Once again, wisdom addresses the topic of sexual temptations. He spoke of it early on in 2:16-19 and ch. 5. The son’s entire future could be ruined in this area if he does not follow. That is why it is mentioned so often in these six (actually seven) chapters. The young man could be permanently damaged by going after the wrong woman. How many have we known whose future was wrecked because of mistakes in this area?
6:20-22 — 20 My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. 21 Bind them on your heart always; tie them around your neck. 22 When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.
In these verses, the father exhorts his son to maintain the parent’s instruction or command (vv. 20-21). Like Deut. 4:4-9, the son is to bind them to his heart. Why? Because the exhortations are called “teaching, instruction, command (תֹּורַ֥ת)” and “instruction or command (מִצְוַ֣ת)” (vv. 20, 23) “conveying the father’s belief that the behavior he is prohibiting carries the weight of divine law.” (Longman) What he has to say will guide the son in everything he does (walk, lie down, awake in v. 22). The benefits are not just for his waking moments but for his lying down (or sleeping hours) as well.
6:23-24 —23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, 24 to preserve you from the evil woman, from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.
Light and life are promised to those who follow in this matter. But it is not easy; “reproof of discipline” (often used with reference to hard work, corporal punishment, etc.) means that it is going to be hard. “One’s natural propensity would be to give in to the strong temptations that lead one to leave the right path, so the parents remind the son that it takes work.” (Longman)
The father has addressed this before. In 5:7ff., the fathers warns against going near the woman’s door (5:8). In this, the father seems to warn his son against a sensual woman’s advances. Illegitimate sexual relationships are forbidden by God (seventh commandment, Ex. 20:14). In v. 24, her smooth tongue (smoothness, slipperiness) will seek to seduce the young man. If the matter is not settled in the heart, her smooth words will nestle deeply there.
6:25-26 — 25 Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes; 26 for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life. 27 Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? 28 Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?
A young man may know it is wrong to pursue an adulteress but still desire or lust for her. If his heart desires her, then her glance and beauty will captivate him. If her words were ineffective (v. 24), then her looks will easily seduce him. Here, we must remember to keep our eyes to ourselves. Wandering eyes with an unsettled heart can easily fall prey to such women. Of course the principle applies to both young men and women. The smooth words of a young man and his attempt to captivate her may be more than she can handle. The matter must be settled first in the heart — “Do not desire her beauty in your heart…”
Two kinds of women are to be avoided. The evil woman (or prostitute as in v. 26) and a seductive woman or adulteress (vv. 24, 26). “The point seems to be that the prostitute will sap material resources, but when one sleeps with a married woman, one must reckon with her jealous husband, who will have the support of the law behind him as he seeks revenge.” (Longman)
No one who commits adultery by taking another man’s wife will be safe. Verses 27-28 tell us that he will inevitably be burned. Both kinds of women are wrong but the latter is worse. The prostitute may cost him his money but a relationship with an adulteress may cost him his life. One cannot get away unscathed; it is inescapable punishment. “The danger of sleeping with a woman other than one’s wife is comparable to scooping hot coals in one’s lap.” (Longman)
The NT teaches the same. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Too often in our culture, adultery is seen as a bad but tolerable sin. Men excuse other men and politicians believe all will be forgotten. God will hold such men accountable; it is one of those sins specially listed in Heb. that promises God’s punishment. Remember, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” In 1Cor. 6:15-20, Paul exhorts us to “flee from sexual immorality” (v. 18; cf. Acts 15:29) and that we are not to be joined to a prostitute.
6:29-36 —29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished. 30 People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry, 31 but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold; he will give all the goods of his house. 32 He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. 33 Wounds and dishonor will he get, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. 34 For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. 35 He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts.
As relationship with another man’s wife is doubly heinous, so wisdom explains it in greater detail here. The argument here is more practical than ethical. One could readily understand why a hungry thief might still but he will still pay for it when he is caught (vv. 31-32)— he can be pitied as well as punished. But adultery is not spawned by necessity but by folly. The hungry thief can learn but an adulterer will only destroy himself. No pity will be given to an adulterer. “But the sin of the adulterer claims no sympathy. His plea is not the cry of hunger, but of lust; not want, but wantonness; not the lack of bread, but of understanding.” (Bridges)
First of all, he will be punished and disgraced (v. 33). He will be publicly exposed; everyone will know of his folly. This will mark his life “his disgrace will not be wiped away.” Do we not remember King David? Do we not know of fallen “evangelists”? Pleasure for an hour will yield shame for a lifetime.
In an adulterous situation, two marriages are damaged. The jealous husband will not be satisfied until he avenges the adulterer. No amount of money can give way to the jealous man’s anger. In Deut. 22:22, death was the penalty for both the man and the woman. There seems to be some suggestion that certain offences could be commuted into monetary fines (cf. Ex. 21:30) but in this situation, the jealous husband will not be satisfied.
Both the OT and the New view sexual sins as being heinous and damaging (spiritually and physically). Are STDs God’s way of dealing with a society that tolerates rampant sexual sins? Why are sexual sins so rampant in the church? Who here has never heard of it in the church? I scarcely know of a church that has not been impacted one way or another in this area. It is not legalism to warn against these things; it is folly if the church does not. Are we better than wisdom? Are we wiser than God?
ONE — It is important that we instruct our children in these matters. That is what the wise father does. Prudishness without instruction will surely ruin our children.
TWO — We must also speak of the practical repercussions of such sins. Such concrete examples may persuade the heart.
THREE — We must remind them of the inevitability of punishment on account of these sins. God will not idly sit by.
FOUR — We must not believe any of our children are “beyond” these instructions. It is God’s Word for all our children. Let none of our children think that they are “beyond” such things: “Self-confidence sees and fears no danger. ‘I can look to myself; I need not go too far, and I shall get no harm.’ But the temptation sets upon a congenial nature like fuel, not water, on the fire.” (Bridges)
FIVE — Though Proverbs does not highlight the redemption in Christ, we must also remember that Christ is merciful to all sinners. He rescued and cleansed the sexually immoral, adulterers, homosexuals, etc. — “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God.” (1Cor. 6:11) Our Lord can and has redeemed and cleansed the sexually immoral.
SIX — For all of us, “Let us learn to seek Divine strength to ‘watch and pray’ continually; and, while we ‘think we stand, to take heed lest we fall.’” (1 Cor. x. 12)