Held in Honor
10/22 – Exhilarated (Proverbs 5:15-23)
Introduction — Here Solomon advises his sons to be attentive to his wisdom. He wants them to hear and heed his words. He first wants them to steer clear of any relationship with an immoral woman. He wants them to avoid the path of temporary pleasures, leading to destruction. He says, “For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.” In vivid terms, Solomon repeatedly warns his sons to stay away from her. Solomon then tells one of the sons to stay close to the wife of his youth. He wants him to remain on the path of marital faithfulness, leading to delight. Solomon explains: Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well. Should your springs be dispersed abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be yours alone and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; be exhilarated always with her love. Solomon concludes by showing the outcome for anyone who follows his own selfish path. He will die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he will go astray. Which path do we walk? Do we primarily pursue fleeting pleasures or faithful promises? The first path leads to heartache and death. The second path leads to joy and life. Did these sons hear him? Did they follow their father’s wise counsel? Do we listen to our heavenly Father’s wisdom? Do we follow His directions? Do we remain faithful to our promises? Do we delight in our spouse? Do we rejoice in our spouse? Are we exhilarated in the love our spouse?
Please listen to me. I’m giving you godly wisdom. I want the best for you and your wife. I want to spare you heartache and ruin. I want you to know joy and delight in your marriage. Stay on the life path.
Keep your way far from her! (1-14)
7 And now, O sons, listen to me, and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
8 Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house,
Comment: Solomon calls his son—all young men—to pay attention to his wisdom. He wants to bend their ears toward understanding, so that they will hold discernment [with their minds] and guard knowledge with their lips. Solomon then relates how the lips of an adulterous woman sound sweet at first, but in the end she is bitter and biting. Her feet go down to death. Her steps lead straight to the grave. She doesn’t pay attention to the way of life. Her ways are unstable, and she doesn’t even know it. She is trouble waiting to happen. Solomon repeats his call to his sons to heed his wisdom. He says, “Do not depart from the words of my mouth, but do stay away from her.” Don’t listen to her. Don’t go near the door of her house. Steer clear of that path. Keep your way far from her! Solomon wants to spare his sons the sad consequences of poor choices. “Keep your way far from her,” he says, “or you will give your honor to others and your years to the merciless.” In jolting fashion, Solomon gives repeated warning to his sons. He ends this section with an imagined scenario in which one (or more) of his sons, weakened and filled with pain, laments, “How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am on the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” Question: Do you listen to godly counsel? Do you follow godly counsel? When you know what’s right, do you still do what’s wrong? Do you flirt with sin? Do you run away from sin? And do you run to Christ? Do you keep your focus on Him? Application: Be attentive to godly wisdom. Incline your ear to understanding. Be careful when you hear the flattery of others toward you. Be alert to the pitfalls of illicit relationships. Steer clear of ungodly relationships. Guard your heart. See the sad end of poor choices; then don’t make those choices. Instead, listen to God’s word. Thank God for His word. Follow God’s word. Stay far, far away from evil.
Keep your way close to her! (15-23)
18 Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, 19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.
Comment: Next, Solomon directs his son(s) to see and savor the delight of marriage. Solomon tells them to stay close to their own wife. In poetic language, he says, “Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well.” In other words: stay close to your wife; enjoy your wife; draw refreshment from your wife. Now, in soaring words, Solomon affirms and offers more ways for this son(s) to stay close to his wife. “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.” Here Solomon upholds sex. He celebrates sex within God’s marriage design. And he directs his son(s) to uphold and celebrate sex. He calls him to have joy and delight in his wife. The imagery is beautiful and rich, not ugly and cheap. The call for a husband to delight in his wife is right. The call for a husband to be exhilarated in his wife’s love is godly. The call for a husband and wife to express their love through God’s good gift of sex is wise. To revel in the sexual facet of marriage is honorable and healthy. There is life here. There is excitement here. This is delight here. There is freedom here. There is vitality here. There is contentment here. There is peace here. There is safety here. There is life here. Therefore, Solomon ends with another warning: Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? Solomon shows the folly of following a wicked path. Question: Do you stay close to your spouse? Do you share your deepest heart with your spouse only? Do you fully bare yourself to your spouse only? Do you enjoy your spouse? Do you delight in your spouse? Do you thrill to your spouse? Do you embrace your spouse? Do you stay on a righteous path with your spouse? Or do you take frequent, unauthorized detours, away from your spouse? Application: Steer clear of ungodly relationships. Guard your heart. Watch your steps. Stay close to your spouse. Delight in your spouse. Rejoice in your spouse. Revel in your spouse. Always be exhilarated with your spouse’s love.
