Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 9:18
"But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol"
This whole section of Proverbs, beginning in verse 13 of this chapter, is about the woman of folly. She is using her beauty, her sexuality, her personality, and men’s insatiable need to make her popular and in charge. She is offering the same things that wisdom offers, but that is not what the men who are foolish enough to follow her actually receive. She is selling life but what she is really doing is destroying herself, her own marriage, the men that she seduces, the families of the men she seduces, and the society at large. What she is doing is clearly evil, but because it is so pleasurable many turn a blind eye. Because it is so common, it is not seen as evil.
Let’s be clear: evil is when you do something (usually to gain in some way) and it results in damage, abuse, or destruction of another person. Doing harm is the definition of evil. It is usually considered more evil if it is done repeatedly. It is considered a greater evil when it is done to the innocent. It is considered an even greater evil if there is no gain; the perpetrator just likes to see people be damaged, abused, or destroyed. It does not matter that your intentions were honorable. It does not matter that you didn’t know (you should have checked it out). Evil can be done in many different arenas: marriage, finances, employment, personal development, words, authority, property, religion, and others. In this particular case that Solomon is dealing with, the evil that is being done is to marriage and sexuality.
I am amazed that Solomon could so accurately describe the seduction of a naïve young man in this whole section. Solomon perfectly describes the activity, the thinking, and the results of adultery. It has not changed in 3,000 years. It is not “educational” for a young man (or young woman) to be seduced. It is not an innocent thing where everybody wins when an older, more experienced person seduces a younger person away from the path of righteousness and away from their family. Unfortunately we are seeing more and more of this type of seduction in our day and age. Today sexual license and sexual boundaries have been cast aside, and this increases the death spoken of here in Proverbs. It is called love, coming of age, educational, needed, and common; but it is really evil and changes the psyche of the young person permanently. It is not education or loving to become prey for the rapacious appetites of an evil person.
There is a new form of harmful sexuality in our day that was not around when Solomon was writing. It deserves some special attention because it is seen as harmless in our time. It is not harmless. I call it wholesale adultery. It is pornography. This new form of adultery promises to give all the thrills of adultery without the diseases and without the entangling relationships. It still produces death. It still destroys those who are engaged in making it and producing it. It still damages those who consume it. It still harms the families and friends of those who engage with it. It still is a seduction of naïve people. Please do not think that because you are not actually having sexual contact that pornography is not harmful. It is very harmful for the viewer, for the producer, and for the people being photographed. It still produces death. It is not innocent.
Sexuality was meant by God to be a beautiful unfolding of the whole person with their lifetime opposite sex mate. It was designed to produce responsibility, not irresponsibility. Its primary function is not pleasure or even procreation. Its primary function is a form of knowing and being known. Do not be led astray by your desires. Sexuality is a form of transparency but if you are not being authentic in your transparency, then how dark is your understanding of yourself and the other person.
It is worth it to be chaste and reserve yourself sexually for your mate – both before marriage and when you are married. There is something delightful and deeply satisfying to following God’s way of meeting our needs. Yes, it seems like there are other ways to meet our sexual needs, but they do not last and they leave the person damaged. God’s design for sexuality is one woman with one man for life and this is a good plan. A person is not a fool to turn away from all the other ways of meeting one’s sexual needs and landing on God’s revealed plan. There is something powerful that happens when serving someone else is how one expects to have their needs met. If the marriage relationship is not served faithfully and lovingly, then something is missing from both of the people. Yes, we live in a sinful world where the selfishness of one or both spouses causes or even requires the dissolution of the marriage, but that is to be the exception not the norm.
the dead are there
The thing that escapes the thinking of the lustful person is that the consequences for their folly are exactly what they are trying to avoid. They want to connect with another person soul-to-soul, and yet they increasingly become dead to soul-to-soul contact as they give the body more and more control over their actions. Solomon could be referring to a number of things when he says that the dead are there. He doesn’t mean that dead bodies are hidden around the room where you are committing adultery. He could be referring to the fact that the people who commit adultery and have frequent, varied sexual contact develop diseases and maladies that kill them sooner than those who do not. He could be referring to the fact the more one clamors after sex, the less it satisfies; and eventually they become dead to the thing that gave them so much pleasure. Then they are forced to push further and further into perversion to feel alive.
Solomon could be speaking spiritually when he says that the dead are there. Death is a separation of the soul from the body usually at death. This could refer to the separation that takes place between one’s soul and body. When one gives themselves to sin, they experience a kind of spiritual death. In a sense they are walking dead people. They are alive, but they cannot connect with the noblest things in their soul and spirit. The other people who are in this world of sin and compromise have become hollow. People who give into lust give themselves to bodies and carve out the substance of their souls. Addictions to sex are like all other addictions – people end up alone. They lead increasingly isolated lives. Aloneness moves in on this person at a new level even while they are trying to combat it. Solomon is right, the dead are the guests of the woman of folly.
her guests are in the depths of Sheol
There are consequences to perpetrating evil. As a society we have tried to forget about hell. But it is still there and still waiting for those whose selfishness needs to be contained over the eons of eternity. Sheol is a Hebrew word for the place that the spirit and soul of the dead go after they die. In the Old Testament before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Sheol was understood as the place of both the righteous and unrighteous dead. Jesus tells us (Luke 16) that Sheol has two compartments: a lower compartment where the unrighteous dead are being held and an upper compartment where the righteous dead are being held. (If you wanted to learn more about this whole arena of theology, read my book, Why There Has to Be a Hell.)
In the depths of Sheol means that the people who die after they have given into the seductive song of the woman of folly will be in the lower compartment of Sheol – the place of the unrighteous dead. Solomon is unequivocal here. Breaking the trust of your spouse and your God by looking for love and/or pleasure outside of God’s design is sin that will condemn you to hell. It is wonderful to be able to offer at this point the forgiveness that is in Jesus Christ. Jesus the Christ lived the perfect life and offers His perfect love for those who will admit that they are sinners and accept Him as their Savior. One does not have to live with the weight of their sins. They can be transferred to Christ. There must be repentance which means a changing of the mind. You no longer think that adulterous relationships are okay. You no longer excuse your behavior and you own the fact that you sinned against a holy God and against your mate. God powerfully offers His mercy and His grace so that we can live up to the design of God.
The woman of folly says that she is inviting you into the best life, into real success, and real joy; but she is wrong. She is introducing you into damnation, death, addictions, and loneliness. Turn away from this path no matter how alluring it is. Do not believe that you will make it out the other side unscathed; you won’t. You will become a shell of your former self and something inside of you will die while you are enjoying the pleasures of sin for a season.