New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Pro 7:1 My son, keep my words. Lay up my commandments within you-
Proverbs contains a number of Samson allusions (16:32; 25:28). But the most powerful are in 7:1,5,22,25-27, where the young Israelite is commended to God's word, because this will keep him from falling to the wiles of the Gentile woman, who throws down strong men into the way of miserable death. Solomon evidently writes with allusion to Samson; that here was the man who loved God's word, and yet went so astray with women. And tragically enough, Solomon himself did just the same! He realized and lamented the tragedy of Samson, as a lover of the word who fell for the Gentile woman; and then, with all his wisdom, he did the very same thing! Here, for all to see, is the crucial difference between knowledge and faith.  

Solomon seems to allude to David hiding God's word in his heart (Ps. 119:11) by asking his son to hide his word in his heart (s.w. Prov. 2:1; 7:1). Again Solomon is putting his own words in the place of God's words. Whilst his wisdom was inspired by God, I detect something wrong here. He is effectively playing God, and not directing people to God's word but rather to his own words, true and inspired as they might be. This came to full term in Solomon's attitude that personal loyalty to himself was loyalty to God- even when Solomon was far from God in his ways. And the same trap is fallen into by those who hold parts of 'God's truth'; they can come to thereby play God and demand personal loyalty to themselves rather than to God. 

Solomon's prophetic sonship of David was conditional upon him preserving or observing Yahweh's ways (1 Kings 2:4; 1 Chron. 22:13; 2 Chron. 7:17); but he didn't preserve of observe them (1 Kings 11:10,11); despite David praying that Solomon would be given a heart to observe them (1 Chron. 29:19). We can pray for God to work upon the hearts of others, but He will not force people against their own deepest will and heart position. Solomon stresses overmuch how God would keep or preserve the righteous (Prov. 2:8; 3:26), without recognizing the conditional aspect of this. Why did Solomon go wrong? His Proverbs are true enough, but he stresses that obedience to his wisdom and teaching would preserve his hearers (Prov. 4:4; 6:22; 7:1; 8:32; 15:5), preservation was through following the example of the wise (Prov. 2:20); rather than stressing obedience to God's ways, and replacing David his father's simple love of God with a love of academic wisdom: "Yahweh preserves all those who love Him" (Ps. 145:20).

Pro 7:2 Keep my commandments and live! Guard my teaching as the apple of your eye-
David so often talks about God's "law", using the word torah. But Solomon so often speaks of his own torah, and that of his wife, the mother of "my son" (s.w. Prov. 1:8; 3:1; 4:2; 6:20; 7:2; 13:14; 31:26). Yet elsewhere in the Bible, the well over 200 occurrences of torah are always about God's law. Solomon applies the word to his own teachings and that of his wife, and thereby plays God. whilst it could be argued that Solomon's teachings were Divinely inspired, all the same he ought surely to have spoken of them as God's torah rather than his own torah. This kind of playing God is seen so often in the teachers of God's people.

David had taught his children with the words: “Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps. 34:11- did David say this to his children every evening?). And Solomon uses just the same words, even whilst disobeying God’s law at the same time in his own life. He repeats these very words of David when teaching his own son: “My son, keep [retain] my words… keep my commandments and live” (Prov. 7:1,2). The idea of keeping commandments in order to live is a reference back to the many Deuteronomy passages where Moses pleads with Israel to keep God’s commands and live. But Solomon came to perceive his father David’s commands as those of God, and in his generation he watered this down in his own mind until he assumed that his commands to his children were to be treated by them as the law of God- no matter how far he had strayed himself from God’s law. It’s a gripping, frightening psychology.

Pro 7:3 Bind them on your fingers, write them on the tablet of your heart-
Often in Proverbs Solomon uses the language of the blessings for keeping God’s law and turns them into the blessings for keeping his law; e.g. “My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart” (Prov. 7:1-3 AV). And we all do the same in essence, whenever we assume that our consciences are effectively the will of God; when we ‘play God’ by allowing our words and will to count as if they are His word.

The idea is that devotion to the covenant should be externally visible as well as in the heart. But the New Testament emphasizes that it is God who writes upon the table of the human heart by His Spirit (2 Cor. 3:3). Solomon assumes that by intellectual effort, man can do this to himself. There could be the implication that Solomon considered that his Proverbs had now replaced the tables of the covenant; the same word is used. See on Prov. 3:1,2.

