By Tommy L. McClure
The Person Doing the Tempting
1. She was not a common prostitute, but a married wife (vv. 19,20). She was “out on the prowl” while the goodman (her husband) was away on a long journey.
It is evident that she was well-off financially from the manner in which she had decked and perfumed her bed (vv 16,17). She reminds one of Potiphar’s wife who asked Joseph to lie with her, not because of monetary needs but to satisfy her wicked lust (Gen. 39:7-12). Upright people can have more respect, little as that is, for the common prostitute who sells herself to keep body and soul together than for these women! Her husband and neighbors may not have suspected a thing; but, when he was away and the night was black, she went forth playing the harlot, deserting her children (if she had any and had not babied a poodle instead!), betraying the confidence of her husband, contributing to the damnation of a young man’s soul, sinning against God (cf. 8:36), and destroying her own soul (cf. 6:32)!
2. She dressed like a prostitute – “the attire of an harlot” (v. 10). From ancient times, harlots have dressed so as to advertise their profession. Judah mistook his daughter-in-law Tamar for a harlot because of where she sat and how she was dressed (Gen. 38:13-16). “As regards the fashions involved in the practice, similar outward marks seem to have attended its earliest forms to those which we trace in the classical writers, e.g., a distinctive dress and a seat by the way-side” (McClintock & Strong, Article on “Harlot,” Vol. 4, p. 75).
Modern prostitutes dress to accentuate physical endowments and arouse lust. Short, tight, split skirts; tight, low-cut pants and high-cut blouses; the plunging neckline; the cigarette between the fingers and the sauntering walk, are tools of a prostitute’s trade! Regrettably, some women in the church dress the same way; yet, they would be highly offended if compared to the prostitute. Young ladies, if you don’t want to be compared to them, quit using the tools of their trade!
God’s will on women’s dress seems plain enough. “. . . that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety; not with braided hair, and gold or pearls or costly raiment; but (which becometh women professing godliness) through good works” (1 Tim. 2:9,10, ASV). “Modest (kosmios) denotes “orderly, well-arranged, decent” (Vine 111, 79); “shamefastness” (aidos) means “a sense of shame, modesty” (Ibid., IV, 71); “sobriety” (sophrosune) “denotes soundness of mind . . . ‘sound judgment’ practically expresses the meaning; ‘it is that habitual inner self-government, with its constant rein on all the passions and desires, which would hinder the temptation to these from arising, or at all events from arising in such strength as would overbear the checks and barriers which aids (shamefastness) opposed to it'” (Ibid., IV, 44,45). Instead of a “sense of shame,” the woman of our study had an “impudent face,” rendered “put on a bold brow” (Keil & Delitzsch, v. 13), a demeanor diametrically opposed to a “sense of shame.” There was no sense of shame or blushing in the woman or in her actions and attire. Where is the “decency,” “sense of shame,” and “sound judgment” in the dress described above? Purity of heart will manifest itself in modesty of dress. Ladies, does your dress resemble the attire of an harlot or that of a woman professing godliness?
3. The temptress was crafty and cunning – “subtil of heart” (v. 10). “She is of a hidden mind, of a concealed nature” (Kefl & Delitzsch, v. 10). She likely feigned fidelity to her husband, indicated by her working in darkness instead of light. She flatters her paramours as her only beloved. Note: “Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee” (v. 15). Her use of “thee” and “thy” makes it appear that the young man was the only one for her. The truth was, she loved none of her paramours, but used them only as a means to an end – the indulgence of her sensual desires!
4. She was boisterous and unruly – “loud and stubborn ” (v. 11). The actions and character of this woman were the very opposite of “let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection” (I Tim. 2:11 ASV), “of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price” (1 Pet. 3:4), and the noiseless activity and gentle modesty of a virtuous wife (Prov. 31:10-31). Some wives now remind us of a “loud and stubborn” woman of the text: I speak of those who are all tongue, mouth and noise; who are determined to have their say, right or wrong, no matter where; and, those who are impatient of check and control, despise counsel, and rebel when reproved! Some spineless husbands have timidly let their bossy wives “take over” in the home, and they often try to do so in the church. As to which is worse -spineless husband or bossy wife – I wouldn’t turn around for the difference! Both are wrong (Eph. 5:23-33).
5. She was a gadabout – “her feet abide not in her house” (v. 11). Though her house was well furnished (vv. 16, 17), she evidently hated the confinement and employment of it. Some modern wives are exactly this way. As soon as the husband is off to work and the children are out the door for school, they begin sprucing up (not the house mind you, but their own persons) and are soon “back on the road again,” as the country singer says, busily engaged in the employment they like best – gadding about! Paul said the young women are to be “keepers (workers, ASV) at home” (Tit. 2:5). Of some young widows, he said, “And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not. I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully” (1 Tim. 5:13,14). Matthew Henry well said, “Virtue is a penance to those to whom home is a prison” (Commentary, v. 11). Think about it!
