Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding:
For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil:V.
(3) Her mouth is smoother than oil.—The experience of David also with Ahitophel (Psalm 55:21).
But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a twoedged sword.(4) Bitter as wormwood.—The absinthium of Revelation 8:11, where, apparently, it is considered as a poison. So God’s message to St. John (Revelation 10:10) was in his mouth sweet as honey (comp. Psalm 19:10), but made his belly bitter: that is, he met with much sorrow and trouble in making it known to men, but through this “much tribulation” (Acts 14:22) he “entered into the kingdom of heaven.”
Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell.(5) Take hold on hell.—They lead straight to it.
Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know them.(6) Lest thou shouldest ponder . . .—The meaning of the English version appears to be, “To prevent thy choosing the path of life, she leads thee by devious paths that thou knowest not where thou art.” It may also be rendered, “Far from smoothing for herself the path of life, her steps wander without her observing it.” By these words is described the reckless career of a vicious woman, who at last dares not think whither her steps are leading her, but as it were with eyes shut, totters on till she falls to rise no more.
Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth.(h). Eighth Discourse:—Against Adultery, and in Praise of Marriage (Proverbs 5:7-23).
(7) Hear me now therefore, O ye children.—In this verse Solomon apparently ceases to report the words of his father, and resumes his speech in his own person.
Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house:(8) Remove thy way . . .—The great safeguard in such temptations, as all moralists with one mouth advise, is flight.
Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel:(9) Thine honour.—Rather, freshness, vigour.
Thy years.—The best years of thy life.
Unto the cruel.—That is the temptress herself, or her hangers-on and associates, whose sole idea is plunder.
And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed,(11) When thy flesh and thy body are consumed.—Ruin of health has followed ruin of property.
And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof;(12) How have I hated instruction.—The last stage of misery is the remorse which comes too late. (Comp. Matthew 25:30.)
I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly.(14) I was almost in all evil . . .—Rather, I had almost fallen into every sin: I was so infatuated that I might have committed any sin, and that openly before all. Or, I might have been visited with extremest punishment at the hands of the congregation, death by stoning (Leviticus 20:10, John 8:5). The offender’s eyes are now opened, and he shudders at the thought of the still greater troubles into which he might, in his infatuation, have fallen.
Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well.(15-20) Drink waters out of thine own cistern . . .—In these verses Solomon urges his disciples to follow after purity in the married life; he pictures in vivid terms the delights which it affords as compared with the pleasures of sin.
Out of thine own cistern.—The “strange woman,” on the other hand, says, “Stolen waters are sweet” (Proverbs 9:17). The same figure is employed in Song of Solomon 4:15, where a wife is compared to “a fountain of gardens, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.” In Jeremiah 2:13 God compares Himself to a “fountain of living waters,” and complains that Israel had deserted Him, and hewed out for themselves “broken cisterns that can hold no water.” This passage in Proverbs has in like manner often been interpreted as an exhortation to drink deeply from the living waters of the Holy Spirit given in the Word and Sacraments (John 7:37).—For ref. see Bishop Wordsworth.
Let them be only thine own, and not strangers' with thee.(17) Let them be only thine own.—The deepest joys and sorrows of each heart are sacred, and cannot be shared with others (Proverbs 14:10), and so it is with the various relations of family life also, strangers have no part in them.
Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth.(18) Let thy fountain . . .—As a reward for purity of life, the blessing of a numerous offspring is invoked. (Comp. Psalm 128:3, where the wife is a “fruitful vine,” and the children numerous and flourishing like olive-branches.)
Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.(19) Loving hind and pleasant roe.—The deer and chamois, from their grace and speed and lustrous eyes, have always been chosen by the Oriental poets as figures of human strength and beauty. (Comp. Song of Solomon 2:9; Song of Solomon 2:17; Song of Solomon 7:3; Song of Solomon 8:14; Psalm 18:33.) Both these animals are said to be remarkable for their affection to their young.
For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings.(21) For the ways of man . . .—Another reason for avoiding sin is the certainty of detection by the Judge, whose “eyes run to and fro through the whole earth” (2Chronicles 16:9), comp. Psalm 11:4.
His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins.(22, 23) His own iniquities . . .—The final scene in the life of the profligate is here described. He has sinned so long that he is “tied and bound,” hand and foot, with the “chain of his sins,” and cannot get free even had he the wish to do so.
He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.(23) He shall die without instruction.—Rather, for want of discipline, because he would not control himself, “he shall die,” and “for the greatness of his folly (self-will) he shall go astray,” and “wander where there is no way” (Job 12:24).