8. Eighth admonitory discourse. Warning against adultery, and commendation of marriage. The teacher, in this discourse, recurs to a subject which he has glanced at before in Proverbs 2:15-19 , and which he again treats of in the latter part of the sixth and in the whole of the seventh chapters. This constant recurrence to the same subject, repulsive on account of its associations, shows, however, the importance which it had in the teacher's estimation as a ground of warning, and that he ranked it among the foremost of the temptations and sins which called the young off from the pursuit of Wisdom, and so led them astray from "the fear of the Lord." The vividness with which the ruin, bodily and moral, ensuing with absolute certainty on a life of vice, is described is a sufficient proof in itself that the subject before us is not brought forward from or for voluptuous motives, but for the purpose of conveying an impressive warning. Some commentators, e.g. Delitzsch, include the first six verses in the previous discourse; but the unity of the subject requires a different treatment. Zockler's reason against this arrangement, on the ground that the previous discourse was addressed to "tender youth," and thus to youth in a state of pupilage, while the one before us refers to more advanced age—to the married man—may be true, but is not the true ground for incorporating them in the present discourse. The unity of the subject requires that they should be taken with the central and didactic part of the discourse, as being in a sense introductory to it. The discourse divides itself into three sections.
(a) warnings against adulterous intercourse with "the strange woman" ( Proverbs 2:7-14 );
(b) the antithetical admonition to use the means of chastity by remaining faithful to, and rejoicing with, the wife of one's youth ( Proverbs 2:15-20 ). And
Commendation of the chaste intercourse of marriage. In this section the teacher passes from admonitory warnings against unchastity to the commendation of conjugal fidelity and pure love. The allegorical exposition of this passage, current at the period of the Revision of the Authorized Version in 1612, as referring to liberality, is not ad rem . Such an idea had no place certainly in the teacher's mind, nor is it appropriate to the context, the scope of which is, as we have seen, to warn youth against indulgence in illicit pleasures, by pointing out the terrible consequences which follow, and to indicate, on the other hand, in what direction the satisfaction of natural wants is to be obtained, that so, the heart and conscience being kept pure, sin and evil may be avoided.
Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth . The employment of the ordinary term "wife" in the second hemistich shows in what sense the figure which is used has to be understood. The terms "fountain" and "wife" denote the same person. The wife is here called "thy fountain" (Hebrew, m'kor'ka ) , just as she has been previously "thine own cistern" ( b'or ) and "thine own well" ( b'er ) in Proverbs 5:15 . The Hebrew makor, "fountain," is derived from the root kur, "to dig." The figure seems to determine that the blessing here spoken of consists in the with being a fruitful mother of children; and hence the phrase means, "Let thy with be blessed," i.e. rendered happy in being the mother of thy children. This is quite consistent with the Hebrew mode of thought. Every Israelitish wife regarded herself, and was regarded by ethers as "blessed," if she bore children, and unhappy if the reverse were the case. Blessed ; Hebrew, baruk (Vulgate, benedicta ) , is the kal participle passive of barak, "to bless." Instead of this, the LXX . reads ἴδια , "Let thy fountain be thine own"—a variation which in no sense conveys the meaning of the original. And rejoice with ; rather, rejoice in, the wife being regarded as the sphere within which the husband is to find his pleasure and joy. Umbreit explains, "Let thy wife be extolled." The same construction of the imperative s'makh, from samakh, " to be glad, or joyful," with min, occurs in 9:19 ; Zephaniah 3:14 , etc. The Authorized rendering is, however, favoured by the Vulgate, laetare cum, and the LXX ; συνευφραίνω μετὰ Compare the exhortation in Ecclesiastes 9:9 , "Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest." The wife of thy youth (Hebrew, ishshah n'ureyka ) may mean either
Fidelity and bliss in marriage
The counterpart of the foregoing warning against vice, placing connubial joys in the brightest light, of poetic fancy.
I. IMAGES OF WIFEHOOD . The wife is described:
1 . As a spring, and as a cistern. Property in a spring or well was highly, even sacredly, esteemed. Hence a peculiar force in the comparison. The wife is the husband's peculiar delight and property; the source of pleasures of every kind and degree; the fruitful origin of the family (comp. Isaiah 51:1 ; So 4:12).
2 . As " wife of one ' s youth. " (Cf. Deuteronomy 24:5 ; Ecclesiastes 9:9 .) One to whom the flower of youth and manhood has been devoted. The parallel description is "companion of youth" ( Proverbs 2:17 ). Her image, in this case, is associated with the sunniest scenes of experience.
3 . As a "lovely hind, or charming gazelle. " A favourite Oriental comparison, and embodied in the names Tabitha and Dorcas, which denote "gazelle." There are numberless uses of the figure in Arabian and Persian poets. The beautiful liquid eye, delicate head, graceful carriage of the creature, all point the simile. Nothing can surpass, as a husband's description of a true wife, Wordsworth's exquisite stanza beginning—
"She was a phantom of delight,
When first she gleam'd upon my sight;
A creature not too bright or good
For human nature's daily food;
For transient sorrows, simple wiles,
Praise, blame, love, kisses, tears, and smiles."
II. IMAGES OF THE HUSBAND 'S BLISS .
1 . It is like taking draughts from a fresh and ever-running stream. There is "continual comfort in a face, the lineaments of gospel books."
2 . It is a peculiar, a private possession. Proverbs 5:16 should be rendered interrogatively; it conveys the contrast of the profaned treasures of the unchaste woman's love, and thus fits with Proverbs 5:17 . The language of lovers finds a true zest in the word, "My own!" Life becomes brutish where this feeling does not exist.
