Proverbs 5

1 My son, be attentive to my wisdom;
    incline your ear to my understanding,
2 that you may keep discretion,
    and your lips may guard knowledge.
3 For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey,
    and her speecH is smoother than oil,
4 but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
    sharp as a two-edged sword.
5 Her feet go down to death;
    her steps follow the path to Sheol;
6 she does not ponder the path of life;
    her ways wander, and she does not know it.
7 And now, O sons, listen to me,
    and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
8 Keep your way far from her,
    and do not go near the door of her house,
9 lest you give your honor to others
    and your years to the merciless,
10 lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
    and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,
11 and at the end of your life you groan,
    when your flesh and body are consumed,
12 and you say, “How I hated discipline,
    and my heart despised reproof!
13 I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
    or incline my ear to my instructors.
14 I am at the brink of utter ruin
    in the assembled congregation.”
15 Drink water from your own cistern,
    flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
    streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
    and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
    and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19 a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
    be intoxicated always in her love.
20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
    and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?
21 For a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
    and he ponders all his paths.
22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
    and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
23 He dies for lack of discipline,
    and because of his great folly he is led astray.

As Jamie Harms and I dig into the Proverbs and share study prompts with you this month, we’re gaining a new appreciation for the book and the wisdom wrapped within its pages. For me, I’m sitting longer in chapters like this fifth one that I once thought was just for men lusting for what is forbidden. I’m seeing that each one of us is tempted to take her eyes off God’s best and veer toward temporary pleasures that seek to entice her away from the One who loves her perfectly and completely. In this chapter, I’ve been intrigued by the simile “but in the end (the forbidden) is bitter as wormwood.” 

This herb with its inconspicuous flowers smells very fragrant, and in the pale evening light, catches the light with a glimmer of silver. On first look, this bushy herb is attractive, but in the oil of its leaves, death lurks. A pressing of its leaves and stems brings an incredibly bitter and toxic oil, a traditional ingredient in the potent emerald green absinthe. Wormwood is aptly classified in Latin under the genus Artemisia, which we know from New Testament accounts of the pagan Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, where the Roman goddess of fertility Diana was luridly worshipped.

Wormwood is the name of a star in Revelation 8:10-11, which falls from heaven, “blazing like a torch” and lands on a third of the rivers and springs, bringing death to those who taste its bitter waters. This is the picture of wormwood in Proverbs 5:4 — attractive at first and then ultimately deadly.

Pause: For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword (vs. 3-4).

Ponder: What is the wormwood in my life? What is tempting me away from my first love? What must I do to keep my mind set on God’s best for me?

Pray: Lord, thank You for giving me a new appreciation for this proverb. Thank You for lovingly showing me that so much in my life can be attractive and yet lethal wormwood. Keep my eyes fixed on You, my ears open to your words, and my feet on the good path on which You are leading me.

— Jaime Sherman