Wisdom and the Forbidden Woman

“Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call insight your intimate friend, to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words” (vv. 4–5).

- Proverbs 7:1–20

Life in this fallen world means that we will face sinful temptations of various kinds, and the Bible notes that one of the most powerful of these is the temptation to sexual immorality. David’s life is an implicit warning to us in this regard. If he, one of the godliest people in ancient Israel, could commit adultery (2 Sam. 11–12), then surely we should not think that such a sin would be impossible for us to commit. When it comes to the power of this temptation, however, the book of Proverbs stands out in its depiction of how powerfully enticing sexual sin can be. In fact, the prologue of the book (chaps. 1–9) repeatedly warns against the power and destructive nature of the adulteress.

Today’s passage is one of the clearest warnings from this prologue concerning adultery. Yet before mentioning the adulteress specifically, the opening verses of this passage exhort the reader to search after wisdom as an intimate friend and bind the commandments on the fingers and heart (Prov. 7:1–4). We see here a call to take the lessons of Proverbs and internalize them, to memorize these wise sayings. Knowing and believing these teachings, we read, is the way we will be kept “from the adulteress with her smooth words” (v. 5). Sin is seductive and deceptive, especially sexual sin, and the only way to stand fast against it is to know the truths of divine wisdom before we enter into the arena of temptation. Given the teaching of the rest of Scripture, we can broaden the instruction in Proverbs 7:1–5 to cover all of God’s Word and all sin. That is, the key way to be prepared to resist temptation is to know and trust in the Word of God. Deuteronomy 6:1–9, for example, calls us to put the law of God on our hearts and to have it on our minds and in our speech at all times. When Jesus resisted the temptations of Satan successfully, He did so by His knowledge of biblical content and its true meaning (Matt. 4:1–11). If even the Savior resisted temptation by knowing the Word of God, how much more do we need this knowledge?

The remainder of today’s passage focuses on the smooth speech of the adulteress and the promises that she cannot fulfill (Prov. 7:5–20). Of special note here is her reference to having made sacrifices and paid her vows (vv. 14–15), a reference to the idolatry of the nations that incorporated cult prostitution into the worship of their gods. By yielding to the adulteress, the young man would be joining a cult prostitute in idolatrous worship.

Coram Deo

The temptation to sexual sin does not, in our day, always present itself as a temptation to idolatry. However, the Bible’s teaching on sexual sin makes it clear that sexual sin is not only a sin against the body, but it is also a sin against the Lord. To lie with one who is not one’s lawful spouse is to forsake our union with Christ and be joined to another (1 Cor. 6:15–20). We flee sexual sin not only to protect our families but also to protect our very souls.

Passages for Further Study

Deuteronomy 23:17–18
Proverbs 23:26–28
Micah 1:2–7
Revelation 17

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