The Path of Folly and Death


"You shall not commit adultery.”

The Lord God spoke those words at Mount Sinai, and we call what He said the Seventh Commandment (Ex. 20:14). It declares that sexual intimacy outside the bonds of marriage is wrong, even if “between consenting adults.”  This law specifically mentions adultery, but the commandment includes the sexual sins prohibited elsewhere in Scripture (Lev. 18; Rom. 1:18–32; 1 Cor. 6:9–20; Eph. 5:1–14). God invented sex and has every right to tell us how to use it properly.

However, on hearing the Seventh Commandment, many people in contemporary society smile nonchalantly and ask, “What’s wrong with premarital or extramarital sex, or any other kind, for that matter?” After all, they argue, many people indulge in these things and seem to get away with it. Furthermore, these activities are more acceptable today than they were in Solomon’s day; why make a big issue out of it? “Life is a game in which the rules are constantly changing,” says a contemporary writer; “nothing spoils a game more than those who take it seriously.”  So, the verdict’s in: sex is fun, so don’t take it too seriously.

It’s true that some well-known people have indulged in sexual escapades and even bragged about it, including government officials, Hollywood stars, sports heroes, and (alas!) preachers, but that doesn’t make it right. Sexual sin is one of the main themes of numerous movies, TV programs, novels, and short stories; yet popularity is no test of right and wrong. Many things that the law says are legal, the Bible says are evil, and there won’t be a jury sitting at the White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20:11–15; 21:27; 22:15).

Why worry about sexual sins? These three chapters of Proverbs give us three reasons why we should worry if we break God’s laws of purity: because sexual sin is eventually disappointing (Prov. 5), gradually destructive (chap. 6), and ultimately deadly (chap. 7). That’s why God says, “You shall not commit adultery.”


1. Sexual sin is eventually disappointing (Prov. 5)

When married people honor and respect sex as God instructs them in His Word, they can experience increasing enjoyment and enrichment in their intimacy. But when people break the rules, the result is just the opposite. They experience disappointment and disillusionment and have to search for larger “doses” of sexual adventure in order to attain the imaginary pleasure level they’re seeking.

God created sex not only for reproduction but also for enjoyment, and He didn’t put the “marriage wall” around sex to rob us of pleasure but to increase pleasure and protect it. In this chapter, Solomon explains the disappointments that come when people violate God’s loving laws of sexual purity.

Their experience goes from sweetness to bitterness (vv. 1–6). We’ve met “the strange woman” before (2:16; NIV, “adulteress”) and she’ll be mentioned again (5:20; 6:24; 7:5; 20:16; 22:14; 23:27; 27:13). The word translated “strange” basically means “not related to.” The “strange woman” is one to whom the man is not related by marriage, and therefore any sexual liaison with her is evil. The beginning of this sinful alliance may be exciting and sweet, because the kisses and words from her lips drip like honey (7:13–20), but in the end, the “sweetness” turns to bitterness and the honey becomes poison (5:4).

The Book of Proverbs emphasizes the importance of looking ahead to see where your actions will lead you (see 5:11; 14:12–14; 16:25; 19:20; 20:21; 23:17–18, 32; 24:14, 20; 25:8). The wise person checks on the destination before buying a ticket (4:26), but modern society thinks that people can violate God’s laws and escape the consequences. They’re sure that whatever has happened to others will never happen to them. Sad to say, their ignorance and insolence can never neutralize the tragic aftermath that comes when people break the laws of God. “Oh, that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!” (Deut. 32:29)

Their experience goes from gain to loss (vv. 7–14). Temptation always includes hopeful promises; otherwise, people would never take the devil’s bait. For a time, it seems like these promises have been fulfilled, and sinners bask in the sunshine of pleasant experiences and false assurances. This is what family counselor J. Allan Petersen calls, “the myth of the greener grass.”  People who commit sexual sins think their problems are solved (“She understands me so much better than my wife does!”) and that life will get better and better. But disobedience to God’s laws always brings sad consequences and sinners eventually pay dearly for their brief moments of pleasure.

When you read verses 9–14, you hear the words of a suffering sinner lamenting the high cost of disobeying God’s laws, because the most expensive thing in the world is sin. He discovers that the woman’s husband is a cruel man who demands that he pay for what he’s done, so the adulterer ends up giving his strength to others and toiling away to pay his debt. Instead of luxury, the sinner has misery; instead of riches, poverty; instead of success, ruin; and instead of a good reputation, the name of an adulterer. He looks back and wishes he had listened to his parents and his spiritual instructors, but his wishes can’t change his wretched situation. Yes, God in His grace will forgive his sins if he repents, but God in His government sees to it that he reaps what he sows.

