Proverbs 5:15
Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.
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(15-20) Drink waters out of thine own cistern . . .—In these verses Solomon urges his disciples to follow after purity in the married life; he pictures in vivid terms the delights which it affords as compared with the pleasures of sin.

Out of thine own cistern.—The “strange woman,” on the other hand, says, “Stolen waters are sweet” (Proverbs 9:17). The same figure is employed in Song of Solomon 4:15, where a wife is compared to “a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.” In Jeremiah 2:13 God compares Himself to a “fountain of living waters,” and complains that Israel had deserted Him, and hewed out for themselves “broken cisterns that can hold no water.” This passage in Proverbs has in like manner often been interpreted as an exhortation to drink deeply from the living waters of the Holy Spirit given in the Word and Sacraments (John 7:37).—For ref. see Bishop Wordsworth.

Proverbs 5:15. Drink waters out of thine own cistern — “The allegory here begun is carried on through several verses. It has been differently understood; but the interpretation which seems most generally followed, is that of those who conceive that the wise man here subjoins a commendation of matrimony, and the chaste preservation of the marriage- bed, for the propagation of a legitimate offspring, to his dehortation from illegitimate embraces, and stolen waters; and Schultens observes, that no figure is more elegant or more common among the easterns than this.” — Dodd. Bishop Patrick’s paraphrase on the verse is, “Marry; and in a wife of thy own, enjoy the pleasures thou desirest, and be content with them alone; innocent, chaste, and pure pleasures; as much different from the other, as the clear waters of a wholesome fountain are from those of a dirty lake or puddle.”

5:15-23 Lawful marriage is a means God has appointed to keep from these destructive vices. But we are not properly united, except as we attend to God's word, seeking his direction and blessing, and acting with affection. Ever remember, that though secret sins may escape the eyes of our fellow-creatures, yet a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord, who not only sees, but ponders all his goings. Those who are so foolish as to choose the way of sin, are justly left of God to themselves, to go on in the way to destruction.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). 15-20. By figures, in which well, cistern, and fountain [Pr 5:15, 18] represent the wife, and rivers of waters [Pr 5:16] the children, men are exhorted to constancy and satisfaction in lawful conjugal enjoyments. In Pr 5:16, fountains (in the plural) rather denote the produce or waters of a spring, literally, "what is from a spring," and corresponds with "rivers of waters." This metaphor contained here, and Proverbs 5:16-18, is to be understood either,

1. Of the free and lawful use of a man’s estate, both for his own comfort, and for the good of others. Or rather,

2. Of the honest use of matrimony, as the proper remedy against these filthy practices. This best suits with the whole context, both foregoing and following; and thus it is explained in the end of Proverbs 5:18. So the sense is, Content thyself with those delights which God alloweth thee, with the sober use of the marriage bed. Why shouldst thou ramble hither and thither, trespassing against God and men, to steal their waters, which thou mightest freely take out of thine own cistern or well. The ground of the metaphor is this, that waters were scarce and precious in those countries, and therefore men used to make cisterns and wells for their own private use. And the same metaphor of

waters, and of a pit, or well, is applied to things of this nature elsewhere, as Proverbs 23:27 Isaiah 48:1 51:1.

Drink waters out of thine own cistern,.... Arguments being used to dissuade from conversation with an adulterous woman, taken from the disgrace, diseases, poverty, and distress of mind on reflection, it brings a man to; the wise man proceeds to direct to marriage, as a proper antidote against it: take a wife and cleave to her, and enjoy all the pleasures and comforts of a marriage state. As every man formerly had his own cistern for the reception of water for his own use, 2 Kings 18:31; so every man should have his own wife, and but one: and as drinking water quenches thirst, and allays heat; so the lawful enjoyments of the marriage bed quench the thirst of appetite, and allay the heat of lust; for which reason the apostle advises men to marry and not burn, 1 Corinthians 7:9; and a man that is married should be content with his own wife, and not steal waters out of another cistern. The allusion may be to a law, which, Clemens of Alexandria (t) says, Plato had from the Hebrews; which enjoined husbandmen not to take water from others to water their lands, till they themselves had dug into the earth, called virgin earth, and found it dry and without water;

