Chapter 7: Commentary

7:1 My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you.

7:2 Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye.

7:3 Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.

     The chapter begins with words from father to son (:1-3). Its three verses of instructions about what to do. Most of us remember getting such a speech from father, mother, grandmother, uncle or somebody who cared about us and wanted to be sure we made good life choices. I image we might also remember our attitude at such advice!
      Yet, that's the real issue here. What's at stake is not just information, but the right heart attitude to be able to receive, appreciate and apply it. That's when the Proverbs are really working for us. In fact, the way we respond to someone giving us this kind of "listen to what I am telling you, it is for your own good" speech will tell us a lot about just how far we are progressing in wisdom and our spiritual walk.
      So, with the focus being on attitude, note all the verbs: "keep," "store up," "keep," "guard," "bind them," "write them." This is an attitude with focus, commitment and appropriate actions.
      The phrase "apple of your eye" (:2) isn't speaking of fruit, but of comes from a term meaning "dark." It apparently refers to the dark pupil at the center of our eyes, suggesting the son to treat this instruction as sensitive, special and important.
      "Bind them on your fingers" speaks of external things – actions. "Writing them on the tablet of your heart" (3:3; 6:21) speaks of internal things – attitudes. It's a common idea in Proverbs – all this information is supposed to affect what I do and how I think!

7:4 Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and call understanding your kinsman;

     This entire chapter is Solomon's message to his son (:1). It's guy talk about girls! While dad's focus is on staying away from immoral women, he begins by pointing out the importance of some other ladies in our lives.
      In this verse Solomon once again refers to "wisdom" and "understanding" in the feminine - like Lady Wisdom and Lady Understanding ("kinsman" is actually in the feminine; see also 4:5-7). His advice is to keep these ladies close, like family. They will help steer us away from all the heartache and mess ups associated with the adulteress and wayward wife (:5).
      Connecting "wisdom" and "understanding" is a common theme in Proverbs (see 2:2, 6; 3:13, 19; 4:5, 7; 7:4; 8:1; 9:10; 16:16; 19:8; 24:3). The good news for us it that when we get hooked up with one, the other comes along, too - like bananas come in a bunch or grapes in a cluster.
      When we are connected to wisdom ("seeing life from God's point of view") we will also have access to understanding ("realizing how right choices lead to a meaningful life"). Learning to practice one of these character qualities just naturally brings the other quality into our lives, as well.
      Wisdom and Understanding - a couple of great ladies to know. And this is a great way to live!

7:5 they will keep you from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words.

     Almost identical to 2:16, this is a rather common theme in the first section of Proverbs (see also 5:3, 20; 6:24). Wisdom and understanding, like wise loving and supporting female relatives, they will provide help to a guy to keep him from falling for this immoral woman.
      The woman in this verse is not a good woman with whom it would be beneficial to develop a relationship. "Adulteress" and "wayward wife" indicates she is married but apparently already has not been faithful to her husband. Since this is who she is, it would not be good or healthy to connect with her on any level.
      First, she can't be trusted with anything – your stuff or your heart. Secondly, she has a husband and he may not be very understanding about your relationship with her, (as discussed in the last chapter; 6:29-35).
      This immoral woman has a way with words (literally "smooth" words) and will do her very best to motivate us into an inappropriate relationship (see :21; 2:16; 6:24). Wisdom and understanding are our best friends to help us not to get connected with this kind of woman.

