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No. 86: The Strange Woman

BIBLICAL Horizons, No. 86
June, 1996
Copyright 1996 Biblical Horizons

Proverbs 7:6-23 is one of several passages early in the Proverbs in which Solomon warns his son about the wiles and dangers of the "strange woman." It is certainly quite proper to take these as straightforward warnings against sexual sins, and these are certainly warnings that need to be impressed upon the teenagers or young adults that are the primary target of Proverbs, not to mention older men and women subject to the same temptations.

At the same time, looking at these passages from the perspective of the whole Bible raises the suspicion that something more is going on here. Two biblical themes are in the background: First, the symbolic connection of adultery with idolatry (Jer. 2:20; 3:1-20; Ezk. 16; 23), and, second, the fact that the specific danger posed by "strange women" throughout the Bible is that they will entice one away from the Lord (Dt. 17:17; 1 Ki. 11:1-8; Ezra 9-10; Neh. 13:23-28). Moreover, the "wise woman" of Proverbs, ideal wife of the king, has a wider meaning than a mere female human being, so we can expect the "strange woman" to have a larger meaning also.

The danger, then, is not sexual sin alone, but that sexual temptation will lead to spiritual adultery. It would be wrong to conclude, however, that Solomon is simply using sexual temptation in a simplistic way as a "picture" of idolatry. The reality is that sexuality and worship are complexly intertwined threads of the human soul.

Looking at Proverbs 7 with these thoughts in mind throws new light on several details of the text:

1. The woman leads the naive or simpleton to her "house" (v. 8). The house is not merely the physical dwelling place but a place of worship.

2. The woman seeks for simpletons at "evening" or "twilight" (v. 9). This is the time of the evening sacrifice.

3. Verse 14 explicitly mentions sacrifice. Because the strange woman has paid her vows by offering a peace offering, she can offer meat. At the time of the evening sacrifice, she is seeking someone to share with her in the table of demons.

4. She has sprinkled her bed with "myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon" (v. 17). The first and last of these were ingredients of the special anointing oil that was used only for consecrating the tabernacle and priests (Exodus 30:22-33).

5. The end result is that the simpleton is led like an "ox" to "slaughter," that is, to sacrifice (v. 22). True worship is a matter of self-sacrifice. False worship is also self-sacrifice at the house of the strange woman.

6. This accounts for the strength of the warning in verses 24-27. The house of the strange woman is indeed the very gateway to death.