Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding:Here a fourth rule of life follows the three already given, Proverbs 4:24, Proverbs 4:25, Proverbs 4:26-27 :
1 My son, attend unto my wisdom,
And incline thine ear to my prudence,
2 To observe discretion,
And that thy lips preserve knowledge.
3 For the lips of the adulteress distil honey,
And smoother than oil is her mouth;
4 But her end is bitter like wormwood,
Sharper than a two-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death,
Her steps cleave to Hades.
6 She is far removed from entering the way of life,
Her steps wander without her observing it.
Wisdom and understanding increase with the age of those who earnestly seek after them. It is the father of the youth who here requests a willing ear to his wisdom of life, gained in the way of many years' experience and observation. In Proverbs 5:2 the inf. of the object is continued in the finitum, as in Proverbs 2:2, Proverbs 2:8. מזמּות (vid., on its etymon under Proverbs 1:4) are plans, projects, designs, for the most part in a bad sense, intrigues and artifices (vid., Proverbs 24:8), but also used of well-considered resolutions toward what is good, and hence of the purposes of God, Jeremiah 23:20. This noble sense of the word מזמּה, with its plur., is peculiar to the introductory portion (chap. 1-9) of the Book of Proverbs. The plur. means here and at Proverbs 8:12 (placing itself with חכמות and תּבוּנות, vid., p. 68) the reflection and deliberation which is the presupposition of well-considered action, and שׁמר is thus not otherwise than at Proverbs 19:8, and everywhere so meant, where it has that which is obligatory as its object: the youth is summoned to careful observation and persevering exemplification of the quidquid agas, prudenter agas et respice finem. In 2b the Rebia Mugrash forbids the genitive connection of the two words דּעתו שׂפתיך; we translate: et ut scientiam labia tua tueantur. Lips which preserve knowledge are such as permit nothing to escape from them (Psalm 17:3) which proceeds not from the knowledge of God, and in Him of that which is good and right, and aims at the working out of this knowledge; vid., Khler on Malachi 2:7. שׂפתיך (from שׂפה, Arab. shafat, edge, lip, properly that against which one rubs, and that which rubs itself) is fem., but the usage of the language presents the word in two genders (cf. 3a with Proverbs 26:23). Regarding the pausal ינצרוּ for יצּרוּ, vid., under Malachi 3:1; Malachi 2:11. The lips which distil the honey of enticement stand opposite to the lips which distil knowledge; the object of the admonition is to furnish a protection against the honey-lips.
That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge.
For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil:זרה denotes the wife who belongs to another, or who does not belong to him to whom she gives herself or who goes after her (vid., Proverbs 2:16). She appears here as the betrayer of youth. The poet paints the love and amiableness which she feigns with colours from the Song of Songs, Sol 4:11, cf. Sol 5:16. נפת denotes the honey flowing of itself from the combs (צוּפים), thus the purest and sweetest; its root-word is not נוּף, which means to shake, vibrate, and only mediately (when the object is a fluid) to scatter, sprinkle, but, as Schultens has observed, as verb נפת equals Arab. nafat, to bubble, to spring up, nafath, to blow, to spit out, to pour out. Parchon places the word rightly under נפת (while Kimchi places it under נוּף after the form בּשׁת), and explained it by חלות דבשׁ היצאים מי הכוורת קודם ריסוק (the words דבשׁ היוצא should have been used): the honey which flows from the cells before they are broken (the so-called virgin honey). The mouth, חך equals Arab. ḥink (from חנך, Arab. hanak, imbuere, e.g., after the manner of Beduins, the mouth of the newly-born infant with date-honey), comes into view here, as at Proverbs 8:7, etc., as the instrument of speech: smoother than oil (cf. Psalm 55:22), it shows itself when it gives forth amiable, gentle, impressive words (Proverbs 2:16, Proverbs 6:24); also our "schmeicheln" ( equals to flatter, caress) is equivalent to to make smooth and fair; in the language of weavers it means to smooth the warp.
