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Proverbs 5

New International Version

1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, 2 that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. 3 For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; 4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. 6 She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it. 7 Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. 8 Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, 9 lest you lose your honor to others and your dignity to one who is cruel, 10 lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich the house of another. 11 At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. 12 You will say, 'How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! 13 I would not obey my teachers or turn my ear to my instructors. 14 And I was soon in serious trouble in the assembly of God's people.' 15 Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? 17 Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. 18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving doe, a graceful deer-- may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. 20 Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man's wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman? 21 For your ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all your paths. 22 The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast. 23 For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.
English Standard Version

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.
King James Version

1 My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: 2 That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge. 3 For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: 4 But her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a twoedged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell. 6 Lest thou shouldest ponder the path of life, her ways are moveable, that thou canst not know them. 7 Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth. 8 Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house: 9 Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel: 10 Lest strangers be filled with thy wealth; and thy labours be in the house of a stranger; 11 And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, 12 And say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; 13 And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me! 14 I was almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly. 15 Drink waters out of thine own cistern, and running waters out of thine own well. 16 Let thy fountains be dispersed abroad, and rivers of waters in the streets. 17 Let them be only thine own, and not strangers' with thee. 18 Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. 19 Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. 20 And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? 21 For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and he pondereth all his goings. 22 His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins. 23 He shall die without instruction; and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray.
New American Standard Bible

1 My son, give attention to my wisdom, Incline your ear to my understanding; 2 That you may observe discretion And your lips may reserve knowledge. 3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey And smoother than oil is her speech; 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 take hold of Sheol. 6 She does not ponder the path of life; Her ways are unstable, she does not know it. 7 Now then, my 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 Or you will give your vigor to others And your years to the cruel one; 10 And strangers will be filled with your strength And your hard-earned goods will go to the house of an alien; 11 And you groan at your final end, When your flesh and your body are consumed; 12 And you say, 'How I have hated instruction! And my heart spurned reproof! 13 'I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, Nor inclined my ear to my instructors! 14 'I was almost in utter ruin In the midst of the assembly and congregation.' 15 Drink water from your own cistern And fresh water from your own well. 16 Should your springs be dispersed abroad, Streams of water in the streets? 17 Let them be yours alone And not for strangers with you. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 As a loving hind and a graceful doe, Let her breasts satisfy you at all times; Be exhilarated always with her love. 20 For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress And embrace the bosom of a foreigner? 21 For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the LORD, And He watches all his paths. 22 His own iniquities will capture the wicked, And he will be held with the cords of his sin. 23 He will die for lack of instruction, And in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.
New Living Translation

1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen carefully to my wise counsel. 2 Then you will show discernment, and your lips will express what you've learned. 3 For the lips of an immoral woman are as sweet as honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil. 4 But in the end she is as bitter as poison, as dangerous as a double-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. 6 For she cares nothing about the path to life. She staggers down a crooked trail and doesn't realize it. 7 So now, my sons, listen to me. Never stray from what I am about to say: 8 Stay away from her! Don't go near the door of her house! 9 If you do, you will lose your honor and will lose to merciless people all you have achieved. 10 Strangers will consume your wealth, and someone else will enjoy the fruit of your labor. 11 In the end you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body. 12 You will say, 'How I hated discipline! If only I had not ignored all the warnings! 13 Oh, why didn't I listen to my teachers? Why didn't I pay attention to my instructors? 14 I have come to the brink of utter ruin, and now I must face public disgrace.' 15 Drink water from your own well--share your love only with your wife. 16 Why spill the water of your springs in the streets, having sex with just anyone? 17 You should reserve it for yourselves. Never share it with strangers. 18 Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you. Rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 She is a loving deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts satisfy you always. May you always be captivated by her love. 20 Why be captivated, my son, by an immoral woman, or fondle the breasts of a promiscuous woman? 21 For the LORD sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes. 22 An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. 23 He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness.
Christian Standard Bible

