing of the pure and modest. Subtil of heart (נְצֻרַת לֵב); literally, of concealed heart; i.e. she hides her real feelings, feigning, perhaps, affection for a husband, or love for her paramour, while she seeks only to satisfy her evil passions. The versions have used a different reading. Thus the Septuagint: "Who makes the hearts of young men flutter (ἐζίπτασθαι);" Vulgate, praeparata ad capiendas animas, "ready to catch souls." Vers. 11 and 12 describe the character and habits of this woman, not as she appeared on this occasion, but as she is known to the writer.
(She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house:
Verse 11. - She is loud; boisterous, clamorous, as Proverbs 9:13. The description applies to a brute beast at certain periods. Stubborn; ungovernable, like an animal that will not bear the yoke (Hosea 4:16). Vulgate, garrula et vaga, "talkative and unsettled;" Septuagint, ἀνεπτερωμένη καὶ ἄσωτος, "flighty and debauched." Her feet abide not in her house. She is the opposite of the careful, modest housewife, who stays at home and manages her family affairs (Titus 2:5). The Vulgate inserts another trait: quietis impatiens, "always restless."
Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.)
Verse 12. - Now is she without, now in the streets. At one moment outside her own door, at another in the open street. Septuagint: "At one time she roams without (ἔξω ῤέμβεται)." The woman is represented not as a common prostitute, but as a licentious wife, who, in her unbridled lustfulness, acts the part of a harlot. Lieth in wait at every corner; seeking to entice some victim. Then the narrative proceeds; the writer returns to what he beheld on the occasion to which he refers.
So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him,
Verse 13. - So she caught him and kissed him; being utterly lost to shame, like Potiphar's wife (Genesis 39:12). With an impudent face said; literally, strengthened her face and said; put on a bold and brazen look to suit, the licentious words which she spoke. Wordsworth quotes the delineation of the "strange woman" drawn by St. Ambrose ('De Cain. et Abel.,' 1:4): "Domi inquieta, in plateis vaga, osculis prodiga, pudore villis, amictu dives, genas picta; meretricio procax motu, infracto per delicias incessu, nutantibus oculis, et ludentibus jaculans palpebris retia, quibus pretiosas animus juveuum capit."
I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows.
Verse 14. - I have peace offerings with me. Shelamim, "peace or thank offerings," were divided between Jehovah, the priests, and the offerer. Part of the appointed victim was consumed by fire; the breast and right shoulder were allotted to the priests; and the rest of the animal belonged to the person who made the offering, who was to eat it with his household on the same day as a solemn ceremonial feast (Leviticus 3; Leviticus 7). The adulteress says that certain offerings were due from her, and she had duly made them. This day have I payed my vows. And now (the day being reckoned from one night to the next) the feast was ready, and she invites her paramour to share it. The religious nature of the feast is utterly ignored or forgotten. The shameless woman uses the opportunity simply as a convenience for her sin. If, as is probable, the "strange woman" is a foreigner, she is one who only outwardly conforms to the Mosaic Law, but in her heart cleaves to the impure worship of her heathen hems And doubtless, in lax times, these religious festivals, even in the case of worshippers who were not influenced by idolatrous proclivities, degenerated into self-indulgence and excess. The early Christian agapae were thus misused (1 Corinthians 11:20, etc.); and in modern times religious anniversaries have too often become occasions of licence and debauchery, their solemn origin and pious uses being entirely thrust aside.
Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee.
Verse 15. - Therefore came I forth to meet thee. As though she would invite the youth to a pious rite, she speaks; she uses religion as a pretext for her proceedings, trying to blind his conscience and to gratify his vanity. Diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee (see on Proverbs 1:28). She tries to persuade her dupe that he is the very lover for whom she was looking, whereas she was ready to take the first that offered. Spiritual writers see in this adulteress a type of the mystery of iniquity, or false doctrine, or the harlot described in Revelation (Revelation 2:20, etc.; Revelation 17:1, etc.; Revelation 18:9, etc.).
I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt.
