Bible blog 2294




My son, pay close attention

    and don’t forget

    what I tell you to do.

Obey me, and you will live!

    Let my instructions be

    your greatest treasure.

Keep them at your fingertips

    and write them

    in your mind.

Let wisdom be your sister

    and make common sense

    your closest friend.

They will protect you

    from the flattering words

    of someone else’s wife.

From the window of my house,

    I once happened to see

    some foolish young men.

It was late in the evening,

    sometime after dark.

One of these young men

    turned the corner

    and was walking by the house

    of an unfaithful wife.


She was dressed fancy

like a woman of the street

    with only one thing in mind.


She was one of those women

who are loud and restless

    and never stay at home,


    who walk street after street,

    waiting to trap a man.


She grabbed him and kissed him,

    and with no sense of shame,

    she said:


“I had to offer a sacrifice,

    and there is enough meat

    left over for a feast.


So I came looking for you,

    and here you are!


The sheets on my bed

    are bright-colored cloth

    from Egypt.


And I have covered it

with perfume

    made of myrrh,

    aloes, and cinnamon.


“Let’s go there

    and make love all night.


    My husband is traveling,

    and he’s far away.


He took a lot of money along,

    and he won’t be back home

    before the middle

    of the month.”


And so, she tricked him

    with all of her sweet talk

    and her flattery.


Right away he followed her

    like an ox on the way

    to be slaughtered,

Like an antelope bounding

Into the noose


    Then the arrow pierces his liver.

He was no more than a bird

    rushing into a trap,

    without knowing

    it would cost him his life.


My son, pay close attention

    to what I have said.


Don’t even think about

    that kind of woman

    or let yourself be misled

    by someone like her.


Such a woman has caused

the downfall

    and destruction

    of a lot of men.


Her house is a one-way street

leading straight down

    to the world of the dead.


So three times now in seven chapters men are warned against a “strange” or “foreign” or “separate” woman, who offers sex which ends in disgrace, ruin, or even death of her victim. This chapter is the fullest version of this moral tale. In fact making the wiles of the woman so powerful seems more likely to send young men out looking for her, than to teach them chastity.

But what is actually happening here? What precisely is the nature of the “death” that awaits the stupid young man? I noted in chapter 6 that it may be financial ruin. If so, then a) this may simply refer to the cost of keeping a mistress, or b) to the cost of being blackmailed or sued by her husband. The vivid imagery here of animals led into traps and killed, however, makes me wonder of the author is suggesting deadly physical violence by the betrayed husband.

Commentators on this passage are a little evasive as to what’s going on. The author seems to assume that readers will know without being told explicitly. I used to wonder if an STD was being hinted at, but found no support from scholars. I still think that the image of the arrow in the liver is possibly pointing to a symptom of a sexual disease. I defer to those scholars who have concluded that our particular STDs did not exist in the ancient world, but it would be odd if there were none at all. Obviously the ancients has no knowledge of the mechanism of disease communication, but diseases of the sexual organs would be naturally associated with sex.

On balance however it seems more likely that the deadly result of adulterous sex was a combination of financial and social ruin, something worth the many warnings it is given in this book. Or can it be that old men are trying to steer young men away from the remembered follies of their own youth?

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