By In Counseling/Piety, Wisdom

Solomon on Porn

Proverbs seems aimed at a young man–someone who is at least an adolescent since he is capable of being sexually tempted. He may be old enough to be a young married man. After all, one of Solomon’s exhortations is to be satisfied with one’s young wife (Proverbs 5:18-19).

I don’t know at what age men got married in Israel in Solomon’s day, but his wisdom seems aimed at males ranging from adolescence to early marriage.

As Scripture, Proverbs is a book meant to be read by all people, young and old, male and female. But to apply the lessons, if you are not a young man, then you need to imagine being a young man in most cases, so you can apply Solomon’s warnings to yourself.

Solomon’s warning in Proverbs 7 is specific and detailed. He wants the young man to avoid the trap of a married, wealthy, immoral woman. He doesn’t explicitly say she is older, but Solomon doesn’t call her young. The impression we get is that she is older than the youth, and certainly more experienced.

And she is not tempting the young man only with sex, but with the enjoyment of wealth that is not his and he did not earn. Her bed is a luxury that the man could not afford unless he was wealthy. Her mention of the husband’s “bag of money” that he took on his trip emphasizes his immense wealth. If he has so much money to risk going somewhere far away (an inherently dangerous endeavor in the ancient world) then we can safely assume he has far more wealth in his home estate.

So, here’s a rich woman offering a night of sinful pleasure to a young man.

 

The adulterous temptress of Proverbs 7 seems unprecedented in the Bible. The closest situation is the story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife. But Joseph was a successful and capable manager. The wife’s desires, while wrong, made more sense. She wasn’t offering herself to a young stranger who hadn’t accomplished anything. Joseph was a genuinely admirable man.

The young man in Proverbs 7 isn’t described to us in ways that lead us to believe he has worked as a faithful servant, much less been promoted as a faithful manager. The desires of the woman are left somewhat mysterious to us. She’s restless and wayward and other words for, basically, evil. But we can’t say much more about why she wants this guy.

In this case, Solomon is more worried about the young man and his lack of resistance to the woman’s enticements.

She uses “smooth words.” Paul warns against false teachers in Romans 16 who use smooth talk. This implies Paul saw her as a picture of a false teacher. Her relationship to the young man is one where she has more informal authority. Indeed, she even tried to sway him with a religious argument. Verses 14 & 15:

I had to offer sacrifices,
and today I have paid my vows;
so now I have come out to meet you,
to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.

She’s hinting that, because she’s offered sacrifices, she’s now free to cheat. That’s not a credible argument for what she wants to do, but it does demonstrate that she is a false teacher. She’s tempting him and telling him lies to make it easier for him to give in.

The Bible is clear that fornication is a sin. Adultery is a sin. So, what are we to make of the specifics of the situation? Why did Solomon tell us this about this particular scenario?

There are always groups that use details to evade the force of the passage. Advocates of homosexuality who want to pretend to respect Scripture claim that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about violence or exploitation of the poor, not homosexuality. You’ve probably heard this before: “It doesn’t apply to adults in a loving relationship.”

But the Bible is warning us of the kind of violence that will become commonplace if society turns away from heterosexual relationships to same-sex perversions. It is warning us that violence and social breakdown are lurking in such behavior despite what people think.

Similarly, I’m sure there are some so-called “Christians” swingers or open-marriage advocates who insist the problem with the adulteress is something other than the adultery.

On the contrary, Solomon includes some of these details not to obscure the evil of adultery, but to help you understand what is so tempting and what is at stake.

 

Proverbs 7 is found in an identifiable and coherent section of Proverbs—Chapters 1-9. Solomon deals more than once with temptations a young man will face.

The first temptation that Solomon addresses is found in Proverbs 1:8-19

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
for they are a graceful garland for your head
and pendants for your neck.
My son, if sinners entice you,
do not consent.
If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
let us ambush the innocent without reason;
like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
we shall find all precious goods,
we shall fill our houses with plunder;
throw in your lot among us;
we will all have one purse”—
my son, do not walk in the way with them;
hold back your foot from their paths,
for their feet run to evil,
and they make haste to shed blood.
For in vain is a net spread
in the sight of any bird,
but these men lie in wait for their own blood;
they set an ambush for their own lives.
Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;
it takes away the life of its possessors.

There are similarities between this passage and Proverbs 7. In both, Solomon ends by comparing these people to animals caught in a trap. In both, he tells them to avoid their path. Both are a way to death.

And both involve getting and using riches that belong to another person.

Someone else earned and saved to own those Egyptian linens and the temptation is to use them. There’s a common element of the two warnings in Proverbs 1 and Proverbs 7.

Is Proverbs 7 warning about lusting after a beautiful woman or the lure of class warfare? Maybe the answer is simply, yes.

Solomon wants a young man to work hard, save what he can, and trust God that in this way he will enjoy wealth that he himself earned. Solomon doesn’t guarantee that it will be as much wealth as others have, but it will be his and, what is more, he will learn wisdom which is more valuable that gold.

 

As a child grows up, he sees his parents as free and himself as virtually their slave (Galatians 4:1). His parents make decisions for him and they make their own decisions for themselves. As far as a young child is concerned, they are free to eat what they want, spend what they want, and go to bed when they want. A child can easily come to believe that adulthood means being free by doing whatever one desires.

Hopefully, he is raised by wise parents that help him see the foolishness of that view of freedom and adulthood. The book of Proverbs might help too.

