The picture of women in the Old Testament is not a simple one. It is more like Jackson Pollock’s style than a black and white photograph. They are virgins, wives, prostitutes, adulteresses, and widows. They are heroes and villains. They are naive and wise. They are seducers and seduced. They are sinners and saints. In other words, they are just like men.
The wife of Job says, “Curse God and die.”
Sarah convinces Abraham to have a child with Hagar
Rebecca makes Jacob fool Isaac.
Jezebel is the wicked wife of Ahab.
Delilah betrays Samson
Deborah defeats the Philistines
Rahab hides the spies
Ruth is a model of loyalty
Esther saves her people
Tamar exposes the sin and hypocrisy of Judah
It is the same in the book of Proverbs. In Chapter 1 we read that Wisdom is a woman who calls aloud in the street and raises her voice in the public square and whoever listens to her will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm. In Chapter 4 she will watch over and protect you. “Esteem her, and she will exalt you; embrace her, and she will honor you.”
Why are ships named she? Because they have always been seen as a female figure guiding and protecting a ship and crew.
Why is the symbol for justice a woman? Because from Roman times she has represented divine order, law, and custom. She carries the values of a society.
Why do we say “Mother Nature”? Because we see the source of life and nurture.
But there is the other side, isn’t there? For many years, storms and hurricanes were named after women and In Chapter 5 we encounter the danger of the other side of a woman – the adulteress – the woman who is habitually unfaithful to her marriage vows. She is not a prostitute but a wife. She does not leave her husband but enjoys the benefits without being loyal. She is not selling sex but destroying her soul and that of the men who are involved with her. She is corrupt and like a virus she spreads that corruption to those who have failed to accept discipline and to guard their hearts and to those whose own lips have been perverse and whose talk has been corrupt. The failure to be discerning or falling into a pattern of stupidity prepares a person for the adulterous. They are ready to be fooled by her words.
“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.”
What is the long term danger of being involved with one who is disloyal to their vows?
“At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. You will say, “How I hated discipline! How my heart spurned correction! I would not obey my teachers or listen to my instructors. I have come to the brink of utter ruin in the midst of the whole assembly.”
Winston Churchill’s father died of syphilis contracted when he was a young man. To read the account of the last years of his life is painful. He basically went mad mentally while his body went to war against him. He had delusions of grandeur. He raved, saw conspiracies everywhere and suffered from extreme paranoia. He was an embarrassment to the whole family when in public and a danger to them in private.
There is such a thing as a syphilis of the soul and it has the same effect over time. It is the result of falling into a form of adultery.
We make pledges in our lives. We pledge faithfulness to our marriage and family. Some of us who have served in the military or politics have pledged to defend and protect the Constitution. We pledge allegiance to a flag. But what happens when we find ourselves in the arms of one who has broken those pledges and in doing so has corrupted us as well.
Isaiah writes, “See how the faithful city has become a harlot! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her – but now murderers! Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water. Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts.”
Ezekiel writes, “You adulteress wife! You prefer strangers to your own husband! Every prostitute receives a fee, but you give gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from everywhere for your illicit favors. So in your prostitution you are the opposite of others; no one runs after you for your favors. You are the very opposite, for you give payment and none is given to you.”
This is the warning of the father to the son – even when the son has grown beyond being a young man. It is a warning for us all our lives. Beware of the one who breaks vows and lies. Beware of the one who runs after strangers hoping to please. Beware of the one who abandons their pledge to defend and protect.
And if you do avoid the adulteress you will become like the woman of virtue described in the final chapter of Proverbs. After all, that is the purpose of discipline, fidelity, instruction, and wisdom. It is not simply knowledge but it is to become a person of honor and integrity.
25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
26 She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
27 She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.
Which life would you rather have? As we said last week, we are always making choices. Always deciding which path to follow. Choices to follow the adulterer or to follow the faithful. Choices to follow those whose lips are corrupt or one who speaks with wisdom. Choices to follow those who have become companions of thieves or those whose works are worthy to be praised at the city gate.
“The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast. He will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.”
He will die of a syphilitic soul.
It matters because our choices determine who we become in life and how we end.