Proverbs 5
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics

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.

One particular vice is here denounced; it is necessary to warn the young against its snares and sorrows. What is here said, however, of this sin is applicable, in most if not all respects, to any kind of unholy indulgence; it is an earnest and faithful warning against the sin and shame of a vicious life.

I. ITS SINFULNESS. The woman who is a sinner is a "strange" woman (ver. 3). The temptress is all too common amongst us, but she is strange in the sight of God. She is an alien, foreign altogether to his purpose, a sad and wide departure from his thought. And all vice is strange to him; it is a departure from his thought and from his will; it is sin in his sight; it is offensive to him; he "cannot look on" such iniquity without abhorrence and condemnation. He who is tempted may well say, with the pure minded and godly Joseph, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"

II. ITS SHAME. It is a shame to a man to allow himself to be deceived by a vain, shallow-minded woman (vers. 3, 4); it is a shame to a man to permit a mere selfish temptress to beguile him, to prevent him from entertaining the true and wise thought in his mind, to hinder him by her artifices from reflecting on what is the path of life and what the way of death (ver. 6); it is a shame to a man to surrender his manly virtue to one so utterly undeserving of his honour (vers. 7-9). He who yields to the solicitations of the temptress, to the impulses of a vicious nature, is forfeiting his honour, is resigning his true manhood, is a son of shame.

III. ITS FOLLY. (Vers. 15-20.) How senseless is sin! how stupid is vice! It. embraces a guilty and short-lived pleasure only to reject a pure and lasting joy. Why should men resort to shameful lust when they can be blest with lawful and honorable love? Why sink in debauchery when they can walk along those goodly heights of moderation and of pleasures on which God's blessing may be invoked? Whatever the sense may be (whether of seeing, hearing, etc.), it is the pure pleasure which is not only high and manly, but is also unaccompanied by bitter and accusing thoughts, and is lasting as life itself. Why turn to devour the garbage when "angels' food" is on the table? Vice is the very depth of folly.

IV. ITS PENALTY. This is threefold.

1. Impoverishment (ver. 10). Vice soon scatters a man's fortune. A few years, or even weeks, will suffice for dissipation to run through a good estate. Men "waste their substance in riotous living."

2. Remorse (vers. 11-14). How bitter to the sent the pangs of self-accusation! There is no poisoned dart that wounds the body as the arrow of unavailing remorse pierces the soul.

3. Death (ver. 5, "Her feet go down to death; her steps lay hold on hell"). Death physical and death spiritual are the issue of immorality. The grave is dug, the gates of the City of Sorrow are open, for the lascivious, the drunken, the immoral. - C.

Proverbs 5:11 (first clause)
What multitudes of men and women have there been who, on beds of pain, or in homes of poverty, or under strong spiritual apprehension, have "mourned at the last"! After tasting and "enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season," they have found that iniquity must meet its doom, and they have "mourned at the last." Sin makes fair promises, but breaks its word. It owns that there is a debt due for guilty pleasure, but it hints that it will not send in the bill for many years; - perhaps never: but that account has to be settled, and they who persist in sinful indulgence will find, when it is too late, that they have to "mourn at the last." This is true of -

I. SLOTHFULNESS. Very pleasant to be idling when others are busy, to be following the bent of our own fancy, dallying with the passing hours, amusing ourselves the whole day long, the whole year through; but there is retribution for wasted hours, for misspent youth, for negligent and idle manhood, to be endured further on; there is self-reproach, condemnation of the good and wise, an ill-regulated mind, straitened means if not poverty, - mourning at the last.

II. INTEMPERANCE. Very tempting may be the jovial feast, very fascinating the sparkling cup, Very inviting the hilarity of the festive circle; but there is the end of it all to be taken into account, not only tomorrow's pain or lassitude, but the forfeiture of esteem, the weakening of the soul's capacity for pure enjoyment, the depravation of the taste, the encircling round the spirit of those cruel fetters which "at the last" hold it in cruel bondage.

III. LASCIVIOUSNESS. (See previous homily.)

IV. WORLDLINESS. There is a strong temptation presented to men to throw themselves into, so as to be absorbed by, the affairs of time and sense - business, politics, literature, art, one or other of the various amusements which entertain and gratify. This inordinate, excessive, unqualified devotion to any earthly pursuit, while it is to be distinguished from abandonment to forbidden pleasure, is yet wrong and ruinous. It is wrong, for it leaves out of reckoning the supreme obligation - that which we owe to him in whom we live and move and have our being, and who has redeemed us with his own blood. It is ruinous, for it leaves us

(1) without the heritage we were meant to have, and may have, in God, in Jesus Christ and his blessed service and salvation;

(2) unprepared for the other and larger life which is so near to us, and to which we approach by every step we take. However pleasant be the pursuits we engage in or the prizes we win, we shall wake one day from our dream with shame and fear; we shall "mourn at the last." - C.

