For the Love of God, Volume 2/March 18
From Gospel Translations
Exodus 29; John 8; Proverbs 5; Galatians 4
ALL OF PROVERBS 5 IS A WARNING, in wisdom categories, against succumbing to an adulteress—a warning that keeps returning in the opening chapters of this book (e.g., 6:20-35; 7:1-27). Sometimes it appears that prostitution is in view; sometimes it is simple adultery.
In an age of heightened sensibilities about stereotypes, some have taken umbrage that the person doing the tempting is invariably an adulteress. In the real world, isn’t the tempter at least as often the male, an adulterer?
Many things could be said, but four brief comments will suffice. (a) In part the warning is against an adulteress because it is offered to “my son” (5:1), following up on the fundamental structure of the genre (1:8; see meditation for March 15). (b) Even so, the “son” who goes off with an adulteress is certainly not shielded from blame. The errant son in this chapter is portrayed as more than a victim. This is the son who “hated discipline” and whose heart “spurned correction” (5:12). It is said of him, “The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast” (5:22). He is guilty of “great folly” (5:23). (c) In this book, both wisdom and folly will later be personified as women (Prov. 9; see meditation for March 22). In other words, there is no univocal connection between women and evil. Men are often evil, and so are women. Both are called to pursue “Lady Wisdom.” (d) In any case, in the larger canon there are many places where the primary blame for sexual misconduct is clearly laid at the man’s door. That is true, for instance, of Judah’s affair with Tamar, of Amnon’s rape of his half-sister, of David’s seduction of Bathsheba.
Adultery itself is wrong, or foolish, or sinful, or short-term, or undisciplined— whatever the category Proverbs deploys—and not just the adulteress. The chapter not only articulates warnings, but offers an alternative: a marriage that is cherished, developed, nurtured, not least in the sexual arena (5:18-19). But beyond all the immediate and cultural reasons for sexual fidelity in marriage is one of transcendent importance: “For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths” (5:21). There are, of course, several similar verses in Scripture—e.g., “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13). But in the context of Wisdom Literature, there is an additional overtone. Not only does God see everything, including any sexual misconduct, but it is the part of wisdom, the wisdom of living out life in God’s universe in God’s way, to please our Maker.