Their experience goes from purity to pollution (vv. 15–20). Solomon compares enjoying married love to drinking pure water from a fresh well, but committing sexual sin is like drinking polluted water from the gutter or sewer. Sex within marriage is a beautiful river that brings life and refreshment, but sex outside marriage is a sewer that defiles everything it touches. To commit sexual sin is to pour this beautiful river into the streets and the public squares. What waste! If you “drink deep” of the wrong kind of love (7:18, NIV) it will destroy you.

The commitment of marriage is like the banks of the river that keep the river from becoming a swamp. God’s holy law confines the waters within the banks, and this produces power and depth. Extramarital and premarital affairs don’t satisfy because they’re shallow, and it doesn’t take much to stir up shallow water. A man and woman pledged to each other in marriage can experience the growing satisfaction that comes with love, commitment, depth, and purity.

But there’s something else involved here. Solomon admonishes the husband to be “ravished” with his wife’s love (5:19–20); the word translated “ravished” also means “intoxicated” or “infatuated.”  The adulterer watches the river turn into a sewer, but the faithful husband sees the water become wine! I think it’s significant that Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding feast, as though He were giving us an object lesson concerning the growing delights of marriage (John 2:1–11).

When a husband and wife are faithful to the Lord and to each other, and when they obey Scriptures like 1 Corinthians 7:1–5 and Ephesians 5:22–33, neither of them will look for satisfaction anywhere else. If they love each other and seek to please each other and the Lord, their relationship will be one of deepening joy and satisfaction; they won’t look around for “the greener grass.”

Their experience goes from freedom to bondage (vv. 21–23). Freedom of choice is one of the privileges God has given us, but He instructs us and urges us to use that freedom wisely. The laws of God are guideposts to lead us on the path of life, and He watches the decisions we make and the roads we take. “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good” (15:3).

As long as we use our freedom wisely, we will mature in Christian character, and God can trust us with more freedom. But if we abuse our freedom and deliberately disobey His Word, our freedom will gradually become bondage, the kind of bondage that can’t easily be broken. “The evil deeds of a wicked man ensnare him; the cords of his sin hold him fast” (5:22, NIV). Those words could have been used as an epitaph for Samson (Jud. 13–16).

It’s impossible to sin without being bound. One of the deceitful things about sin is that it promises freedom but only brings slavery. “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34, NKJV). “Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16, NKJV)

The cords of sin get stronger the more we sin, yet sin deceives us into thinking we’re free and can quit sinning whenever we please. As the invisible chains of habit are forged, we discover to our horror that we don’t have the strength to break them. Millions of people in our world today are in one kind of bondage or another and are seeking for deliverance, but the only One who can set them free is Jesus Christ. “Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36, NKJV).

No wonder the father warns his children to stay away from the adulteress. “Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (Prov. 5:8, NKJV). “Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death” (7:27). 

2. Sexual sin is gradually destructive (Prov. 6)

Chapter 6 deals with three enemies that can destroy a person financially, physically, morally, or spiritually: unwise financial commitments (vv. 1–5), laziness (vv. 6–11), and lust (vv. 20–35). It is not unusual for one person to be guilty of all three, because laziness and lust often go together; people who can easily be pressured into putting up security for somebody can be pressured into doing other foolish things, including committing adultery. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21).

We will consider Proverbs 6:1–11 in our study of wealth and work. Verses 12–19 will be included in chapter 5, in our study of “the wicked people” mentioned in the Book of Proverbs. In verses 20–35, Solomon deals with adultery and points out what people will lose who commit this heinous sin.

They lose the Word of God (vv. 20–24). In chapters 5–7, each of the warnings against adultery is prefaced by an admonition to pay attention to the Word of God (5:1–2; 6:20–24; 7:1–5). It is by our trusting and obeying His truth that God keeps us from believing the enemy’s lies. Certainly children have the obligation to honor their father and mother (6:20; see 1:8), and God’s children have the responsibility and privilege of bringing glory to their Father’s name. “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4, NKJV).

The Word should be bound to the heart (Ps. 119:11), because the heart is “the wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23, NIV). God’s truth should also control the neck, because a man might be tempted to turn his head and look at a beautiful woman for the purpose of lusting (Matt. 5:27–30). He may not be able to avoid seeing the woman the first time, but it’s looking the second time that gets him into trouble.