But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a twoedged sword.In Proverbs 5:4 the reverse of the sweet and smooth external is placed opposite to the attraction of the seducer, by whose influence the inconsiderate permits himself to be carried away: her end, i.e., the last that is experienced of her, the final consequence of intercourse with her (cf. Proverbs 23:32), is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. The O.T. language regards bitterness and poison as related both in meaning and in reality; the word לענה (Aq. ἀψίνθιον equals wormwood) means in Arab. the curse. חרב פּיּות is translated by Jerome after the lxx, gladius biceps; but פּיפיּות means double-edged, and חרב שׁני פיות (Judges 3:16) means a doubled-edged sword. Here the plur. will thus poetically strengthen the meaning, like ξίφος πολύστομον, that which devours, as if it had three or four edges (Fl.). The end in which the disguised seduction terminates is bitter as the bitterest, and cutting as that which cuts the most: self-condemnation and a feeling of divine anger, anguish of heart, and destructive judgment. The feet of the adulteress go downward to death. In Hebr. this descendentes ad mortem is expressed by the genitive of connection; מות is the genitive, as in יורדי בור, Proverbs 1:12; elsewhere the author uses יורדות אל, Proverbs 7:27; Proverbs 2:18. Death, מות (so named from the stretching of the corpse after the stiffness of death), denotes the condition of departure from this side as a punishment, with which is associated the idea of divine wrath. In שׁאול (sinking, abyss, from שׁאל, R. של, χαλᾶν, vid., under Isaiah 5:14), lie the ideas of the grave as a place of corruption, and of the under-world as the place of incorporeal shadow-life. Her steps hold fast to Hades is equivalent to, they strive after Hades and go straight to it; similar to this is the Arab. expression, hdhâ âldrb yâkhdh âly âlbld: this way leads straight forward to the town (Fl.).
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.If we try to connect the clause beginning with פּן with 5b as its principal sentence: she goes straight to the abyss, so that by no means does she ever tread the way of life (thus e.g., Schultens), or better, with 6b: never more to walk in the way of life, her paths fluctuate hither and thither (as Gr. Venet. and Kamphausen in Bunsen's Bibelwerk, after Bertheau and Ewald, translate); then in the former case more than in the latter the difference of the subject opposes itself, and in the latter, in addition, the לא תדע, only disturbing in this negative clause. Also by the arrangement of the words, 6a appears as an independent thought. But with Jewish expositors (Rashi, Aben-Ezra, Ralbag, Malbim, etc.) to interpret תּפּלּס, after the Talmud (b. Mod katan 9a) and Midrash, as an address is impracticable; the warning: do not weigh the path of life, affords no meaning suitable to this connection - for we must, with Cartwright and J. H. Michaelis, regard 6a as the antecedent to 6b: ne forte semitam vitae ad sequendum eligas, te per varios deceptionum meandros abripit ut non noveris, ubi locorum sis; but then the continuation of the address is to be expected in 6b. No, the subject to תפלם is the adulteress, and פּן is an intensified לא. Thus the lxx, Jerome, Syr., Targ., Luther, Geier, Nolde, and among Jewish interpreters Heidenheim, who first broke with the tradition sanctioned by the Talmud and the Midrash, for he interpreted 6a as a negative clause spoken in the tone of a question. But פּן is not suitable for a question, but for a call. Accordingly, Bttcher explains: viam vitae ne illa complanare studeat! (פּלּס in the meaning complanando operam dare). But the adulteress as such, and the striving to come to the way of life, stand in contradiction: an effort to return must be meant, which, because the power of sin over her is too great, fails; but the words do not denote that, they affirm the direct contrary, viz., that it does not happen to the adulteress ever to walk in the way of life. As in the warning the independent פּן may be equivalent to cave ne (Job 32:13), so also in the declaration it may be equivalent to absit ut, for פּן (from פּנה, after the forms בּן equals Arab. banj. עץ equals Arab. 'aṣj) means turning away, removal. Thus: Far from taking the course of the way of life (which has life as its goal and reward) - for פּלּס, to open, to open a road (Psalm 78:50), has here the meaning of the open road itself - much rather do her steps wilfully stagger (Jeremiah 14:10) hither and thither, they go without order and without aim, at one time hither, at another time thither, without her observing it; i.e., without her being concerned at this, that she thereby runs into the danger of falling headlong into the yawning abyss. The unconsciousness which the clause לא תדע esu expresses, has as its object not the falling (Psalm 35:8), of which there is here nothing directly said, but just this staggering, vacillation, the danger of which she does not watch against. נעו has Mercha under the ע with Zinnorith preceding; it is Milra [an oxytone] (Michlol 111b); the punctuation varies in the accentuations of the form without evident reason: Olsh. 233, p. 285. The old Jewish interpreters (and recently also Malbim) here, as also at Proverbs 2:16, by the זרה [strange woman] understand heresy (מינות), or the philosophy that is hostile to revelation; the ancient Christian interpreters understood by it folly (Origen), or sensuality (Procopius), or heresy (Olympiodorus), or false doctrine (Polychronios). The lxx, which translates, Proverbs 5:5, רגליה by τῆς ἀφροσύνης οἱ πόδες, looks toward this allegorical interpretation. But this is unnecessary, and it is proved to be false from Proverbs 5:15-20, where the זרה is contrasted with the married wife.
Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth.The eighth discourse springs out of the conclusion of the seventh, and connects itself by its reflective מעליה so closely with it that it appears as its continuation; but the new beginning and its contents included in it, referring only to social life, secures its relative independence. The poet derives the warning against intercourse with the adulteress from the preceding discourse, and grounds it on the destructive consequences.
7 And now, ye sons, hearken unto me,
And depart not from the words of my mouth.
8 Hold thy path far from her neighbourhood,
And come not to the door of her house!
9 That thou mayest not give the freshness of thy youth to another,
Nor thy years to the cruel one;
10 That strangers may not sate themselves with thy possessions,
And the fruit of thy toils come into the house of a stranger,
11 And thou groanest at the end,
When thy flesh and thy body are consumed.
Neither here nor in the further stages of this discourse is there any reference to the criminal punishment inflicted on the adulterer, which, according to Leviticus 20:10, consisted in death, according to Ezekiel 16:40, cf. John. PRomans 8:5, in stoning, and according to a later traditional law, in strangulation (חנק). Ewald finds in Proverbs 5:14 a play on this punishment of adultery prescribed by law, and reads from Proverbs 5:9. that the adulterer who is caught by the injured husband was reduced to the state of a slave, and was usually deprived of his manhood. But that any one should find pleasure in making the destroyer of his wife his slave is a far-fetched idea, and neither the law nor the history of Israel contains any evidence for this punishment by slavery or the mutilation of the adulterer, for which Ewald refers to Grimm's Deutsche Rechtsaltertmer. The figure which is here sketched by the poet is very different. He who goes into the net of the wanton woman loses his health and his goods. She stands not alone, but has her party with her, who wholly plunder the simpleton who goes into her trap. Nowhere is there any reference to the husband of the adulteress. The poet does not at all think on a married woman. And the word chosen directs our attention rather to a foreigner than to an Israelitish woman, although the author may look upon harlotry as such as heathenish rather than Israelitish, and designate it accordingly. The party of those who make prostitutes of themselves consists of their relations and their older favourites, the companions of their gain, who being in league with her exhaust the life-strength and the resources of the befooled youth (Fl.). This discourse begins with ועתּה, for it is connected by this concluding application (cf. Proverbs 7:24) with the preceding.
Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house:In Proverbs 5:8, one must think on such as make a gain of their impurity. מעל, Schultens remarks, with reference to Ezekiel 23:18, crebrum in rescisso omni commercio: מן denotes the departure, and על the nearness, from which one must remove himself to a distance. Regarding הוד gn (Proverbs 5:9), which primarily, like our Pracht (bracht from brechen equals to break) pomp, magnificence, appears to mean fulness of sound, and then fulness of splendour, see under Job 39:20; here there is a reference to the freshness or the bloom of youth, as well as the years, against the sacrifice of which the warning is addressed - in a pregnant sense they are the fairest years, the years of youthful fulness of strength. Along with אחרים the singulare-tantum אכזרי (vid., Jeremiah 50:42) has a collective sense; regarding the root-meaning, vid., under Isaiah 13:9. It is the adj. relat. of אכזר after the form אכזב, which is formed not from אך זר, but from an unknown verb כּזר. The ancients referred it to death and the devil; but the אכזרי belongs to the covetous society, which impels ever anew to sin, which is their profit, him who has once fallen into it, and thus brings bodily ruin upon him; they are the people who stand far aloof from this their sacrifice, and among them are barbarous, rude, inexorably cruel monsters (Unmenschen) (Graecus Venetus, τῷ ἀπανθρώπῳ), who rest not till their victim is laid prostrate on the ground and ruined both bodily and financially.
Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel:
Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours be in the house of a stranger;This other side of the ruin Proverbs 5:10 presents as an image of terror. For הוד refers to the person in his stately appearance, but כּח to his possessions in money and goods; for this word, as well as in the strikingly similar passage Hosea 7:9, is used as the synonym of חיל (Genesis 34:29, etc.), in the sense of ability, estate. This meaning is probably mediated by means of a metonymy, as Genesis 4:12; Job 31:39, where the idea of the capability of producing is passed over into that of the produce conformable to it; so here the idea of work-power passes over into that of the gain resulting therefrom. ועצביך (and thy toils) is not, like כּחך, the accusative governed by ישׂבּעוּ; the carrying over of this verb disturbs the parallelism, and the statement in the passage besides does not accord therewith, which, interpreted as a virtual predicate, presents 10b as an independent prohibitive clause: neve sint labores tui in domo peregrini, not peregrina; at least נכרי according to the usage of the language is always personal, so that בּית נכרי (cf. Lamentations 5:2), like מלבושׁ נכרי, Zephaniah 1:8, is to be explained after עיר נכרי, Judges 19:12. עצב (from עצב, Arab. 'aṣab, to bind fast, to tie together, then to make effort, ποιεῖν, laborare) is difficult work (Proverbs 10:22), and that which is obtained by it; Fleischer compares the Ital. i miei sudori, and the French mes sueurs.