Pro 7:4 Tell wisdom, You are my sister. Call understanding your relative-
"Relative" translates a Hebrew word which occurs only in Ruth 2:1 about a relative who has the power to redeem. Solomon misses the point that redemption is by grace through faith, as explained on Prov. 6:35. He thinks that the mere possession of intellectual truth, what he terms "wisdom", will be enough to redeem a person. This attitude to Divine truth led him to personal spiritual disaster, as it has so many.

Pro 7:5 that they may keep you from the strange woman, from the foreigner who flatters with her words-
The  blindness  of  Solomon  is  driven  home time and again; he knew Divine truth, but the more he knew it, the more he lived the very opposite, failing to grasp the deeply personal relevance of truth to himself. A whole string of passages in Proverbs warn of  the  "strange" woman  (Prov. 2:16; 5:20; 6:24; 7:5; 20:16; 23:27; 27:13). Yet the very same word (translated "outlandish", AV) is  used  in  Neh. 13:26 concerning  the women Solomon married. The antidote to  succumbing to the wicked woman was to have wisdom- according to Proverbs. And Solomon apparently had wisdom. Yet he succumbed to the wicked woman. He was writing Song of Solomon at the same time as Proverbs. The reason for this must be that Solomon didn't really have wisdom. Yet we know that he was given it in abundance. The resolution of this seems to be that Solomon asked  for  wisdom  in  order  to  lead  Israel  rather than for himself,  he used that wisdom to judge Israel and to educate the surrounding  nations.  But  none of it percolated to himself. As custodians  of  true  doctrine-  for  that is what we are- we are likely to suffer from over familiarity with it. We can become so accustomed  to 'handling' it, as we strengthen each other, as we preach,  that  the personal bearing of the Truth becomes totally lost  upon us, as it was totally lost upon Solomon.

Solomon here argues as if mere intellectual assent to the truths he was teaching would keep a man safe from sexual temptation. But Solomon himself possessed all this truth and failed miserably in this area (see on :21).

Pro 7:6 For at the window of my house I looked out through my lattice-
Solomon here claims that he had come to his conclusions by his observations, although one wonders if he is speaking literal truth about the incident he claims to be reporting. It is perhaps significant that he doesn't claim this to be part of the package of Divine wisdom given to him; rather he says he worked this out from his own observations. He does the same in Prov. 24:30-32, where his conclusions [see notes there] were not correct. We may conclude that in this anthology he is mixing Divine wisdom with his own pet issues.

Solomon in Prov. 7:6 likens himself to a wise man looking out through his lattice window and noticing a man going astray with a woman. But the precise figure is used in Song 2:9 for how his illicit, paganic Gentile girlfriend found his doing this to be so attractive, if not somehow erotic. The connection shows how totally confused Solomon was in his personal spirituality.  

Pro 7:7 I saw among the simple ones. I discerned among the youths a young man void of understanding-
This singles out a particular "young man" [s.w. "child"] who was lacking in "heart", whose folly stood out from that of the other "simple ones". These may well refer to the 200 'simple ones' who went with Absalom in his rebellion against David (2 Sam. 15:11). One of them was particularly singled out here by Solomon as being foolish. And it's no accident that David calls Absalom "the young man [s.w. "child"] Absalom" (2 Sam. 14:21; 18:5,12,29,32). "Young man" was perhaps David's term of endearment for Absalom. The same "young man" [s.w. "child"] may be in view also in Prov. 22:15- see notes there.

Pro 7:8 passing through the street near her corner, he went the way to her house-
The idea is of furtive movement; and she herself lurked at the corners (:12). The impression is that he met her on the corner, and they arranged to meet later at her house that evening.

Pro 7:9 in the twilight, in the evening of the day, in the middle of the night and in the darkness-
Solomon is therefore claiming that he made these observations throughout a period of many hours, stretching from evening to midnight (:6). 

Pro 7:10 Behold, there a woman met him with the attire of a prostitute, and with crafty intent-
AV "subtil of heart". This is a phrase used positively a heart which keeps to God's word (Ps. 119:69; Prov. 3:1; 4:23; 23:26 etc.). The idea is being developed that this sinful woman is a parody of the righteous woman called wisdom. 