Word Study for Proverb 5:15-23
15 drink (shathah—to drink; to drink together; to banquet; dine; experience; feast)
16 dispersed (puts—flow; overflow; break; scatter; sow; spread)
17 let them be (hayah—to come to pass; occur; happen; be; take place)
17 alone (bad—part; portion; solitude; something separated; member; apart from; solitary)
17 strangers (zar—completely different; illicit; unauthorized; unlawful; enemy; illegitimate; estranged)
18 fountain (maqor—source; spring; flow; source; well; issue)
18 blessed (barak—to praise; to kneel; to invoke God; to ask for a blessing; extol)
18 rejoice (samach—to rejoice; be merry; to gladden; bring joy; allow joy; cheer; give happiness)
19 loving (ahab—love gift; delight; lover; pleasant; most lovely)
19 graceful (chen—favor; good will; gracefulness; agreeableness; elegance; pleasant)
19 satisfy (ravah—to drink one’s fill; be refreshed; fully experience; drench; saturated)
19 exhilarated (shagah—be intoxicated; stagger; sway; enraptured)
19 always (tamid—continually; lasting; perpetuity; unceasing; ever)
20 embrace (chabaq—clasp; fold; to fold the hands)
21 before (nokah—front; what is opposite; in front; near)
21 watches (palas—examine; observe; weigh; make level; ponder)
23 lack (ayin—nothing; naught; not; emptiness; vacuity; absence)
23 instruction (musar—discipline; training; exhortation; chastisement; warning; correction)
Application for Proverb 5:15-23
Let’s hear and heed godly counsel.
Let’s follow God’s commands.
Let’s seek God’s wisdom.
Let’s stay far away from immorality.
Let’s fully enjoy our spouse.
Let’s be exhilarated by our spouse’s love.
Let’s guard our hearts.
Gospel Connections for Proverb 5:15-23
Jesus offers living water. Jesus is the spring of life. Jesus is life. Jesus gives life. Jesus brings joy. Jesus gives wisdom.
Jesus gives perfect love. His love satisfies us fully. His love thrills us completely. His love calls. His love restores. His love brings joy. His love brings blessing. His love guides and guards us. His love embraces us. His love changes us.
Thoughts and Quotes for Proverb 5:15-23
The traveling and adventure always lift my spirits soaring with exhilaration. ~ Emile Hirsch
Accept the challenges, so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory. ~ George S. Patton
Exhilaration is that feeling you get just after a great idea hits you, and just before you realize what’s wrong with it. ~ Rex Harrison
When you delight yourself in the Lord, His Word and His ways become the focus and foundation of your life.
~ Elizabeth George, Loving God with All Your Mind
Contempt is born when we fixate on our spouse’s weaknesses. Every spouse has these sore points. If you want to find them, without a doubt you will. If you want to obsess about them, they’ll grow – but you won’t! ~ Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage
If God is going to write your love story, He's going to first need your pen. ~ Eric Ludy
Commentary for Proverb 5:15-23
First Strophe (5:1–6)
5:1–6 The Bible does not hide from or obscure the power of the temptation to illicit sex. In language that is refreshingly clear and direct without itself indulging in titillation, the text warns the reader of the debacle that awaits him should he succumb in this area and at the same time promises profound sexual joy to those whose hearts are chaste and loving. If the church is to do its duty, it must be no less clear in its teachings. To assume that nice, Christian young people do not struggle in these areas or to speak only in whispers and innuendo on the grounds that they are inappropriate for the Christian pulpit is no less than gross neglect of duty on the church’s part. Whether one is dealing with the ritual prostitution of a fertility cult, the ordinary prostitute on the street (or in a magazine), or the simple lure of extramarital sex, the temptations and dangers are the same.
