The Book Of Proverbs Warns About The “Forbidden Woman” – But Who Was She?

“My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.” Proverbs 5:1-2

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This is the first of three poems in this part of the Book of Proverbs that counsel about the “forbidden woman,” the stranger from outside the social boundaries. It is a father’s wise advice to his son. That wisdom might very well have come from the father’s own experience. He is trying, like any good father who loves his son, to warn him of the dangers that can come from the undisciplined desires of the flesh.

It is a wisdom to know that understanding and discretion, or the habits of self-control, are necessary to preserve us from falling into unrighteous, even unjust and selfish behaviors that have the potential to destroy us, and all that we hold dear. Infidelity, adultery lead us down shadowy paths. It may seem, in the immediate emotions of the moment, that such things are quite the opposite. They can often wear the disguise of good things, but they inevitably lead to bitterness, even violences of one kind or another: emotional, psychological, or physical.

Wisdom always comes from truth and leads to truth. Wisdom, in human terms, is often the result of experience. It can come from good experiences, well understood, and easily adopted. But, more often than not, it comes from bad experiences that, over time, and with much suffering, are finally seen for their foolishness, and the pain of such lessons preserves us from falling into them again.

There is another kind of wisdom, and it is that which is spoken about here. It is the wisdom that comes from God. It is there for us in the scriptures, but it is also written in our God-given conscience. It is the disciplining of the will to recognize, to accept and to live in accord with that wisdom that we are to work on all of our lives. It is this wisdom that we are to pass on to our children. It is our duty to do so. Our free will is trained by a growing knowledge of God and the good that he has made us and all of creation in out of his love. It is further trained, then, by acknowledging and accepting that wisdom, and finally by practicing it in our daily lives. It is the practice of self-discipline. This is the wisdom that the Proverb is trying to pass on to us. Knowledge of the good and the acquisition of self-discipline makes us adults in the faith. The will to know and to do the good is a grace from God. In learning to desire to do his will, we begin to experience God’s graces flowing into us in every manner and form. Let us, then, train ourselves to hear God saying to us in every moment, “Pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge.”

Loving God, increase within us a desire to hear, to accept and to live out of your wisdom in our daily lives. Without your wisdom we are lost. With it, we may become your good and faithful servants to all your people. We pray for an ever-deepening desire to grow in your wisdom. We pray this in the name of Jesus Christ, the Lord. Amen!

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.