An Illustration of Seduction
Text: Proverbs 7:1-27
Hang on to the commandments and wisdom (Proverbs 7:1-5)
This begins another important section, so Solomon again encourages us to keep his words and treasure them. We should keep the commandments as if our lives depend upon it – and it does. We should see Solomon’s teachings as “the apple of your eye.” The phrase literally refers to the pupil or black of the eye. We are very protective of our eyes (Psalms 17:8; Zechariah 2:8), and so we should guard the teachings we learn from God.
We still talk about tying a string around our finger as a reminder, and so we are to constantly remind ourselves of the commandments and teachings of God.
In those days lessons were learned and practiced on clay tablets. Much like a chalkboard, you can erase old lessons by smoothing out the damp clay. However, if the writing is left there, the tablet hardens down and becomes permanent. Solomon urges us to write on the tablet of our heart, to make the lessons we learn from him a part of our permanent memories.
Our relationship to wisdom should be close – someone we are familiar with and see often. Because wisdom will keep us out of danger, such as the danger that comes from seduction.
Wrong place, wrong time (Proverbs 7:6-9)
The story is not an actual event, but the elements are all things that could happen. Solomon illustrates the danger by telling us of a young man he saw from his window. He calls the young man naive and lacking sense. You might wonder how Solomon could draw such a conclusion from just seeing a man from his window. But it isn’t a great mystery. Solomon saw the young man walking in the neighborhood known to harbor criminals, such as prostitutes. Many large cities have such areas – red-light districts, places where the criminal element frequents.
Worse, this man is heading into this neighborhood as twilight is falling. A range of time is being given: twilight, dark, and the "pupil of the night" -- that is deep darkness. Before street lamps, this was the time of day prostitutes came out looking for men to solicit. There is just enough light to be noticed, but not enough light to be identified or for details to be seen. It is easier to give the impression of being attractive in dim light than to be attractive in bright light.
Perhaps the young man wasn’t thinking of what happens in that neighborhood at that time of day. Perhaps he was in a hurry and this was a shorter way. We really don’t know. But the fact is that young men have strong sex drives and little experience in controlling them. Whether he realized it or not, he was setting himself up for temptation that need not have occurred if he had just used greater caution.
- What could the young man have done instead of walking through the bad part of town at twilight?
- Why do people, like this young man, seem to not think of these alternatives?
Pushing him off-balanced (Proverbs 7:10-13)
Surprise! Well, not really. The young man just happens to run into a seductress who appears to be coming directly to him. Her dress indicates that she is a harlot. What constituted a harlot’s dress varied by era and culture. For example, in the days of Jacob, harlots wore veils so that they would not be easily identified (Genesis 38:14-15).
We are told she is cunning. Everything she does isn’t happen-chance. She has a goal in mind and she cleverly manipulates the young man toward her goal. Her direct approach is just the beginning causing confusion. He will be left wondering why is she walking up to a man she doesn’t know.
But she is loud and acts in a rebellious fashion. The loudness calls attention to herself. A prostitute who isn’t noticed doesn’t get clients. The loudness and her rebellious actions go against social norms. They not only call attention to her, but they hint that she would be willing to break other rules as well. It adds a bit of excitement because he doesn’t know what she might do next.
We shouldn’t be lulled by this story into thinking that such women are only found in certain parts of town. Another range is given. Seductresses can be found on any street or in any part of town. They are more likely to be found in certain areas, but no area of town is free of such women.
Suddenly the woman grabs the young man and kisses him. She purposely violates the space everyone keeps around himself. Though they are strangers to each other, her behavior is that of intimate friends. Again, the goal is to get the young man confused and keep him confused. A confused person doesn’t think clearly and doesn’t analyze the situation. The intimate behavior of touching and kissing is designed to stir up passion because a person who is aroused also doesn’t think clearly.
Once he is mentally off-balanced she begins her enticement, speaking with a brazen or impudent face. The Hebrew word ‘azaz means to harden or strengthen. A hardened face refers to someone wearing a mask. She hides her true feelings and her true intent behind a false, determined look.
- The woman is clearly a harlot because of the way she dresses. Why would such a woman dress to say she is a harlot?
- Why are young people particularly attracted to rebellious people?
- How is a man not thinking clearly an advantage to the seductress?
“Come on” lines (Proverbs 7:14-20)
A series of lines given to convince the young man to have sex is given. These are just samples of the general tactics used to seduce a person to sin. Understanding the methods should give us a stronger defense.
I’m a good, religious girl (Proverbs 7:14)
The first attack is to get the young man to lower his guard. She presents herself as a devote religious girl who has just completed her sacrifices. We expect problems from wicked people, so we keep our guard up, but when we are dealing with someone we believe to be religious, we tend to be more relaxed. However, we need to remember that people lie and a person who acts religious may not actually be religious (II Corinthians 11:13-15).
