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  • Dr. Stieglitz

Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 30:18-20

"There are three things which are too wonderful for me, four which I do not understand. The way of an eagle in the sky. The way of a serpent on a rock. The way of a ship in the middle of the sea. And the way of a man with a maid. This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth, and says, 'I have done no wrong.'"

This proverb is a series of statements that are designed to teach a truth. Interestingly enough there are five statements made in a proverb that talk about only four. So this would suggest that four of the statements are the same kind of statement, and the fifth is the opposite or a completely different kind of statement. This would mean that:

The way of an eagle in the sky

The way of a serpent on a rock

The way of a ship in the middle of the sea

And the way of a man with a maid

... are one kind of statement and

This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth, and says, "I have done no wrong."

... is another kind of statement.

The common denominator in each of the sayings is "way" which is the Hebrew word derekwhich means way, path, lifestyle. The writer of this section gives three examples to illustrate a truth about the fourth and then to contrast that with a fifth.

The way of an eagle in the sky is difficult to track. It is hard to know which way it is going as it circles and circles. The way of a serpent on a rock is hard to discern where it has come from or where it is going. The way of a ship in the middle of the sea is hard to tell where it is going and where it has been. The only way to tell what direction the eagle is really going is to watch for a long time. The only way to get a fix on the serpent is to watch and study the serpent’s movements. The only way to know which direction the ship is going is to patiently observe over time. So the lesson is that the only way to tell what a man is doing with a young lady is to watch over time with great patience. It can be difficult to know much about a young man who is interested in a young lady. What are his intentions? Is his heart pure? Is he responsible? Will he be a good and gracious husband to her? The answer to those questions that every father asks is to watch him over time to discern patterns and behaviors. Just as you would watch the eagle, the serpent, and the ship, so you must focus on the young man and observe his behavior over time to tell whether his intentions are honorable and whether he is a righteous person.

Has he treated other young ladies badly? Does he have a problem controlling his temper? Does he ask the young woman for favors beyond the level of their relationship? Is he ministering to her or just to himself? Is he ready to take on the responsibility of caring for a woman, or is he just interested in fulfilling a selfish desire?

This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth, and says, "I have done no wrong."

This statement is the contrasting statement of this section. It is clearly different from the other four statements because it is a fifth statement about the way of something. The first four statements are about things that take a lot of focus and patience to understand what is happening and the direction it is headed. The writer is, however, contrasting the way of the adulterous woman with that. He is saying that it is not hard to understand the way of the unfaithful wife. Her way is that “Whatever I want to do is right.” She does what she wants; she does what is clearly wrong and refuses to feel guilt about her actions.

The eating of bread and wiping the mouth is considered by many commentators to be a euphemism for sexual contact. The writer is saying that the adulterous woman will not acknowledge that her adultery is wrong. It felt right to her; it was the next impulse. She is predictable in ways that the eagle, serpent, ship, and even man with a maid are not. She will not evaluate her actions based on any objective standard of morality; she only cares whether she likes it or not.

Unfortunately this is the moral evaluation that is most prevalent in our day and age. People evaluate whether something is right by whether they like it or not and not by whether it is selfish, whether it harms others, whether God has said it should not be done. One's personal feelings about an action is not an adequate moral gauge.

We all feel impulses that we should not act upon, and it does not matter whether those feelings are pleasurable or they are destructive and selfish and should not be carried out. Do not be duped into believing the lustful impulses that you may have or the moral justifications of an immoral person. They have already decided to follow a hedonistic evaluation of moral conduct. "Let pleasure be my guide." It will destroy them in their search for pleasure. Do not go that way.

Until tomorrow,

Gil Stieglitz

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