Pro 7:11 She is loud and defiant. Her feet don’t stay in her house-
Just as the woman wisdom "loudly" proclaims her truths on the streets. This woman is a conscious parody of the righteous woman. We note that Solomon considered that the wise woman does stay in her house, whereas the sinful woman doesn't. This appears to be Solomon's chauvinism rather than true wisdom. For he then presents the woman wisdom as being publically on the streets pleading with men to turn in to her wisdom.

Pro 7:12 Now she is in the streets, now in the squares, and lurking at every corner-

See on :8,11. "Lie in wait" is the word for ambush. Solomon often uses the word, as if it is for him a major characteristic of sinners (Prov. 1:11,18; 7:12; 12:6; 23:28; 24:15). But it's a rather specific word to use so often. It's as if Solomon is consciously alluding to his father's experiences at the hands of the house of Saul (s.w. Ps. 10:9; 59:3), whom Solomon considered a threat to his own kingship. And so he seems to rather like using the term about sinners, as if using his wisdom to have a dig at his immediate opposition.

Pro 7:13 So she caught him, and kissed him. With an impudent face she said to him-
See on :27. She catches him in parody of how the good woman wisdom takes hold of righteous men (as in Phil. 3:12). Likewise "impudent" is the word for 'to strengthen', used in Ecc. 7:19 of how wisdom strengths the wise.  

Pro 7:14 Sacrifices of peace offerings are with me. This day I have paid my vows-
Her references to her obedience to the Mosaic law are understandable once we perceive how she is a parody of the wise woman "wisdom" (see on :11,13,15-17,19,20; Prov. 9:17). Her attraction is because she claims to be obedient to the requirements of Israel's God. I will note throughout the Song of Solomon that Solomon likewise sees his idolatrous, Gentile girlfriend as righteous, presenting her in the terms of Israel; when her heart was far from it. And this was what finally led the young man Solomon to his destruction. Again and again, we see Solomon going the way of the foolish which he laments and points out at such length. He failed to personalize wisdom, to see the conditional nature of his standing before God, and his possession of theoretical truth led him to never examine himself.

Pro 7:15 Therefore I came out to meet you, to diligently seek your face, and I have found you-
This again parodies the way wisdom seeks and finds wise men (s.w. Prov. 8:17); or rather they seek and find her. But Solomon appears to draw a contrast between the whore seeking and finding the man, and the wise woman being sought and found by men. But Solomon fails to perceive that God by grace is in search of man, and indeed He had searched for and found Solomon's father David (Ps. 89:20). Solomon really understands nothing of the grace by which God works constantly in practice. See on :18.

Pro 7:16 I have spread my couch with carpets of tapestry, with striped cloths of the yarn of Egypt-
This woman Solomon warns of appears to want to serve Yahweh, and presents herself in the very language of the tabernacle (Prov. 7:14,16,17). And yet Solomon goes and falls for just such a woman. One can only conclude that the more true spiritual knowledge we have, the more prone we are to do the very opposite. Such is our nature.

Pro 7:17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon-
The Proverbs so frequently refer to the dangers of the house of the Gentile woman; yet the Song shows the Egyptian girl dearly wishing that Solomon would come with her into her house. And  Solomon,  just  like  the foolish young man he wrote about, went right ahead down the road to spiritual disaster he so often warned others about. He warns the young man of the dangers of the Egyptian woman who perfumes her bed with myrrh (Prov. 7:16,17)- and then falls for just such a woman (Ps. 45:8).

Pro 7:18 Come, let’s take our fill of loving until the morning. Let’s solace ourselves with loving-
The whore offers her "love" to the man, whereas Solomon presents the wise woman wisdom as only loving those who first love her (Prov. 8:17; see on :15). Again, Solomon has it all wrong. It is not man's search for intellectual truth about God which is the initial spark in the Divine-human encounter. The opposite is the case. It is not that we loved God first, but rather that God first loved us (1 Jn. 4:19).

Pro 7:19 For my husband isn’t at home. He has gone on a long journey-
Verse 11 has described the woman as not staying at home. Solomon's idea is that the woman who has no husband at home will go out of her home to look for sex. This could reflect a rather crude chauvinism. Perhaps he ignored the Biblical warnings that women would turn away his heart from God because he considered that women had no real power. He built houses for his wives and made them stay at home. The man who goes away on a long journey is used by the Lord for the basis of His parables of the man who goes to a far country (Mt. 21:33; 25:14). This continues the theme developed in earlier verses, that this woman is a parody of true spirituality. But there is a twist; see on :20.

