"She does not ponder the path of life; her ways are unstable, she does not know it"
These truths are spoken about the adulterous woman but are also true of every person who gives themselves to a form of selfishness. They have stopped pondering the path of life. Where does it end up? What is the point of life? Why am I here? What contribution am I supposed to make? Their whole focus is what they want and the particular form of foolishness that they have embraced.
This is the Hebrew word palas which means to weigh, balance, or make level. Clearly the translators wanted to bring out the idea of thinking and contemplation. This idea is a part of this word, but there is also the idea of action, which brings balance. This woman does not balance her life. She knows that what she is doing, by committing adultery, is bringing an instability to her life. It leans her life over so that it cannot sustain itself. One cannot sustain a life in which unfaithfulness is involved. It is fundamentally unbalanced. It is like riding a car on just two wheels. This word carries the idea that this woman's life is not balanced, sustainable, level, and she likes it that way – careening from one impulsive encounter to the other and following one lustful impulse after another.
This word also suggests that there is a balance to life: a way that it is supposed to operate for long-term survival. There is supposed to be balance in the path of life. It cannot all be passion. It cannot all be sadness. It cannot all be war. It cannot all be love. As Ecclesiastes says, there is a time for each thing under the sun... This person who commits adultery runs after the feelings that come from lust, passion, and romance. Those are meant to be enjoyed within a long-term, committed relationship between a man and a woman called marriage.
path of life
This Hebrew phrase is more than the sum of its parts. It seems to refer to at least three ideas: One, the general way that a person should live their life; a trail marked by the boundaries of the Ten Commandments. Second, the specific destiny, good works, and plan that each individual is to do with their life. Third, the pathway that connects a person to the life that is in God. (Psalm 139:24; Matthew 7:14; Psalm 16:11)
God is life. He is the source of life, and He knows the path we need to take to obtain a constant flow of life towards us. He talks about a path, which you should not get off of. He talks about a balance, which you should not put too much on one side or the other. In our day and age and in our culture, people have the idea that they should be able to do anything that they want to do. If I want to do it, then it is okay. They do not think about a small, narrow path that they should stay on, refusing to be drawn off that path to a phony better time.
Solomon is trying to get us to see inside the world of the person who follows their lusts. They don't see the big picture of life. They have given over control of their life to the impulses they feel. They do not think through what will happen if they commit unfaithfulness. They do not run out the consequences of their decisions. Later, they are shocked by the diseases, divorce, loneliness, destruction, and lack of fulfillment that is all over their life.
There is a path that your life should take in order to maximize the gifts, talents, abilities, and dreams you have. That path is a moral path. That path leads to humility before God. That path includes impulse control and refusal to stray from God's righteous boundaries.
This is the Hebrew word nua which means to shake, stagger, quiver, totter, swing to and fro, etc. She is at the mercy of the latest impulse that comes her way. There is no firmness of purpose. There are no commitments that she will not do. This is the kind of person who regularly says, "It seemed like the right thing to do at the time."
The stability that Solomon does not see in this woman is what is supplied by the Ten Commandments. I will not do this or that. I can do lots of things within these boundaries, but I will not do that. This level of stability is what we need in business, in government, in the home, in Hollywood, in schools, etc. Now we have all types of people who will do what is expedient for them rather than steadfastly do what is best for the common good.
If you are willing to do just about anything that strikes you as interesting, pleasurable, or profitable, then you are unstable. In fact a great question for people is, “What won't you do?”
she does not know it
This is the most tragic part of this person's life. She is living her life based upon impulses and feelings and temptations. She has no sense that her life is out of balance or headed for trouble. She is headed for trouble and is not aware of it. It is like the person who is talking on their cell phone while driving and is headed right into another car but is too distracted by the phone.
She will be completely blindsided by the eventual breakup, by the diseases, by the lonely feelings, by the financial consequences, by the alienation of her husband's affections, by the disconnect of spiritual power and life, by the swirling emotional tornado that will come as this affair progresses and ends, by the impact of her affair in her children, by the change in her reputation, by the ease of the next affair, by other temptations that will come calling, by the need to dull the pain that is coming, by the guilt she will feel, by the stain on her soul.
There are a number of lessons here in this verse. Do not repeat the folly of this woman by being unfaithful. Do not embrace a form of selfishness, which blinds you to the whole of life. Make sure that you are balancing and pondering your life. Are you fulfilling the unique calling and mission that God has given you or have you thrown it away pursuing some pleasure or pain-avoidance technique? If you are sitting in a pile of consequences from your own choices, then it is time to humble yourself before God and repent. Cry out to Him to forgive you and give you a new perspective and an ability to not give into the impulses and temptations around you.