One reason for giving a peace offering was because a vow had just been completed (Leviticus 22:21). Unlike burnt offerings which were wholly given to God, peace offerings were shared between the one making the offering, his family and friends, and the priest (Leviticus 7:32; Deuteronomy 12:6-7). The offering had to be completely eaten within 48 hours (Leviticus 19:5-6). Thus, implied is that she had plenty of food at home.
Another implication is that since she has done her religious duties, she has nothing pending that might prevent her from being a little bit sinful. Here the view is that righteousness and sin are like a balance sheet. So long as you have more good than bad, then you are all right before God.
I’ve been looking for you (Proverbs 7:15)
This attack is aimed at the young man’s ego. She tells him that she had been looking all over for him, implying that he is important to her. Of course, she tells every guy she runs into the same line, but since this is what he wants to hear, he will not stop to think why a complete stranger claims to have been looking for someone she doesn’t know. This is why there are warnings that pride can lead to a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
I’m all prepared for you (Proverbs 7:16-17)
The mention of her bed is artfully designed to bring up thoughts of what might happen there without directly broaching the subject.
Egyptian linen was among the finest cloth in the world at this time. It conjures images of something desirable to touch. She also brings up thoughts of pleasant scents. The conversation is moving toward sensual pleasures.
Let’s make love all night (Proverbs 7:18)
Sex is called “love” as if the physical action means the people involved are in love with each other. It is true that married couples are in love and that they have sex, but the sex isn’t the love, nor does it cause the love. Love is how you regard the other person (I Corinthians 13:4-8). Sex between strangers can never be love.
To say that the acts of sex will go on all night is again appealing to the young man’s ego. In reality, a prostitute wants to deal with as many men as possible in a night to make the most money. More likely she will toss the guy out as soon as she is done with him.
We won’t be caught (Proverbs 7:19-20)
She waits until she is certain that she has him trapped to mention that she is married. She tells the young man that her husband is gone on a long trip. Since he has taken lots of money with him, she knows he won’t be home early. She doesn’t expect him back until the next full moon.
Even though he is assured the husband won't be home, there is still a small element of risk. That extra excitement enhances the thrill, and it hints at opportunities to have sex additional times.
The very fact that she mentions a husband ought to have been an additional warning. Under the Old Law, adultery carried a death penalty for both people involved (Deuteronomy 22:22). The fact that it doesn’t dissuade him shows just how far he has gone into her trap. She has his mind fully focused on sex and that is all he can think about.
- How might these seductive lines be presented in our era?
- Could this be played out in reverse with a man seducing a woman?
- Men usually think of themselves as the aggressor in sex, so why the strong emphasis on a woman seducing a man?
The capture (Proverbs 7:21-23)
These seductive lines are not the only ones presented. We are told that with many words and flatteries he is convinced to follow her. His yielding is vividly described as an ox being led to the slaughterhouse. Oxen are extremely large animals, they can easily resist going anywhere they aren’t inclined to go and a slaughterhouse with its smells of blood and death would definitely not be a place to go. Yet, farmers can grab an ox by its nostrils and it will follow the farmer, even into danger. The young man is described as being the same. It doesn’t matter that he is young and strong, or that no one can make him do things he doesn’t wish to do. Like the ox, he has a weak spot that can override his reason. He can be manipulated through sexual desire.
He is also compared to a fool trapped in the fetters. The fool rarely thinks that his current actions will lead to consequences that he cannot avoid. The young man is trapped by his desire for immediate pleasure.
But he takes an arrow in the liver. In a battle, such a shot hurts, but it doesn’t stop a person immediately. Yet it is a fatal shot that will eventually kill the person painfully. Promiscuous sex can be the same way. It causes problems immediately, but not so great that a person has to stop. Yet, it can kill the person spiritually and physically over time.
The fourth illustration is that the young man is like a bird flying into a snare. The bird travels so fast that it doesn’t have time to realize that it is in a trap. In the same way a young man who is strongly aroused is in such a rush to have sex that he doesn’t see that he was manipulated into a trap until it is too late.
- What are the consequences of fornication that people don’t think about while they are focused on sexual gratification?
The lessons to be learned (Proverbs 7:24-27)
Though the story is gripping, Solomon asks us to pay attention to the conclusions we should draw from this account.
First, if you don’t want the end result, don’t start down the path. The only safe place is well away from the things that cause sexual arousal.
Second, don’t ever think that it won’t happen to you or that you are strong enough to resist. Sex is a powerful desire and women who know how to manipulate a man’s sexual desire have destroyed many morally strong men’s defenses.
And finally, no matter how appealing and fun sex appears to be, fornication always leads to death. The end result cannot be changed by your desire.
- What should the young man have done to avoid being trapped by the prostitute?
- Can a person gain forgiveness for fornication? How?
- Can a person avoid the consequences of fornication?