Pro 7:20 He has taken a bag of money with him; he will come home at the full moon-
I suggested on :19 that the Lord in His parables of the man taking a journey was as it were deconstructing the language here, to confirm that the woman is a fake believer. In His stories, the man doesn't take his money with him, but rather gives it to his servants to manage (Mt. 25:14). The woman gives the impression that her husband has taken money with him to enjoy himself, perhaps with other women, and again the Lord may have this in mind in the construction of the parable of the prodigal son who likewise leaves his home with money. The promise that he will return "at the full moon" suggests this family is observant of the Mosaic feasts. Again, the woman gives the impression of spirituality and devotion to the Mosaic law, externally. See on :14.

Pro 7:21 With persuasive words she led him astray-
Persuasive words" is the word usually translated doctrine or teaching, always used about the teaching of wisdom (Prov. 1:5; 4:2; 9:9; 16:21 etc.). Again, the woman is presented as the antithesis of the wise woman wisdom. They both teach, but the whore's teaching leads astray. This contrast between such women is found in Revelation, where the whore is the antithesis of the bride of Christ. "Led him astray" is the very term used of how Solomon's wives turned his heart astray from God (1 Kings 11:4,9). The more Solomon knew Divine truth, the more he seems to have considered himself free to ignore it and in fact do the very opposite. He clearly thought that mere possession of that truth was the basis for his justification, and dismissed any idea of self examination or awareness that he might in fact personally fail in obedience.

With the flattering of her lips, she seduced him-
Solomon in :5 argues as if mere intellectual assent to the truths he was teaching would keep a man safe from sexual temptation and the flattery of bad women. But Solomon himself possessed all this truth and failed miserably in this area. The Hebrew literally refers to the smoothness of her lips; and Solomon admired the smoothness of the lips of his illicit Gentile girlfriend (s.w. Song 4:3,11; 7:9). Again we see Solomon doing the exact opposite of the wisdom and theoretical truth he was blessed with.

Pro 7:22 He followed her immediately, as an ox goes to the slaughter, as a fool stepping into a noose-
As explained on :21, this is exactly what happened to Solomon. AV "As a fool to the correction of the stocks". Solomon has so much to say about "correction" or instruction coming from the possession of wisdom (Prov. 8:10,33; 10:17; 12:1; 13:1,24; 15:5,10,32; 16:22; 19:20,27; 22:15; 23:12,13). But in the end he chastised or corrected his people by whipping them (s.w. 1 Kings 12:11,14). Solomon initially asked for wisdom in order to guide his people, but he ended up whipping / physically chastising them into conformity with his wishes rather than allowing wisdom to correct. Again, he was playing God; for it is God through His wisdom who chastises, and not man. But Solomon thought he was effectively God to his people. This is why Solomon argues that servants cannot be corrected by words (Prov. 29:19 s.w.), and a child must be physically chastised (s.w. Prov. 19:18; 29:17 cp. Prov. 13:24; 23:13), regardless of his screams of pain. This kind of thing is a denial of his claims elsewhere that it is Divine wisdom which chastises / corrects, and such correction is from God and not man. Solomon's final description of himself as an old and foolish king who refuses to be admonished says it all (Ecc. 4:13); he admonishes others (s.w. Ecc. 12:12), but refuses to be admonished or corrected by his own wisdom. He failed to personalize it.  

Pro 7:23 Until an arrow strikes through his liver, as a bird hurries to the snare, and doesn’t know that it will cost his life-
The language of snares alludes to Solomon's father David, asking to be saved from such snares (Ps. 141:9) and rejoicing that he and God's people had been (Ps. 124:7). The initial reference may have been to Saul laying snares for David through getting him to marry his daughters and thereby seeking to kill him; and in Ps. 119:110 David is proud he has not fallen into those snares. Solomon likewise is hinting that the family of Saul, who were still his political opponents, were not better than gentile whores, and he didn't want his own family to intermarry with them. But Psalm 119 finishes with David saying bluntly that he has "gone astray" (Ps. 119:176), as if to say that earlier he had far overrated his own obedience to God's law.