The Word of God in the mind and heart is like a guide who leads us on the safe path and protects us from attacks. It’s also like a friend who talks to us and counsels us along the way (Prov. 6:22). We walk in the light because the Word is a lamp (v. 23; Ps. 119:105, 130). If we listen to God’s voice in His Word, we won’t fall for the enemy’s flattery (Prov. 6:24).

Read 1 John 1:5–10 and note that “walking in the light” assures us of hearing the Word of God, while “walking in darkness” causes us to lose His Word. If we disobey Him, we don’t do the truth (Prov. 6:6), we don’t have the truth (v. 8), and His Word is not in us (v. 10). There is a gradual erosion of the spiritual life, from light to darkness, and with this erosion comes a deterioration of Christian character.

They lose wealth (vv. 25–26). This parallels 5:7–14, and see 29:3. To be “brought to a piece of bread” means to be degraded to the lowest level of poverty (see Luke 15:13–16, 30). If the adultery results in scandal, a lawsuit, and a divorce, the price will not be cheap; in this day of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, the adulterer is taking chances with his health and his life.

They lose enjoyment (vv. 27–31). Fire is a good thing if it’s confined and controlled. It can keep us warm, cook our food, drive our turbines, and manufacture our electricity. Sex is a good gift from God but, like fire, if it gets out of control, it becomes destructive. What begins as a “warm” experience soon becomes a burning experience, like holding a torch in your lap or walking on burning coals.

“But sex is a normal desire, given to us by God,” some people argue. “Therefore, we have every right to use it, even if we’re not married. It’s like eating: If you’re hungry, God gave you food to eat; if you’re lonely, God gave you sex to enjoy.” Some of the people in the Corinthian church used this argument to defend their sinful ways: “Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods” (1 Cor. 6:13, NKJV). But Paul made it clear that the believer’s body belonged to God and that the presence of a desire wasn’t the same as the privilege to satisfy that desire (vv. 12–20).

Solomon used a similar approach in Proverbs 6:30–31. Certainly hunger is a strong force in human life, and the only way to satisfy hunger is to eat, but if you steal the bread that you eat, you’re breaking the law. You’ll end up paying more for that bread than if you’d gone out and bought a loaf at the bakery. As you sit in jail or stand in court, the enjoyment you had from that bread will soon be forgotten.

Adultery is stealing. “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality … and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter” (1 Thes. 4:3, 6, NASB). When adultery enters a marriage, everybody loses.

They lose their good sense (v. 32). King David was a brilliant strategist on the battlefield and a wise ruler on the throne, but he lost his common sense when he gazed at his neighbor’s wife and lusted for her (2 Sam. 12). He was sure he could get away with his sin, but common sense would have told him he was wrong. Every stratagem David used to implicate Bathsheba’s husband failed, so he ended up having the man killed. Surely David knew that we reap what we sow, and reap he did, right in the harvest field of his own family.

They lose their peace (vv. 33–35). The angry husband will use every means possible to avenge himself, for a loving husband would rather that his neighbor steal his money than steal his wife. “For love is as strong as death, its jealousy unyielding as the grave. It burns like blazing fire, like a mighty flame” (Song 8:6, NIV). The offender will have no peace, and no amount of money he offers the husband will be accepted. The adulterer loses his reputation in the community and might actually suffer physical punishment. Of course, he and the woman were supposed to be stoned to death (Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22), but we’re not sure this penalty was always exacted.

In today’s society, if a person has enough money and “clout,” he or she might be able to survive an adulterous scandal, but life is still never quite the same. Whether in this life or the next, sinners can be sure that their sins will find them out. Indulging in sexual sin is always a losing proposition.


3. Sexual sin is ultimately deadly (Prov. 7)

For the third time, Solomon calls the young person back to the Word of God (vv. 1–5), because keeping God’s commandments is a matter of life or death. The adulteress lives on a dead-end street: “Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death” (v. 27).

The familiar phrase “apple of your eye” (v. 2) refers to the pupil of the eye which the ancients thought was a sphere like an apple. We protect our eyes because they’re valuable to us, and so should we honor and protect God’s Word by obeying it. Sexual sin often begins with undisciplined eyes and hands (Matt. 5:27–30), but the heart of the problem is … the heart (Prov. 7:2–3). If we love God’s wisdom as we love those in our family, we wouldn’t want to visit the house of the harlot.

This chapter vividly describes a naive young man who falls into the trap of the adulteress. Note the steps that lead to his destruction.

