She’ll Eat You Alive
Four times in Proverbs 1-8 we are taught about the dangers of adultery. We were first warned about it back in chapter 2, and then again in chapter 5. And then in chapters 6 and 7 there is a third and fourth talk from Solomon to his son about the same topic. And we’re going to be looking at both of those today.
Now right off the bat I want to address something that some of us might be thinking: “Really? We’re talking about this again? I think we get it. We just heard about this a couple of weeks ago.”
And if that’s what you might be thinking, then I have three responses to that objection. First, I want to acknowledge that I get it. If I were making up my own sermon series on wisdom, I doubt that I’d choose to preach on adultery twice like this. But I’m not making this series up. We’re just following the book of Proverbs.
And that brings me to the second response, which is that Solomon thought this was important enough to talk about this often. God preserved this for us in His word. So we should not assume that we know better than him. He thinks we need to hear this again.
And if we think about our world today, and how pervasive sexual sin is, and all the damage that it does—all the broken hearts and broken bodies and broken marriages and broken churches—I think we can see why we might need to hear this again. If avoiding this kind of sin was so simple and so easy, then it wouldn’t be such a problem. So I think that we do need to hear this again. We do need to really get this drilled into our brains.
And thirdly, we shouldn’t assume this is all pure repetition. If we read carefully we’ll see that each of these talks about adultery has a slightly different focus to it. The first one in chapter 2 was a general warning about the danger of adultery and how wisdom can protect us from it. The second one in chapter 5 focused on the economic ruin and public shame of adultery, and the importance of married people to seek their satisfaction in their spouses.
The third talk, in chapter 6:20-35, speaks about the damage caused by adultery with a specific focus on the offended husband. The fourth talk, found in chapter 7, tells a story that shows us what this process of temptation actually look like in real life. And in each of these third and fourth talks we learn another big lesson to help us avoid that fate.
The Third Talk: The Warning
So it’s not just repetition. And for these three reasons I’d encourage you to listen in today with all of the urgency that Solomon calls for from us in those words that we just read together from chapter 6: “My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them on your heart always”—not just some of the time. These teachings are light and life and a protection from verse 24, “the evil woman… the smooth tongue of the adulteress.”
There’s that character again: this woman who is unfaithful to her husband, and she has a smooth tongue. Her words are really easy to listen to. But the son needs wisdom to protect him. Because if he gets tangled up in this woman’s web, destruction awaits. And that’s the focus of this third talk—helping his son understand just how disastrous adultery is.
In verse 26 and then down in verse 30-31, Solomon says that adultery is worse and more dangerous than prostitution and theft. Now he’s not saying that those things aren’t a big deal, but rather that being unfaithful in marriage is worse. It has greater consequences.
And the focus in this passage is how those consequences will be brought by the adulterous woman’s angry husband. Remember, in that culture, he could basically do what he wants to exact revenge and payment on the other guy. That’s what verse 34 is talking about when it says, “For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts” (Proverbs 6:34–35).
Now for most of us, in our culture, this is not a major factor. We have laws which prevent this kind of thing. And yet adultery is no less dangerous for us. It will ruin our lives and the lives of our families. And there are often a ton of financial implications that come from divorce and child support and everything else.
So even though angry husbands themselves may not be the biggest threat, the words of verses 27-29 are still so true for us today: “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished” (Proverbs 6:27–29).
Or verses 32-33: “He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away” (Proverbs 6:32–33).
So that’s the warning in this third talk: you won’t get away with it, and it’s going to hurt. But alongside of the warning, Solomon gives us a lesson where we learn not just why but how to stay away from and avoid adultery. This lesson comes in verse 25: “Do not desire her beauty in your heart, and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes.”
Adultery starts in the heart with desire. Like we saw a few weeks ago, most, if not all, sin starts the same way. That’s why the New Testament speaks about the “lusts of the flesh”—the cravings and desires that start in our heart and are the fountainhead of sin. And this is why Proverbs 4:23 said “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
It all starts in the heart. And this is why the tenth commandment says “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17). Coveting—wanting something that’s not yours—is the sin at the heart of so many, if not most, if not all, other sins.
