William Kelly Major Works Commentary
My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee.Proverbs Chapter 7
Chapter 7 opens with a fresh paternal appeal to his "son" individually (vv. 1-5). Then is drawn the graphic picture of a young man void of understanding drawn into the worst corruption by an adulterous woman (vv. 6-23). The close is a call to the "sons" generally - a terse, earnest, and solemn warning (vv. 24-27) of similar character, but deeper still.
"My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments and live; and my teaching as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the tables of thy heart. Say to wisdom, thou [art] my sister, and call intelligence kinswoman; that they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger that flattereth with her words." vv. 1-5.
In this individual appeal, the value of the word is urged as the great preservative means. "My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee." There is not only the need of dependence on God when trial comes, but the positive value of the truth and the divine will infusing one beforehand. Thus is the soul inwardly strengthened within against the snares without, which find the father's precepts in possession of the field. The words are therefore to be kept, and the commandments laid up.
Therein is the path of life; for it is not by bread alone that man lives, but by every word that proceeds from God's mouth. Hence here we read, "keep my commandments and live." Yet the teaching that comes from God, though alone nourishing, is easily injured by self- will, and needs to be vigilantly guarded from a world of evil where defilements abound. Therefore must the teaching be kept as the apple of one's eye. What more jealously prized as invaluable and irreparable? What more exposed to sudden damage?
Other figures are employed to impress the all-importance of heeding the words which express Jehovah's will. "Bind them upon thy fingers; write them upon the tables of thy heart." Old and New Testaments indicate that rings were worn for weighty use and high authority, not mere show or ornaments. Besides, the precepts here were to be written on the heart.
Nor does this suffice the care with which grace forearms those exposed to temptations suited to a fallen nature. In Old Testament times little was known of a new life from God. Still it was there, and implied if not clearly taught. Hence the new call: "Say to wisdom, Thou art my sister, and call intelligence kinswoman." For the reception of God's word made this true. In contrast with one born of the flesh, "that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." We are begotten by the word of truth, and thus become a sort of first fruits of His creatures. Our new relationship is with wisdom and understanding, as near of kin, suited, beloved, and necessary.
Thus does God work in His goodness to keep one "from the strange woman, from the stranger that flattereth with her words." That she was a "stranger" who sought familiarity is enough for any soul with the fear of God. So is man constituted that it should ever be a signal of danger. When formed originally, there was no strangership; but out of the man was she built who was meant to be his wife, his counterpart. How much greater the peril when, in a fallen condition, "the strange woman" abandons the propriety of her sex, and appeals with flattering words to the vanity, the pride, or the lusts of man!
In the closeness of the Christian relationship, where all are brought by the grace of Christ into the endearing tie of God's children the danger is enormously increased. For the "neighbourhood' of Israelites mutually was a comparatively distant connection, and a man's "brethren" meant less in every way than "brethren" in a Christian's life - a term that included sisters as well as brothers. Undoubtedly there are the deepest moral principles in the gospel, and the Church; where the law was partial, obscure, and feeble, truth is brought clearly and graciously to view in Christ Himself for those whose it is to walk in the light as God is in the light. But if we are not in the flesh through the deliverance Christ has wrought and given us, the flesh is still in us, and is ever ready by Satan's wiles and the world's influence to ensnare us into self-gratification. Only each walking in faith as having died and as crucified with Him, in continual self-judgment and lively sense of His loving me and Himself given for me, are we kept by God's power. Where this has been forgotten, what dismal falls have been even to the strong! What sad gaps every now and then, where few know the dark histories which lie at their back!
Next is given a, graphic sketch of the evil against which the son is warned earnestly. It is a picture divinely drawn from life.
"For at the window of my house I looked forth from my lattice; and I beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the sons, a young man void of understanding, passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, in the twilight, in the evening of the day, in the blackness of night and the darkness. And, behold, there met him a woman [in] the attire of a harlot, and subtle of heart. She [is] clamorous and ungovernable; her feet abide not in her house; now [she is] in the streets, now in the broadways, and lieth in wait at every corner. And she caught him and kissed him; with an impudent face she said to him, I have pence offerings; this day have I paid my vows. Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face; and I have found thee. My bed I have decked with tapestry coverings, with variegated cloths of yarn from Egypt. I have perfumed my couch with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us revel in love until the morning; let us delight ourselves with loves. For the husband [is] not at home and he is gone a long journey; he hath taken the moneybag with him; he will come home at the day of full moon. With her much fair speech she beguiled him; with the flattery of her lips she constrained him. He goeth after suddenly, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, and as in fetters to his correction the fool; till an arrow strike through his liver, as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that [it is] for its life." vv. 6-23.
On the one side is a young man, idle and thoughtless rather than of evil or profligate habits; on the other is a woman given up to shameless immorality; and when a woman abandons all pretension to modesty, who can be so recklessly corrupt or seductive? But the warning impressed is all the more telling because in the youth there is no purpose of lust, any more than of passion in particular, no thought or room for sapping the moral principles generally, no old undermining of the barriers which warded off improper advances. A weak character, hitherto harmless, as men say, vain and self-pleasing, is seen in the way of temptation, and gradually verging near the point of danger, as the twilight grows and the darkness favours shameful deeds. For his youth and inexperience make him the more attractive prey to the woman who is sunk to the lowest depths, as regardless of human order as of God the Judge of all.
