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Proverbs 5:2-8

Context

5:2 in order to safeguard 1  discretion, 2 

and that your lips may guard knowledge.

5:3 For the lips 3  of the adulterous woman drip honey,

and her seductive words 4  are smoother than olive oil,

5:4 but in the end 5  she is bitter 6  as wormwood, 7 

sharp as a two-edged 8  sword.

5:5 Her feet go down to death;

her steps lead straight to the grave. 9 

5:6 Lest 10  she should make level the path leading to life, 11 

her paths are unstable 12  but she does not know it. 13 

5:7 So now, children, 14  listen to me;

do not turn aside from the words I speak. 15 

5:8 Keep yourself 16  far 17  from her,

and do not go near the door of her house,

1 tn Heb “keep, protect, guard.”

2 sn This “discretion” is the same word in 1:4; it is wise, prudential consideration, careful planning, or the ability to devise plans with a view to the best way to carry them out. If that ability is retained then temptations to digress will not interfere.

3 sn “Lips” is a metonymy of cause, referring to her words. Dripping honey is an implied comparison between the product and her words, which are flattering and smooth (cf. Song 4:11). See M. Dahood, “Honey That Drips. Notes on Proverbs 5:2-3,” Bib 54 (1973): 65-66.

4 tn Heb “her palate.” The word חֵךְ (khekh, “palate; roof of the mouth; gums”) is a metonymy of cause (= organ of speech) for what is said (= her seductive speech). The present translation clarifies this metonymy with the phrase “her seductive words.”

5 sn Heb “her end” (so KJV). D. Kidner notes that Proverbs does not allow us to forget that there is an afterward (Proverbs [TOTC], 65).

6 sn The verb “to be bitter” (מָרַר, marar) describes things that are harmful and destructive for life, such as the death of the members of the family of Naomi (Ruth 1:20) or finding water that was undrinkable (Exod 15:22-27). The word indicates that the sweet talking will turn out badly.

7 tn The Hebrew term translated “wormwood” refers to the aromatic plant that contrasts with the sweetness of honey. Some follow the LXX and translate it as “gall” (cf. NIV). The point is that there was sweetness when the tryst had alluring glamour, but afterward it had an ugly ring (W. G. Plaut, Proverbs, 74).

8 sn The Hebrew has “like a sword of [two] mouths,” meaning a double-edged sword that devours/cuts either way. There is no movement without damage. There may be a wordplay here with this description of the “sword with two mouths,” and the subject of the passage being the words of her mouth which also have two sides to them. The irony is cut by the idiom.

9 tn The term שְׁאוֹל (sheol, “grave”) is paralleled to “death,” so it does not refer here to the realm of the unblessed.

sn The terms death and grave could be hyperbolic of a ruined life, but probably refer primarily to the mortal consequences of a life of debauchery.

10 tn The particle פֶּן (pen) means “lest” (probably from “for the aversion of”). It occurs this once, unusually, preceding the principal clause (BDB 814 s.v.). It means that some action has been taken to avert or avoid what follows. She avoids the path of life, albeit ignorantly.

11 tn Heb “the path of life.” The noun חַיִּים (khayyim, “of life”) functions as a genitive of direction (“leading to”).

12 sn The verb נוּעַ (nua’) means “to quiver; to wave; to waver; to tremble”; cf. KJV “her ways are moveable”; NAB “her paths will ramble”; NLT “She staggers down a crooked trail.” The ways of the adulterous woman are unstable (BDB 631 s.v.).

13 sn The sadder part of the description is that this woman does not know how unstable her life is, or how uneven. However, Thomas suggests that it means, “she is not tranquil.” See D. W. Thomas, “A Note on לא תדע in Proverbs v 6,” JTS 37 (1936): 59.

14 tn Heb “sons.”

15 tn Heb “the words of my mouth” (so KJV, NAB, NRSV).

16 tn Heb “your way.”

17 sn There is a contrast made between “keep far away” (הַרְחֵק, harkheq) and “do not draw near” (וְאַל־תִּקְרַב, vÿal-tiqrav).



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