The exhortations in ch. 4 begin to make more sense in the light of chapters 5-7. These repeated pleas to heed the father’s words prepare the son to receive the additional exhortations. The following three chapters address matters of sex, money, work, violence, etc. The predominant focus is on avoiding sexual immorality. “Moreover, his last two lectures in ch. 4 on avoiding the way of the wicked and on unswerving commitment to the father’s way paved the way to the next three lectures to stay far away from the unchaste wife (chs. 5-7).” (Waltke)
The fifth chapter is aptly summarized by Kidner: “The chapter first uncovers the corruption under the surface-charm of the seductress (1-6), then warns of the price of infidelity (7-14), and finally enlarges on the lasting delight of a faithful marriage, over against its pathetic alternative (15-23).” (Kidner)
5:1-2 — 1 My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, 2 that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge.
Verse 1 begins another plea with “my son.” The father’s plea is repetitive but in this context, it deals with a very practical moral issue. The father assumes that the son is old enough to experience sexual temptations and pleasure (cf. Waltke). In fully receiving the father’s wisdom, the son will have discretion and his lips will guard knowledge. “Attention will enable us to keep knowledge in our hearts, for a wanton imagination, ever dictating corrupt conversation to the lips, proves the beginning of ruin to many of the sons of men.” (Lawson)
5:3 — For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil,
The ESV has “forbidden woman” (it could be “strange woman” or a seductress (Kidner), or “unchaste wife or woman” (Waltke), etc. Longman says, “She is acting outside of community norms. An adulteress or a prostitute would qualify for this description.” What is certain is that this woman is not the young man’s wife and he must avoid her.
The young man needs to guard his “lips” because he will need to answer the lips of this woman. Joseph fended off Potiphar’s wife (Gen. 39:8-9) with his godly knowledge. Speech and sexuality go together (“Culturally, it is closely associated with speech: courting speech, seductive speech, love songs, whispered sweet nothings.” Newsom cited in Waltke, 308) This unchaste women (cf. perhaps a married woman, 6:34; 7:19) will speak words that seem to make sense since they are sweet and smooth.
For a young man, his temptation will be a beautiful woman while for a young pious lady, it may be a charming young man. Words will be used to play on the affections of the one being pursued. Will the wisdom from above (vertical speech from the father) rule the heart of the son or the words of the woman (horizontal speech)? Young perverse men have seduced women with flattering words as well as with sensual words. Women have done the same with men. Kind flattering words from the opposite sex can cause the naïve person to easily fall.
5:4 — but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.
Whoever follows her will experience the exact opposite of what seems to be promised. One writer says, “Honey is sweet, but the bee stings and this lady has sting in her tail.” (cf. Waltke) The taste will be like a very bitter (and perhaps poisonous) plant; it is not honey but wormwood. Rather than being smooth like oil, she will be deadly and sharp as a two-edge sword. “…the delicious ends as the disgusting; the soothing, as the murderous” (Kidner) Better to taste the bitterness in repentance than to feel the bitterness of death (cf. Lawson).
5:5-6 — 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; 6 she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.
This seductress will only lead to death; there is no other place. Sheol and death are synonymous here. Interestingly, v. 6 suggests that she may not be conscious of her ways. “The unfaithful wife, having no home and no future hope, staggers about in her sin (Jer. 14:10; Amos 4:18).… Lacking external instruction and an inner conscience, she can no longer distinguish between right and wrong, and so, without a moral compass to give her direction to true life, she strays to her death.” (Waltke) Some women (as well as men) are bereft of moral sense; they are unaware of their soul-damning ways. She wanders into eternal perdition. The foolish young man who listens to her will also have to embrace her destiny. Heed the warning; do not listen to her, do not follow her.