“Keep My Commandments and Continue Living”
HE WAS young, intelligent, “beautiful in form and beautiful in appearance.” His employer’s wife was sensuous and bold. Being irresistibly drawn to the young man, she daily tried to seduce him. “It happened that on this day as other days he went into the house to do his business, and there was none of the men of the house there in the house. Then she grabbed hold of him by his garment, saying: ‘Lie down with me!’” But Joseph, the son of the patriarch Jacob, left his garment behind and fled from Potiphar’s wife.—Genesis 39:1-12.
Of course, not everyone turns away from a tempting situation. For example, consider the case of a young man whom King Solomon of ancient Israel saw in the streets at night. Upon being seduced by a wayward woman, “all at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter.”—Proverbs 7:21, 22, New International Version.
Christians are admonished to “flee from fornication.” (1 Corinthians 6:18) To the young Christian disciple Timothy, the apostle Paul wrote: “Flee from the desires incidental to youth.” (2 Timothy 2:22) When faced with situations suggestive of fornication, adultery, or other moral wrongs, we too must flee as decisively as Joseph did from Potiphar’s wife. What will help us to be resolved to do that? In the 7th chapter of the Bible book of Proverbs 7, Solomon gives us some invaluable advice. He not only speaks of teachings that safeguard us from the wiles of immoral people but exposes their method of operation by vividly describing a scenario in which a young man is seduced by a loose woman.
‘Tie My Commandments Upon Your Fingers’
The king begins with the fatherly advice: “My son, keep my sayings, and may you treasure up my own commandments with you. Keep my commandments and continue living, and my law like the pupil of your eyes.”—Proverbs 7:1, 2.
Parents, particularly fathers, have the God-given responsibility of teaching their children God’s standards of good and bad. Moses exhorted fathers: “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:6, 7) And the apostle Paul wrote: “You, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) Hence, a parent’s instructions that are to be treasured up, or highly valued, certainly include the reminders, the commandments, and the laws found in God’s Word, the Bible.
Parental teaching may also include other regulations—family rules. These are for the good of the family members. True, depending on the needs, the rules may vary from one family to another. Parents, though, have the job of deciding what is best for their own family. And the rules they make are usually an expression of their genuine love and concern. The counsel to young ones is that they abide by these rules along with the Scriptural teachings received from their parents. Yes, there is a need to treat such instructions “like the pupil of your eyes”—guarding them with utmost care. That is the way to avoid the deadly effect of ignoring Jehovah’s standards and thus to “continue living.”
“Tie them [my commandments] upon your fingers,” continues Solomon, “and write them upon the tablet of your heart.” (Proverbs 7:3) As fingers are prominently before our eyes and are vital in carrying out our purposes, the lessons learned from a Scriptural upbringing or the gaining of Bible knowledge are to be a constant reminder and guide in everything we do. We are to inscribe them upon the tablet of our heart, making them a part of our nature.
Not forgetting the importance of wisdom and understanding, the king exhorts: “Say to wisdom: ‘You are my sister’; and may you call understanding itself ‘Kinswoman.’” (Proverbs 7:4) Wisdom is the ability to put God-given knowledge to proper use. We should have affection for wisdom as for a dearly loved sister. What is understanding? It is the ability to see into a matter and get the sense of it by grasping the connections between its parts and the whole. Understanding must be as close to us as an intimate friend.
Why should we adhere to Scriptural training and cultivate closeness with wisdom and understanding? So as “to guard [ourselves] against the woman stranger, against the foreigner who has made her own sayings smooth.” (Proverbs 7:5) Yes, doing so will protect us from the smooth and persuasive ways of a stranger, or foreigner—an immoral person.*
The Young Man Meets ‘a Cunning Woman’
The king of Israel next describes a scene that he himself has observed: “At the window of my house, through my lattice I looked down, that I might peer upon the inexperienced ones. I was interested in discerning among the sons a young man in want of heart, passing along on the street near her corner, and in the way to her house he marches, in the twilight, in the evening of the day, at the approach of the night and the gloom.”—Proverbs 7:6-9.
The window through which Solomon looks out has a lattice—apparently a framework with laths and perhaps elaborate carvings. As the twilight fades, the darkness of the night pours into the streets. He catches sight of a young man who is particularly vulnerable. Lacking discernment, or good sense, he is in want of heart. Likely, he is aware of the type of neighborhood he has entered and what could happen to him there. The young man comes near “her corner,” which is on the way to her house. Who is she? What is she up to?
The observant king continues: “Look! there was a woman to meet him, with the garment of a prostitute and cunning of heart. She is boisterous and stubborn. In her house her feet do not keep residing. Now she is outdoors, now she is in the public squares, and near every corner she lies in wait.”—Proverbs 7:10-12.
This woman’s manner of dress speaks volumes about her. (Genesis 38:14, 15) She is dressed immodestly, like a prostitute. Moreover, she is cunning of heart—her mind is “treacherous,” her intent “crafty.” (An American Translation; New International Version) She is boisterous and stubborn, talkative and headstrong, loud and self-willed, brazen and defiant. Rather than staying at home, she prefers to frequent public places, lurking on street corners to pick up her prey. She is waiting for someone like the young man.