1 My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen closely to my understanding 2 so that you may maintain discretion and your lips safeguard knowledge. 3 Though the lips of the forbidden woman drip honey and her words are smoother than oil, 4 in the end she's as bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a double-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps head straight for Sheol. 6 She doesn't consider the path of life; she doesn't know that her ways are unstable. 7 So now, sons, listen to me, and don't turn away from the words from my mouth. 8 Keep your way far from her. Don't go near the door of her house. 9 Otherwise, you will give up your vitality to others and your years to someone cruel; 10 strangers will drain your resources, and your hard-earned pay will end up in a foreigner's house. 11 At the end of your life, you will lament when your physical body has been consumed, 12 and you will say, "How I hated discipline, and how my heart despised correction. 13 I didn't obey my teachers or listen closely to my instructors. 14 I am on the verge of complete ruin before the entire community." 15 Drink water from your own cistern, water flowing from your own well. 16 Should your springs flow in the streets, streams in the public squares? 17 They should be for you alone and not for you to share with strangers. 18 Let your fountain be blessed, and take pleasure in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving deer, a graceful doe--let her breasts always satisfy you; be lost in her love forever. 20 Why, my son, would you lose yourself with a forbidden woman or embrace a wayward woman? 21 For a man's ways are before the LORD's eyes, and he considers all his paths. 22 A wicked man's iniquities will trap him; he will become tangled in the ropes of his own sin. 23 He will die because there is no discipline, and be lost because of his great stupidity.

What does Proverbs 5 mean?

Advice in Proverbs often comes in the form of warnings. Those are especially aimed at what happens when a person gives in to sin in general: listing the risks associated with ignoring godly wisdom. This section of Proverbs focuses narrowly on the sin of adultery. While the language here evokes a woman tempting a married man, the principles are not meant to be applied to males alone. The concepts of sexual purity apply equally to both sexes and to all persons.

This chapter begins with the typical plea for the reader or listener to pay close attention. This book uses the term wisdom to mean an ability to apply godly knowledge. Discretion is closely related to that idea. This implies someone who can discern between different things. We see the same idea in related English terms such as discrete, discriminate, and discernment. The advice given here is vital, and Solomon is eager to see it followed (Proverbs 5:1–2).

Earlier verses personified wisdom as a woman crying out in the streets (Proverbs 1:20–21). Here, in a contrasting mood, temptation to adultery is symbolized by the idea of a temptress. It's noteworthy that Solomon does not use physical descriptions here; the temptations are all verbal or emotional. That speaks to how this concept applies to both men and women, though history has demonstrated that men are more susceptible to sexual temptations. This "forbidden woman" promises something smooth and sweet, but the end results are sour and harmful (Proverbs 5:3–6).

A key aspect of avoiding sin is to avoid temptation. This is why Solomon strongly suggests staying far away from those who tempt us towards adultery. Avoiding situations where we're liable to be overcome is sound advice. As part of that warning, this passage also describes the consequences of adultery. Those include a loss of reputation, shortened life, possible legal trouble, and reduced prosperity. Worse, adultery leads to deep regret, looking back with sorrow on sinful choices. There is a reason why, even in a modern culture drenched in promiscuity, there is still a deep stigma against those labelled as marital "cheaters" (Proverbs 5:7–14).

Beyond the consequences of adultery are the joys of a faithful marriage. One of the great pleasures of monogamy is the ability to enjoy sexual intimacy without guilt, shame, or fear. Solomon compares this to drinking water from one's own well—a safe, legitimate, worthy source. The alternative would be seeking water in places like unguarded springs or puddles in the road. There is nothing an adulterous relationship can offer which God has not provided for, in a legitimate way, within a properly functioning marriage (Proverbs 5:15–20).

Summarizing this section is a reminder that God knows and sees all things. A common thread in adultery is secrecy, but that's not possible in the eyes of an omniscient Creator. Another common thread is regret over consequences. Once adultery has been committed, it cannot be undone. God can—and will—forgive those who seek Him. But that forgiveness does not change the past. The damage to relationships, reputations, and bodily health are real, and those who ignore godly advice are liable to find this out the hard way (Proverbs 5:21–23).