The counterpart of the foregoing warning against vice, placing connubial joys in the brightest light, of poetic fancy.

I. IMAGES OF WIFEHOOD. The wife is described:

1. As a spring, and as a cistern. Property in a spring or well was highly, even sacredly, esteemed. Hence a peculiar force in the comparison. The wife is the husband's peculiar delight and property; the source of pleasures of every kind and degree; the fruitful origin of the family (comp. Isaiah 51:1; Song of Solomon 4:12).

2. As "wife of one's youth. (Cf. Deuteronomy 24:5; Ecclesiastes 9:9.) One to whom the flower of youth and manhood has been devoted. The parallel description is companion of youth" (Proverbs 2:17). Her image, in this case, is associated with the sunniest scenes of experience.

3. As a "lovely hind, or charming gazelle. A favourite Oriental comparison, and embodied in the names Tabitha and Dorcas, which denote gazelle." There are numberless uses of the figure in Arabian and Persian poets. The beautiful liquid eye, delicate head, graceful carriage of the creature, all point the simile. Nothing can surpass, as a husband's description of a true wife, Wordsworth's exquisite stanza beginning -

"She was a phantom of delight,
When first she gleam'd upon my sight
A creature not too bright or good
For human nature's daily food
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles."


1. It is like taking draughts from a fresh and ever-running stream. There is "continual comfort in a face, the lineaments of gospel books."

2. It is a peculiar, a private possession. Ver. 16 should be rendered interrogatively; it conveys the contrast of the profaned treasures of the unchaste woman's love, and thus fits with ver. 17. The language of lovers finds a true zest in the word, "My own!" Life becomes brutish where this feeling does not exist.

3. Yet it attracts sympathy, admiration, and good will. Ver. 18 is the blessing wished by the speaker or by any looker on. Wedding feasts bring out these feelings; and the happiness and prosperity of married pairs are as little exposed to the tooth of envy as any earthly good.

4. It is satisfying; for what repose can be more sweet and secure than that on the bosom of the faithful spouse? It is enrapturing, without being enfeebling, unlike those false pleasures, "violent delights with violent endings, that in their triumph die" (ver. 19).

III. CONCLUDING EXHORTATION (ver. 20), founded on the contrast just given.

1. The true rapture (the Hebrew word shagah, "reel" as in intoxication, repeated) should deter from the false and vicious.

2. To prefer the bosom of the adulteress to that of the true wife is a mark of the most vitiated taste, the most perverted understanding. - J.

Before Jehovah's eyes are man's paths, and all his tracks he surveys.

I. CYNICAL PROVERBS CONCERNING SECRECY ARE CONDEMNED. Such as "What the eye sees not, the heart does not grieve over;" "A slice from a cut cake is never missed;" "Never mind so long as you are not found out."

II. NOTHING IS REALLY SECRET OR UNKNOWN. We are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. The whisper, the inarticulate thought, will come back one day in thunder. - J.

This verse is added as a powerful reason why the worst sins should be avoided. A man under temptation may well address himself thus -

"Nor let my weaker passions dare Consent to sin; for God is there."

I. THE VARIED ENERGIES AND ACTIONS OF MAN. Many are "the ways of man;" "all his goings" cannot easily be told. There is

(1) his innermost thought starring in his mind;

(2) then his feeling or desire in some direction;

(3) then his resolution, the decision of his will;

(4) then his planning and arranging;

(5) then his consultation and cooperation with others;

(6) then his execution.

Or we may consider the variety of his actions by regarding them as

(1) beginning and ending with himself;

(2) affecting his immediate circle, his own family;

(3) reaching and influencing his neighbours;

(4) acting upon those who will come after him.

The forms of human activity are indefinitely numerous - so complex is his nature, so various are his relations to his kind and the world in which he lives.

II. GOD'S NOTICE OF ALL OUR DOINGS. "The ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord." Every thought is thought, every feeling felt, every resolve made, every plan formed, every word spoken, every deed done, under his all-observing eye. "Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight, but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13; see 2 Chronicles 16:9; Job 31:4; Psalm 139:2-12; and Proverbs 15:3). The eyes of the Lord not only cover the earth and the heavens, but they look everywhere within; through the thick curtains of the night his own hand has spread, and through the thickest folds our hand can draw, and through the walls of our human frame into the inner chambers and darkest recesses of our souls.