And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed,The fut. ישׂבּעוּ and the יהיוּ needed to complete 10b are continued in Proverbs 5:11 in the consec. perf. נהם, elsewhere of the hollow roaring of the sea, Isaiah 5:30, the growling of the lion, Proverbs 28:15, here, as also Ezekiel 24:23, of the hollow groaning of men; a word which echoes the natural sound, like הוּם, המה. The lxx, with the versions derived from it, has καὶ μεταμεληθήσῃ, i.e., ונחמתּ (the Niph. נחם, to experience the sorrow of repentance, also an echo-word which imitates the sound of deep breathing) - a happy quid pro quo, as if one interchanged the Arab. naham, fremere, anhelare, and nadam, poenitere. That wherein the end consists to which the deluded youth is brought, and the sorrowful sound of despair extorted from him, is stated in 11b: his flesh is consumed away, for sensuality and vexation have worked together to undermine his health. The author here connects together two synonyms to strengthen the conception, as if one said: All thy tears and thy weeping help thee nothing (Fl.); he loves this heaping together of synonyms, as we have shown at p. 33. When the blood-relation of any one is called שׁאר בּשׂרו, Leviticus 18:6; Leviticus 25:49, these two synonyms show themselves in subordination, as here in close relation. שׁאר appears to be closely connected with שׁרירים, muscles and sinews, and with שׁר, the umbilical cord, and thus to denote the flesh with respect to its muscular nature adhering to the bones (Micah 3:2), as בּשׂר denotes it with respect to its tangible outside clothed with skin (vid., under Isaiah, p. 418).
And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof;The poet now tells those whom he warns to hear how the voluptuary, looking back on his life-course, passes sentence against himself.
12 And thou sayest, "Why have I then hated correction,
And my heart despised instruction!
13 And I have not listened to the voice of my teachers,
Nor lent mine ear to my instructors?
14 I had almost fallen into every vice
In the midst of the assembly and the congregation!"
The question 12a (here more an exclamation than a question) is the combination of two: How has it become possible for me? How could it ever come to it that.... Thus also one says in Arab.: Kyf f'alat hadhâ (Fl.). The regimen of איך in 12b is becoming faint, and in 13b has disappeared. The Kal נאץ (as Proverbs 1:30; Proverbs 15:5) signifies to despise; the Piel intensively, to contemn and reject (R. נץ, pungere).
And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!שׁמע בּ signifies to cleave to anything in hearing, as ראה ב is to do so in seeing; שׁמע ל yet more closely corresponds with the classic ἐπακούειν, obedire, e.g., Psalm 81:9; שׁמע בּקול is the usual phrase for "hearken!"
I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly.כּמעט with the perf. following is equivalent to: it wanted but a little that this or that should happen, e.g., Genesis 26:10. It is now for the most part thus explained: it wanted but a little, and led astray by that wicked companionship I would have been drawn away into crime, for which I would then have been subjected to open punishment (Fl.). Ewald understands רע directly of punishment in its extreme form, stoning; and Hitzig explains כל־רע by "the totality of evil," in so far as the disgraceful death of the criminal comprehends in it all other evils that are less. But בּכל־רע means, either, into every evil, misfortune, or into every wickedness; and since רע, in contradistinction to לב (Hitzig compares Ezekiel 36:5), is a conception of a species, then the meaning is equivalent to in omni genere mali. The reference to the death-punishment of the adulteress is excluded thereby, though it cannot be denied that it might be thought of at the same time, if he who too late comes to consider his ways were distinctly designated in the preceding statements as an adulterer. But it is on the whole a question whether בכל־רע is meant of the evil which follows sin as its consequence. The usage of the language permits this, cf. 2 Samuel 16:8; Exodus 5:19; 1 Chronicles 7:23; Psalm 10:6, but no less the reference to that which is morally bad, cf. Exodus 32:22 (where Keil rightly compares with 1 John 5:19); and הייתי (for which in the first case one expected נפלתּי, I fell into, vid., Proverbs 13:17; Proverbs 17:20; Proverbs 28:14) is even more favourable to the latter reference. Also בּתוך קהל ועדה (cf. on the heaping together of synonyms under 11b), this paraphrase of the palam ac publice, with its בּתוך (cf. Psalm 111:1; 2 Chronicles 20:14), looks rather to a heightening of the moral self-accusation. He found himself in all wickedness, living and moving therein in the midst of the congregation, and thereby giving offence to it, for he took part in the external worship and in the practices of the congregation, branding himself thereby as a hypocrite. That by the one name the congregation is meant in its civil aspect, and by the other in its ecclesiastical aspect, is not to be supposed: in the congregation of the people of the revealed law, the political and the religious sides are not so distinguished. It is called without distinction קהל and עדה (from יעד). Rather we would say that קהל is the whole ecclesia, and עדה the whole of its representatives; but also the great general council bears sometimes the one name (Exodus 12:3, cf. 21) and sometimes the other (Deuteronomy 31:30, cf. 28) - the placing of them together serves thus only to strengthen the conception.
Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.The commendation of true conjugal love in the form of an invitation to a participation in it, is now presented along with the warning against non-conjugal intercourse, heightened by a reference to its evil consequences.
15 Drink water from thine own cistern,
And flowing streams from thine own fountain.
16 Shall thy streams flow abroad,
The water-brooks in the streets!
17 Let them belong to thyself alone,
And not to strangers with thee.
One drinks water to quench his thirst; here drinking is a figure of the satisfaction of conjugal love, of which Paul says, 1 Corinthians 7:9, κρεῖσσόν ἐστι γαμῆσαι ἢ πυροῦσθαι, and this comes into view here, in conformity with the prevailing character of the O.T., only as a created inborn natural impulse, without reference to the poisoning of it by sin, which also within the sphere of married life makes government, moderation, and restraint a duty. Warning against this degeneracy of the natural impulse to the πάθος ἐπιθυμίας authorized within divinely prescribed limits, the apostle calls the wife of any one τὸ ἑαυτοῦ σκεῦος (cf. 1 Peter 3:7). So here the wife, who is his by covenant (Proverbs 2:17), is called "cistern" (בור)
(Note: The lxx translate ἀπὸ σῶν ἀγγείων, i.e., מכּוריך (vid., Lagarde).)
and "fountain" (בּאר) of the husband to whom she is married. The figure corresponds to the sexual nature of the wife, the expression for which is נקבה; but Isaiah 51:1 holds to the natural side of the figure, for according to it the wife is a pit, and the children are brought out of it into the light of day. Aben-Ezra on Leviticus 11:36 rightly distinguishes between בור and באר: the former catches the rain, the latter wells out from within. In the former, as Rashi in Erubin ii. 4 remarks, there are מים מכונסים, in the latter חיים מים. The post-biblical Hebrew observes this distinction less closely (vid., Kimchi's Book of Roots), but the biblical throughout; so far the Kerı̂, Jeremiah 6:7, rightly changes בור into the form בּיר, corresponding to the Arab. byar. Therefore בור is the cistern, for the making of which חצב, Jeremiah 2:13, and באר the well, for the formation of which חפר, Genesis 21:30, and כרה, Genesis 26:25, are the respective words usually employed (vid., Malbim, Sifra 117b). The poet shows that he also is aware of this distinction, for he calls the water which one drinks from the בור by the name מים, but on the other hand that out of the באר by the name נוזלים, running waters, fluenta; by this we are at once reminded of Sol 4:15, cf. 12. The בור offers only stagnant water (according to the Sohar, the בור has no water of its own, but only that which is received into it), although coming down into it from above; but the באר has living water, which wells up out of its interior (מתּוך, 15b, intentionally for the mere מן), and is fresh as the streams from Lebanon (נזל, properly labi, to run down, cf. אזל, placide ire, and generally ire; Arab. zâl, loco cedere, desinere; Arab. zll, IV, to cause to glide back, deglutire, of the gourmand). What a valuable possession a well of water is for nomads the history of the patriarchs makes evident, and a cistern is one of the most valuable possessions belonging to every well-furnished house. The figure of the cistern is here surpassed by that of the fountain, but both refer to the seeking and finding satisfaction (cf. the opposite passage, Proverbs 23:27) with the wife, and that, as the expressive possessive suffixes denote, with his legitimate wife.
Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets.Here we meet with two other synonyms standing in a similar relation of progression. As עין denotes the fountain as to its point of outflow, so מעין (n. loci) means water flowing above on the surface, which in its course increases and divides itself into several courses; such a brook is called, with reference to the water dividing itself from the point of outflow, or to the way in which it divides, פּלג (from פּלג, Job 38:25), Arab. falaj (as also the Ethiop.) or falj, which is explained by nahar ṣaghayr (Fl.).
