What does Proverbs 7:17 mean?
ESV: I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
NIV: I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
NASB: I have sprinkled my bed With myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
CSB: I've perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
NLT: I’ve perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
KJV: I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
Solomon is teaching about the dangers of adultery, this time by describing a foolish young man taken in by an aggressive adulteress (Proverbs 7:1–12). The woman sees her target and surprises him with aggressive, overt invitations to sin (Proverbs 7:13–16). Here, she continues to portray her bedroom using tempting words, soon leading to an even more blatant reference to illicit sex (Proverbs 7:18–19).
Myrrh is a sweet-smelling gum produced from small trees in Arabia. Aloes are plants which grew on an island in the Red Sea. When these decayed, they emitted a pleasant fragrance. Cinnamon comes from the bark of a tall tree and was used as a perfume. Most likely, these perfumes were expensive. We read that myrrh was one of the gifts the wise men presented to the infant Jesus out of their treasures (Matthew 2:11). It was a gift fit for a king!
Perhaps the adulterous woman mentioned these three perfumes to make the foolish young man think she was rich and therefore desirable. Unfortunately, as Proverbs 7:22 points out, he took the bait and followed her. He valued a few fleeting moments of sin more than the consequences—whether they were earthly or eternal .
Proverbs 7:10–23 describes an adulteress as aggressive and seductive. Though speaking to his son, Solomon's lessons here are meant for all people. This passage is part of Solomon's teaching about the dangers of sin and temptation. The prior passage spoke of a reckless youth (Proverbs 7:6–9), who now suffers the consequences of his own choices. The woman in this story takes advantage of the young man's lust and carelessness. Solomon compares the trap she springs to those used to capture ox, a deer, and a bird.
Repeating a theme common to the early chapters of Proverbs, Solomon once again presents a dire warning about the dangers of adultery. This comes in the form of a story about a foolish young man being seduced by a predatory woman. Solomon says this is something he has seen—meaning this is likely a summary of many such examples he has witnessed in his life. The result of these reckless sins is misery and death, for both men and women alike.
In Proverbs 5 and 6 Solomon warns his son against adultery. He describes the evil woman, the adulteress, as deceptive and dangerous. While this is valid in a literal sense, it also serves as a general warning about the seductive nature of sin. In this chapter he continues his counsel about adultery, stressing the tactics used in temptation and how falling to them leads to death. The following chapter will return to the personification of wisdom as a woman, begging to be honored.
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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