(Note: This is the second article in a series. Click here to read the first article.)
As I read through several chapters from Proverbs this week, it became obvious that Solomon purposefully addresses two other commandments from the Decalogue: do not commit adultery (Ex. 20:14) and do not covet (Ex. 20:17). Let me describe how and why he does this.
Adultery is addressed in depth in large portions of chapters 5, 6, and 7. However, this is not the first time we see it. In the context of teaching on the moral benefits of wisdom to keep us from the ways of the wicked, we read this admonition: “It will save you also from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God” (2:16-17).
Solomon continues his warning, stating that “her house leads down to death” and “none who go to her return or attain the paths of life.” Again, we see the contrast between the path of the wicked leading to death vs. the path of the righteous leading to life, which corresponds with our discussion on the commandment to honor our parents. This is more parental advice that sons (and daughters) do well to pay attention to.
Later, near the end of chapter four, right before Solomon hits this topic head-on, we read this command, “Put away perversity from your mouth; keep corrupt talk far from your lips” (4:24). Those who are wise, as Solomon will say numerous times throughout this book, watch what they say, avoiding evil, deceptive, and selfish speech patterns. The adulteress knows nothing of this, as we read in 5:3, “For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.”
Solomon begins his warnings about the adulteress here in 5:3-14. His admonitions include the following: “her steps lead straight to the grave” (v. 5) and “keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house” (v. 8). Taking what is not yours will lead to financial consequences. He also paints a dismal picture of how it will end, with pain, loss, ruined reputation, and regret.
Solomon’s advice to his son takes a surprising turn in 6:20-35. He provides what I have held for many decades as the ultimate protection against adultery. For most of my marriage, I have stated this sure-fire biblical solution this way: “Have an affair with your spouse.” This implies priority, intentionality, anticipation, commitment, passion, and just plain fun, which is right and good.
Yahweh, through this very flawed king who certainly knew nothing about having only one wife for life (perhaps inheriting his own father’s adulterous tendencies), gives us some solid reasons as to why husbands should find their sexual satisfaction at home rather than abroad (pun intended).
Solomon directs his son’s focus to his wife, the one who should be the source of marital joy, and not some strange woman. He uses the metaphor of water to describe his wife, instructing him to “drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well” (5:15). It is not difficult to grasp this picture of God’s provision to every husband of a wife who is life-giving refreshment in a dry land. The Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary explains, “The images of a cistern, well, or fountain are used of a wife (see SS 4:15) because she, like water, satisfies desires.” Amen!
We read a graphic description of the physical union that is appropriate between man and wife. The husband is to find blessing, rejoicing, satisfaction, and captivation as he becomes one with his wife’s body. This powerful activity is essential in marriage, intended by God to be a glue to keep the family intact and increasing the number of God’s people to fill the earth. Marriage, as designed by the Creator of the universe, was meant to be one man and one woman for life.
What I see here in Scripture and reflected in my own life is that God provides our spouses as a gift to be received, protected, sacrificed for, cherished, and enjoyed. Adam saw Eve that way when God brought her to him and he exclaimed, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). I translate the next verse loosely, “She shall be called woman because she makes me say, ‘Whoa, man!’” This warm, intelligent, and beautiful partner that God gave Adam, made in the very image of God, was going to be his primary coworker to accomplish the job that God gave them both in the creation mandate to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 1:26-28).
Solomon continues his teaching against committing adultery and coveting one’s neighbor’s wife in extended sections in 6:20-35 and again in 7:6-27. He directly addresses not only the activity of adultery, but the lust in one’s heart that precedes it in 6:25 and 7:25, alluding to the tenth of Ten Commandments. (Jesus addressed this in His Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:27-28). Solomon paints a vivid picture of the destruction which usually comes as a result of pursuing this sin.
This major topic that is a focus of nearly one tenth of the chapters in the book of Proverbs is something that Solomon’s sons, our own sons, and all men need to pay close attention to. It is too common of a tale. It has been so from the beginning, as it is boldly stated in 7:26, “Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng.” If we determine ahead of time to do all we can in the power of the Holy Spirit to flee from lustful thoughts and evil actions that could eventually lead to selfish and foolish adulterous behavior, and choose to rejoice in the wife that God gave to us, we will see God’s blessings on our own lives, our families, and our society.
Master Sergeant Russell E. Gehrlein (U.S. Army, Retired) is a Christian, husband of 39 years, father of three, grandfather of four, blogger, and author of “Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work”, published by WestBow Press in February 2018. He received a B.S. in Mathematics from Colorado State University in 1980 and an M.A. in Biblical Studies from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary in 2015. He is also a former junior/senior high school math and science teacher and youth pastor. Russ currently works as a Department of the Army civilian at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.