6. She acted contrary to all rules of modesty and decency – “she caught him and kissed him” (v. 13). What a way for a married woman whose husband was away to act on the street in the dark of night! She did this with an “impudent face,” meaning “she hardened her face” (Marg., ASV). It “. . As said of one who shows shamelessness, or, as we say, an iron forehead” (Keil & Delitzsch, v. 13). Like many today, blushing was foreign to her demeanor.
The Temptation Itself – How She Managed It
1. She courted him to eat with her – “I have peace offerings with me” (vv. 14,15). Peace offerings, according to the law, were divided three ways: the fat, kidneys and caul above the liver were God’s (Lev. 3:14-16); the breast and right shoulder went to the priests (Lev. 7:31-34); the rest was for the one who offered the victim (Lev. 7:11-21).
In her reference to peace offerings, she asserts two things: First, her plentiful supply of good provisions. She was evidently attempting to allay any fear on the young man’s part that he would be violently robbed or his pockets be picked. It is sad that what was designed for God’s glory (the peace offering) should be made a tool of sin, but this has often been done (read with understanding Rom. 7:8-13). Second, she asserted her profession of piety (although it was a profession without a possession!). She had been to the temple, so had done her worshipping; she had made her peace offering, a token of peace and reconciliation with God; she had paid her vows, so was relieved of whatever obligations they imposed. Her idea seemed to be, “Whoopee! I have settled my account with God, and am ready for more sin! ” Whatever her thoughts, many obviously think that today! Catholics pay the priest to pray, others come forward for baptism, and some come to confess wrongs, and go their way relieved, with no traceable thought to cessation of the sins.
2. She pretended great affection for him (v. 15). This is indicated by the terms she used. “Therefore” because of the bountiful table for one thing; “came I forth” – she came personally, instead of sending another to bring him; “to meet thee” – not just any man, but him; “I have found thee” – thus complimenting herself on finding him! What follows (vv. 21-23) shows this to be only cheap flattery, designed to get him in her clutches.
This evil woman did two things common to sinners: First, she went to great pains to do her evil work; Second, she pretended to oblige her victim while seeking to destroy him. Bank robbers, communists, anarchists, etc., will spend months, even years, and do whatever is necessary to accomplish their evil purposes. Pretending to oblige the victims began with Satan in Eden (Gen. 3:3,4) and has often been practiced by his servants since (see Ezra 4:1-3; Neh. 6:14; Matt. 2:7-18).
3. She courted him to lie with her (vv. 16-18). First, she tells him of her bed (vv. 16,17). She had prepared it to perfection, so she said! It would please his eye, because decked with coverings of tapestry and carved works; it would pamper his touch, for the sheets were not homespun cloth but fine linen from Egypt; and, it would gratify his smell, being perfumed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
After the beautiful description, she gave the invitation – “Come!” (v. 18). The devil always paints beautiful pictures of those things which will destroy man. Remember the “Man of Distinction” liquor advertisement? There was the beautiful Great Dane lying by the fire in the elaborate fireplace; the handsome man, in his forties perhaps, with slightly greying temples, dressed in an expensive grey suit was standing there with the glass of liquor in his hand – the “Man of Distinction. ” Of course, the other side was never shown – the drunk in the gutter wallowing in his own vomit; the man in the psycho ward screaming and writhing in his delirium tremens; the man on the hospital bed, almost as yellow as an egg yolk, dying with cirrhosis of the liver; the screech on the highway, the clanging of metal, the shattering of glass, the groans and screams of passengers as glass, oil, gasoline, whiskey and blood mingle together! No, that the devil never shows! He covers it up with his beautiful, hypocritical picture, saying, “Come! Partake! Enjoy!”
Note the woman’s use of the word “love” (v. 18). She means gratification of brutish lust! But, sinners seldom correctly label sin. Infidelity is called “free thought”; fornication is termed “a good time”; digression is called “progress”; obscenity is labeled “art”; and, communistic infiltration is palmed off on an unsuspecting public as “academic freedom”! But, as this young man learned (vv. 22,23), changing the label does not lessen the poison; it only increases the likelihood of its consumption!