(Note: The latter idea (vid., under Psalm 1:3) lies nearer, after Job 38:25 : the brook as dividing channels for itself, or as divided into such; falj (falaj) signifies, according to the representation Isaiah 58:8, also like fajr, the morning-light (as breaking forth from a cleft).)
We cannot in this double figure think of any reference to the generative power in the sperma; similar figures are the waters of Judah, Isaiah 48:1, and the waters of Israel flowing forth as if from a bucket, Numbers 24:7, where זרעו is the parallel word to מים, cf. also the proper name מואב (from מו equals מוי from מוה, diffluere), aqua h.e. semen patris, and שׁגל, Deuteronomy 28:30, equals Arab. sajal (whence sajl equals דּלי, situla), which is set aside by the Kerı̂. Many interpreters have by חוּצה and בּרחבות been here led into the error of pressing into the text the exhortation not to waste the creative power in sinful lust. The lxx translates יפצוּ by ὑπερεκχείσθω; but Origen, and also Clemens Alexandrinus, used the phrase μὴ ὑπερεκχείσθω, which is found in the Complut., Ald., and several codd., and is regarded by Lagarde, as also Cappellus, as original: the three Gttingen theologians (Ewald, Bertheau, and Elster) accordingly make the emendation אל־יפצוּ. But that μή of the lxx was not added till a later period; the original expression, which the Syro-Hexapl. authorizes, was ὑπερεκχείσθω without μή, as also in the version of Aquila, διασκορπιζέσθωσαν without μή (vid., Field). The Hebrew text also does not need אל. Clericus, and recently Hitzig, Zckler, Kamphausen, avoid this remedy, for they understand this verse interrogatively - an expedient which is for the most part and also here unavailing; for why should not the author have written אם יפצו? Schultens rightly remarks: nec negationi nec interrogationi ullus hic locus, for (with Fleischer and von Hofmann, Schriftbeweis, ii. 2, 402) he regards Proverbs 5:16 as a conclusion: tunc exundabunt; so that he strengthens the summons of Proverbs 5:15 by the promise of numerous descendants from unviolated marriage. But to be so understood, the author ought to have written ויפצו. So, according to the text, יפצו as jussive continues the imper. שׁתה (15a), and the full meaning according to the connection is this: that within the marriage relation the generative power shall act freely and unrestrained. חוּץ and רחבות denote (Proverbs 1:20) the space free from houses, and the ways and places which lead towards and stretch between them; חוּץ (from חוּץ, Arab. khass, to split, seorsim ponere) is a very relative conception, according as one thinks of that which is without as the contrast of the house, the city, or the country. Here חוץ is the contrast of the person, and thus that which is anywhere without it, whereto the exercise of its manly power shall extend. The two figurative expressions are the description of the libero flumine, and the contrast, that restriction of self which the marriage relation, according to 1 Corinthians 7:3-5, condemns.
Let them be only thine own, and not strangers' with thee.That such matters as there are thought of, is manifest from this verse. As זרע comprehends with the cause (sperma) the effect (posterity), so, in Proverbs 5:16, with the effusio roboris virilis is connected the idea of the beginnings of life. For the subjects of Proverbs 5:17 are the effusiones seminis named in Proverbs 5:16. These in their effects (Proverbs 5:17) may belong to thee alone, viz., to thee alone (לבדּך, properly in thy separateness) within thy married relation, not, as thou hast fellowship with other women, to different family circles, Aben-Ezra rightly regards as the subject, for he glosses thus: הפלגים שׁהם הבנים הבשׁרים, and Immanuel well explains יהיוּ־לך by יתיחסו לך. The child born out of wedlock belongs not to the father alone, he knows not to whom it belongs; its father must for the sake of his honour deny it before the world. Thus, as Grotius remarks: ibi sere ubi prolem metas. In ואין the יהיו is continued. It is not thus used adverbially for לא, as in the old classic Arabic lyas for l' (Fl.), but it carries in it the force of a verb, so that יהיו, according to rule, in the sense of ולא היו equals ולא יהיו, continues it.
Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.With Proverbs 5:18 is introduced anew the praise of conjugal love. These three verses, Proverbs 5:18-21, have the same course of thought as Proverbs 5:15-17.
18 Let thy fountain be blessed,
And rejoice in the wife of thy youth.
19 The lovely hind and the graceful gazelle -
May her bosom always charm thee;
In her love mayest thou delight thyself evermore.
