Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
One passage in the Bible that always gets a laugh out of me as I’m reading is Proverbs 6:20-26. It goes like this,
My son, keep your father’s commands
And do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
Bind them upon your heart forever;
Fasten them around your neck.
When you walk, they will guide you;
When you sleep, they will watch over you;
When you awake, they will speak to you.
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 (Proverbs6:20-26).
Now, that’s a lot to read (especially for a first paragraph) and it doesn’t seem all that funny. But think about the summary of this, “Wisdom is important in order to avoid becoming bread.” Now I know the Bible talks about bread a lot but even this seems a bit odd. Today, let’s explore one of Solomon’s most-covered topics in the Proverbs: adultery.
While dispensing wisdom throughout his book of wisdom, Solomon touches on the subject of adultery a lot…I mean a lot. It’s kinda interesting that King Solomon is the one talking about adultery though, since he had tons of wives- then again, I suppose marrying every woman in sight does help one to keep from being caught in an affair. Anyway, he covers this topic much more than you might have realized. For example, we read,
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 (Proverbs 5:1-2)
Now that’s usually where the pastor stops reading. And it’s a good message, “Wisdom brings discretion.” But the message actually continues into the next couple of verses,
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 (Proverbs 5:3-4).
“Wisdom is good for discretion…so you don’t commit adultery.” There are more of these too. We read in Proverbs 5:7, “Listen, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say.” Ooh, what’s coming next must be important,
Keep 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” (Proverbs 5:8-14).
So to paraphrase, “Listen to me…so you don’t commit adultery.” Or how about this one,
My son, keep my words
And store up my commands within you.
Keep my commands and you will live;
Guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.
Bind them on your fingers;
Write them on the tablet of your heart (Proverbs 7:1-3).
This is one of those really good passages about following the Law of God and also about teaching the Law to your children. But take a look at how Solomon follows it up,
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
And call understanding your kinsman;
They will keep you from the adulteress,
From the wayward wife with her seductive words (Proverbs 7:4-5).
In short, “Follow the teachings of your forefathers…so…you…don’t…commit…adultery.” If you feel like I’m beating you over the head with these passages about adultery then you’re getting a feel for how Solomon wrote in this popular book of the Bible. Solomon really cared about the issue of adultery and wanted to make sure that for those seeking wisdom if they didn’t learn anything else they’d learn one thing: don’t commit adultery.
In Proverbs 10:9, Solomon notes, “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.” This is very true, as just a few chapters before this he tells a story about watching a man in sin. We read,
At the window of my house
I looked through the lattice.
I saw among the simple,
I notice among the young men,
A youth who lacked judgment.
He was going down the street near her corner,
Walking along in the direction of her house
At twilight, as the day was fading,
As the dark of night set in (Proverbs 7:6-9).
Now as I was reading this, the Holy Spirit stepped in to help explain this story. You see, Solomon was king over the land, and from the window of his palace he could see everything that was happening in the city. In the same way, our Lord looks down from his throne and sees all of us here on earth. Hebrews 4:13 actually reminds us, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” Or, sticking with our wisdom theme for today Solomon writes in Proverbs 15:3, “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.” Anyway, back to the story. Israel’s teacher continues, “Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent” (Proverbs 7:10). What we can get from this is that the woman wasn’t hiding her intent at all. Likewise, I think most of us know what sin looks like. We know what theft looks like (though we often try to justify it anyway), we know what lying is (though many do it), we know what adultery looks like (yet sexual immorality runs rampant), and if you don’t know what murder looks then you might want to watch more TV. The fact is that we know what sin is. Y’know, if you come across a porn site on the internet your first thought probably isn’t “Wow! This is certainly from God!” So yeah, this lady isn’t covering it up. We keep going though,
She is loud and defiant,
Her feet never stay at home;
Now in the street, now in the squares,
At every corner she lurks (Proverbs 7:11-12).
Let’s not lie, temptation is everywhere. Temptations to cheat, steal, or even commit adultery. They’re on your phone, your TV, your internet, even your billboards, or walking down the street. So just like temptation, our story’s prostitute makes sure to be everywhere. Continuing on in Proverbs 7:13-15,
She took hold of him and kissed him
And with a brazen face she said:
“I have fellowship offerings at home;
Today I fulfilled my vows.
So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you!”
And thus our prostitute finds her mark. The devil doesn’t just leave traps for anyone to fall into, as I think many are in the habit of thinking. Oh no, he actively seeks out people. And what’s worse, for a Christian, he might even use the church as part of his disguise. Notice that the prostitute in the story talks about Temple stuff before dragging our poor misguided youth into the shadows. So, although we’re called to fellowship with each other, be wary of what your church friends may be in to, or what they may want you to do for or with them. Paul writes about this,
And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).
Don’t avoid church, but be careful. Many Christians lie in order to look good, some people swindle believers while claiming to be holy themselves. I’ve even heard stories of people caught in adultery claiming they thought it was from God. The Lord will never encourage you to do something that goes against his law- remember that. Proverbs 7:16-20 continues,
“I have covered my bed
With colored linens from Egypt.
I have perfumed my bed
With myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
Come, let’s drink deep of love till morning;
Let’s enjoy ourselves with love!
My husband is not at home;
He has gone on a long journey.
He took his purse filled with money
And will not be home till full moon.”
Here Solomon paints a perfect picture of what temptation looks like: pretty, comfy, deep, fulfilling, and safe. I mean, it wouldn’t be very good advertising if temptation looked bad, was difficult to do, offered nothing you needed, and was blatantly dangerous. He continues though,
With persuasive words she led him astray;
She seduced him with her smooth talk.
All at once he followed her
Like an ox going into 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 (Proverbs 7:21-23).
No! Stop! It’s a trap! And so another believer falls into sin as Solomon watches from his palace and the Lord watches from heaven. The Bible records,
Now then, my sons, listen to me;
Pay attention to what I say.
Do not let your heart turn to her ways
Or stray into her paths.
Many are the victims she has brought down;
Her slain are a mighty throng.
Her house is a highway to the grave,
Leading down to the chambers of death (Proverbs 7:24-27).
Ultimately, temptation traps you into sin, and sin leads to death. If you’re untouched by the saving blood of Jesus Christ, that death is eternal (and unimaginably awful). But even a Christian should take note of this because although you may live eternally in heaven after death, something will be lost. Maybe you’ll lose it here on earth, or maybe you’ll be denied something in the life to come, but sin comes at a price. In case you haven’t figured it out yet, the story isn’t just about immorality- nor are all of Solomon’s references to cheating in Proverbs. What the wise Solomon wants us to learn about is sin in general, which is Spiritual Adultery. When we sin we go against what the Lord wants of us, and we’re cheating on Jesus (who sacrificed himself for you) with the devil.
I know we live in a sin-filled world; a world of temptation and instant gratification and stress and frustration and the whole lot. And I know that the whole world says that Jesus isn’t real, that God is gone or isn’t paying attention or never existed. But he’s still alive, he still cares, and he’s still reaching out for you. Jesus says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). Christ is offering to share with you the bounty of the Lord whereas repeated one night stands with Satan will leave you as just a loaf of bread waiting to be consumed by death. Which do you think is the better choice?