New American Bible (Revised Edition)
1 [b]My son, keep my words,
and treasure my commands.
2 Keep my commands and live,[c]
and my teaching as the apple of your eye;
3 Bind them on your fingers,
write them on the tablet of your heart.(A)
4 Say to Wisdom, “You are my sister!”[d]
Call Understanding, “Friend!”
5 That they may keep you from a stranger,
from the foreign woman with her smooth words.(B)
6 For at the window of my house,
through my lattice I looked out[e]
7 And I saw among the naive,
I observed among the young men,
a youth with no sense,
8 Crossing the street near the corner,
then walking toward her house,
9 In the twilight, at dusk of day,
in the very dark of night.
10 Then the woman comes to meet him,
dressed like a harlot, with secret designs.
11 She is raucous and unruly,
her feet cannot stay at home;
12 Now she is in the streets, now in the open squares,
lurking in ambush at every corner.
13 Then she grabs him, kisses him,
and with an impudent look says to him:
14 “I owed peace offerings,
and today I have fulfilled my vows;
15 So I came out to meet you,
to look for you, and I have found you!
16 With coverlets I have spread my couch,
with brocaded cloths of Egyptian linen;
17 I have sprinkled my bed[f] with myrrh,
with aloes, and with cinnamon.
18 Come, let us drink our fill of love,
until morning, let us feast on love!
19 For my husband is not at home,[g]
he has gone on a long journey;
20 A bag of money he took with him,
he will not return home till the full moon.”
21 She wins him over by repeated urging,
with her smooth lips she leads him astray.[h](C)
22 He follows her impulsively,
like an ox that goes to slaughter;
Like a stag that bounds toward the net,
23 till an arrow pierces its liver;
Like a bird that rushes into a snare,
unaware that his life is at stake.
24 So now, children, listen to me,[i]
be attentive to the words of my mouth!
25 Do not let your heart turn to her ways,
do not go astray in her paths;
26 For many are those she has struck down dead,
numerous, those she has slain.
27 Her house is a highway to Sheol,
leading down into the chambers of death.(D)
The third and climactic instruction on adultery and seduction is an example story, of the same type as the example story in 24:30–34. By its negative portrayal of the deceitful woman, who speaks in the night to a lone youth, it serves as a foil to trustworthy Wisdom in chap. 8, who speaks in broad daylight to all who pass in the street.
As in 6:20–24, the father warns his son to keep his teaching to protect him from the dangerous forbidden woman. The father’s language in 7:4 (“Say to Wisdom, ‘You are my sister,’ and call Understanding ‘Friend’”) sets this admonition apart, however; it is the language of courtship and love. If the son makes Woman Wisdom his companion and lover, she will protect him from the other woman. As in chap. 5, loving the right woman protects the man from the wrong woman.
As motivation, the father in vv. 6–23 tells his son of an incident he once observed while looking out his window—a young man went to the bed of an adulterous woman and wound up dead. As in chap. 5, the realistic details—the purposeful woman, the silent youth, the vow, the perfumed bed—have a metaphorical level. Ultimately the story is about two different kinds of love.
- 7:1–3 Verses 1–3 are artistically constructed. “Keep” in v. 1a recurs in v. 2a; “commands” in v. 1b recurs in v. 2a; the imperative verb “live” occurs in the very center of the three lines; v. 3, on preserving the teaching upon one’s very person, matches vv. 1–2, on preserving the teaching internally by memorizing it.
- 7:2 Live: here as elsewhere (Gn 20:7; 42:18; 2 Kgs 18:32; Jer 27:12, 17; Ez 18:32), the imperative (“Live!”) is uttered against the danger of death, e.g., “Do such and such and you will live (= survive the danger); why should you die?”
- 7:4 You are my sister: “sister” and “brother” are examples of love language in the ancient Near East, occurring in Egyptian love poetry and Mesopotamian marriage songs. In Sg 4:9, 10, 12; 5:1, the man calls the woman, “my sister, my bride.” Intimate friendship with Woman Wisdom saves one from false and dangerous relationships.
- 7:6–7 I looked out…I saw…: the perspective is unusual. The narrator looks through a window upon the drama in the street.
- 7:17 Bed: a bed can designate a place of burial in Is 57:2; Ez 32:25; 2 Chr 16:14. Myrrh…aloes: the spices could be used for funerals as for weddings (Jn 19:39). It is possible that the language is ambivalent, speaking of death as it seems to speak of life. As the woman offers the youth a nuptial feast, she is in reality describing his funerary feast.
- 7:19–20 For my husband is not at home: the woman is calculating. She knows exactly how long her husband will be gone.
- 7:21 The verbs “to win over” (lit., “to lead astray”) and “to lead off” can be used of leading animals such as a donkey (Nm 22:23) or sheep (Jer 23:2 and 50:17). The animal imagery continues as the youth is compared to an ox, a fallow deer, and a bird in the moment they are slaughtered. None of the animals are aware of their impending death.
- 7:24–27 The father addresses “children,” a larger audience than his own son; the story is typical, intended for others as an example. The story is a foil to the speech of the other woman in chap. 8.