and running waters out of thine own well; the pure, chaste, and innocent pleasures of the marriage state, are as different from the embraces of an harlot, who is compared to a deep ditch and a narrow pit, Proverbs 23:27; as clear running waters of a well or fountain from the dirty waters of a filthy puddle; see Proverbs 9:17. Some interpret these words, and what follows, of persons enjoying with contentment the good things of life they have for the support of themselves and families; and of a liberal communication of them to the relief of proper objects; but not to spend their substance on harlots. Jarchi understands by the "cistern", the law of Moses: but it may be better applied to the Scriptures in general, from whence all sound doctrine flows, to the comfort and refreshment of the souls of men; and from whence all doctrine ought to be fetched, and not elsewhere.

(t) Stromat. l. 1. p. 274.

Drink waters out of {h} thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.

(h) He teaches us sobriety exhorting us to live of our own labours and to be beneficial to the godly who want.

15–19. The remedy against sin is to be found in the holy estate which God has ordained. “The resemblance between the two Books (the Song of Solomon and the Book of Proverbs) in their treatment of this subject is singularly striking.” Speaker’s Comm., ad loc.

Verses 15-19. - Commendation of the chaste intercourse of marriage. In this section the teacher passes from admonitory warnings against unchastity to the commendation of conjugal fidelity and pure love. The allegorical exposition of this passage, current at the period of the Revision of the Authorized Version in 1612, as referring to liberality, is not ad rem. Such an idea had no place certainly in the teacher's mind, nor is it appropriate to the context, the scope of which is, as we have seen, to warn youth against indulgence in illicit pleasures, by pointing out the terrible consequences which follow, and to indicate, on the other hand, in what direction the satisfaction of natural wants is to be obtained, that so, the heart and conscience being kept pure, sin and evil may be avoided. Verse 15. - Drink waters out of thine own cistern, etc.; i.e. in the wife of your own choice, or in the legitimate sphere of marriage, seek the satisfaction of your natural impulses. The pure, innocent, and chaste nature of such pleasures is appropriately compared with the pure and wholesome waters of the cistern and the wellspring. The "drinking" carries with it the satisfying of a natural want. Agreeably with oriental and scriptural usage, "the wife" is compared with a "cistern" and "well." Thus in the Song of Solomon the "bride" is called a spring shut up, a fountain sealed" (Song of Solomon 4:12). Sarah is spoken of under exactly the same figure that is used here, viz. the bor, or "cistern," in Isaiah 51:1. The figure was not confined to women, however, as we find Judah alluded to as "waters" in Isaiah 48:1, and Jacob or Israel so appearing in the prophecy of Balaam (Numbers 24:7). The people are spoken of by David as they that are "of the fountain of Israel" (Psalm 68:26). A similar imagery is employed in the New Testament of the wife. The apostles St. Paul and St. Peter both speak of her as "the vessel (τὸ σκεῦος)" (see 1 Thessalonians 4:4 and 1 Peter 3:7). The forms of the original, b'or and b'er, standing respectively for "cistern" and "well," indicate a common derivation from baar, "to dig." But bor is an artificially constructed reservoir or cistern, equivalent to the Vulgate cisterna, and LXX. ἄγγειος, while b'er is the natural spring of water, equivalent to the Vulgate putens. So Aben Ezra, who says, on Leviticus 2:36, "Bor is that which catches the rain, while b'er is that from within which the water wells up." This explanation, however, does not entirely cover the terms as used here. The "waters" (Hebrew, mayim) may be the pure water conveyed into the cistern, and not simply the water which is caught in its descent born heaven. The parallel term, "running waters" (Hebrew, noz'lim), describes the flowing limpid stream fit, like the other, for drinking purposes. A similar use of the terms is made in the Song of Solomon 4:15, "a well of living waters (b'er mayim khayyim) and streams (v'noz'lim) from Lebanon." It may be remarked that the allusion to the wife, under the figures employed, enhances her value. It indicates the high estimation in which she is to be held, since the "cistern" or "well" was one of the most valuable possessions and adjuncts of an Eastern house. The teaching of the passage, in its bearing on the subject of marriage, coincides with that which is subsequently put forward by St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 7:9. Proverbs 5:15The 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.

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