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Proverbs 7:1-27 - Homilies By E. Johnson

A tragedy of temptation

This is a fine piece of dramatic moral description, and there is no reason why it should not be made use of, handled with tact and delicacy, with an audience of young men.

I. THE PROLOGUE . ( Proverbs 7:1-5 .) On Proverbs 7:1 , see Proverbs 1:8 ; Proverbs 2:1 ; Proverbs 6:20 . On Proverbs 6:2 , see on Proverbs 4:4 . Here an expression not before used occurs. "Keep my doctrine as thine eye apple;" literally, "the little man in thine eye." It is an Oriental figure for what is a treasured possession ( Deuteronomy 32:10 ; Psalms 17:8 ). On Proverbs 4:3 , see on Proverbs 3:3 ; Proverbs 6:21 . "Bind them on thy fingers," like costly rings. Let Wisdom be addressed and regarded as "sister," Prudence as "intimate friend" ( Proverbs 6:4 ). On Proverbs 6:5 , see on Proverbs 2:16 ; Proverbs 6:24 . On the prologue as a whole, remark

II. THE FIRST ACT . ( Proverbs 6:6-9 .) The teacher looked through a grated loophole, or eshnab, and saw among the silly fools, the simple ones, who passed by or stood chatting, one simpleton in particular, who attracted his notice. He watched him turn a corner (hesitating, and looking around a moment, according to Ewald's explanation), and pass down a street. The Hebrew word finely shows the deliberacy, the measured step, with which he goes; he has made up his mind to rush into sin. It was late in the evening—" dark, dark, dark, " says the writer, with tragic and suggestive iteration—dark in every sense. The night is prophetic.

III. THE SECOND ACT . ( Proverbs 6:10-20 .) A woman—"the attire of a harlot" (as if she were nothing but a piece of dress), with a heart full of wiles, meets him. She was excitable, noisy, uncontrollable, gadding—now in the streets, now in the markets, now at every corner ( Proverbs 6:11 , Proverbs 6:12 ). Her characteristics have not changed from ancient times. And so with effrontery she seizes and kisses the fool, and solicits him with brazen impudence. Thank offerings had "weighed upon" her in consequence of a vow; but this day the sacrificial animal has been slain, and the meat which, according to the Law, must be consumed within two days, has been prepared for a feast. And she invites him to the entertainment, fires his fancy with luxurious descriptions of the variegated tapestries and the neat perfumes of her couch, and the promise of illicit pleasures. She alludes with cool shamelessness to her absent husband, who will not return till the day of the full moon ( Proverbs 6:20 ). "This verse glides smoothly, as if we could hear the sweet fluting of the temptress's voice." But it is as the song of birds in a wood before an awful storm.

IV. THE THIRD ACT . ( Proverbs 6:21-23 .) Her seductive speech, the "fulness of her doctrine," as the writer ironically says, and the smoothness of her lips, overcome the yielding imagination of her victim. Proverbs 6:22 implies that he had hesitated; but "all at once," passion getting the better of reflection, he follows her like a brute under the dominion of a foreign will driven to the slaughter house. He is passive in the power of the temptress, as the fool who has got into the stocks. "Till a dart cleave his liver "—the supposed seat of passion. Hastening like a bird into the net, he knows not that his life is at stake.

V. THE EPILOGUE . ( Proverbs 6:24-27 .) On Proverbs 6:24 , see on Proverbs 5:7 . "Let not thy heart turn aside to her ways, and go not astray on her paths." Properly, "reel not" ( shagah ) , as in Proverbs 5:20 . Beware of that intoxication of the senses and fancy which leads to such an end. For she is a feller of men, a cruel murderess (verse 26). Her house is as the vestibule of hell, the facilis descensus Averni— the passage to the chambers of death (see on Proverbs 2:18 ; Proverbs 5:5 ).


1 . Folly and vice are characteristically the same in every age. Hence these scenes have lost none of their dramatic power or moral suggestion.

2 . Only virtue is capable of infinite diversity and charm. The pleasures of mere passion, violent at first, pass into monotony, thence into disgust.

3 . The character of the utter harlot has never been made other than repulsive (even in French fiction, as Zola's 'Nana') in poetry. What exists in practical form is mere dregs and refuse.

4 . The society of pure and refined women is the best antidote to vicious tastes. For to form a correct taste in any matter is to form, at the same time, a distaste for coarse and spurious quality. Perhaps reflections of this order may be more useful to young men than much declamation.—J.

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