20 But why wilt thou be fascinated with a stranger,
And embrace the bosom of a foreign woman?
Like בור and באר, מקור is also a figure of the wife; the root-word is קוּר, from קר, כר, the meanings of which, to dig and make round, come together in the primary conception of the round digging out or boring out, not קוּר equals קרר, the Hiph. of which means (Jeremiah 6:7) to well out cold (water). It is the fountain of the birth that is meant (cf. מקור of the female ערוה, e.g., Leviticus 20:18), not the procreation (lxx, ἡ σὴ φλέψ, viz., φλὲψ γονίμη); the blessing wished for by him is the blessing of children, which בּרוּך so much the more distinctly denotes if בּרך, Arab. barak, means to spread out, and בּרך thus to cause a spreading out. The מן, 18b, explains itself from the idea of drawing (water), given with the figure of a fountain; the word בּאשׁת found in certain codices is, on the contrary, prosaic (Fl.). Whilst שׂמח מן is found elsewhere (Ecclesiastes 2:20; 2 Chronicles 20:27) as meaning almost the same as שׂמח בּ; the former means rejoicing from some place, the latter in something. In the genitive connection, "wife of thy youth" (cf. Proverbs 2:17), both of these significations lie: thy youthful wife, and she who was chosen by thee in thy youth, according as we refer the suffix to the whole idea or only to the second member of the chain of words.
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.The subject, 19a, set forth as a theme courts love for her who is to be loved, for she presents herself as lovely. איּלת is the female of the stag, which may derive its name איּל from the weapon-power of its horns, and יעלה (from יעל, Arab. w'al, to climb), that of the wild-goat (יעל); and thus properly, not the gazelle, which is called צבי on account of its elegance, but the chamois. These animals are commonly used in Semitic poetry as figures of female beauty on account of the delicate beauty of their limbs and their sprightly black eyes. אהבים signifies always sensual love, and is interchanged in this erotic meaning (Proverbs 7:18) with דּודים. In 19b the predicate follows the subject. The Graec. Venet. translates as if the word were דודיה, and the Syr. as if it were דרכיה, but Aquila rightly translates τίτθοι αὐτῆς. As τίτθος is derived (vid., Curtius, Griech. Etymologie, Nr. 307) from dhâ, to suck (causative, with anu, to put to sucking), so דּד, שׁד, תּד, Arab. thady (commonly in dual thadjein), from שׁדה, Arab. thdy, rigare, after which also the verb ירוּוּך is chosen: she may plentifully give thee to drink; figuratively equivalent to, refresh or (what the Aram. רוּי precisely means) fascinate
(Note: Many editions have here בּכל־; but this Dagesh, which is contrary to rule, is to be effaced.)
thee, satisfy thee with love. דּדּים also is an erotic word, which besides in this place is found only in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 23:3, Ezekiel 23:8, Ezekiel 23:21). The lxx obliterates the strong sensual colouring of this line. In 19c it changes תּשׁגּה into תשׂגה, πολλοστὸς ἔσῃ, perhaps also because the former appeared to be too sensual. Moses ha-Darshan (in Rashi) proposes to explain it after the Arab. sjy, to cover, to cast over, to come over anything (III equals עסק, to employ oneself with something): engage thyself with her love, i.e., be always devoted to her in love. And Immanuel himself, the author of a Hebrew Divan expatiating with unparalleled freedom in erotic representations, remarks, while he rightly understands תשׁגה of the fascination of love: קורא התמדת חשׁקו אפילו באשׁתו שׁגגה, he calls the husband's continual caressing of the wife an error. But this moral side-glance lies here at a distance from the poet. He speaks here of a morally permissible love-ecstasy, or rather, since תמיד excludes that which is extraordinary, of an intensity of love connected with the feeling of superabundant happiness. שׁגה properly signifies to err from the way, therefore figuratively, with ב of a matter, like delirare ea, to be wholly captivated by her, so that one is no longer in his own power, can no longer restrain himself - the usual word for the intoxication of love and of wine, Proverbs 20:1 (Fl.).