In Proverbs, Solomon is continually alluding positively to his father's words. But in Ecc. 9:12 he alludes to those words cynically. Solomon seems to be cynically commenting that all men are finally snared in death. Earlier Solomon had warned about avoiding spiritual snares (Prov. 7:23; 22:5), but finally in Ecc. 9:12 he concludes that death is the unavoidable snare; and therefore all attempts to avoid being morally snared into sin are ultimately vain. He came to this perspective because he failed to fully grasp the hope of the resurrection of the body at the last day. He thought he would have the Kingdom now, and this led to his rejection of the Gospel of the Kingdom and its moral implications. 

In Ecc. 9:12  he  says  that he suffered the fate of all men in that soon  he would die, he would suddenly be caught like a bird in a snare,  although  he knew not his time. These are the very ideas of  Prov. 7:23 AV  concerning the snaring of the simple young man by the  Gentile woman: "As a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life". But here he presents the Gentile woman is a snare leading to death. But Ecc. 9:12 shows Solomon claiming that death is a  snare brought about by time and chance; he thereby minimalized the sin of marriage out of  the faith. 

Pro 7:24 Now therefore, sons, listen to me. Pay attention to the words of my mouth-
If we "attend" to God's word (Prov. 2:2; 4:1; 7:24), then He will "attend" to our word, of prayer (Ps. 55:2 and often in the Psalms). There is thereby a mutuality between God and man. Our attitude to His word becomes reflected in His attitude to our words in prayer; for God and man are in dialogue.

He spoke of his law as giving life and blessing, appropriating the very terms of Deuteronomy about the blessings of obedience to God’s law. Wisdom said: “Now therefore my sons, hearken unto me: for blessed are they that keep my ways” (Prov. 8:32 RV). Yet these are the very words Solomon uses when talking to his kids: “Now therefore my sons, hearken unto me” (Prov. 5:7; 7:24). Conclusion? Solomon sees the woman “Wisdom” as a personification of himself.   It was really Solomon's self-justification. He personally was wisdom, so he thought. This is how self-exalted his possession of true wisdom made him. And of course, his kids didn’t listen to wisdom’s way. In passing, I have noted that those raised ‘in the truth’ often find it very hard to take criticism in later life. They find tolerance of others’ views hard; they perceive themselves to be right to an intolerant extent. Is this not a little bit of the Solomon syndrome? 


Pro 7:25 Don’t let your heart turn to her ways. Don’t go astray in her paths-
The young man's heart  was made to go astray because of her, and her house  led him to death (Prov. 7:27). Miss Egypt caused Solomon's heart  to  go astray (1 Kings 11:1-4), he built her a house, and her house became an idol temple which destroyed Solomon's faith. Yet  Solomon  warned  the  young men of Israel all about this in Prov. 7; and he even pointed out that such a woman would have all the  outward  trappings  of  Yahweh  worship; she would claim an enthusiasm  for  keeping  peace  offerings and vows (Prov. 7:14). Solomon  was  the  young  man  whose picture he was painting.

Pro 7:26 for she has thrown down many wounded. Yes, all her slain are a mighty army-
Solomon had seen many good men destroyed by bad women, a whole army of them. And yet he went that same way. Knowledge of theoretical truth, observation of the sad path of others... is all not enough. There must be a humble personalization of wisdom, which only comes from throwing ourselves upon God's grace, experiencing that grace, and wanting to respond to it in a life and thought pattern in conformity to His will and way. But Solomon hadn't known any of that.

Pro 7:27 Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the rooms of death
Solomon's wisdom was given to him as a young man, and the book of Proverbs appears to be collections of the various statements of that wisdom. But about the same time, he also got involved with multiple Gentile women who led him astray from God and to idolatry. The very warnings he gives against the adulteress and Gentile woman were ignored by him; he became the young man who went wrong with women. His girlfriend speaks in the very language of the Gentile woman of Proverbs: "I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go, until I had brought him into my mother's house... into her chamber" (Song 3:4). Compare this with "She caught him... come not near the door of her house... her house... the chambers of death" (Prov. 7:13,27; 5:8). We see here the warning for all time; that we can know God's ways in theory, whilst disobeying them in practice, absolutely to the letter. Indeed it may be so that the more we know them, the more strongly we are tempted by our nature to break them.