The "strange woman" has even the attire of a harlot, with a heart more subtle still, yet clamorous and ungovernable. Her house is no home; her unsatisfied will drives her feet into the streets and the broadways; and at every corner she lies in wait. The heedless youth fixes her choice; and giving him the fullest credit for a vacant heart, for a void of understanding, she scruples not at once to storm one so unarmed and unestablished. She caught and kissed him, and strengthening her face to the utmost effrontery, she tells him of her peace offerings, her vows paid that day. He was the delight of her eyes and soul. Him she came to meet (whom she probably never saw before); his face was diligently sought ; and now she had found him. Providence smiled on them, and the feast upon a sacrifice was a happy omen. None could deny that she was a religious woman; she must pay her vows duly when she ventured on a delicate affair of the heart. Yet she, the wanton, did not blush to speak of the utmost lengths without disguise. "I have decked my bed with tapestry coverings, with variegated cloths of yarn from Egypt; I have perfumed my couch with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us revel in love until the morning; let us delight ourselves with loves." How terrible and how true is this picture of ritualism and luxury in league, prostituting the name of love to illicit amours and debauchery more guilty than the most brutal!
Nor does she fail to quiet the fears which might cow even the most thoughtless and audacious. For she declares that the man, the husband, was away from home, gone on a long journey, provided with ample funds, and not to return before full moon. It was not a Joseph that listened, but a match for Potiphar's wife that enticed. Who can wonder that the foolish youth, spite of conscience, surrendered! But oh, what pathos in the language which describes him giving himself to ruin of soul and body! "He goeth after her suddenly." He does not dare to think of Jehovah, or of his own relation to Him, nor yet of father and mother, of brothers or sisters; of the irreparable wrong to the absent husband; of his own sin and crime, to say nothing of yielding to so vile a paramour, or of the affront to society, degraded and godless as it is. It is truly "as an ox goeth to the slaughter, and as in fetters to his correction the fool; till a dart strike through his liver, as a bird hasteth to the snare and knoweth not that it is for its life."
The close of the 7th chapter is a short, touching, and solemn appeal.
"And now, sons, hearken to me, and attend to the words of my mouth. Let not thy heart decline to her ways; go not astray in her paths: for she hath cast down many wounded; and all slain by her are strong. Her house [is] the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death." vv. 24-27.
Youth is prone to impulse and self-confidence, as we have seen the danger not for the depraved only, but for the idle, because of the corruption in the world through lust. Hence the earnestly affectionate summing up of what has gone before with a fresh warning of uncommon grace. "And now, sons, hearken to me, and attend to the words of my mouth." A father's call to heed his words in the face of inward propensity and outward seduction is entitled to the gravest attention. There is but one such friend in the nearest degree who has passed through like snares. His wise love no son can slight with impunity.
What then are the words of his mouth on that head? "Let not thy heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her path." Joseph had no father near to counsel him when the temptation arose, and persistently, through his master's wife. But he refused utterly her shameless blandishments as one seeing the Unseen. The ten words were not yet spoken; but he feared God, and he was jealous for his master's honour. "How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?" Good reason had a father to counsel sons to steer clear. If the whole world lies in wickedness, or in the wicked one, one needs dependence to pass through the streets safely, and obedience with the worthy object in view. Emptiness exposes the soul for evil to enter and take possession. "Abide in me, and I in you." "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall come to pass to you"; so spoke the Holy, the True. Nor is there any other way of fruit agreeable to the Father. In this is He glorified that we bear much fruit, and not merely that we be kept from sin and shame and ruin. Evil begins not with the steps, but the heart declining to such ways; to follow them is to stray.
And who has lived a while here below without the saddest memories and most humbling sights in confirmation? "For she hath cast down many wounded, and all slain by her are strong." Such seems the force of the latter clause, which is illegitimately rendered in the A.V., for "all" in such a sentence at least cannot be reduced to "many," as in the former clause. But it is difficult to understand that "all" her slain should be strong. The R.V. suggests that "all her slain are a mighty host." This, whether or not accepted, is assuredly true, and an advance on the words which preceded, according to the Hebrew style. No wonder that the words recall not only Samson, but even David, who if not slain himself, brought the sword on his house, and caused the enemies of Jehovah to blaspheme.
And how energetic the words that follow! "Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death." They are words of truth and sobriety, so they exaggerate in nothing.
Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye.
Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart.
Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman:
That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words.
For at the window of my house I looked through my casement,
And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding,
Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house,
In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night:
And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart.
(She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house:
Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.)
So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him,
I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows.
Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee.
I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt.
I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves.
For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey:
He hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed.
With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.
He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks;
Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.
Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth.
Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths.
For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her.
Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.