Proverbs 5:4

but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,

    sharp as a two-edged sword.

Proverbs 5:4 ESV

“But in the end …” is a signal to put on your seat belt because you are going to be on a bumpy ride. In this proverb, the writer presents the bad outcome as the result of a deception. In verse 3 we see that the forbidden woman is a smooth talker, “smoother than oil.” As we have said in a previous post, “Because everything is not as it appears, wisdom is a necessity.”

Verse 4 is the first of many examples of bad outcome. Here, the reader’s physical senses of taste and touch are assaulted: “she is bitter as wormwood” and “sharp as a two-edged sword.” An engaged reader might even recoil at the bitter taste of wormwood or the painful thought of being cut by a two-edged sword. That is the writer’s intention, like a splash of cold water to shock us into clarity. Everything about the forbidden woman draws us in, “For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil.” BUT! “But in the end …”

Verse 4 reworded: If you don’t want to have a bitter taste or be sliced and diced, avoid the forbidden woman.

Proverbs 5:22

“The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,

    and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.”

Proverbs 5:22 ESV

Beware the risk of playing around with sin. Many think “I’ll do this for a while, then I’ll stop when I’m ready.” Unfortunately, sin isn’t always so accommodating; it has its own desires and agenda.

This proverb describes the binding nature of our sin; it holds us captive. And, the more we submit to our sin, the more we are bound by it. Don’t treat sin as a game, something to dabble with. Sin is deceptive and deadly.

Avoid the Forbidden Woman

And now, O sons, listen to me,

    and do not depart from the words of my mouth.

Keep your way far from her,

    and do not go near the door of her house,

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.”

Proverbs 5:7-14 ESV

In the preceding verses (3-6) the writer warned of the dangers presented by the forbidden woman. Here in verses 7-14, he continues that warning.

By going near her door you risk much. For example, you risk giving “your honor to others and your years to the merciless” (5:9). The second part of this couplet describes the risk as letting “strangers take their fill of your strength” and letting “your labors go to the house of a foreigner” (5:10). In other words the risk of going near her door is giving the rest of your life – time, energy, and resources – to someone else.

Is the risk worth the moment of forbidden pleasure? The writer answers that question like this: “… at the end of your life you groan, when your flesh and body are consumed” (5:11). I think the groaning is the result of three things. First, groaning comes from the fatigue and futility of laboring your life away, knowing that the reward of your labor is consumed and enjoyed by strangers, and not by you. In other words when you work overtime a stranger’s kid gets new sneakers, not your kids. This is a groaning of futility.

Second, groaning comes from the realization of how you got into this spot – being a fool – and how you could have avoided it had you walked the path of wisdom. Notice how the writer describes this realization: “… and you say, ‘How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teacher or incline my ear to my instructors'” (5:12-13). This is a groaning of frustration. Why didn’t I just listen?

The third groan comes from a desperate sense of finality. “I am at the brink of utter ruin …” (5:14). In other words, “It’s over.” And this is what the fool can not see waiting for him at the end of the path of folly.

Like the writer of this passage, I also implore you to choose wisdom. “My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding” (5:1).

Proverbs 5:1

“My son, be attentive to my wisdom;

 incline your ear to my understanding,”

Proverbs 5:1 ESV

Throughout the book of Proverbs, gaining wisdom and understanding is presented as requiring effort and intentionality. Here, the writer commands us to be attentive and incline our ears, neither of which is passive. In other words, becoming wise doesn’t just happpen.

What are some of the ways you are intentional about becoming wise?

Proverbs 5:3

“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.”

Proverbs 5:3 ESV

Because everything is not as it appears, wisdom is a necessity. This proverb is an example of the exceedingly deceptive nature of sin. But, wisdom can help us recognize the deception; for wisdom provides discernment and understanding.

Are you preparing for the deceptions that will come your way daily by increasing your wisdom? Or, are you simply playing things as they come? The former is a plan that leads to life; the latter leads to death.

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