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

     This verse is the beginning of a long climatic poem (:6-27) which father tells his son (:1). It was probably not a literal observation Solomon was sharing, but a wise saying to impart insight. Maybe it was even a well-known proverb of the day that Solomon was just passing along to his boy.
      He tells the story of a young man who gets mixed up with the wrong lady and finds himself in a real mess. It's about bad choices, deception and the price we pay for both.
      Either way, this story is a good reminder that what we do is seen by someone - good or bad. Sometimes we get weary in well-doing and think no one even notices what we do. This passage suggests somebody is watching - so keep it up!
      But, on the other side, sometimes we do things seemingly in secret, yet somehow it gets known by others. I suppose it's sort of like those speed and red light cameras out there on the roads catching us when we think no one else sees.
      So it's probably good to just appreciate all this as part of my accountability network to help me stay the course and just keep doing the next right thing. But, in the end, may we never forget it is God who always sees what we do!
      And, ultimately, the best way for me to do right things is to start thinking right. If I really want to change my actions, the best way to get started is to first change my attitudes!

7:7 I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who lacked judgment.

     Solomon speaks about a guy "among the young men" and "among the simple ones." The Hebrew parallelism of this verse connects "young men" and "the simple," like when both were introduced in 1:4.
      "The simple" is the noun form of the verb "to entice" (see 1:10). That makes "the simple" someone easily enticed or lured into dumb stuff. They're not stupid, they just don't know about things because they don't have much experience in life. They don't think situations through or don't have much interest in learning how to do the right thing. At HUM we might call this guy "not-so-street-smart."
      "The young" are similar to "the simple." They're not stupid, either, but their lack of time on earth has not given them sufficient time to know about a lot of things yet, either. Experience is key for the simple, age for the young. But, we all know that one can grow old and still stay simple!
      The guy in this verse also "lacks judgment" and that turns out to be his real downfall. It's not that he has mastered the art of doing evil, he's just inexperienced about life and therefore vulnerable to making poor choices. It is not a lack of brain power, but a lack of making good decisions. He doesn't necessarily choose bad, he just wanders around without any real desire or understanding about doing good.
      But it doesn't have to be that way and we can be different. That's what Proverbs is all about!

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

     It is not clear from the text whether this was a deliberate choice of going by her house (:8) or whether he was just wandering around in an area where he had no business. From both my personal experience (BUT, not in this area of adultery – been married 38 and I have been faithful to my wife the whole time, thank God!) and professional experience as a pastor, either scenario is reasonable. Maybe Solomon said it this way to leave it open for us to apply in our lives under either circumstance.
      In reality, sometimes we have made up our minds ahead of time to do something stupid. Here at Helping Up Mission the guys call that "making reservations" prior to getting high. Other times we just carelessly wander around and get ourselves into ill-advised, tempting or even dangerous situations. The whole point of Proverbs is that we can walk in wisdom ("seeing life from God's point of view") and not have to go down that street under either circumstance.
      The young man Solomon was watching went in the direction of "her" house – the adulteress and wayward wife of verse 5. It would seem that he knew where she lived. He knew where he was going in the evening and dark. It isn't clear that he expected to see her or that she was looking for him.
      Either way, he made an apparently conscious decision to go near her house. It reminds me of the modern wise sayings, "if you play with fire, you will get burned" or "If you hang around long enough in a barbershop, are you gonna get a haircut." This young man may or may not have planned to meet with her, but he was setting himself up for trouble by going near her house. When we get ourselves in difficult situations, we can expect that there will be consequences.

7:9 ...at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in.

     This chapter is a discussion Solomon had with his son about staying away from adulteress women. He said, from his window, he saw a young man (:7) headed "down the street near her corner...in the direction of her house" (:8).
      Our verse says this trip was "at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in." During Bible days this was when everyone settled down for the night.
      It was dangerous outside in the dark, with wild animals roaming around out there. Besides, walking around with no lights, it would be easy to fall into or just trip over something.
      Since no one else was out - there was just no place to go and nothing to do. So, if anyone was out there, it probably wasn't good!
      This is just evening in our world and for many of us the party wouldn't even have started yet! Still, our mommas have a modern counterpart for our verse - "nothing good ever happens after midnight!"
      For sure, many of us could offer some examples of how that is true! But the point of this verse is wrong place at wrong time doing wrong things.
      While the final bad decision is the wrong things we did, there would have already been a series of other bad decisions putting us where we shouldn't have been at an inappropriate time. Doing stupid stuff at that point was pretty easy!
      If I'm ever going to do better in my life, I'm going to have to think better. Solomon explained that at the beginning of the chapter (:4). "Wisdom" is the ability to see life from God's point of view - and that can change everything!