The passage begins with a typical appeal to the young man to hold to his father’s teaching (vv. 1–2). Verse 3 seems abrupt after v. 2 in that there is no transition. One expects before v. 3 a verse commanding the young man to avoid the prostitute. J. Goldingay argues that v. 20 originally stood between v. 2 and v. 3 and had this function. But this is insufficient evidence for emending the text, and vv. 21–23 are very harsh after vv. 15–19 without v. 20 between the two sections. The solution makes for a worse problem than the one now observed in the text. Also a movement from a general introductory appeal (vv. 1–2) to a specific warning (v. 3) is not unusual (cf. 1:8–10).
The “adulteress” of v. 3 is literally the “other woman,” that is, someone other than the man’s wife. The verse does not deny that the other woman is indeed tempting, but the temptation is not all sexual. The honey lips and smooth mouth of the other woman refer more to her flattery than her sexual availability. The man is drawn to her because she inflates his ego with hollow praise in ways his own wife will not.
Verses 4–6 describe the bitter outcome of the adulterous relationship. Anguish and disillusionment and emotional and even physical death all come from this illicit pleasure.
The Hebrew of v. 6 is difficult. The text is literally, “The path of life, lest she/you pay attention, her ways wander, she/you will not know.” An ambiguity is that the subjects of the verbs “pay attention” and “know” may be either third feminine singular or second masculine singular. Most commentaries and versions (including the NIV) emend the text by changing “lest” to “not”93 and understand the woman to be the subject of the verbs. In favor of this, one may note that since it is the woman whose ways wander (v. 6b), one might presume that she is the subject of the verb “know.”
On the other hand, the verse can be translated without changing the Hebrew as, “In order that you not pay attention to the path of life; her ways wander (from it), but you will not know it.” Taken in this way, the point of v. 6 is not that the woman is a lost and wayward soul (however true that might be). In other words, she is not made an object of pity. To the contrary, she is an agent of temptation who deliberately contrives to draw her prey off the path of life (cf. 2:19) and down to destruction. The whole point of 5:1–6 is that the young man should heed wisdom and be preserved; one would therefore expect the text to warn of how the prostitute draws him away from the path of life. This is the perspective Proverbs always takes with regard to the adulteress (cf. 6:26; 7:6–26; 9:17–18). She is the hunter, not the victim.
Second Strophe (5:7–14)
5:7–14 The teacher warns the young men of the ruin and disgrace that accompany adultery. A difficulty here is the identity of “others,” “cruel one,” “strangers,” and “another man” in vv. 9–10. All four are masculine and do not refer to the adulteress herself.
Several interpretations are possible. (1) The woman is a prostitute, and the other man is her agent. He thus feeds upon the prostitute’s victims. (2) The woman is a mistress, and the strangers are those who profit from her access to easy money. The mistress carelessly spends her lover’s wealth. (3) The adulteress is married, and the other man is her outraged husband. He extracts a heavy fine, if not a death penalty, from the adulterer (see 6:31–35). (4) The adulteress is a foreign woman, thus implying a covenant breach. The adulterer is therefore giving his virility and his wealth to non-Israelites. There is an implicit analogy between adultery in marriage with infidelity toward God. (5) The woman is a cult prostitute. The strangers are priests and cult officials who prey upon Israelite men who are seduced by the cult.99
Each of these possibilities has merit, and none can be proven to be the sole explanation. The passage uses general language to make the point that adultery leads to personal degeneration and financial depletion. The man who indulges himself will pay the price a hundred times over.
Verse 14 could refer to legal proceedings against the adulterer (see Deut 22:22), but the text is not explicit on this point; it probably refers to the adulterer’s public disgrace and humiliation.