3 . Yet it attracts sympathy, admiration, and good will. Proverbs 5:18 is the blessing wished by the speaker or by any looker on. Wedding feasts bring out these feelings; and the happiness and prosperity of married pairs are as little exposed to the tooth of envy as any earthly good.
4 . It is satisfying ; for what repose can be more sweet and secure than that on the bosom of the faithful spouse? It is enrapturing, without being enfeebling, unlike those false pleasures, "violent delights with violent endings, that in their triumph die" ( Proverbs 5:19 ).
III. CONCLUDING EXHORTATION ( Proverbs 5:20 ), founded on the contrast just given.
1 . The true rapture (the Hebrew word shagah, "reel" as in intoxication, repeated) should deter from the false and vicious.
2 . To prefer the bosom of the adulteress to that of the true wife is a mark of the most vitiated taste, the most perverted understanding.—J.
Victims of vice
One particular vice is here denounced; it is necessary to warn the young against its snares and sorrows. What is here said, however, of this sin is applicable, in most if not all respects, to any kind of unholy indulgence; it is an earnest and faithful warning against the sin and shame of a vicious life.
I. ITS SINFULNESS . The woman who is a sinner is a "strange" woman ( Proverbs 5:3 ). The temptress is all too common amongst us, but she is strange in the sight of God. She is an alien, foreign altogether to his purpose, a sad and wide departure from his thought. And all vice is strange to him; it is a departure from his thought and from his will; it is sin in his sight; it is offensive to him; he "cannot look on" such iniquity without abhorrence and condemnation. He who is tempted may well say, with the pure minded and godly Joseph, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?"
II. ITS SHAME . It is a shame to a man to allow himself to be deceived by a vain, shallow-minded woman ( Proverbs 5:3 , Proverbs 5:4 ); it is a shame to a man to permit a mere selfish temptress to beguile him, to prevent him from entertaining the true and wise thought in his mind, to hinder him by her artifices from reflecting on what is the path of life and what the way of death ( Proverbs 5:6 ); it is a shame to a man to surrender his manly virtue to one so utterly undeserving of his honour ( Proverbs 5:7-9 ). He who yields to the solicitations of the temptress, to the impulses of a vicious nature, is forfeiting his honour, is resigning his true manhood, is a son of shame.
III. ITS FOLLY . ( Proverbs 5:15-20 .) How senseless is sin! how stupid is vice! It. embraces a guilty and short-lived pleasure only to reject a pure and lasting joy. Why should men resort to shameful lust when they can be blest with lawful and honorable love? Why sink in debauchery when they can walk along those goodly heights of moderation and of pleasures on which God's blessing may be invoked? Whatever the sense may be (whether of seeing, hearing, etc.), it is the pure pleasure which is not only high and manly, but is also unaccompanied by hitter and accusing thoughts, and is lasting as life itself. Why turn to devour the garbage when "angels' food" is on the table? Vice is the very depth of folly.
IV. ITS PENALTY . This is threefold.
1 . Impoverishment ( Proverbs 5:10 ). Vice soon scatters a man's fortune. A few years, or even weeks, will suffice for dissipation to run through a good estate. Men "waste their substance in riotous living."
2 . Remorse ( Proverbs 5:11-14 ). How bitter to the sent the pangs of self-accusation! There is no poisoned dart that wounds the body as the arrow of unavailing remorse pierces the soul.
3 . Death ( Proverbs 5:5 , "Her feet go down to death; her steps lay hold on hell"). Death physical and death spiritual are the issue of immorality. The grave is dug, the gates of the City of Sorrow are open, for the lascivious, the drunken, the immoral.—C.
Proverbs 5:11 (first clause)
Mourning at the last
What multitudes of men and women have there been who, on beds of pain, or in homes of poverty, or under strong spiritual apprehension, have "mourned at the last"! After tasting and "enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season," they have found that iniquity must meet its doom, and they have "mourned at the last." Sin makes fair promises, but breaks its word. It owns that there is a debt due for guilty pleasure, but it hints that it will not send in the bill for many years;—perhaps never: but that account has to be settled, and they who persist in sinful indulgence will find, when it is too late, that they have to "mourn at the last." This is true of—
I. SLOTHFULNESS . Very pleasant to be idling when others are busy, to be following the bent of our own fancy, dallying with the passing hours, amusing ourselves the whole day long, the whole year through; but there is retribution for wasted hours, for misspent youth, for negligent and idle manhood, to be endured further on; there is self-reproach, condemnation of the good and wise, an ill-regulated mind, straitened means if not poverty,—mourning at the last.
II. INTEMPERANCE . Very tempting may be the jovial feast, very fascinating the sparkling cup, Very inviting the hilarity of the festive circle; but there is the end of it all to be taken into account, not only tomorrow's pain or lassitude, but the forfeiture of esteem, the weakening of the soul's capacity for pure enjoyment, the depravation of the taste, the encircling round the spirit of those cruel fetters which "at the last" hold it in cruel bondage.
III. LASCIVIOUSNESS . (See previous homily.)
IV. WORLDLINESS . There is a strong temptation presented to men to throw themselves into, so as to be absorbed by, the affairs of time and sense—business, politics, literature, art, one or other of the various amusements which entertain and gratify. This inordinate, excessive, unqualified devotion to any earthly pursuit, while it is to be distinguished from abandonment to forbidden pleasure, is yet wrong and ruinous. It is wrong, for it leaves out of reckoning the supreme obligation—that which we owe to him in whom we live and move and have our being, and who has redeemed us with his own blood. It is ruinous, for it leaves us