Proverbs Week 8: Sexuality


2:16-19 [Wisdom] will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God. For her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead. None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.


5:1-23 My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not. Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel, lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich another man's house. At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, "How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly." Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer— may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love. Why be captivated, my son, by an adulteress? Why embrace the bosom of another man's wife? For a man's ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths. The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.


6:22-35 For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life, keeping you from the immoral woman, from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife.  Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?  So is he who sleeps with another man's wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.  Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house. But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment; whoever does so destroys himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away; for jealousy arouses a husband's fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse the bribe, however great it is.


7:21-23 (see also 7:1-20) With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.


22:14 The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit; he who is under the LORD's wrath will fall into it.


23:26-28 My son, give me your heart and let your eyes keep to my ways, for a prostitute is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well. Like a bandit she lies in wait, and multiplies the unfaithful among men.


Other passages


Ex. 20:14 You shall not commit adultery.


1 Cor. 6:12-20 "Everything is permissible for me"—but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible for me"—but I will not be mastered by anything. "Food for the stomach and the stomach for food"—but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.


1 Cor. 7:1-9 Now for the matters you wrote about: It is good for a man not to marry. But since there is so much immorality, each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all men were as I am. But each man has his own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.



Discussion question: What are the four arguments against adultery presented in Chapter 5?


First, “at the end of your life you will groan” (5:11).  Avoiding adultery is purely practical.  It leads to misery.  Learning by experience is learning too late to avoid the repercussions.  God in his mercy and wisdom has therefore provided us with his Word to teach us in the way that we should go.  Isn’t it amazing that God doesn’t merely rule by fiat!  He shows us that his way is right and good and appeals to us as reasoning human beings, not simply as animals.

Second, “drink water from your own cistern” (5:15).    Adultery is theft!  Our wife or our husband is ours alone.  Shall I steal someone else’s?  “Should your springs overflow in the streets?” the analogy is interesting because a spring on our own land is nourishing and fruitful, but in the streets is destructive.  “yours alone” –complete marital fidelity is always the Biblical standard.  “Why embrace another man’s wife?” – The emphasis here seems to be on how inappropriate it is to take what belongs intimately and exclusively to someone else.

Third “may you be ever captivated by her love” (5:18).  God has provided us our spouses to fulfill our desire for sexual intimacy and romantic love.   Why then would I need anyone else?  “May your fountain be blessed” - a reference either to one’s wife, or possibly to the man’s virility (at least, that’s what Tim Keller thinks!)   “may her breasts satisfy you always” – this is the real antidote to adultery, rejoicing and delighting (sexually) in our marriages.  If our marriages are strong and joyful, we will be able to resist temptation.  Sex is never treated as shameful or bad in the Bible; it is a gift from God.  The Bible commands frequent sex between married people (1 Cor. 7:3-5) and commands us all to honor marriage (Heb. 13:4) and devotes a whole book to the delights of romantic love (the Song of Solomon). 

[Note: this text assumes that the reader is a married.  What then is here for single people?  I think the answer is the same.  First, if we hope to be married one day, we need to recognize that sex is for our future marriage and our future spouse.  I think it is ok to look forward to that to resist temptation.  Even more, though, we should resist sexual temptation out of love for God and obedience to his will for us, trusting that his will is for our own good.]

Fourth, “a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord” (5:21).  God sees our every deed.  Out of reverence for him and desire to please him, we should flee adultery which is so hateful to him. 


Discussion question: the word “adulteress” is sometimes translated “stranger”.  How is an adulteress like a stranger?  How does this fit into the idea of a marriage covenant?


2:16 “adulteress…wayward wife” - sometimes translated as “stranger” or “foreigner”.   Perhaps the implication is that the adulteress is a stranger to you because your wife is your true partner.  This idea also shed light on God’s anger at Israel’s idolatry which He so frequently calls “adultery”.  In running after “foreign gods”, He does not simply mean the gods of other countries.  He means gods who are strangers to them, with whom they do not have a covenant relationship.

2:17 “partner [companion] of her youth” – her husband.

“ignored the covenant” – probably her marriage covenant (see Mal. 2:14).  A covenant is a binding promise.  “before God” – marriage vows are made before God and human witnesses.  They are promises to be loving, caring, and gentle in the future rather than a declaration of love in the present.  Consider the traditional marriage vows: “I Neil take you Christina to be my lawful wedded wife, To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”  These are unconditional (indeed counter-conditional) promises of support.  Adultery not simply a lapse of morality, it is the breaking of a solemn promise.  Not only does it break an individual human covenant, it breaks the covenant that God made with Israel which binds them to obey the His law “you shall not commit adultery”.

2:18 “None who go to her return” – this is a very frightening verse that is worth considering.  Of course, repentence is possible, but the natural and inevitable consequence of sin is death.


Discussion question: Why does there need to be such repetitive warning against adultery?


Because there is such repetitive temptation to adultery!  We are all bombarded with the messages of popular culture (no matter where we live) that tells us that sexual freedom is joyous and liberating.

And even if we live in a cave, our sinful heart will still lead us into temptation. 


Discussion question: How does wisdom save you from the adulteress?


By causing you to consider the reality and consequences of adultery: “For her house leads down to death…”  but “the upright will live in the land.”  Wisdom urges us to seek real pleasures in living uprightly before God.  God’s law is a “lamp” and “this teaching is a light”.  It is intended to show sin for what it really is, rather than the desirable object we believe it to be.


5:3-4 “drip honey…smoother than oil” – both pleasurable items.  The danger of the adulteress is that she is appealing and enticing; otherwise she would not be nearly as deadly.  It is only, but inevitably, “in the end” that she is “bitter as gall”.

5:6-7 “gives no thought…paths are crooked, but she knows it not.” – the adulteress is a fool!  Again, this may be part of the danger.  She may not be deliberately trying to destroy her victims, but the result is still death.  It is also important to remember that in Proverbs, ignorance is not excusable. 

That is the whole point!  If we are walking off the end of a cliff, it doesn’t matter whether we know it or not: we will still fall to our deaths.  The author is warning us of the dangers of folly so that we will avoid it.

5:8 “do not turn aside from what I say” – it is a blessing from God to have parents who have shown us what is good and right rather than never knowing it at all. 

5:8  “keep a path far from her house, do not go near” – “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18)!  Stay away!  We don’t know (or pretend not to know) how weak-willed we are.  It’s better to simply avoid temptation.  I may not have the willpower to avoid eating the candy bars in my cupboard.  But it takes much less willpower to not buy them in the first place.


Discussion question: What are some of the consequences of adultery mentioned in these verses?


Adultery is disappointing (5:3-4).

Adultery is costly (5:11-14), (6:26).  Notice that prostitution is grouped together with adultery.

Adultery is shameful (6:33-34).  Unlike stealing, which a man may be driven to out of desperation, adultery is never a last resort.  It is always selfish and avoidable.  Because of that, men will not look on you with pity, but rather anger.

Adultery leads to public disgrace (5:14, 6:33).  Though social pressure cannot lead to real obedience, it can at least prevent the more socially destructive forms of sin.

Adultery ultimately leads to death (2:18, 5:5-6, 7:22-23), like all sin.


Discussion question: How do we resist adultery?


Meditating on God’s word (6:22)

Thinking about the world as it really is (6:27-29)

Honoring and delighting in our spouse (5:19)

Looking to Jesus, our ultimate spouse “They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking." Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?” (Luke 5:33-34)