He tempts himself (vv. 6–9). You get the impression that this young man is either terribly dumb or very proud, convinced that he can play with sin and get away with it. But he’s only tempting himself and heading for trouble. To begin with, he’s out at night (“walking in darkness” —see 2:13; John 3:19–21; 1 John 1:5–7), and he’s deliberately walking near the place of temptation and danger. He didn’t heed the wise counsel of the Lord, “Remove your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house” (5:8, NKJV). God’s Word wasn’t controlling his feet (3:26; 4:27).

During more than forty years of ministry, I’ve listened to many sad stories from people who have indulged in sexual sin and suffered greatly; in almost every instance, the people deliberately put themselves into the place of temptation and danger. Unlike Job, they didn’t make “a covenant with [their] eyes not to look lustfully at a girl” (Job 31:1, NIV), nor did they follow the example of Joseph and flee from temptation (Gen. 39:7ff; 2 Tim. 2:22). We can’t help being tempted, but we can certainly help tempting ourselves.

He is tempted by the woman (vv. 10–20). Like the deadly spider in the web, the woman was watching at the window, ready to pounce on her prey. She was a man’s wife, but when he was out of town, she dressed like a prostitute so she could attract the men who were searching for her services (Gen. 38:14–15; Ezek. 16:16). While her husband was away, she saw no reason why she shouldn’t make some money and enjoy herself at the same time. She’d been in the streets, looking for victims (Prov. 7:11–12), but now one was coming right to her door!

She caught him (Gen. 39:12), kissed him (Prov. 5:3), and convinced him that it was an opportune time for him to visit her. Before leaving town, her husband had gone with her to the temple where he’d sacrificed a peace offering (Lev. 7:11–21), and she had some of the meat at home. She would prepare him a feast that he would never forget. “This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth, and says, ‘I have done no wickedness’ ” (Prov. 30:20, NKJV).

She appeals to the young man’s male ego as she flatters him and makes him think he’s very special to her. What she’s offering to him she would never offer to anyone else! She appeals to his imagination as she describes her beautiful bed and the expensive spices that perfume it. She assures him that nobody will find out about it (except that somebody’s watching, 7:6) and that her husband won’t be home for many days. They have plenty of time to enjoy themselves.

He tempts the Lord (vv. 21–27). When we pray, “Lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:13), we know that God doesn’t tempt us (James 1:13–16); yet we may tempt ourselves, tempt others, and even tempt God (Ex. 17:1–7; Num. 14:22; Deut. 6:16; Ps. 78:18, 56; 1 Cor. 10:9). We tempt God when we deliberately disobey Him and put ourselves into situations so difficult that only God can deliver us. It’s as though we “dare Him” to do something.

The youth made a sudden decision to follow the woman, and when he did, he began to act like an animal. He was no longer a young man, made in the image of God, but an ox going to the slaughter or a bird walking into the trap. Human beings are the only creatures in God’s creation who can choose what kind of creatures they want to be. God wants us to be sheep (Ps. 23:1; John 10; 1 Peter 2:25), but there are other options, such as horses or mules (Ps. 32:9), or even hogs and dogs (2 Peter 2:22). When we live outside the will of God, we lose our privileges as human beings made in His divine image.

By going to her house, her table, and her bed, the young man willfully disobeyed God’s Law, but the Lord didn’t inter- vene. He allowed the youth to indulge in his sensual appetites and suffer the consequences. God could have stopped him, but He didn’t, because the Word says, “You shall not tempt [put to the test] the Lord your God” (Matt. 4:7; Deut. 6:16). If instead of tempting the Lord, the youth had looked up to the Lord and remembered His Word (Prov. 7:24), looked within and kept his heart focused on God’s truth (v. 25), and looked ahead to see the terrible consequences of his sin (vv. 26–27), he would have turned around and fled from the harlot’s clutches.

Society today not only smiles at sexual sin, it actually approves it and encourages it. Perversions the very mention of which would have shocked people fifty years ago are openly discussed today and are even made the subject of novels, movies, and TV dramas. What Paul saw in his day and described in Romans 1:18–32 is now apparent in our own day, but people resent it if you call these practices “sin.” After all, “Everybody’s doing it.”

But the Gospel is still “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16) and Christ can still change people’s lives (1 Cor. 6:9–11). It isn’t enough for Christians to protest the evil; we must also practice the good (Matt. 5:13–16) and proclaim the good news that sinners can become new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

If the world had more light, there would be less darkness.

If the world had more salt, there would be less decay.

If the world heard more truth, there would be less deception.o do![6] 

...The seventh commandment, “Do not commit adultery” (Exod. 20:14), is the theme of Proverbs 6:20–35. With adultery there is no possible means of giving back to the rightful spouse what has been taken (6:35).[7]