And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger?The answer to the Why? in this verse is: no reasonable cause - only beastly sensuality, only flagitious blindness can mislead thee. The ב of בזרה is, as 19b and Isaiah 28:7, that of the object through which one is betrayed into intoxication. חק (thus, according to the Masora, four times in the O.T. for חיק) properly means an incision or deepening, as Arab. hujr (from hjr, cohibere), the front of the body, the part between the arms or the female breasts, thus the bosom, Isaiah 40:11 (with the swelling part of the clothing, sinus vestis, which the Arabs call jayb), and the lap; חבּק (as Proverbs 4:8), to embrace, corresponds here more closely with the former of these meanings; also elsewhere the wife of any one is called אשת חיקו or השׁכבת בחיקו, as she who rests on his breast. The ancients, also J. H. Michaelis, interpret Proverbs 5:15-20 allegorically, but without thereby removing sensual traces from the elevated N.T. consciousness of pollution, striving against all that is fleshly; for the castum cum Sapientia conjugium would still be always represented under the figure of husband and wife dwelling together. Besides, though זרה might be, as the contrast of חכמה, the personified lust of the world and of the flesh, yet 19a is certainly not the חכמה, but a woman composed of flesh and blood. Thus the poet means the married life, not in a figurative sense, but in its reality - he designedly describes it thus attractively and purely, because it bears in itself the preservative against promiscuous fleshly lust.
For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings.That the intercourse of the sexes out of the married relationship is the commencement of the ruin of a fool is now proved.
21 For the ways of every one are before the eyes of Jahve,
And all his paths He marketh out.
22 His own sins lay hold of him, the evil-doer,
And in the bands of his sins is he held fast.
23 He dies for the want of correction,
And in the fulness of his folly he staggers to ruin.
It is unnecessary to interpret נכח as an adverbial accusative: straight before Jahve's eyes; it may be the nominative of the predicate; the ways of man (for אישׁ is here an individual, whether man or woman) are an object (properly, fixing) of the eyes of Jahve. With this the thought would suitably connect itself: et onmes orbitas ejus ad amussim examinat; but פּלּס, as the denom. of פּלס, Psalm 58:3, is not connected with all the places where the verb is united with the obj. of the way, and Psalm 78:50 shows that it has there the meaning to break though, to open a way (from פל, to split, cf. Talmudic מפלּשׁ, opened, accessible, from פלשׁ, Syriac pelaa, perfodere, fodiendo viam, aditum sibi aperire). The opening of the way is here not, as at Isaiah 26:7, conceived of as the setting aside of the hindrances in the way of him who walks, but generally as making walking in the way possible: man can take no step in any direction without God; and that not only does not exempt him from moral responsibility, but the consciousness of this is rather for the first time rightly quickened by the consciousness of being encompassed on every side by the knowledge and the power of God. The dissuasion of Proverbs 5:20 is thus in Proverbs 5:21 grounded in the fact, that man at every stage and step of his journey is observed and encompassed by God: it is impossible for him to escape from the knowledge of God or from dependence on Him. Thus opening all the paths of man, He has also appointed to the way of sin the punishment with which it corrects itself: "his sins lay hold of him, the evil-doer." The suffix יו does not refer to אישׁ of Proverbs 5:21, where every one without exception and without distinction is meant, but it relates to the obj. following, the evil-doer, namely, as the explanatory permutative annexed to the "him" according to the scheme, Exodus 2:6; the permutative is distinguished from the apposition by this, that the latter is a forethought explanation which heightens the understanding of the subject, while the former is an explanation afterwards brought in which guards against a misunderstanding. The same construction, Proverbs 14:13, belonging to the syntaxis ornata in the old Hebrew, has become common in the Aramaic and in the modern Hebrew. Instead of ילכּדוּהוּ (Proverbs 5:22), the poet uses poetically ילכּדנו; the interposed נ may belong to the emphatic ground-form ילכּדוּן, but is epenthetic if one compares forms such as קבנו (R. קב), Numbers 23:13 (cf. p. 73). The חמּאתו governed by חבלי, laquei (חבלי, tormina), is either gen. exeg.: bands which consist in his sin, or gen. subj.: bands which his sin unites, or better, gen. possess.: bands which his sin brings with it. By these bands he will be held fast, and so will die: he (הוּא referring to the person described) will die in insubordination (Symm. δι ̓ ἀπαιδευσίαν), or better, since אין and רב are placed in contrast: in want of correction. With the ישׁגּה (Proverbs 5:23), repeated purposely from Proverbs 5:20, there is connected the idea of the overthrow which is certain to overtake the infatuated man. In Proverbs 5:20 the sense of moral error began already to connect itself with this verb. אוּלת is the right name of unrestrained lust of the flesh. אולת is connected with אוּל, the belly; אול, Arab. âl, to draw together, to condense, to thicken (Isaiah, p. 424). Dummheit (stupidity) and the Old-Norse dumba, darkness, are in their roots related to each other. Also in the Semitic the words for blackness and darkness are derived from roots meaning condensation. אויל is the mind made thick, darkened, and become like crude matter.
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.