Proverbs 30:20

Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.
– Proverbs 30:20

Verse 20 is the conclusion the sage was driving at with the list of incomprehensible things. There’s no need to puzzle long over the list and seek mysterious meanings. Each operates in a natural, ordered, and designed way—the eagle in the air, the serpent on a rock, the ship in the sea, and the man and woman in marriage. The wonder is the hardness of the “adulterous woman.” Descriptions and warnings about her have abounded in the wisdom sayings (Proverbs 2:16-19; 5:1-14, 20-23; 7:1-27; 9:17; 22:14; 23:27-28). The point of the wisdom sayings is not that women are the main ones guilty of sexual sins, or are worse than men. We must remember that wisdom sayings are given in the form of fatherly or motherly instructions to a young man and a part of wisdom is understanding the application of wisdom to various people and situations.

Just as the eagle and the serpent move naturally in their habitat, the adulteress is at home in her adulteries. Sexual sin is just as normal and natural as eating and drinking. She sees no spiritual or moral value at stake, “I have done no wickedness.” God designed and ordered one man, one woman marriage and all sexual activity outside that order is sin of various descriptions in Scripture.

Proverbs 29:3

Whoso loveth wisdom rejoiceth his father: but he that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance.
– Proverbs 29:3

This saying echoes a long line of wisdom sayings pertaining to sons who acquire wisdom blessing their fathers (Proverbs 10:1; 15:20; 23:15, 24-25; 27:11). The second line gives the contrasting parallel for the foolish sons (Proverbs 5:8-10; 6:26; 21:17, 20; 28:7, 19). The contrast is between loving and pursuing wisdom or loving and pursuing folly. Wisdom and folly are personified as women in Proverbs (Proverbs 9:1-18), and so loving wisdom is pictured through finding a virtuous wife (Proverbs 31:10-31) and folly through chasing prostitutes (Proverbs 5:1-23; 7:1-27). Jesus told of such a foolish son, who went on to forsake folly for wisdom (Luke 15:11-32).

Proverbs 23:28

She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.
– Proverbs 23:28

The warning further uncovers the character of the strange woman. Her danger is more than a pit one might accidentally fall into. She is described as a hunter for a prey, and the last phrase indicates great success. The warning reinforces the warnings that have come before (Proverbs 2:16-19; 7:12, 22-27; 9:18; 22:14).

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Proverbs 23:27

For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit.
– Proverbs 23:27

The fatherly saying here is reminiscent of the fatherly sayings in the first nine chapters, particularly warnings against the strange woman. The word whore is indelicate today, but it commonly refers to a harlot, or a prostitute. The word for strange woman means a foreign woman but is often put for a forbidden woman, such as a married woman. In this case, she is an adulteress. The deep ditch and narrow pit both indicate a trap with no escape (Proverbs 9:18; 22:14).

Wisdom is not taught just to keep a person from adultery and fornication, though it does that. By addressing the inner lusts, such as greed, gluttony, drunkenness, fornication, etc., the nature of walking the way of wisdom is revealed. Wisdom kept in the heart keeps one in the right way. It affects us transformatively within (Proverbs 20:9; 28:9; 16:6; 28:13). We infer this required inner transformation from the fact wisdom is alien to us, so we must acquire it through correction and instruction (Proverbs 22:15; 19:3). We also know that knowledge must begin with the fear of the Lord, which is put synonymously for knowing God (Proverbs 2:5; 9:10), which can only be had from revelation (Proverbs 2:6). When Proverbs treats of sins like fornication or drunkenness, it’s not just the breaking of a rule that’s warned against but the fundamental root sin of forsaking the God of righteousness (Proverbs 30:7-9).

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Proverbs 22:14

The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein.
– Proverbs 22:14

Though the strange woman featured often in the fatherly addresses of chapters 1-9, she is scarcely mentioned in the large collection of proverbs that form the bulk of this book. The reference to deep pit means a hazard, or a trap. The reference to the mouth means the danger of listening to her flatteries (Proverbs 2:16; 5:3-4; 6:24; 7:5). The word for abhorred means enraged and refers to the subjects of God’s wrath. They fall in the deep pit as judgment for forsaking the way of the Lord.

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Proverbs 20:16

Take his garment that is surety for a stranger: and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.
– Proverbs 20:16

Pledges and sureties have to do with lending. The word for surety means to braid, or intermix. It connotes being mixed in a transaction. We can think of it as cosigning a loan, where one person contractually obligates himself to pay the loan of another if he defaults on it. The law did not forbid suretyship, but wisdom warned against it, particularly in the case of becoming surety for a stranger (Proverbs 6:1; 11:15). The word for pledge means to wind tightly, or to bind. The word refers to collateral that is given to secure a loan. Pledges were not required, but were permissible by the law and heavily regulated when it concerned lending to the poor (Exodus 22:25-27; Deuteronomy 24:6-17). The point of the proverb is that a man who would become surety for a stranger or mingle with strange women is not to be trusted, or considered reliable. If you lend to such, take a security from him, or otherwise you expose yourself to great risk.

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Proverbs 8:5

O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.
– Proverbs 8:5

Simple means gullible or naïve. The simple person is thoughtless and careless. Fools are obstinately stupid in life. It is not a comment on their mental capacity, but rather their willfulness in foolishness. Wisdom is a broad term that means prudence, shrewdness, or discernment. Wisdom is thoughtful, deliberate, and careful. Understanding points more specifically to discernment and an understanding heart speaks of having good sense. The cry and design of wisdom is to give wisdom and understanding to the simple and the fools. All men are born simple and foolish. We must grow in wisdom and understanding by taking heed to the cry and words of wisdom.

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Proverbs 7:27

Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.
– Proverbs 7:27

Considering the end means considering her house is the gateway of the grave. It is the height of folly for a man to think he can enter there and escape unscathed. The consequences of this sin have been enumerated as many, but all serious. The words of wisdom are to avoid folly and consider well the end of the way before you set foot therein.

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Proverbs 7:26

For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her.
– Proverbs 7:26

This verse shows the true way of wisdom, to look past the short-term gain proposed and look well to the end of the way. The end of the way is where many have been pierced and many thrown down. The urgent warning comes home that it’s not only weak simpletons but many strong men have been undone by her. This verse emphasizes the wisdom in staying away and avoiding and not seeking to grapple with her as though you are the one who will succeed.

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