Proverbs 7:1-27

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The fatherly admonition to the son is, “Keep my words and treasure up [hide (LXX) for safekeeping] my commandments with you.” While “keep” can signify “heed” or “observe,” the parallel expression “treasure up” suggests that the meaning here is for the son to “retain” the words or to keep his father’s teaching in his memory at all times. The son was to value his father’s words, never forgetting them but letting them guide his life. Within himself, he was to preserve his father’s “commandments” like a precious treasure and to conduct himself accordingly. The Septuagint adds, “Son, honor the Lord, and you will be strong; and besides him, fear no one else.” (7:1)

By keeping his father’s commandments, the son would “live.” His retaining them in his memory and conducting himself in harmony with them would shield him from following a course that could harm him and lead to a premature death. The son was exhorted to keep his father’s “law” or teaching (“words” [LXX]) with the kind of concern and care that he had for safeguarding the “pupil of [his] eye [literally, eyes].” (7:2)

So that he might always have his father’s “commandments” and “law” or teaching before him to guide and to motivate him, the son was admonished to keep them close to himself as if binding them on his fingers and writing them on the “tablet of [his] heart.” The words “bind them on your fingers” may serve to emphasize that the son needed to be guided by his father’s commandments and law in all his actions or undertakings. As if written on the “tablet of [his] heart,” the son would have his father’s commandments and law as a permanent part of his memory, aiding him to conduct himself aright. (7:3)

Through the teaching his father had imparted to him, the son had gained wisdom and understanding or insight. In his course of life, he was to treat wisdom and insight like dear companions, saying to wisdom, “You [are] my sister,” and calling understanding or insight, “kinsman” (a dear relative or friend). According to the Septuagint, the son was admonished to acquire “insight” as his close friend or acquaintance. (7:4)

The son’s having wisdom and insight as dear friends would safeguard him from the “strange woman” (a prostitute or an adulteress) and from being victimized by the “smooth” sayings or seductive words of a “foreign woman” (a prostitute or an adulteress). The Septuagint indicates that insight would keep or safeguard the son from the “strange and wicked” woman when he would be put upon by her charming, appealing, or seductive words. (7:5)

Windows of ancient houses were rectangular openings in the wall, and privacy was maintained with lattices. Made with crossed strips of wood, the lattice covering a window made it possible for a person inside the home to observe activity on the street without being seen by anyone walking outside. Based on the previous verses, the father is the one who spoke of himself as having looked through the lattice while positioned at a window of his house. According to the Septuagint rendering, the adulterous woman is the one who looks “from a window of her house into the squares” of the city. (7:6)

The father’s objective in looking through the lattice was to focus his attention on the “simple,” inexperienced ones, or young men who can easily be influenced to take the wrong course. Among these “sons” or youths, he perceived one to be “in want of heart” or as lacking in good sense. The mindless state of the youth was evident from his behavior and the choice he made when he remained on the street at night. In the Septuagint, the reference is to the adulterous woman as being the one wanting to determine whether she could see among the “senseless children” a youth “lacking in [good] sense,” or a mindless young man, among the “senseless children.” His actions would reveal him to be more foolish than the others. (7:7) The senseless youth passed along on the “street near her corner,” continuing to walk toward her house (“in the passages of her houses” or “dwellings” [LXX]). (7:8)

It was “twilight, in the evening of the day” or at the start of the evening. The phrase “in the midst of night and darkness” or “gloom” could indicate that the foolish youth remained on the street when total darkness had set in, and it was then that the adulterous woman made her approach to seduce him. According to the Septuagint rendering, the foolish youth converses in the evening darkness, at a time when all is at nightly rest or quiet, and it is dark or gloomy. While the youth should have been at home prepared to go to bed, he continued roaming in the city. (7:9)

The adulterous woman came to meet him. She is described as wearing the attire of a harlot and having a “guarded heart” or a concealed intent to seduce the mindless young man. The Septuagint indicates that, by her appearance, the prostitute makes the “heart” of young men “flutter” or sexually excites them. (7:10)

The woman did not conduct herself in a dignified manner. She is described as “boisterous,” “tumultuous,” “loud,” or “rowdy” and “rebellious” (possibly meaning that she acted rebelliously toward her husband). According to the Septuagint rendering, she was “agitated,” “fickle” or in a restless state and “debauched.” Instead of staying at home and diligently caring for household duties, her “feet” were elsewhere (7:11) — “now in the street; now in the square” of the city. “At every corner,” she would lie in wait, looking for opportunities to seduce foolish young men. (7:12)

The woman took hold of a senseless young man, kissed him, assumed a bold, impudent, or “shameless” (LXX) face and said to him (7:13), “Peace offerings” (or communion sacrifices) were “upon me” (or were required of me). “Today I have paid my vows” (which would have included presenting animals for sacrifice). In the case of these sacrifices, much of the meat was for the one presenting the offerings and could be enjoyed as part of a festive meal. Accordingly, the words of the woman indicated that she had ample meat on hand to share with the young man. The availability of meat would have been something special for him, as meat was not commonly part of the daily diet. (7:14)