Verse 16. - She describes the preparation she has made for his entertainment. Coverings of tapestry; marbaddim, "cushions," "pillows." The expression occurs again in Proverbs 31:22. It is derived from דָבַד "to spread," and means cushions spread out ready for use. The Septuagint has κειρίαις; Vulgate, funibus, "cords." These versions seem to regard the word as denoting a kind of delicate sacking on which the coverlets were laid. Carved works, with fine linen of Egypt; literally, striped, or variegated, coverings, Egyptian linen. The words are in apposition, but the latter point to the material used, which is אֵטוּן, etun (ἅπαξ λεγόμενον), "linen yarn or thread," hence equivalent to "coverlets of Egyptian thread." This was of extreme fineness, costly, and much prized. By "carved works" (Hebrew, חֲטֻבות chatuboth) the Authorized Version must refer to bed poles or bed boards elaborately carved and polished; but the word is better taken of coverlets striped in different colours, which give the idea of richness and luxury. Vulgate, trapetibus pictis ex Aegypto, "embroidered rugs of Egyptian work;" Septuagint, ἀμφιτάποις τοῖς ἀπ Αἰγύπτου, "shaggy cloth of Egypt." The mention of these articles denotes the foreign commerce of the Hebrews, and their appreciation of artistic work (comp. Isaiah 19:9; Ezekiel 27:7). The Prophet Amos (Amos 6:4) denounces those that "lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch themselves upon their couches."
I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
Verse 17. - I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. The substances mentioned were dissolved in or mixed with water, and then sprinkled on the couch. The love of such things is reckoned as a sign of luxury and vice (Isaiah 3:20, etc.). The three perfumes are mentioned together in Song of Solomon 4:14; "myrrh, aloes, and cassia," in Psalm 45:8. Septuagint, "I have sprinkled my couch with saffron, and my house with cinnamon." Myrrh is nowadays imported chiefly from Bombay, but it seems to be found in Arabia and on the coasts of the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. It is a gummy substance exuding from the bark of the balsamodendron when wounded, and possessing an aromatic odour not particularly agreeable to modern tastes. It was one of the ingredients of the holy oil (Exodus 30:28), and was used in the purification of women (Esther 2:12), as well as in perfuming persons and things, and, mixed with aloes, in embalming dead bodies (John 19:39). Aloes is the inspissated juice of the leaves of the aloe, a leguminous plant growing in India, Cochin China, Abyssinia, and Socotra. The ancients used the dried root for aromatic purposes. It is mentioned by Balaam (Numbers 24:6). Cinnamon, which is the same word in Hebrew and Greek, is the fragrant bark of a tree growing in Ceylon and India and the east coast of Africa.
Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves.
Verse 18. - Let us take our fill of love; let us intoxicate ourselves (inebriemur, Vulgate); as though the reason were overthrown by sensual passion as much as by drunkenness. The bride in Song of Solomon 1:2 says, "Thy love is better than, wine" (see Proverbs 5:15, 19, and note there),
For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey:
Verse 19. - The temptress proceeds to encourage the youth by showing that there is no fear of interruption or detection. The goodman is not at home. "Goodman" is an old word meaning "master of the house," or husband (Matthew 20:11, etc.); but the Hebrew is simply "the man," which is probably a contemptuous way of speaking of the husband whom she was outraging. He is gone a long journey; he has gone to a place at a great distance hence. This fact might assure her lover that he was safe from her husband's jealousy (Proverbs 6:34); but she has further encouragement to offer.
He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed.
Verse 20. - He hath taken a bag of money with him; not only to defray the expenses of the journey (a fact which need not be dwelt upon), but because he has some pecuniary business to transact which will occupy his time, and prevent his return before the appointed hour. And will come home at the day appointed; better, as the Revised Version, he will come home at the full moor, (in die pleura lunae, Vulgate). כֶּסֶא here, and כֶּסֶה Psalm 81:4, are rightly translated "the full moon," this rendering being supported by the Syriac keso, though the etymology is doubtful. As it has before been mentioned that the night was dark (ver. 9), it is plain that there were still many days to run before the moon was full, and the husband returned.
With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.
Verse 21. - Thus far we have had the adulteress introduced speaking; now the narrative proceeds. With her much fair speech she caused him to yield. First, she influenced his mind, and bent his will to her purpose by her evil eloquence. The Hebrew word means "doctrine, or learning" - devil's pleading (Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 9:9). St. Jerome has irretivit, "she netted him;" Septuagint, "She caused him to go astray (ἀπεπλάνησε) by much converse." She talked him over, though indeed he had put himself in the way of temptation, and had now no power to resist her seductions. Then with the flattering of her lips she forced him; drew him away. His body followed the lead of his blinded mind; he acceded to her solicitations. Septuagint, "With the snares of her lips she ran him aground (ἐξώκειλε), drove him headlong to ruin."
