Yesterday we saw that wisdom delivers from evil people. Proverbs 2 moves on to yet another deliverance that occurs when we make different choices.
So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman,
From the adulteress with her smooth words,
Who forsakes the companion of her youth
And forgets the covenant of her God;
For her house sinks down to death,
And her paths to the departed;
None who go to her come back,
Nor do they regain the paths of life (Prov 2:16-19, ESV).
Deliverance FROM adulterous people. An understanding person will choose not to engage in sexual activity with anyone but a spouse. This lifestyle means avoiding even flirtatious speech (Prov 2:16) and emotional intimacy or companionship (Prov 2:17). God designed erotic activity to build oneness in marriage. Pursuing a sexual relationship outside of marriage results in a type of death (Prov 2:18) that leaves a lasting stain in one’s history and memory (Prov 2:19). A failure to repent of such a lifestyle will ultimately lead to everlasting death in hell.
We must understand that Solomon’s warning is not limited to sexual intercourse with a married person (one overly-literal way to interpret “going to” an “adulteress”). All sexual activity is, well, sexual. Thus, all sexual activity and flirtatious speech with someone other than a spouse is included in Solomon’s warning. The discerning person will stay far from that path, delighting in God’s generous plan for marriage. Solomon gives much more detail on this theme in Proverbs 5 and 7.
Note that, as with the first category, the most dangerous and deceitful relationships can be with those who attend church or who claim to follow the Lord. Some people who would never consider something clearly immoral, like spending the night with a prostitute, will give themselves to various forms of sexual activity with another person who has a smattering of religious commitment. In his perceptive satire Evangellyfish (Moscow, ID: Canon, 2012), Douglas Wilson illustrates such a scene through the eyes of a fictional youth pastor:
Every month or so the stress of youth ministry—dealing with the kids and all their issues—would get to Johnny, and so he would head on over to Brandy’s apartment to have her give him a neck rub, followed by her specialty back rub. But somehow her giving him a back rub always turned into him giving her a front rub, and then they would fall again.
…Brandy gave him a few back rubs back [when she was a student in his youth group] that brought them perilously close to the edge, but honestly, there was no front rubbing until after she graduated… That meant that when they finally followed the manner of all the earth, they were not violating the professional standards of youth ministry, but rather simply the seventh item on an ancient list which was from the Old Testament anyway.
Here in Proverbs 2:16-19, the adulterous woman “forgets the covenant of her God” (Prov 2:17). In chapter 7, she’s someone who offers sacrifices at God’s temple (Prov 7:14), so we can see that in some sense she was indeed a member of the community of God’s people. Such people can be chief among those who offer temptations. We must constantly guard our hearts and set up boundaries for healthy relationships. The wise – whether male or female – will exercise discernment and turn from “the forbidden woman.”