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

     This is the second character of an extended poetic wise saying Solomon shared with his son (:6-23). It's a woman "dressed like a prostitute and with craft intent" who came out to meet a young man Solomon saw through his window (:6-7)
      In this verse, two things are noted about this woman – something external and something internal. The external fact is that she appeared in public dressed like a prostitute.
      While we are familiar with what that looks like today, we aren't so certain how a prostitute dressed in Old Testament times. However she looked, it apparently identified her as an immoral woman of the streets. No doubt, this was a deliberate choice on her part to appear in public this way that evening (:9)
      The second thing about this woman was internal – her heart. "Crafty intent" is literally "guarded" or "secret" in her heart. Sadly, this heart went along with her "brazen" (bold) face" (:13). Thus her appearance and her attitude in this verse seem quite consistent. Yet, the full story would seem to suggest the rest of her life was quite different (see :16-20).
      This woman was not only doing something inappropriate, she apparently was trying very hard to appear sometimes as something she really wasn't. Guys as Helping Up Mission call this "fronting."
      While it might sound exciting to some, this isn't really that much fun - and it's exhausting. A commitment to being the same person all the time is actually easier, liberating and empowering!
      HUM guys call this "keeping it 100!" While nobody's perfect, a commitment to being Honest, Open and Willing (HOW) one day at a time will help keep us as close to 100 as possible.
      It's also the best way I know to be - as the complete Serenity Prayer says - "reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next!"

7:11 (She is unruly and defiant, her feet never stay at home; now in the street,

7:12 now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.)

     These two verses are part of a long climatic poem (:6-27) of fatherly advice (:1) about involvement with an immoral woman (:5 - "adulterous woman," "wayward wife").
      Verse 10 describes her as having inappropriate motives and dressed as a prostitute heading out. This wise saying just might not end well (see :24-27)!
      With no punctuation in the original Hebrew text, the NIV makes these two verses a parenthetical clause further describing this woman. The first two things are that she is "unruly" and "defiant."
      "Unruly" is often translated "loud." Either way, she's noisy! But it might be appropriate to ask "why?"
      Her "noise" may be because she's "defiant." But, being mentioned first, could it be more about some struggles or personal pain in her life?
      The inability to address such personal struggles can be debilitating. It's a major contributor to inappropriate behaviors in the lives of guys here at Helping Up Mission.
      But this lady's also "defiant," stubborn or rebellious. Sadly, it's so hard to do good things when our hearts are so full of bad attitudes and motives.
      Consequently, she doesn't "stay at home" but spends her evenings in the "street," "squares" and "at every corner" (:9) in the city...not good! But even worse, she's "lurking" or lying in wait - literally planning an "ambush!"
      Whether it's, in my pain, misery loves company or other motivations - there she is. While the young man in the story (:7) is a victim, she may be one, herself, trapped in her own personal turmoil.
      Life's hard enough when we have a good attitude. But when we're thinking and feeling like she is, bad things will happen.
      We really do need to deal with our feelings and emotions. It's my call...a one day at a time choice!

7:13 She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face she said

     She embraced him and kissed him and then spoke. This is the beginning of her speech (:14-20). A older and wiser man would have been able to see through her actions and words. While it might be tempting, he would think things like – I wonder who she approached like this last time and wonder who will be next. He should also realize that there will be a hidden cost – that she expects him to pay, that her people may make him pay or that God will make him pay!

7:15 So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you!

