The Trap of Adultery

The lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword” (vv. 3-4).

- Proverbs 5:1-14

In this era of rapid change, it is tempting to believe that human beings are fundamentally different today than they were even one hundred years ago, let alone three thousand. The rate at which our knowledge of the world around us doubles grows faster each year, and the technological revolution has undoubtedly brought us great comforts. Communication between individuals and nations is so much easier to achieve today than in centuries past, so we have a greater understanding of the sheer diversity of our world.

Such things affect the way we look at the world, and in many ways our perspective on things is different than those who lived in ages past. Yet we are mistaken if we believe that people today are not essentially the same as those who lived in past eras. Like the individuals who lived centuries ago, all of us are looking for meaning in life. The same sins that tempted past generations remain perennial temptations today. Though we rightly decry the sexualization of everything in our culture and the prevalence of things such as pornography, we have to realize that the fondness of human beings for illicit sexual relationships and practices goes back to the days of King Solomon—indeed, all the way back to the fall. We know this from texts such as today’s passage, which warns us against the dangers of adultery.

Proverbs 5:1–14 conveys just how seductive the adulteress can be to a married man, but we can likewise apply what is said to the allure of the adulterer to a married woman. The tempter’s speech is like honey and the very best olive oil—treasured commodities in ancient Israel (v. 3; see Lev. 20:24; 24:2). It promises sweetness and the finest of what life has to offer. However, we cannot allow ourselves to be enticed by the adulterer or the adulteress. The sweetness is not really there, but only bitterness (Prov. 5:4). What is more, adultery leads not to life but to death (v. 5). In the original context, this likely has reference to the penalty of death prescribed for individuals caught in adultery in ancient Israel (Lev. 20:10), but even in an era where adultery is not a capital crime, adultery still destroys life. It breaks up families and marriages. It can spread disease. In other words, adultery cannot fulfill its promise of good; it leads only to ill.

Perhaps worst of all, adultery brings ruin to people in the assembled congregation (Prov. 5:14). It brings shame and disgrace in the covenant community upon those who commit it, but it remains a shameful act even in the secular world.

Coram Deo

Adultery is not the unforgivable sin. Those who commit it will be forgiven by God if they repent. Nevertheless, adultery always has destructive consequences. It can lead to divorce. It can bring an end to a person’s good name. It can lead children to lose respect for a parent who has committed adultery. It can lead to the loss of a job. That adultery can lead to these consequences must be remembered. Though there is hope in forgiveness, adultery brings destruction.

Passages for Further Study

Exodus 20:14
Matthew 5:27–32; 19:1–9
John 7:53–8:11

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