An ‘Abundance of Persuasiveness’
A young man thus meets a loose woman with a crafty plan. How this must have caught the attention of Solomon! He relates: “She has grabbed hold of him and given him a kiss. She has put on a bold face, and she begins to say to him: ‘Communion sacrifices were incumbent upon me. Today I have paid my vows. That is why I have come out to meet you, to look for your face, that I may find you.’”—Proverbs 7:13-15.
The lips of this woman are smooth. Putting on a bold face, she utters her words confidently. Everything she says is carefully calculated to seduce the young man. By stating that she had made communion sacrifices that very day and paid her vows, she makes a display of righteousness, hinting that she is not lacking in spirituality. Communion sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem consisted of meat, flour, oil, and wine. (Leviticus 19:5, 6; 22:21; Numbers 15:8-10) Since the offerer could take part of the communion sacrifice for himself and his family, she thus suggests that there is plenty to eat and drink at her house. The implication is clear: The young man would have a good time there. She has come out of her house specifically to look for him. How touching—if anyone could swallow such a story. “It is true she was out looking for someone,” says one Bible scholar, “but did she really come looking just for this one special fellow? Only a fool—perhaps this one—would believe her.”
After making herself appealing by the sight of her attire, by the sound of her flattering words, by the touch of her embrace, and by the taste of her lips, the seductress enlists the sense of smell. She says: “With coverlets I have bedecked my divan, with many-colored things, linen of Egypt. I have besprinkled my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.” (Proverbs 7:16, 17) She has aesthetically prepared her bed with colorful linen from Egypt and perfumed it with choice fragrances of myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
“Do come, let us drink our fill of love until the morning,” she continues, “do let us enjoy each other with love expressions.” The invitation is to something much more than a pleasant dinner for two. Her promise is that of enjoying sexual intimacy. To the young man, the appeal is adventurous and exciting! As further inducement, she adds: “For the husband is not in his house; he has gone traveling on a way of some distance. A bag of money he has taken in his hand. On the day of the full moon he will come to his house.” (Proverbs 7:18-20) They would be perfectly safe, she assures him, for her husband is away on a business trip and is not expected back for some time. How talented she is at beguiling a young person! “She has misled him by the abundance of her persuasiveness. By the smoothness of her lips she seduces him.” (Proverbs 7:21) It would take a man of Joseph’s caliber to resist an appeal this enticing. (Genesis 39:9, 12) Does this young man measure up?
‘Like a Bull to the Slaughter’
“All of a sudden he is going after her,” reports Solomon, “like a bull that comes even to the slaughter, and just as if fettered for the discipline of a foolish man, until an arrow cleaves open his liver, just as a bird hastens into the trap, and he has not known that it involves his very soul.”—Proverbs 7:22, 23.
The invitation proves to be irresistible to the young man. Throwing all good sense to the wind, he goes after her ‘like a bull to the slaughter.’ As a man in fetters cannot escape his punishment, so the young man is drawn into sin. He does not see the danger of it all until “an arrow cleaves open his liver,” that is, until he receives a wound that can cause his death. The death may be physical in that he exposes himself to death-dealing sexually transmitted diseases.* The wound can also cause his spiritual death; “it involves his very soul.” His entire being and his life are seriously affected, and he has gravely sinned against God. He thus hastens into the grip of death like a bird into a trap!
“Do Not Wander Into Her Roadways”
Drawing a lesson from what he has seen, the wise king urges: “And now, O sons, listen to me and pay attention to the sayings of my mouth. May your heart not turn aside to her ways. Do not wander into her roadways. For many are the ones she has caused to fall down slain, and all those being killed by her are numerous. The ways to Sheol her house is; they are descending to the interior rooms of death.”—Proverbs 7:24-27.
Clearly, the counsel of Solomon is to turn aside from the death-dealing ways of an immoral person and “continue living.” (Proverbs 7:2) How timely this advice is for our day! Surely there is a need to avoid places frequented by those who are lying in wait to pick up prey. Why should you subject yourself to their tactics by going to such places? Indeed, why should you be the one “in want of heart” and wander into the roadways of a “foreigner”?
The “woman stranger” that the king saw enticed the young man with an invitation to “enjoy each other with love expressions.” Have not many youths—especially girls—been exploited in a similar way? But consider: When someone tries to draw you into sexual misconduct, is it true love or selfish lust? Why would a man who genuinely loves a woman pressure her into violating her Christian training and conscience? “May your heart not turn aside” to such ways, admonishes Solomon.
The words of a seducer are usually smooth and well-calculated. Keeping wisdom and understanding at our side will help us to see through them. Never forgetting what Jehovah has commanded will safeguard us. Therefore, may we always strive to ‘keep God’s commandments and continue living,’ even forever.—1 John 2:17.
The word “stranger” was applied to those who alienated themselves from Jehovah by turning away from the Law. Thus, an immoral female, such as a prostitute, is referred to as a “woman stranger.”
Some sexually transmitted diseases damage the liver. In advanced cases of syphilis, for example, bacterial organisms overwhelm the liver. And the organism responsible for gonorrhea can cause inflammation of the liver.
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How do you view parental rules?
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Keeping God’s commandments means life