What happens otherwise? A youth gets older and undergoes a transformation. He gets new muscles. He gets strong under the influence of a hormone-induced metamorphosis. He has new capabilities and new desires.

What does he do with them? Will he discipline himself to learn to work and save? Will he be content over the long haul—wanting to do better and working for goals, but patient with the process and trusting God for the outcome?

Or will he used his strength to rob others and get the stuff he wants right away?

There are gangs of other young men who have decided that being a Viking or a pirate is the definition of true masculinity. Solomon says they are stupid. He says that such people become addicted to violence. They also often become attitudinally useless for any other way of life. Holding down a job and being satisfied with life becomes unthinkable for many of these people because they’ve trained themselves to go after big prizes that don’t belong to them. They are big and strong, but they’ve trained themselves to remain as children who simply grab what they want.

Likewise, there’s an unbelieving mentality that views the temptation of Proverbs 7 as an opportunity to “become a man.” But how is sex supposed to be used? Is such a use of sex particularly manly? The young man should be preparing for marriage, or being loyal to his wife, if married. In this way he will build a family as he builds his wealth—all part of building his life with his beloved.

So, what is the woman actually offering the youth? Nothing but an escapist interlude where he bypasses the work and indulges in a fantasy devoid of the responsibility. Instead of being or becoming the husband of a wife who loves and respects him; he becomes a diversionary pleasure to an older woman. Rather than “becoming a man” he is led like a child by a perversion of a matriarch. He’s physically an adult, but emotionally he’s being transformed into a mutant overgrown child. He is being infantilized.

 

In the legal environment in which Solomon writes, there are tremendous risks if the husband finds out, including death. But, if the husband remains clueless, the youth has still walked into a trap. And, in wayward cultures like ours, that behavior is still a path to death. Solomon’s warning still applies.

The way of freedom and independence is to love one’s wife and build her up and be built up by her. Just like a person who lives a life of crime becomes more useless for honest work, a man who has dalliances with strange women becomes useless at being a husband and father.

Solomon warns us repeatedly that sin is addictive. Going for quick rewards apart from responsibilities puts you on a path that will end badly. If nothing else, when a man’s youthful attractiveness no longer provides him free sex, he will still pursue the cheap thrills that are more expensive than he can afford. “He who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth” (Proverbs 29:3).

Both in the case of living by robbery and sexual immorality, a false version of adulthood and masculinity is used to lure young men into infantilism and uselessness.

So, what’s the alternative?

Well, for one, don’t violate the commands of God.

My son, keep my words
and treasure up my commandments with you;
keep my commandments and live;
keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;
bind them on your fingers;
write them on the tablet of your heart.

That’s simple to understand, but Solomon suggests a second movement. When a child becomes a man, he needs to remember the commandments he learned, hopefully from his parents. But he also need to possess them in a new way because he’s not a child any more.

Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
and call insight your intimate friend,
to keep you from the forbidden woman,
from the adulteress with her smooth words.

He needs to come to possess the wisdom that’s in the commands by realizing the truth of the situation. If he possesses wisdom he will understand being driven by desires apart from ethics, relationships, and goals, is a state of slavery, not of freedom. And wisdom is for rulers, not slaves.

The fear of YHWH is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate.
I have counsel and sound wisdom;
I have insight; I have strength.
By me kings reign,
and rulers decree what is just;
by me princes rule,
and nobles, all who govern justly. (Proverbs 8:13-16; ESV)

Temptations will blind and weaken you, but wisdom wants you to share her insight and strength, so you can be a king.

King over what? Over yourself to begin with.

  • “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Proverbs 16:32).
  • “The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust” (Proverbs 11:6).
  • “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her captureyou with her eyelashes” (Proverbs 6:25).

If a woman can capture you and get you to destroy your life you’re not ruling yourself. The same is true of other temptations people face. Wisdom says you should be grateful for what you have and pray for your situation to get better, working for that as you have opportunity to do so. Sinful shortcuts and escapist fantasies not only will fail to lead to a better place, but they’ll lead you to lose those blessings you fail to appreciate.

 

So, what happens when the young man goes down a questionable street in cyberspace?

In some significant ways, the action is not as serious. One is not committing adultery with a woman. But the young man is still being infantilized by a shortcut to pleasures. He is engaging in a fantasy rather than dealing with real life. The feelings that are supposed to be the reward of participating in life become instead available without any need to do anything meaningful. You just learn to get the satisfaction by watching a video or reading a text.

At this point, I commend this lecture by a nonchristian:

Steven Crowder has a couple of interviews with Gary Wilson here and here for more information. I don’t accept the evolutionary premises of Wilson’s analysis, but it doesn’t make his conclusions and recommendations unpersuasive.

Teens didn’t have high-speed internet in Solomon’s day, but the principles fit. Rather than a teen male being drawn to temptation to engage in a furtive sexual experience with a young woman, with all the risks that entails of getting caught or getting her pregnant, he has on his phone or his laptop access to unlimited fantasy encounters. And like alcohol or drugs, as the abuse of internet porn inhibits his life, he is more tempted to indulge in the escapist pleasure. He is on a path from uselessness as a man to more uselessness.

And yet some people turn around. There are websites devoted to crowdsourcing how to escape the snare. Many of the people turning from the path are not Christian but they see the benefit of not being trapped in the porn cycle.

Wisdom would advise young men to grow up by freeing themselves from the trap.

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