     This immoral married woman is out in the streets and she says to the young man that she was looking for him (see :10). I really doubt she was looking specifically for him. She was just looking for her next "target" (see :22-27), and he stepped up first. It is so easy for us boys to allow a girl to talk us into and out of so much stuff – sometimes that is good and sometimes that is bad. In this case, it is bad and will cost him.

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

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

     A continuation of the quote from this woman, these verses would suggest wealth, effort and preparation on her part. Whether she has actually done all this stuff is not clear, but that is what she says. Of course, since I don't think she could be trusted in what she said in verse 15, I don't really think we can believe her here, either. Her husband of the next verse shouldn't trust her, either!

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."

     She invited him to a night of love (:18) and notes that it would be okay (that is safe, not that it would be right). She says her husband has gone on a long journey, evidenced by the fact that he took a purse filled with money.
      The following verses indicate that going with this woman was a grave mistake (:22-23, 26-27). She was not a trustworthy person – either unfaithful to her husband or she was setting this young man up to get rolled by her husband (or someone else) at the house. In fact, because this woman's words can't be trusted, we can't even be sure that her husband was even away. This might have been a setup and he might even be there and would rob this young guy, even kill him, or take him and sell him off into slavery.
      One of the problems of having a relationship with an untrustworthy person is that it is hard to trust them to always be honest with you , if you know they were dishonest to others you have to assume that they might also be dishonest with you.

7:21 With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk.

     The power of words – persuasive and smooth. Here they are words of an immoral woman. In Proverbs, as father instructs his son, it is the words of these women that are generally mentioned in the seduction of a man (:5; 2:16; 5:3; 6:24). Her beauty is only mentioned once (6:25)!
      It would seem that we boys can be swayed more easily by a women's words than by beauty. Maybe it's just because pretty girls don't usually pay attention to most of us guys!
      While this verse is about inappropriate words, there is also power in good words spoken from an honest heart. We all know to where this lady's words lead, but appropriate words can accomplish great things for us and other. Either way – good or bad – words can get it done. Be known for good words and actions today!

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.

     We can so easily be drawn into making bad decisions. In this section, it is about how easily the young man was persuaded by the immoral woman. To illustrate, in these two verses, Solomon uses three examples from the world they knew – catching and killing animals for food.
      Getting caught up into doing stupid things can be as easy as an ox gently led to slaughter; or as a deer innocently stepping into a noose trap on the ground and is trapped until killed by an arrow; or as a bird flying right into a trap with no idea of the danger.
      In each case, the animal was unaware of what was happening until it was too late and it cost them their lives. In recovery, we call these kinds of things "relapse triggers." They are the things that so easily trap us and lead us back into addiction.
      The writer of Hebrews mentioned "the sin that so easily entangles us" (Heb 12:1). We all have them – many we are already aware of, but some we are not. Either way, we are supposed to be smarter than these animals, understand what's at stake and able to make good choices.

7:24 Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say.

7:25 Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths.

7:26 Many are the victims she has brought down;

7:27 her slain are a mighty throng.

7:28 Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.

     The final four verses of chapter 7 are best viewed together and represent the father's final words to his sons about immoral women. Written in typical Hebrew poetry, they're a series of complimentary parallel statements.
      Verses 24 and 25 give two sets of commands. It begins by addressing "my sons," a familiar refrain earlier in this and previous chapters.
      Father's first set of command are "listen to me; pay attention to what I say" (:24). Dad has some experience in life and has something of value to say to his boys - especially in the context of immoral women.
      In verse 25, his advice is crystal clear. "Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths." He doesn't tell his son what to do...but tells him how to think - "your heart."
      If we're ever going to do right things on a continuous basis, it'll have to start in our hearts - our minds, our thinking. It's so easy to get off track in our thinking and it's so important that we keep focus on what's important.
      Dad's message is straightforward – if you pay attention to what I'm saying, it will help you to make good choices to not engage with those women.
      But we can change the focus from immoral women and apply it to anything else that keeps us from being the person we're supposed to be. Right actions always begin with right thinking!