Rev. denHartog is pastor of Hope Protestant Reformed Church in Redlands, California.
For some time already now, the Young Adults Fellowship at our church has been studying the book of Proverbs. We have been amazed time and again by the treasures of practical spiritual wisdom which this book contains.
One of the outstanding chapters of Proverbs is chapter seven. Studying it again I was deeply impressed by the powerful warning this chapter contains for the young (really for the young and the old) regarding the enticement of the sin of immorality and the dreadful consequences this sin has for those who fall into it. Because today’s society is so saturated with this awful sin, and because temptations to it are present on every hand, I decided to direct the attention of our readers to the extremely effective and relevant parable of Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived. Perhaps before reading this article you should take time to read Proverbs 7. I will try to give a brief summary of the main teaching of this chapter of God’s Word. My prayer is that the power of this parable will come across to you and that it will have its intended effect.
I remind you that throughout the book of Proverbs the inspired writer is addressing his spiritual son whom he loves very dearly. No counselor of the youth ever loved his patients as this spiritual counselor does. He cares for their deepest welfare. He loves them so much that he earnestly warns them about sin and its dreadful consequences. His fervent desire is to teach his young patients the perfect and absolute wisdom of God.
Some commentators are of the opinion that we must understand Proverbs 7 as a kind of allegory. They find not only a warning in this chapter against sexual sin, but a more general description of the seductive power of sin. Perhaps this is true. There is certainly application of this parable to other sins in the world. However, we believe the main purpose of this passage is to warn about the sin of immorality. Such warning is so necessary and so urgent in our day.
Chapter seven of Proverbs, as we said, is a parable. There are, in the main, two characters in this parable.
The one is a young man. Some have called him a farmer’s son because he seems naive about the dangers of the wicked life of the city. Such naivete does not of course exist today among farmers’ sons. The young man in the parable may have been a single young man. He may even have been a young married man, who sins grievously against the wife of his youth.
The other character in the parable is a scandalous adulteress. She is a married woman. She symbolizes the epitome of the sin of adultery.
The reason why the second character is a married woman is not because the sin of fornication (sexual relationships between unmarried young people) is not as serious a sin. Rather, the sin of immorality is compounded when it violates one’s own and someone else’s marriage. In chapter six Solomon has seriously warned: “Men do not despise a thief, if he steals to satisfy his soul when he is hungry; but if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house. But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul. A wound and dishonor shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away. For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance. He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts” Prov. 6:30-35).
In the parable Solomon speaks of looking through the lattice of the window of his house and observing a foolish young man in the streets of the city in the dark hours of the night. One commentator interprets the window through which the unnamed observer witnesses the tragic scene which.unfolds in the parable to be “the window of the Word of God.” The young man in the parable is said to be among the “simple ones.” He is described as one “void of understanding.” Though the inspired writer of this parable loves God’s covenant youth very dearly, he minces no words in calling this young man “void of understanding.” He is tragically foolish. He is sinfully foolish. He is woefully ignorant of the great dangers that lurk in the way that he is going. He is however willingly and inexcusably ignorant, for this young man was one born in a covenant home. He belonged to the nation of Israel, where the law of God was taught to young people from childhood on.
The foolish young man is pictured as passing through the street near the corner of the house of a known adulteress. It is in “the twilight in the evening, in the black and dark night.” We can easily understand these details of the parable, can we not? Much evil is committed in the darkness of the night. Foolish men imagine that the darkness of the night covers up sin, so that no one sees it being committed. By doing their sin in the night they expect to avoid detection. They forget, however, that before God, the righteous judge of heaven and earth, the darkness and the light are both alike. The darkness does not hide us from God.
The young man purposely wanders into areas where temptation lurks. He enjoys the thrill and excitement of temptation. Perhaps he does not at this time have the express intention in his heart to follow after the sin of the deed of adultery. However, he already has adultery in his heart, and in his imaginations. Maybe he still thinks that he is strong enough that he can enjoy the thrill of the arousal of his sinful nature without falling into the gross sin of the deed of adultery. The foolish young man dwells by the corner of the house of the harlot (that is really who the woman of the parable is, though she may seem to all appearances at times to be a faithful and respectable wife to her husband). The young man dwells near the corner of the harlot’s house. He is hoping to get a glimpse of her, just enough for a little excitement.