He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks;
Verse 22. - He teeth after her straightway; suddenly, as though, casting aside all scruples, he gave himself up to the temptation, and with no further delay accompanied her to the house. Septuagint, "He followed, being cajoled (κεπφωθείς), ensnared like a silly bird" (see the article on Cepphus Larus, in Erasmus's 'Adag ,' s.v. "Garrulitas"). As an ox goeth to the slaughter. He no more realizes the serious issue of his action than an irrational beast which, without prevision of the future, walks contentedly to the slaughter house, and is stupidly placid in the face of death. Or as a fool to the correction of the stocks. There is some difficulty in the translation of this clause. The Authorized Version, with which Delitzsch virtually agrees, is obtained by transposition of the nouns, the natural rendering of the Hebrew being "as fetters to the correction of a fool." The sense thus obtained is obvious: the youth follows the woman, as a fool or a criminal is led unresisting to confinement and degradation. Doubtless there is some error in the text, as may be seen by comparison of the versions. Septuagint (with which the Syriac agrees), "As a dog to chains, or as a hart struck to the liver with an arrow;" Vulgate, "As a frisking lamb, and not knowing that as a fool he is being dragged to bondage." The commentators are much divided. Fleischer, "As if in fetters to the punishment of the fool," i.e. of himself; Ewald, "As when a steel trap (springs up) for the correction of a fool," i.e. when a hidden trap suddenly catches an incautious person wandering where he has no business. The direct interpretation, that the youth follows the harlot, as fetters the proper punishment of fools, is unsatisfactory, because the parallelism leads us to expect a living being instead of "fetters." We are constrained to fall back on the Authorized Version as exhibiting the best mode of reconstructing a corrupt text. The youth, with his insensate passion, is compared to the madman or idiot who is taken away, unconscious of his fate, to a shameful deprivation of liberty.
Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.
Verse 23. - Till a dart strike through his liver. This clause would be better taken with the preceding verse, as in the Septuagint, or else placed in a parenthesis; then the following clause introduces a new come parison. The youth follows the harlot till his liver, the seat of the passions, is thoroughly inflamed, or till fatal consequences ensue. Theocr., 'Id,' 11:15 -
Ἔχθιστον ἔχων ὑποκάρδιον ἕλκος
Κύπριος ἐκ μεγάλας τὸ οἱ ἥπατι πᾶξε βέλεμνον.
"Beneath his breast
A hateful wound he bore by Cypris given,
Who in his liver fixed the fatal dart." Delitzsch would relegate the hemistich to the end of the verse, making it denote the final result of mad and illicit love. The sense thus gained is satisfactory, but the alteration is quite arbitrary, and unsupported by ancient authority. As a bird hasteth to the snare. This is another comparison (see Proverbs 1:17, the first proverb in the book, and note there). And knoweth not that it is for his life; i.e. the infatuated youth does not consider that his life is at stake, that he is bringing upon himself, by his vicious rashness, temporal and spiritual ruin (Proverbs 5:11).
Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth.
Verse 24. - The narrative ends here, and the author makes a practical exhortation deduced from it. Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children. He began by addressing his words to one, "my son" (ver. 1); he here turns to the young generally, knowing how necessary is his warning to all strong in passion, weak in will, wanting in experience. The Septuagint has "my son," as in ver. 1.
Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths.
Verse 25. - Let not thine heart decline to her ways. The verb satah is used in Proverbs 4:15 (where see note) of turning aside from evil; but here, as Delitzsch notes, it is especially appropriate to the case of a faithless wife whose transgression, or declension from virtue, is described by this term (Numbers 5:12). Go not astray in her paths. The LXX. (in most manuscripts) has only one rendering for the two clauses: "Let not thine heart incline unto her ways."
For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her.
Verse 26. - For she hath east down many wounded. Delitzsch, "For many are the slain whom she hath caused to fall." The harlot marks her course with ruined souls, as a ruthless conqueror leaves a field of battle strewn with corpses. Yea, many strong (atsum) men have been slain by her. One thinks of Samson and David and Solomon, the victims of illicit love, and suffering for it. Vulgate, et fortissimi quique interfecti sunt ab ea. But the Septuagint and many moderns take atsum in the sense of "numerous," as Psalm 35:18; ἀναρίθμητοι, "innumerable are her slain," The former interpretation seems preferable, and avoids tautology.
Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.
Verse 27. - Her house is the way to hell (sheol). A warning fontal in Proverbs 2:18 and Proverbs 5:5. Viae inferi domus ejus. The plural דַּרְכֵי is well expressed by Hitzig: "Her house forms a multiplicity of ways to hell." Manifold are the ways of destruction to which adultery leads; but they all look to one awful end. Going down to the chambers of death. Once entangled in the toils of the temptress, the victim may pass through many stages, but he ends finally in the lowest depth - destruction of body and soul Spiritual writers see here an adumbration of the seductions of false doctrine, and the late to which it brings all who by it are led astray.