To seduce the youth, the woman implied that he was someone special and her preparations were meant for him. She had come out to meet him, eagerly searched for him (literally, “your face” [with longing for your face (LXX)]), and found him. (7:15)

What the woman had ready for the youth was designed to appeal to his senses — sight and smell. According to the Hebrew text, she had spread marvaddím, probably meaning layers of luxurious covers, on her couch or bed, and also costly linen cloth imported from Egypt. The linen cloth may have been multicolored and embroidered (one possible meaning for the Hebrew word chatuvóhth). (7:16; see the Notes section.) Besides having spread out fine covers, the woman said that she had sprinkled her bed with spices — myrrh (an aromatic gum resin obtained from a variety of thorny shrubs), aloes (an aromatic substance possibly obtained from eaglewood trees), and cinnamon (a product obtained from trees of the laurel family). (7:17; see the Notes section.)

The woman’s invitation to the youth was for him to spend the entire night with her in lovemaking. “Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning. Let us enjoy each other in [acts of] lovemaking [plural in Hebrew].” (7:18; see the Notes section.)

The woman assured the youth that there was no reason for concern about an unexpected arrival of her husband. He was “not in his house” but was on a journey some distance away. (7:19) Apparently so that he could be gone from his home for an extended period and in a position to procure food and lodging and make other purchases, he had taken a “bag of silver in his hand.” The man would not return to his house until the “day of the full moon.” If the words “in the midst of night and darkness” or “gloom” (in verse 9) relate to a night before the time of the new moon, the man would not be coming back until about two weeks later. The Septuagint indicates that he would be returning to his house “after many days.” (7:20)

With the “greatness” or “abundance” of her “teaching” or her seductive words, the adulterous woman “turned aside” the youth from the course he should have chosen. The Septuagint says that she led him astray “with much conversation” or persuasive talk. She compelled him to respond as she desired, doing so with the “smoothness of her lips” (the “snares of her lips” [LXX], the ensnaring words that she expressed) or the seductive words that passed her lips and which he was unable to resist. (7:21)

Suddenly or impulsively, the youth followed the woman like a bull going to the slaughter. In the Hebrew text, the next phrase describing the way he followed her is obscure. A literal rendering could be, “and as an anklet until the discipline of a fool,” possibly meaning as one put in fetters to experience the discipline that a senseless person merited. Modern translations often render the Hebrew words in keeping with emendations of the text. “He follows her … like a madman on his way to the stocks.” (NJB) “He follows her … like a fool to the stocks for punishment.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “He followed her … like a fool on the way to be punished.” (CEV) “He followed her … like a deer stepping into a noose.” (NIV) “He … bounds like a stag toward the trap.” (NRSV) “He follows her … like a stag that minces toward the net.” (NAB) According to the Septuagint, “He followed her … like a dog to bonds” or “chains.” (7:22)

The young man’s letting himself be led astray terminates at a point where an “arrow” pierces his “liver,” ending his life. In the Septuagint, his situation is likened to that of a “deer” that has an arrow shot “into the liver.” Thereafter the wording of the Septuagint is much like that of the Hebrew text. The youth is spoken of as being “like a bird” hurrying “into a trap” and not knowing or realizing that his “soul” or life is at risk. (7:23)

Having alerted his “sons” to the serious consequences that involvement with an adulterous woman would have, the father admonished them to “listen” to him, acting in harmony with his words, and being attentive to the “words of [his] mouth” or paying attention to what he had said to them. (7:24; see the Notes section.)

The fatherly counsel to the son is not to let his “heart” (his mind or inmost self) be turned aside (be inclined [LXX]) to the ways of the adulterous woman and not to “stray into her paths.” (7:25; see the Notes section.) For the son to disregard this admonition would prove to be calamitous, for, in the case of many, involvement with an adulterous woman led to their being laid low or struck down in death (“wounded and laid low” [LXX]). “Countless [are] all her slain.” She proved to be the instrument that brought about their untimely death. (7:26) The “ways to Sheol” (“roads to Hades” [LXX], the realm of the dead) are “her house” or the place to which she leads those who senselessly follow her like animals to be slaughtered. These “ways” or roads go down to the “chambers of death.” Loss of life is the ultimate end for those who follow the ways of an adulterous woman. (7:27)

Notes

In verse 16, the rendering of the Septuagint represents the woman as saying that she had spread coverings on her couch or bed and tapestry from Egypt.

According to the wording of verse 17 in the Septuagint, the woman had sprinkled her bed with “saffron” and her house with “cinnamon.”

In the Septuagint, verse 18 concludes with the words, “and let us be involved in love” (éros, love of a sexual or sensual nature).

In verse 24, the Septuagint uses the singular “son,” not the plural “my sons” (as does the extant Hebrew text) and consistently continues in the next verse with the singular.

In verse 25, the Septuagint does not include the words “do not stray into her paths.”