Already at this point in the sordid drama this young man is extremely foolish. The Christian young man (and young woman) is exhorted in Scripture to “flee youthful lust.” They are not to flirt with temptations. They are to know the extreme dangers of the temptations of the world and stay as far from them as possible. The church, in earnest love and concern for her youth, must warn them regarding the places of worldly entertainment, the dance and the theater, the disco, even the ribald worldly parties of our day. What church today loves its youth enough to do that anymore?
We continue to follow the vivid picture painted by the inspired writer of Proverbs, but even in this we must do so with the Spirit of sanctification in our hearts lest we are stirred up in sinful excitement by this picture. This is an awful picture of the temptation of sin. This showing of the bitter fruits of sin, the judgment of God, is not Hollywood’s portrayal of the excitement of sin. The parable is intended to portray the reality of temptation in order to warn us finally of the dreadful consequences of the sin and the judgment of God that follows upon it.
The second main character of the parable suddenly appears on the scene. “And behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtle of heart.” We must not imagine that this woman is a picture only of those engaged in the vile occupation of harlotry. There are many who would not “stoop so low” as to visit the abode of a harlot. Yet they commit adultery as contemptible and with as disastrous consequences as those who consort with the harlot. Furthermore, the women today who profess to be Christians but “freely sleep around” with one man after another who is not their husband are in fact harlots before God.
The harlot in the parable is wearing her attire. She is dressed in such a way that she will attract the adulterous eye of evil men. She finds great pleasure in doing this kind of thing. She prides herself in seeing one man after another give her the look over. She is shameless in her sin. She has made sin the profession of her life. Solomon describes her as subtle of heart. The point of this description is that with her enticements she will offer that which will bring great sinful pleasure. She promises what she pretends to be good, but she has a selfish and desperately evil purpose in her heart. She is seeking her own selfish pleasure and glory and at the same time the ruin -and complete destruction of those who are attracted by her.
“She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house.” In our modern world such women are actually glamorized. They are constantly being featured on the front pages of the world’s magazines. They are the movie stars who gain great attention and fame. They sometimes make millions through the promotion of their life of sin. Solomon wants us to know that such women are the total opposite of modesty and godliness. They are the opposite of the God-fearing woman who is the keeper of the house, who is characterized by the godly virtues of a meek and quiet spirit. The adulterous women of the world promise a life of pleasure and excitement, but they will in fact bring misery, shame, and destruction to those who fall prey to their temptations. Solomon wants us all to know how terribly ungodly these women are, and how extremely dangerous it is to have anything to do with them.
This woman is further said to be without and in the streets. She lieth in wait at every corner. The meaning of this again is obvious. The temptation of this sin is everywhere. It is perhaps hard to believe that this evil was already so prevalent in Solomon’s day. What a proof of the fact that there is “nothing new under the sun.” The world has always been engulfed by the sins of immorality. Yet all of it is so much more graphic with the availability of pornography and blatantly immoral movies and videos in our modern-day world.
There follows in the parable the description of the scandalousness and brazen wickedness of this woman. “So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, I have peace offerings with me; this day have I paid my vows.” That she has paid her vows could mean one of several things. Some give the meaning to be that this woman has with her the portion of the thank offering which those who offered in the temple were allowed to keep for themselves. The devout Israelite would take this home for a formal religious ceremony in his own home. This woman boasted of having this portion in her hands because she wanted to invite the young man she was tempting to come to her house for a feast.
Others have interpreted this part of the parable to be a shocking indication of this evil woman’s attempt to “sanitize her sin.” She professes to having done her religious duty. She has made her offering in the temple. She is not really such an evil person. Consorting with her will not be that bad: Even professing Christians engage now and then in the sin of immorality. It is not all that bad: Everyone is doing it. Make your offering in the temple and your sin will all be washed away again and you can go on in your life of sin without pangs of conscience.
The woman in the parable further entices the young man by telling him the lie that she has come forth specifically to meet him. She has been diligently looking for him. He is exactly what she always wanted. She pretends to have genuine love and great interest in the young man. He is very attractive to her. She wants him very badly. She wants especially him and only him, no one else.
Finally she gives an irresistible, graphic, and sensual description of the pleasures of sin that await the young man if only he will come to her house. “I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us make our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves.”
What foolish young man driven by sinful passions could ever resist such temptation? What extreme pleasures are promised.
But it must be remembered that the reason why this has gone so far is that this young man began by dwelling in the streets in the night by the corners of the house of the harlot. This man will soon go to his slaughter like an ox. This young man is going the way of hell. He is going down to the chambers of death. Be warned!
We shall continue our consideration of this parable next time.