Adultery is altogether an uncomfortable topic to address and discuss. Particularly in today’s society, shutting our eyes and carrying on with life seems easier than confronting the truth about this prevalent topic. However, the author of Proverbs 5 makes it quite clear that this is a social problem that needed fixing, even thousands of years ago.
The author of Proverbs 5 may be concentrating primarily on external relationships outside of the marriage, but we can take this one step further. Sex before marriage can be classified as adultery, and it can be a terrible roadblock to overcome in our walk with the Lord.
The author of this Proverb uses female imagery as a way to communicate the gravity of the situation facing the young men in Israel at this time. Presumably, this was targeted at young men because they were more subject to these external influences in society. They were the ones interacting outside the home (females, therefore, were actually more protected from this in the home). The women who were more open in society were therefore seen as a challenge to social order. Hence, the author uses this imagery.
We may look at this proverb as a metaphor. The woman portrayed in the proverb is adultery personified. The lovely words that she speaks, for example, are how enticing pre-marital sex may seem. We see examples of this in everyday life, from TV shows, to conversations with people we meet at work, to the birth control freely handed out in schools. From the time we are preteens to young adults, our society tells us how necessary it is to focus on ourselves in all forms of physical pleasures, rather than focusing on the only thing in life that can bring us true fulfillment, our walk with God.
But, as the author of this proverb states, “Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it” (vv. 5–6). No matter how good it looks, this style of life is a false reality. Giving into temptations is just luring yourself into a false sense of pleasure and security. But this pretense does not last.
Proverbs 5:8–9 says, “Keep to a path far from her, and do not go near the door of her house, lest you lose your honor to others and your dignity to one who is cruel.” Keeping yourself completely pure is the ideal in this situation, as difficult as it may be. The author states in v.14 that, in disobeying the purity laws, he indeed found himself in trouble with God’s people. We can look at this statement as saying that, once you put one foot outside the door, it can be extremely difficult to bring it back in rather than continuing further, until you can no longer identify with God’s people.
This proverb further states how staying pure by keeping yourself clean will bring you happiness. Hopefully a blessing of pure marriage might be brought to one who holds fast to these words. The author asks, why give up the chance for a happy life and a happy marriage merely for a time of foolishly short bliss?
Sex outside of the institution of marriage may be tempting and seem the ideal route for a young adult to take, but it is not at all. Eventually, the decision to act in such a way will end in destruction, possibly in an earthly matter, and definitely in a spiritual matter. Again, it is so easy to put one foot out the door, and it is so much easier to follow with the rest of yourself until there is no turning back, and it is so much more difficult to withdraw and bring yourself back into the fold. Solution? Don’t give into the temptations outlined in this proverb. At the time this proverb was written, it was hard enough for young people to keep to the straight and narrow path, and it is so much harder in contemporary society because of the increased pressures placed on young people to follow in this way.
We are called to take this proverb and apply it to our lives because of the relevance it carries for us. It is so much harder for young people to keep to God’s ways now than in almost any other time period before us.
Michelle Brandsma is a young adult living in Lethbridge, Alberta. She is a member of Trinity URC.