And it’s really interesting that the word for “covet” there in the tenth commandment is the exact same word that’s translated as “desire” here in Proverbs 6:25. Solomon is saying “Do not covet her beauty in your heart. Don’t want her beauty for yourself. Because that’s where adultery starts.”
Now it’s interesting to see how “Desiring her beauty in your heart” is followed up with the next line, “and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes.” Just to clarify, this woman didn’t have super-powered eyelashes that could like reach out and grab people. This is talking about her using her eyes—fluttering and batting her eyelashes—to seductively lure him in. In other words, there is eye contact between the two of them.
So Solomon is warning his son about deliberately looking at this woman as he wants her and desires her beauty for himself.
And that’s exactly the kind of thing that Jesus talked about thousands of years later. Matthew 5:28 says “everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” That word for “lust” in the Greek language and the Greek Old Testament is the exact same word for “desire” in Proverbs 6 and “covet” in the tenth commandment.
Lust is coveting. Lust is wanting something that you don’t have for yourself. And what Jesus says is not all that different from what Solomon said. Do not look at her with the intent of desiring and coveting her beauty. Solomon said that’s where adultery begins, and Jesus said that heart adultery has already happened.
Can Beauty Be Appreciated?
Now I think it’s important that we really notice that Solomon is telling his son not to covet: not to want the beauty that belongs to that woman and her husband for himself. He is not telling his son to be blind to beauty, to not acknowledge beauty, to not recognize beauty, to not appreciate beauty.
Christians don’t wear burkhas. We don’t believe in covering up all beauty or refusing to acknowledge beauty. Even here in verse 25, by mentioning her beauty, Solomon is acknowledging that yes, this woman is beautiful. I think about 1 Samuel 25:3, where David meets Abigail, and the narrator write that she was “discerning and beautiful.” Everybody recognized that she was beautiful. God’s people are not afraid of beauty.
But we should understand that there is a line, a very definite line, between recognizing beauty and wanting that beauty for ourselves. To see beauty is no sin. But the deliberate look for the purpose of desiring that beauty for ourselves—that is sin.
And we have to be especially careful about this when someone is deliberately working to invite the desire of others. That’s what the woman in verse 25 is doing. She’s deliberately using eye contact and fluttering her eyelashes in order to make herself wanted.
I think we all know that there are ways of acting, there are ways of talking, there are ways of dressing—or not dressing—which deliberately invite the desire of others.
Clothing is one of the big ways this can happen. Think about it this way: God clothed Adam and Eve in the garden when they were the only two people on planet earth. Even for Adam and Eve, removing their clothing would have been associated with times of intimacy between them. And so today, when someone bears their body or dresses suggestively, when someone wears clothing that draws attention to what is underneath their clothing, they are making an offer of intimacy to those who see them. They are inviting desire, whether they intend to or not.
And by the way, without going too far down a rabbit trail here, this is why cultures in the world which have low standards of modesty also have low standards of morality. If you go to a place where people don’t wear a lot of clothes, and you do some research, you’ll find that faithfulness in marriage, or waiting until marriage, is just as scanty as their wardrobes.
And so Solomon is telling his son that when a woman who is not his wife is making an offer of intimacy to him, he must reject that offer. He must not desire her in your heart. That’s not the time to say, “Oh, I’m just recognizing her God-given beauty.” We all know it doesn’t work that way.
And to apply it to all of us, if someone is inviting desire through the way they are acting or dressing or whatever, whether they are doing it intentionally or not, that is no time to hang around and get comfortable. Don’t even take a second look. Because you might find yourself captured, like verse 25 says. And it might be too late.
So that’s the lesson here in this third talk about adultery. The warning is that unfaithfulness in marriage will cause a world of hurt. The lesson is that we need to guard our heart against covetousness, against wanting what is not ours. That’s where it all starts. So be careful of the second look, especially if someone is inviting your desire by their actions or attire or any other such means.
The Fourth Talk
Let’s move on to the fourth talk on adultery, which takes up all of chapter 7. In this final talk, Solomon tells the story of a young man who didn’t listen to wisdom and went ahead and did everything that Solomon has been warning his sons not to do. So it’s kind of like all of the teaching we’ve heard is being acted out for us in real life.