4. She anticipates and removes his objections (vv. 19,20). She anticipates the question: “What if your husband catches us? Where will be the ‘solace’ then?” (cf. 6:32-35) In her answer, she calls him “goodman” not “husband.” She ignores the relation of love and duty in which she is placed to him, and speaks of him as one standing at a distance from her” (Keil & Delitzsch, v. 19). Compare the way Potiphar’s wife referred to her husband (Gen. 39:14). Contrast Leah’s reference to Jacob (Gen. 29:32). She also anticipates his thinking: “But what if he returns tonight?” Her answer (vv. 19b, 20) assures him that he went on a “long journey,” so can’t possibly return tonight; he “hath taken a bag of money,” going supplied for a long stay; and, he “will come home at the day appointed,” for he always returns when he says he will, and that is not tonight! Her implication: “Don’t fear; he won’t surprise us; Come, enjoy!”
The Success of the Temptation (vv. 21-23)
The text gives three things which contributed directly to his fall: (a) Her much fair speech” (v. 21). This consisted of her description of provisions she had made (table and bed), her mention of pleasures they would enjoy, and her assurance of impunity. This is the general pattern of all deceivers – provisions, pleasures, impunity! In the case of the devil and Eve (Gen. 3:1-6), the good food was the provision; picking and eating such beautiful fruit, the pleasure; “ye shall not surely die . . . ye shall be as gods” expressed the deceptive impunity. With the chief priests and watchmen (Matt. 28:11-14), “large money” was the provision; things it would buy, the pleasure; and, “if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him and secure you,” the expressed impunity. Modern examples include: the dope-ring recruiting peddlers, communists enlisting dupes, atheists captivating souls, and denominationalists making converts. No wonder so much is said against fair speech and smooth words (Psa. 55:20,21; Prov. 5:3-5; Rom. 16:17,18; cf. 1 Cor. 2:4). (b) “The flattering of her lips” (v. 21). As already observed, this consisted in giving him the impression that she had made all these provisions just for him, and he was the only one she cared for. Flattery has two major ingredients: self-interest (Prov. 29:5) and deception (Psa. 12:2), both wrong! (c) His own stupidity and ignorance (vv. 22,23). He is described by three figures: the ox, unconscious that he is being led to his death; the fool (one bereft of reason), unconscious of being led to confinement; and, a bird, unconscious that it is paying its life for one tiny morsel. How ignorant! Stupid! Pitiful! Only those who sneer at the warning and indulge anyway could be more so!
What a downfall it was for this young man! He has started on a course that he may never be able to terminate (cf. 2 Pet. 2:14), one that opens the door to other vices, produces remorse in the soul, debauches the conscience (see 1 Tim. 4:2), brings dishonor to one’s name (but, Prov. 22: 1), may bring disease to his body, and will bring endless damnation to his soul (1 Cor. 6:9,10; Gal. 5:19-21; Rev. 21:8). “He goes to the slaughter; for houses of uncleanness are slaughterhouses to precious souls” (Matthew Henry).
Solomon’s Application of the Story (vv. 24.27)
1. Hearken to the right one – “unto me” (v. 24). It is not enough to merely hearken; the young man did that, but listened to the wrong one. Others who have made the same mistake include: Eve (Gen. 3), the young prophet (1 Kgs. 13:11-24), and the Israelites who listened to the pessimistic, unbelieving spies (Num. 13:17-33). The majority of the world have their ears turned in the wrong direction now toward skepticism instead of firm belief, toward social benefits instead of spiritual benefits and strength, vice rather than virtue, communistic propaganda rather than responsible freedom, and doctrines of men instead of the word of God. The Lord’s instruction is: “Take heed what you hear” (Mk. 4:24). The soul’s welfare depends on the what and the who of our hearing!
2. Take good counsel when it is given (v. 25). He counsels to guard two things: (a) The heart – “let not thine heart decline to her ways. ” Wishing for her and her ways is to have the mind in the lowest gutter. “Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). (b) The actions are to be guarded – “go not astray in her paths. ” To indulge is to go astray; to go astray is to be lost. No better counsel can be given and every young man desperately needs to heed it.
3. Take fair warning when it is given (vv. 26, 27). Look back on the ruin she has wrought (v. 26). Her victims are “many” – not merely one here and there; “yea many strong men” – not just a few weak and simple ones. Hence, great care must be exercised. Look forward to the end of her evil course (v. 27). Her house is the way to hell (Sheol) corresponding to Hades in the N.T. (Vine 11, 187), where the rich man was tormented (Lk. 16:23). It leads to the “chambers of death” – i.e., “to the extreme depths of death” (Keil & Delitzsch, v. 27).
Since the cup of fornication must shortly be changed for the cup of suffering (Rev. 21:8), let all “flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18). “Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22). “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16).
(Note: The writer in indebted to Matthew Henry for the framework and many of the thoughts expressed in this lesson. TLM.)
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 11, pp. 326-328
June 1, 1989