Proverbs 9:17
Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) Stolen waters are sweet.—See above, on Proverbs 5:15.

Bread eaten in secret.—The same figure is used in Proverbs 30:20.

9:13-18 How diligent the tempter is, to seduce unwary souls into sin! Carnal, sensual pleasure, stupifies conscience, and puts out the sparks of conviction. This tempter has no solid reason to offer; and where she gets dominion in a soul, all knowledge of holy things is lost and forgotten. She is very violent and pressing. We need to seek and pray for true wisdom, for Satan has many ways to withdraw our souls from Christ. Not only worldly lusts and abandoned seducers prove fatal to the souls of men; but false teachers, with doctrines that flatter pride and give liberty to lusts, destroy thousands. They especially draw off such as have received only partial serious impressions. The depths of Satan are depths of hell; and sin, without remorse, is ruin, ruin without remedy. Solomon shows the hook; those that believe him, will not meddle with the bait. Behold the wretched, empty, unsatisfying, deceitful, and stolen pleasure sin proposes; and may our souls be so desirous of the everlasting enjoyment of Christ, that on earth we may live to him, daily, by faith, and ere long be with him in glory.The besetting sin of all times and countries, the one great proof of the inherent corruption of man's nature. Pleasures are attractive because they are forbidden (compare Romans 7:7). 17. The language of a proverb, meaning that forbidden delights are sweet and pleasant, as fruits of risk and danger. Stolen waters; by which he understandeth, either,

1. Idolatry, or other wickednesses, which in Solomon’s time before his fall were publicly forbidden and punished, but privately practised; or rather,

2. Adultery.

Are sweet; partly, from the difficulty of obtaining them; partly, from the art which men use in contriving such secret sins; and partly, because the very prohibition renders it more grateful to corrupt nature. Stolen waters are sweet,.... Wells and fountains of waters in those hot countries were very valuable, and were the property of particular persons; about which there were sometimes great strife and contention; and they were sometimes sealed and kept from the use of others; see Genesis 26:18; now waters got by stealth from such wells and fountains were sweeter than their own, or what might be had in common and without difficulty, to which the proverb alludes. By which in general is meant, that all prohibited unlawful lusts and pleasures are desirable to men, and sweet in the enjoyment of them; and the pleasure promised by them is what makes them so desirable, and the more so because forbidden: and particularly as adultery, which is a sort of theft (r), and a drinking water out of another's cistern, Proverbs 5:15; being forbidden and unlawful, and secretly committed, is sweeter to an unclean person than a lawful enjoyment of his own wife; so false worship, superstition, and idolatry, the inventions of men, and obedience to their commands, which are no other than spiritual adultery, are more grateful and pleasing to a corrupt mind than the true and pure worship of God;

and bread eaten in secret is pleasant; or, "bread of secret places" (s); hidden bread, as the Targum, Vulgate Latin, and Syriac versions; that which is stolen and is another's (t), and is taken and hid in secret places, fetched out from thence, or eaten there: the sweet morsel of sin, rolled in the mouth, and kept under the tongue; secret lusts, private sins, particularly idolatry, to which men are secretly enticed, and which they privately commit, Deuteronomy 13:6; the same thing is designed by this clause as the forager.

(r) "Furtiva Verus", Ovid de Arte Amandi, l. 1. "Furta Jovis, furtiva munuscula", Catullus ad Mantium, Ephesians 66. v. 140, 145. So Propertius, l. 2. eleg. 30. v. 28. Pindar; for which he was indebted to Solomon, according to Clemens of Alexandria, Paedagog. l. 3. p. 252. (s) "latebraram", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Michaelis. (t) "Quas habeat veneres aliens pecunia nescis", Juvenal. Satyr. 13.

Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. stolen waters] Maurer compares what he calls “tristissimum illud Ovidii,”

“Nitimur in vetitum semper, cupimusque negata.”Verse 17. - This is what she says: Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. The metaphor of "stolen waters" refers primarily to adulterous intercourse, as to "drink waters out of one's own cistern" (Proverbs 5:15, where see note) signifies the chaste connection of lawful wedlock. Wisdom offered flesh and wine to her guests; Folly offers bread and water. Wisdom invites openly to a well furnished table; Folly calls to a secret meal of barest victuals. What the former offers is rich and satisfying and comforting; what Vice gives is poor and mean and insipid. Yet this latter has the charm of being forbidden; it is attractive because it is unlawful. This is a trait of corrupt human nature, which is recognized universally. Thus Ovid, 'Amor.,' 3:4, 17 -

"Nitimur in vetitum semper, cupimusque negata;
Sic interdictis imminet aeger aquis.'
Things easily attained, the possession of which is gotten without effort or danger or breach of restraint, soon pall and cease to charm. To some minds the astuteness and secrecy required for success have an irresistible attraction. Thus St. Augustine relates ('Conf.,' 2:4) how he and some companions committed a theft, not from want and poverty, nor even from the wish to enjoy what was stolen, but simply for the pleasure of thieving and the sin. They robbed a pear tree by night, carried off great loads, which they flung to the pigs, and their only satisfaction was that they were doing what they ought not ("dum tamen fieret a nobis, quod eo liberet quo non liceret"). Septuagint, "Taste ye to your pleasure secret bread, and sweet water of theft." Where water is a precious commodity, as in many pets of Palestine, doubtless thefts were often committed, and persons made free with their neighbor's tank when they could do so undetected, thus sparing their own resources and felicitating themselves on their cleverness. On the metaphorical use of "waters" in Holy Scripture, St. Gregory says, "Waters are sometimes wont to denote the Holy Spirit, sometimes sacred knowledge, sometimes calamity, sometimes drifting peoples, sometimes the minds of those following the faith." He refers to these texts respectively: John 7:38, etc.; Ecclus. 15:3; Psalm 69:1; Revelation 17:15 ("the waters are peoples"); Isaiah 22:20; and he adds, "By water likewise bad knowledge is wont to be designated, as when the woman in Solomon, who bears the type of heresy, charms with crafty persuasion, saying, 'Stolen waters are sweet'" ('Moral.,' 19:9). The singular reason for this proverb of Wisdom is now given:

"For by me will thy days become many,

And the years of thy life will be increased."

Incorrectly Hitzig: "and years of life will increase to thee;" הוסיף is always and everywhere (e.g., also Job 38:11) transitive. In the similar passage, Proverbs 3:2, יוסיפו had as its subject the doctrine of Wisdom; here חכמה and בינה it is not practicable to interpret as subj., since 11a Wisdom is the subject discoursing - the expression follows the scheme, dicunt eos equals dicuntur, as e.g., Job 7:3; Gesen. 137 - a concealing of the operative cause, which lies near, where, as Proverbs 2:22, the discourse is of severe judgment, thus: they (viz., the heavenly Powers) will grant to thee years of life (חיּים in a pregnant sense, as Proverbs 3:2) in rich measure, so that constantly one span comes after another. But in what connection of consequence does this stand with the contents of the proverb, Proverbs 9:10? The ancients say that the clause with כי refers back to Proverbs 9:5. The Proverbs 9:7-10 (according also to Fl.) are, as it were, parenthetic. Hitzig rejects these verses as an interpolation, but the connection of Proverbs 9:11 with 5f. retains also something that is unsuitable: "steps forward on the way of knowledge, for by me shall thy days become many;" and if, as Hitzig supposes, Proverbs 9:12 is undoubtedly genuine, whose connection with Proverbs 9:11 is in no way obvious, then also will the difficulty of the connection of Proverbs 9:7-10 with the preceding and the succeeding be no decisive mark of the want of genuineness of this course of thought. We have seen how the progress of Proverbs 9:6 to 7 is mediated: the invitation of Wisdom goes forth to the receptive, with the exclusion of the irrecoverable. And Proverbs 9:11 is related to Proverbs 9:10, as the proof of the cause from the effect. It is the fear of God with which Wisdom begins, the knowledge of God in which above all it consists, for by it is fulfilled the promise of life which is given to the fear of God, Proverbs 10:27; Proverbs 14:27; Proverbs 19:23, cf. Deuteronomy 4:40, and to humility, which is bound up with it. Proverbs 10:17.

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