The chapter begins in a familiar way, with once again asking his son to hang on to wisdom and not let go. “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. 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” (Proverbs 7:1–5).
And then in verse 6 he begins with his story:
“For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness” (Proverbs 7:6–9).
Notice everything wrong here. This is a young guy who lacks sense. He didn’t listen to wisdom, or if he did, he didn’t hang on to it.
He’s out at the time of night and darkness—the time when you can hide, when bad stuff tends to happen. And notice where he is. He’s taking the road to her house, which means he’s not avoiding her door, like we heard in chapter 5. He’s walking right into the path of danger.
And then verse 10-20 describe this woman coming out and talking to this guy. If you’re wondering what “smooth” talk sounds like, this is it. You can read this on your own and see how she uses her words to allure this guy, persuade him, seduce him. She describes a good time that nobody will ever know about. Some consequence-free fun. She’s dressed to kill, we see in verse 10, and she uses her appearance and her words and her actions to slowly knock down this guy’s defences.
And so we read in verse 21, “With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him” (Proverbs 7:21). And off he goes with his heart racing, dopamine coursing through his system.
And you know what? They probably had a great time that night. But what was waiting on the other side? What was really going on? Verses 22 and 23 tell us: “All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life” (Proverbs 7:22–23).
That language of an ox going off to slaughter reminded me about Temple Grandin, a scientist who studied the behaviour of cattle in slaughterhouses. She learned that if you throw surprises at the cattle or yell at them or poke them with prods, you’ll make them jumpy and you’ll have a harder time getting them to follow you. Cows are best led to the slaughter when things are quiet and comfortable and they don’t even know what’s going on.
In his book “Tempted and Tried,” Russel Moore reported on new technologies that were being used in slaughterhouses today. He writes that “the cows aren’t prodded off the truck but are led, in silence, onto a ramp. They go through a ‘squeeze chute,’ a gentle pressure device that mimics a mother’s nuzzling touch. The cattle continue down the ramp onto a smoothly curving path. There are no sudden turns. The cows experience the sensation of going home, the same kind of way they’ve traveled so many times before.
“As they mosey along the path, they don’t even notice when their hooves are no longer touching the ground. A conveyor belt slowly lifts them gently upward, and then, in the twinkling of an eye, a blunt instrument levels a surgical strike right between their eyes. They’re transitioned from livestock to meat and they’re never aware enough to be alarmed by any of it.”1Russell D. Moore. “Tempted and Tried.” Wheaton, Ill: Crossway, 2011.
Moore connects this to Proverbs 7 and the Bible’s teaching on temptation. Here’s what he says: “Sometimes the Bible uses the language of predator and prey to describe the relationship between tempter and tempted, but often the Scripture also speaks of temptation in the language of rancher and livestock. You are not just being tracked down—you are also being cultivated… The path of temptation is gradual and intelligent, not as sudden and random as it seems.”2Moore, ibid.
That woman in Proverbs 7 knew what she was doing as she deliberately led that guy down the chute to his own destruction. And even if she didn’t, Satan does. He’s been studying humans for thousands of years. He knows how to rope us in. He knows how to take us nice and easy.
And so we should feel the urgency of this closing lesson on sin and temptation that we find in verses 24-27: “And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death” (Proverbs 7:24–27).
Don’t let your heart even turn aside to her ways. Don’t let your feet even stray into her paths. Turning aside might not feel like a big deal. It might not be a 90° turn. It might only be a 1° turn. But 1° over a distance will get you in the swamp just as easily.
The lie is that we can swerve just a little without veering off the course. The lie is that we can dabble. We can flirt and have fun without all of the pain and consequences. But it doesn’t work that way. Because the flirting and the having fun is all a part of the calm, easy walk through the slaughterhouse.
Tyler and Maggie Heath wrote a song called “Eat You Alive” that captures this dynamic so well as it sums up the teaching of Proverbs 5 and 6 and 7. Here’s how the words go:
He said to me,
Child, I’m afraid for your soul.
These things that your after, they can’t be controlled
This beast that you’re after will eat you alive
And spit out your bones.