Third Strophe (5:15–19)
5:15–19 Verse 15 obviously means that a man should have sexual relations only with his wife, but the metaphors of v. 16 and the injunction of v. 17 are more difficult. If the “cistern” and “well” are the wife, what are the “springs” and “streams” of v. 16, and what is meant by not “sharing them with strangers”?
Several interpretations are possible but unlikely. The streams of water in the street could refer to the adulterer’s wife, who is no longer confined to the home (“cistern”) but is herself having sexual liaisons with other men in retaliation for her husband’s faithlessness. This interpretation would appear to be supported by implication in v. 17, but it has no explicit support in the text. The injunctions of vv. 16–17 concern something that the man has control over; but whether or not he is faithful, he cannot exercise control over his wife’s fidelity. The claim that vv. 16–17 deal with the behavior of the man’s wife is at crosscurrents with the purpose of the passage.
A second interpretation is that a man should not waste his semen and father children for other households. This is most implausible. Even in a prescientific age the Israelites knew from polygamy and concubinage that a man could father many children by many women. Also, as Toy notes, water here is a metaphor for sexual pleasure and not reproductive power.102
A third possibility is that the streams in the street (v. 16) are the prostitutes, and the man is commanded not to go to them. This is ruled out, however, by the reference to “your springs,” meaning that the streams belong to the man. The prostitute, of course, does not.
The best interpretation is that “springs” and “streams of water” refer to the husband’s sexual affections as the “cistern” refers to the affections of his wife. The man should not take his love and desire to anyone else by going out into the street. The analogy implies that husband and wife fill and refresh each other, the one like a flowing stream and the other like a peaceful well. Sexual anarchy results when people cross over the bounds of fidelity. Verse 17 means that a man should never be willing to share a woman with another man. This naturally excludes visiting prostitutes and immoral women, since they belong to many men.
The blessing in v. 18 might appear to be a promise of many children, but again the passage emphasizes the sexual pleasure of marriage and not having offspring (v. 19). The command to “take pleasure in your first wife”106 implies negatively that a man should never have sexual relations with another woman (whether in adultery or by divorce on contrived grounds) and positively that marriage should include sexual joy and fulfillment.
Verse 19 brings out both the tender affection and the exuberant pleasure of love. She is a loving doe, and he will be drunken with satisfaction in the pleasure she gives.
Fourth Strophe (5:20–23)
5:20–23 Verse 20 is linked chiastically to v. 19b, c. The man should not “stagger” from the affection of another woman, nor should he embrace her “bosom.”109 The use of the catchword “stagger” also ties together the conclusion of the exhortation. A man will stagger in the pleasure his wife gives (v. 19). He can embrace the bosom of another woman and stagger (v. 20), but the terms of sensual pleasure are absent here; with the adulteress it is the staggering of confusion and weakness. Finally, the man who indulges in adultery will stagger to his own destruction (v. 23).
Proverbs 5:1-23, ESV
1 My son, be attentive to my wisdom;
incline your ear to my understanding,
2 that you may keep discretion,
and your lips may guard knowledge.
3 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
and her speech is smoother than oil,
4 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death;
her steps follow the path to Sheol;
6 she does not ponder the path of life;
her ways wander, and she does not know it.
7 And now, O sons, listen to me,
and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
8 Keep your way far from her,
and do not go near the door of her house,
9 lest you give your honor to others
and your years to the merciless,
10 lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,
11 and at the end of your life you groan,
when your flesh and body are consumed,
12 and you say, “How I hated discipline,
and my heart despised reproof!
13 I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
or incline my ear to my instructors.
14 I am at the brink of utter ruin
in the assembled congregation.”
15 Drink water from your own cistern,
flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
be intoxicated always in her love.
20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
21 For a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
and he ponders all his paths.
22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
23 He dies for lack of discipline,
and because of his great folly he is led astray.
  Word studies from various sources on Logos Software, including, but not limited to Theological Lexicon of the Old Testament (1997) by Ernst Jenni & Claus Westermann, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.
 Garrett, D. A. (1993). Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of songs (Vol. 14, pp. 90–94). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.