Proverbs 5, 6, 7 – The Wise Enjoyment of Sexuality
Marriage, sexuality, adultery – these matters are not dealt with in a few proverbs at the end. They receive broad attention in these introductory chapters. That indicates the important role which sexuality plays in the lives of all people. You are a person, a man or a woman, with your own feelings and thoughts. Daily you see other men and women, or boys and girls around you. You interact with each other, you talk to one another, you work together. The daily reality simply assumes that sexuality exists. It would be naive to think that undesirable intimacies arise all of a sudden. Of course not, something is already going on well before others may notice.
Sexuality exists, with all its tensions and problems which may be healthy or unhealthy. Even during a church service you may notice the opposite sex, and this may distract your attention from the proclamation of God’s Word and the songs of praise which we sing to the Lord. Sexual tension may surface in other ways. It could even happen that such tensions form the real background for, e.g., church problems. Indeed, these tensions must be released somehow. Sexuality influences all relationships, it is there when contacts are made – often without mention in the background. At times it can generate a rather unhealthy atmosphere.
And then, in today’s world people are in such a hurry to have sex. The media is full of it, and it influences all of us also. Many people cannot wait to satisfy their own desires. After knowing each other for few hours only, couples rush to the bedroom. People have little regard for each other in their rush to satisfy their sexual appetite. The government attempts to combat the AIDS epidemic by advertising safe sex, and provides ample information about it. However, many are not even aware of a Christian alternative. No, making love is necessary, sex is a right. Those who suppress such drives turn themselves into abnormal, frustrated individuals.
The stories are becoming sadly familiar: a party at a campground which ends together in the one sleeping bag. The next morning: the partner has disappeared, but left behind a note with the message, “Welcome to the AIDS club.”
At another camping site, two Reformed boys meet two girls. The girls are interested, but the boys refuse. They explain that they do not believe in free sex, because they are Reformed and such behaviour is against their principles. The next morning the whole camping site has heard the story that these boys are homosexual. Such principles are simply incredible, obviously an excuse, and therefore...
The Holy Spirit found it necessary to deal extensively with sexuality and adultery in three chapters. Those who ignore these chapters in a misplaced sense of prudishness are not wise. Let us be glad that we have a God who does not let us mess around with these things. He wants to teach us how to deal with sexuality in a controlled and wise manner, in order that we may advance in the art of true living, and may learn to enjoy also this aspect of human life.
Openness and Clarity
First of all, these chapters teach us openness and clarity; they do not teach shamelessness but frankness. And also in these things God’s Word is the norm. Proverbs 5-7 do not contain some abstract considerations, contemplations, or arguments.
We see the loose woman before us. She presents herself to advantage, even with fluttering eyelashes. We hear her talking seductively as she tries to capture her prey between the evening meal and dusk. We are told how she lures a man into her perfumed den.
These are not unsavoury descriptions; they are designed to impress upon us the fact that sexuality is real, a fact of life, a matter of people of flesh and blood. Sexuality concerns all of us. It is not merely a thing, an object. Sexuality exists, it lives, it works, it throbs, it seethes. These proverbs say, “Be realistic”. We fall far short when we get stuck in some generalities such as, “We should not muddle with the sources of life,” or “The Lord also sees us in our bedrooms.” Certainly, these things are true, yet parents sell their children short with such general statements.
When parents do not speak with their children about these things clearly and on time, then they will have had their information from somewhere else. And the chances are high that they will have heard true things in a bad context, and therefore have been given false information.
“Be realistic,” the proverbs admonish. We are right in the middle of it all. Everyone has a TV; the beaches and swimming pools are public places. The newspapers are full of advertisements of friendly ladies and enjoyable places. The telephone service has sex numbers available.
Those who believe that Reformed boys and girls do not see these things, are being unrealistic and naive. Not without reason are we told every Sunday, Do not commit adultery, and Do not covet your neighbour’s wife.
Be realistic, open, sober, and clear. Remain in all of this truly Christian, faithful, refined, sensitive. Then will live wisely and sensibly.
Adultery: Very Unwise!
The Loose Woman
Proverbs 5-7 speak of the loose woman (strange (KJV), wayward (NIV), foreign (NASB)) but that does not mean that the woman is always at fault. Remember the importance of understanding the nature of a proverb. Proverbs do not provide a complete listing of all possible situations. The issues are brought to our attention with the help of just a few concrete instances, and these issues include a loose man, and loose behaviour in general. Keep that in mind as we continue the study of what these proverbs have to say about that loose woman.
What is strange about this woman? Why is she described in this way? Such a strange woman should remain foreign to you, since she is the wife of another man. There is a separation between you and her, she is the woman who does not belong to you. It is illegitimate to develop a relationship with her, or to engage in intimacies with her.
