I. GENERAL ADMONITION. (Vers. 1-3.) Similar prefaces to warnings against unchastity are found in Proverbs 6:20, etc.; Proverbs 7:1, etc. The same forms of iteration for the sake of urgency are observed. A fresh expression is, "That thy lips may keep insight." That is, let the lessons of wisdom be oft conned over; to keep them on the lips is to "get them by heart." "Consideration" (ver. 2), circumspection, forethought, are peculiarly needed in facing a temptation which wears a fascinating form, and which must be viewed in results, if its pernicious quality is to be understood.
II. THE FASCINATION OF THE HARLOT. (Ver. 3; comp. Proverbs 2:16.) Her lips are honeyed with compliments and flattery (comp. Song of Solomon 4:11). Her voice is smoother than oil. A temptation has no power unless it is directed to some weakness in the subject of it, as the spark goes out in the absence of tinder. The harlot's power to seduce lies mainly in that weakest of weaknesses, vanity - at least, in many cases. It is a power in general over the senses and the imagination. And it is the part of the teacher to disabuse these of their illusions. In the word "meretricious" (from the Latin word for "harlot"), applied to spurious art, we have a witness in language to the hollowness of her attractions.
III. THE RESULTS OF VICIOUS PLEASURES. (Vers. 4-6.) They are described in images full of expression.
1. As bitter like wormwood, which has a bitter, salt taste, and is regarded in the East in the light of poison. Or "like Dead Sea fruits, which tempt the taste, and turn to ashes on the lips."
2. As of acute pain, under the image of a sword, smooth on the surface, with a keen double edge to wound.
3. As fatal. The harlot beckons her guests as it were down the deathful way, to sheol, to Hades, the kingdom of the dead.
4. They have no good result. Ver. 6, correctly rendered, says, "She measures not the path of life; her tracks are roving, she knows not whither." The picture of a life which can give no account of itself, cannot justify itself to reason, and comes to a brutish end.
IV. THE REMOTER CONSEQUENCES OF VICE. (Vers. 7-13.) A gloomy vista opens, in prospect of which the warning is urgently renewed (vers. 7, 8).
1. The exposure of the detected adulterer. (Ver. 9.) He exchanges honour and repute for public shame, loses his life at the hands of the outraged husband, or becomes his slave (comp. Proverbs 6:34).
2. The loss of property. (Ver. 10.) The punishment of adultery under the Law was stoning (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22, sqq.). Possibly this might be commuted into the forfeiture of goods and enslavement to the injured husband.
3. Remorse. (Vers. 11-14.) Last and worst of all inflictions, from the Divine hand, immediately. In the last stage of consumption the victim of lust groans forth his unavailing sorrow. Remorse, the fearful counterpart of self-respect, is the mind turning upon itself, internal discord replacing the harmony God made. The sufferer accuses himself of hatred to light, contempt of rebuke, of disobedience to voices that were authoritative, of deafness to warning. No external condemnation is ever passed on a man which his own conscience has not previously ratified. Remorse is the last witness to Wisdom and her claims. To complete the picture, the miserable man is represented as reflecting that he all but felt into the doom of the public condemnation and the public execution (ver. 14). - J.
Lest thou give thine honour unto others.
(G. Lawson, D.D.)
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