Chapter 7: Beneath the Surface

7:6 At the window of my house I looked out through the lattice.

      This is the only reference in Proverbs to a window or lattice-construction within a window. In its most basic sense, an ancient window was a hole in a wall that allows sunlight and air into a building (and maybe let smoke and smells out!). It may be well constructed or just a void in the wall. Of course, there was no glass in the opening and in may have been covered by a criss-cross pattern of some material (a "lattice"), a wooden block or a woven mat.
      An ongoing interest of mine for decades, I wrote my thesis at Baltimore Hebrew University on domestic architecture in Israel during the time of the Judges. Archaeologically, we have found very few windows in outer walls of houses from any Biblical period. Walls are seldom still standing sufficiently high enough for a window to be present. I can't think of a single window from a typical Old Testament Israelite house.
      But windows in royal architecture are better documented in the archaeological record and this was what Solomon was referencing. I would have to say that the latticed windows that really helped me to "see the light" on this subject are in the Temple of Amun at Karnak, Egypt.
      Sitting atop the two central rows of massive pillars (33 ft circumference, 80 ft high) in the Temple's Great Hypostyle Hall were the remains of two rows of huge clerestory windows. They would have allowed the only outside light into this massive sacred space. The windows were framed with large stone blocks and had equally-large vertical stone blocks evenly spaced across the openings. These "lattices" appeared like stationary vertical blinds which, of course, did not move.

7:8 He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house

      I am writing this from my dig site in the Jordan River Valley. Last weekend some of our team went south for an overnight stay in the Wadi Rum Desert Reserve (famous from Lawrence of Arabia). They stayed in a large tent camp with Bedouin hosts and guides. When it was sundown they ate dinner and were in bed by 7:30 PM. In the ancient world, and even maNy parts of our world still today, when the sun went down it was so hard to see and do anything that you just go to bed – and get up with the sun, too.
      The fact that this young man was out there at that time of the day meant he allowed himself to be in a place at a time that was just not smart, healthy and safe. It was going to cost him.

7:10 Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent.

      We do not know what it looked like to be "dressed like a prostitute" in Old Testament Israel. Genesis 38:14-19 seems to suggest that a veil over the face was at least part of that outfit. While in our world we would think that she might be uncovering other parts of her body in public, there is no evidence for that in the ancient world. The only known emphasis is on veiling of the face in public. Maybe the way to view this woman is the fully-covered women in burkas in Middle Eastern countries today.
      Such a scenario might suggested secrecy, mystery – a mystic about the veiled woman. Who is this woman and what does she look like under all that? See Blomfield, Adrian (30 July 2010). "Israeli rabbis clamp down on burka". The Daily Telegraph, London: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/7919501/Israeli-rabbis-clamp-down-on-burka.html
      Was her veiling also been extended to the sex act, itself? The Genesis 38 story seems to suggest such. Maybe the veil indicated shame and disgrace – she couldn't bear to be seen. Or maybe it was that she should not see (at least in symbol) the man who would shamefully lie with her.

7:16 I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt.

7:17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.

      Two different terms for "bed" are used in these two verses. There is a modifying noun with the first term, suggesting it was constructed of carved wood. Such artifacts have been found in ancient tombs in both Israel and Egypt as well as portrayed in ancient stone carved reliefs.
      Literally this verse reads "I have covered with covers." Called "tapestry" here (see also 31:22), it is mentioned here as being made of fibrous material – thread or yarn – imported from Egypt. I grew up hearing about "Egyptian cotton" in later 20th century America, it was considered quality. It was not unlike ancient Egyptian linen which was a valuable and expensive import.
      She also suggests she used myrrh, aloes and cinnamon to enhance her bed. These three sweet smelling vegetable-based materials had to be harvested, manufactured and imported. They were very expensive.
      All the terms mentioned in this verse would suggest a wealthy home. Such a place would contribute the "fantasy" for this young man. But we are all pretty familiar with the modern proverb "if it seems too good to be true, it probably is." This situation is going to be the undoing of this young fellow (see :22-23).

7:19 My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey.

7:20 He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon."

      The "purse filled with money" is not a literal translation, but a modern understanding of the phrase. This was not a modern "man-purse" but an ancient conveyance for carrying valuables. While this is the modern Hebrew word for money, the concept of neither paper money or coins had been invented yet in Solomon's day.
      Instead, the literal translation is "silver," and that is what the husband took with him on the trip. The husband was probably a businessman away on business and he needed the silver to cover any expenses he had as well as to make business purchases. Ancient silver was weighed in different amounts and this man would have taken a reasonable amount of these pre-weighted amounts of silver with him.

7:22 All at once he followed her, like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose

7:23 till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.

      The deer and bird in these verses were wild animals would had to be caught. The ox, on the other hand was a domesticated animal – an extremely valuable farm "tool" – which would have been kept at the house (see also 14:4).
      The domesticated ox is, in truth, a castrated bull. Just in case you wanted to know, a castrated horse is called a "gelding" and a castrated man is called a "eunuch" (Gr; eune "bed" echein "guard" – a royal official who guarded the king's – or even queen's! – bedchamber).