III. GOD'S MEASURE OF OUR DOINGS. "He pondereth all his goings." God weighs all that he sees in the scales of his Divine wisdom and righteousness. He marks every thought, word, deed; and he estimates their worth, their excellency or their guilt. Never any way taken, any course entered upon, but all the motives which led to its choice and execution are before the mind of God, and are accepted or are blamed by him. And this being so, there must be -

IV. GOD'S REMEMBRANCE OF OUR PAST AS WELL AS HIS OBSERVATION OF OUR PRESENT LIFE. For the Omniscient One cannot forget; and it may be that, in some way unknown to us, but quite in accordance with some ascertained facts, all our past actions are spread out before his sight in some part of his universe. Certainly the effects of all we have done abide, either in our own character and life or in those of other men. Our ways, past and present, are before him; he is estimating the moral character, for good or ill, of all our goings. Therefore:

1. In view of all our guilt, let us seek his mercy in Christ Jesus. For it is a truth consistent with the foregoing, that, if there be repentance and faith, all our sins shall "be cast into the depths of the sea" (Amos 7:19). God will "hide his face from our sins. and blot out our iniquities" (Psalm 51:9).

2. In view of God's observation and judgment, let us strive to please him. If we yield our hearts to himself and our lives to his service, if we accept eternal life at his hands through Jesus Christ, and then seek to be and to do what is right in his sight, we shall do that which he will look upon with Divine approval, with fatherly delight (Galatians 4:1; Hebrews 11:5; Hebrews 13:16; 1 Peter 2:20, etc.). - C.

I. WICKEDNESS (LIKE GOODNESS) HAS UNDESIGNED RESULTS. The good comes back to nestle in the bosom of the giver and the doer. We never do right without invoking a blessing on our own heads. Evil, on the other hand, designed and executed, is like a snare set for one's self, a net in the meshes of which the crafty is entangled, self-overreached.

II. WICKEDNESS AND IGNORANCE ARE IN CLOSE CONNECTION. "He shall die for want of instruction" - the correct rendering of ver. 23. Socrates taught that vice was ignorance, virtue identical with knowledge. This, however, ignores the pervesity of the will. The Bible ever traces wickedness to wilful and inexcusable ignorance.

III. WICKEDNESS IS A KIND OF MADNESS. "Through the greatness of his folly he shall reel about." The word shagah once more. The man becomes drunk and frenzied with passion, and, a certain point passed, staggers to his end unwitting, careless, or desperate. - J.

There are two fearful evils in which Impenitent sin is sure to end, two classes of penalty which the wrong doer must make up his mind to pay. He has to submit to -

I. AS INWARD TYRANNY OF THE MOST CRUEL CHARACTER. (Ver. 22.) We may never have seen the wild animal captured by the hunter, making violent efforts to escape its tolls, failing, desperately renewing the attempt with fierce and frantic struggles, until at length it yielded itself to its fate in sullen despair. But we have witnessed something far more romantic than that. We have watched some human soul caught in the meshes of vice (intemperance, it may be), or entangled in the bonds of sin (coveteousness, it may be), struggling to be free, failing in its endeavour, renewing the attempt with determined eagerness, and failing again, until at length it yields to the foe, vanquished, ruined, lost! "His own iniquities have taken the wicked himself, he is holden in the cords of his sins."

1. Sin hides its tyranny from view; its cords are so carried that they are not seen; nay, they are so wound around the soul that at first they are not felt, and the victim has no notion that he is being enslaved.

2. Gradually and stealthily it fastens its fetters on the soul; e.g. intemperance, impurity, untruthfulness, selfishness, worldliness.

3. It finally obtains a hold from which the soul cannot shake itself free; the man is "holden;" sin has him in its firm grip; he is a captive, a spiritual slave. Beside this terrible tyranny, the persistent wrong doer has to endure -


1. Death in the midst of folly. "He shall die without instruction," unenlightened by eternal truth, in the darkness of error and sin; he will die, "hoping nothing, believing nothing, and fearing nothing" - nothing which a man should die in the hope of, nothing which a man should live to believe and die in the faith of, nothing which a man should fear, living or dying. He shall die without peace to smooth his dying pillow, without hope to light up his closing eyes.

2. Exclusion from future blessedness through his folly. "In the greatness of his folly he shall go astray." While the simplest wisdom would have led him to seek and find entrance into the City of God, in the greatness of his folly he wanders off to the gates of the City of Sorrow.

1. If the path of folly has been entered upon and is now being trodden, return at once without delay. Further on, perchance a very little further on, it may be too late - the cords of sin may be too strong for the soul to snap. Arise at once, in the strength of the strong Deliverer, and regain the freedom which is being lost.

2. Enter in earliest days the path of spiritual freedom. Bear the blessed yoke of the Son of God, that every other yoke may be broken. Enrol in his ranks whoso "service is perfect freedom." - C.

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