My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding:
The formula of a new counsel, introducing another warning against the besetting sin of youth Proverbs 2:16.
That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge.
And that thy lips may keep - literally, "and thy lips shall keep."
For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil:
Smoother than oil - The same comparison is used in marginal reference to describe the treachery of a false friend.
But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a twoedged sword.
Wormwood - In Eastern medicine this herb, the absinthium of Greek and Latin botanists, was looked upon as poisonous rather than medicinal. Compare Revelation 8:11.
Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.
Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know them.
Or (with the Septuagint and Vulgate), Lest she should ponder (or "She ponders not") the way of life, her paths move to and fro (unsteady as an earthquake); she knows not. The words describe with a terrible vividness the state of heart and soul which prostitution brings upon its victims; the reckless blindness that will not think, tottering on the abyss, yet loud in its defiant mirth, ignoring the dreadful future.
Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth.
Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house:
Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel:
Thine honor - i. e., "The grace and freshness of thy youth" (compare Hosea 14:6; Daniel 10:8). The thought of this is to guard the young man against the sins that stain and mar it. The slave of lust sacrifices "years" that might have been peaceful and happy to one who is merciless.
Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours be in the house of a stranger;
Strangers - The whole gang of those into whose hands the slave of lust yields himself. The words are significant as showing that the older punishment of death Deuteronomy 22:21; Ezekiel 16:38; John 8:5 was not always inflicted, and that the detected adulterer was exposed rather to indefinite extortion. Besides loss of purity and peace, the sin, in all its forms, brings poverty.
And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed,
Yet one more curse is attendant on impurity. Then, as now, disease was the penalty of this sin.
And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof;
More bitter than slavery, poverty, disease, will be the bitterness of self-reproach, the hopeless remorse that worketh death.
And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!
I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly.
The conscience-stricken sinner had been "almost" given up to every form of evil in the sight of the whole assembly of fellow-townsmen; "almost," therefore, condemned to the death which that assembly might inflict Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22. The public scandal of the sin is brought in as its last aggravating feature.
Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.
The teacher seeks to counteract the evils of mere sensual passion chiefly by setting forth the true blessedness of which it is the counterfeit. The true wife is as a fountain of refreshment, where the weary soul may quench its thirst. Even the joy which is of the senses appears, as in the Song of Solomon, purified and stainless (see Proverbs 5:19 marginal reference).
Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets.
Wedded love streams forth in blessing on all around, on children and on neighbors and ill the streets, precisely because the wife's true love is given to the husband only.
Let them be only thine own, and not strangers' with thee.
Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.
Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.
Better, "A loving hind (is she) and pleasant roe." As in the whole circle of Arab and Persian poetry the antelope and the gazelle are the chosen images of beauty, so they served with equal fitness for the masculine and feminine types of it. (Compare the names Tabitha and Dorcas Acts 9:36.
And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger?
Emphasis is laid (see the Proverbs 2:16 note) upon the origin of the beguiler.
For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings.
One more warning. The sin is not against man, nor dependent on man's detection only. The secret sin is open before the eyes of Yahweh. In the balance of His righteous judgment are weighed all human acts.
Pondereth - Note the recurrence of the word used of the harlot herself (see Proverbs 1:6 note): she ponders not, God does.
His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.
He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.
The end of the sensual life: to "die without instruction," life ended, but the discipline of life fruitless; to "go astray," as if drunk with the greatness of his folly (the same word is used as for "ravished" in Proverbs 5:19, see marg.), even to the end. This is the close of what might have gone on brightening to the perfect day Proverbs 4:18.