She’ll string you along and she’ll sell you a lie
But there’s nothing but pain on the edge of a knife
There is no courage in flirting with fear
To prove you’re alive.
I’ve seen the true face of the things you call “life”
The song of the siren that holds your desire
But Death, she is cunning, and clever as hell
And she’ll eat you alive
So don’t flirt. Don’t stray. Don’t turn aside even 1°. And this lesson needs to be applied to more than just adultery. 2 Timothy 2:22 says “flee youthful passions.” All of them. Whatever sin you struggle with, you would be well-served if you applied this warning from Proverbs 7 and fled from that sinful passion.
But these words do apply in a specific way to sexual sin, because of how alluring and powerful it is. Perhaps there’s no other sin that looks and feels so good on the front end but causes so much destruction on the other end.
Let me give you a practical example of what this can look like in real life. And this example goes back to before marriage, when Aimee and I were dating. Dating is a major danger zone for young couples because of how easy it is, in today’s culture, for them to get into trouble together.
I’m not sure if I shared the statistic before or not of how 80% of church kids who say that want to save themselves for marriage, don’t. And when you hear from them, none of them sat down and decided to change course one day. It just happened—slowly and gradually. They were led along the chute like cattle.
I knew that Aimee and I were in a danger zone. We both lived on our own with roommates who were often out. And I knew that I wasn’t strong enough to resist temptation. Honouring the Lord meant admitting that I wasn’t strong enough. And so the entire time we were dating, up until we were married, we were never alone behind a closed door together. We would never hang out at each other’s apartments if our roommates were out.
This meant lots of time in coffeeshops. I hated coffeeshops by the time our wedding day came around. But it was worth it: we made it to our wedding day with no regrets—not because we were stronger than everybody else, but because we knew we weren’t and we never put ourselves in a spot where we’d need to be strong.
And I don’t think we did anything special. We were just obeying 1 Corinthians 6:18: “Flee from sexual immorality.” If you’re not running, you’re already disobeying that command.
I knew that Aimee wasn’t like this woman in Proverbs 7—she wasn’t out to get me. But Satan was. He was going to work hard to string us both along, lead us both to the slaughter. So once again, avoiding temptation is not about being strong enough to get close to temptation but fleeing from temptation because you know that you’re weak. “And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths” (Proverbs 7:24–25).
Now I want to end the message here in a spot that fixes our eyes on the grace and mercy of Jesus. And I’m thinking here particularly of those of you who might come away from a message like this with a sense of shame or regret over the way that you didn’t listen to wisdom in the past, and you’ve did walk right into the open jaws of sin. You were eaten alive and your bones were spit out and you’re living with the consequences of those actions today.
Jesus is enough for you. There is no sin his people committed that He didn’t pay for on the cross. The paths of sin may lead to the chambers of death, like verse 27 said, and that is exactly the path that Jesus walked—not for His own sin, but for the sins of His people.
He died for your sin, and He rose again so that you, and not your sin, could live with Him today.
Now young people, don’t get the wrong idea here. I’m not giving you permission to sin it up because Jesus will come deliver you and it will all be ok. A heart that truly loves Jesus would never knowingly march into behaviour which it knows Jesus died to forgive us for.
Yes, Jesus can pull you out of the dungeon, but trust me, you don’t want to get in to that dungeon in the first place. So stay away.
But if you already are in that dungeon, whatever dungeon you’re in, whatever sin you got tangled up with, you don’t have to stay there. If you’ve trusted in Christ, if you’ve been saved by Jesus, then all your debts have been cast on him and you must and shall go free.
And let’s not forget that one of the important ways that Jesus ministers to us and helps us is through His body. If you’re stuck in a pit of sin and temptation, reach out to Christ by reaching out to a brother or sister in Christ and tell them you need help. That’s also one of the best ways to fight temptation on the front end, before you get sucked in. Get accountable. Don’t try this on your own.
We need Christ, which means that we need each other—the body of Christ. We need to help each other fight sin together. So wherever this message finds you this morning, reach out to Christ. And that will probably mean reaching out to someone around you, a member of his body.
Let’s finish now by confessing to the Lord our need for Him, and asking him for his help.