In this way, Proverbs warns against all sexuality which does not submit itself to the discipline of God’s Word. It warns against sexuality which turns into lawlessness, that means, which does not let itself be governed by God’s laws.
That is the purpose of the sketch given in these chapters of the loose woman who cheats her own legal husband. Literally translated, 7:19 should read For the man is not at home; the man, that is her husband. What disdain!
Proverbs 5:3, Proverbs7:5, Proverbs 6:24, Proverbs 7:19
May a woman never uses her charms, and may she never aim for a sexual relationship? Of course she may, when she is married, and when her affections are directed towards her husband. Proverbs 5 tells us: enjoy. Without mincing words, we are told that we may rejoice in the companionship of our legal wife. A woman may look attractive, and she may take good care of herself and take pride in her appearance. But also remember the warning of Proverbs 31:
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
This proverb does not picture a woman who is thoroughly reformed, yet is sloppy and neglects herself. This text shows the relative value of beauty, and points to its temporal nature. Read this text in its context: the first and most necessary condition for a woman to be strong and able to fulfil her task well is not beauty and charm. Charm is deceitful; if you consider charm the most important criterion by which a woman ought to be judged as one’s life partner, you will be deeply disappointed. If you would rely on these things, you deceive yourself. The first and most necessary condition is the fear of the Lord.
The loose woman uses her charms to start an illegitimate relation. And the man she was after was not as strong as Joseph in Potiphar’s house. Surely, some might argue, Joseph had good reasons to give in to Potiphera: he was far from home and he had experienced much misery. Why not take what you can get and enjoy it? It requires much courage to deny such an insistent woman who does not quit, and it is not easy to keep her at a distance. Strong men such as David and Samson, who were neither afraid of lions and bears nor of Goliath, succumbed to feminine charm, and made terrible mistakes.
Proverbs 5:15-20, Proverbs 31:30, Proverbs 7:7-9, 22, Genesis 39:7-12, Judges 14:5-6 and 16:4, 1 Samuel 17:36
The Only Remedy against Lawless Sexuality – Proverbs 7
Note the strategy used by the loose woman in Proverbs 7; be forewarned, and guard against it. The following stands out.
She is wily of heart – she cunningly made her plans, considering time, place and circumstances. She carefully planned her own presentation; Proverbs describes these things in detail. Let yourself not be caught by beautiful eyes or an enticing dress.
It is so simple – it starts with these things. And you better realize that. Notice also the seductive, smooth talk, the reasoning which changes wrong into right; notice the flattery which makes acceptable and understandable that which is not.
Such a loose woman may well be much more understanding than the man’s own wife. She might even use a religious argument:
I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you…
Proverbs 7:10-15, 21
However, not only the dangers are described; also the way-out is indicated. How do you get away from the dangers of lawless sexuality? The answer is found in Proverbs 7:
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call insight your intimate friend.
My sister – that is an endearing term. Read the Song of Solomon where the same term is used. There it means something like dearest. Thus, call wisdom your dearest, and insight your trusted friend, your confidante. The point here is a deep, sincere, all-encompassing trust. You do not give such trust to just anyone. The Christian condition for entering the world of sexuality is: being in love with wisdom. That is to be the desire above anything, and cannot be replaced by anything. We will do anything to gain that wisdom which has its starting point in the fear of the Lord.
That is beautiful advice which we all need. It teaches us how to deal with sexuality. Indeed, in this way we become wise with the God of the covenant who created man and after the fall placed him again on the road to life, and helps him to stay on the right path through His Word and Spirit.
Consider the end of the lawless who ignore the advice of wisdom. What seemed so attractive and enjoyable ends so disastrously. The attractive, perfumed, and enticing home of the loose woman turns out to be a battlefield with wounded and dead. It will end with strangling remorse: Why have I been so foolish?
Be warned. Do not desire what you are not allowed to have. When you are married, seek the companionship of your own husband or wife. Put away dissatisfaction with your spouse! Extinguish the fire of dissatisfaction!
Stay away from temptations. What may be the cost of an unlawful sexual relationship? It might cost you your possessions, your honour, your good name, your health. Never forget the ground rule for this aspect of life: be in love with wisdom. Seek life outside yourself. Seek it in Jesus Christ and the Word of grace. He is the way, the truth, and the life, also with regards to sexuality.
Proverbs 7:4, Proverbs 7:26, Proverbs 5:11-13, John 14:6
Proverbs 6:1-19 is an intermezzo in the middle of the story about sexuality. Our western logic seeks an explanation for this interruption.
Consult a commentary about the eastern way of thinking in associations. And start exploring these proverbs; it will be an excellent exercise. Discover how this section can be divided into smaller units. Experience the imagery, visualize what you read. And take this wisdom to heart.