Erotic Wisdom in Proverbs 5

erotic wisdom in Proverbs 5:15-20

Bendita seas mi fuente.

In high school, I never paid much attention in Spanish class, but I got a curiosity as an adult and put in some time trying to learn. It didn’t go flawlessly, but I learned a bit. And I was anxious to show Clara what I’d learned. So I took to memorizing Proverbs 5:18-19, adapted to be a statement from me to her. I’m pretty sure I conjugated wrong, but I like to think it was a valiant if suggestive effort.

You see, this is a quite erotic passage, in case you’ve never read it before, but the symbolism in the context of wisdom literature is easy to gloss over.

So now, in the context of a site that loves to talk about sex, re-read this passage:

May your fountain be blessed,
  and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer—
  may her breasts satisfy you always,
  may you ever be intoxicated with her love.

If you don’t notice the word breasts, it’s easy to pass right on by. Which is a shame, because this, too, is wisdom literature. Of an erotic variety.

Symbolism

Let’s be clear about some things. We’re not really talking about a literal fountain, no more than verses 15 and 16 are really talking about similar water features, though the symbolism is clear for anyone willing to stop and imagine a fountain. And the symbols of a well and a cistern are pretty heavy-handed as well.

The more obscure symbols are of animals, but these are similarly apparent for anyone who has spent time in the Song (see 4:5 and 8:14). A doe was a creature of beauty, a rare sight that most only get a glimpse of as it flees notice. Such exceptional beauty is to be found in one’s wife.

Satisfied and Wise

For all the metaphorical language of the Bible, and for all the unnecessarily cautious translation efforts of passages in the Song, the Bible is not often as blunt as “may her breasts satisfy you always”.

When Clara rolls her eyes in disbelief at how easily her boobs distract me (they are, after all, just another body part in the shower to her), I remind her that a man’s enjoyment of his wife’s breasts is not only a healthy outlet for the general male wiring, but it’s actually bluntly encouraged by the Bible.

“You see me as a drooling pig,” I say, “but the Bible calls this wisdom.”

Intoxicated by her Love

But the final statement of verse 19 was even more plain, though “be intoxicated” only begins to grasp the impact of shâgâh. I don’t usually do this, but I want to reference Strong’s Concordance for this particular word, as I think the variety of applications helps to bring home what this word really means:

shaw-gaw’; a primitive root; to stray (causatively, mislead),
usually (figuratively) to mistake, especially (morally) to transgress;
by extension (through the idea of intoxication) to reel, (figuratively)
be enraptured:—(cause to) go astray, deceive, err, be ravished, sin
through ignorance, (let, make to) wander.

Let’s show some examples of this word in action (emphasis mine):

“Now if you as a community unintentionally fail to keep any of these commands the LORD gave Moses—”
Numbers 15:22

“Cursed is anyone who leads the blind astray on the road.”
Deuteronomy 27:18a

“…Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong.”
1 Samuel 26:21c

“Teach me, and I will be quiet; show me where I have been wrong.””
Job 6:24

I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
Psalm 119:10

My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill.
Ezekiel 34:6a

The pattern of intensity of meaning emerges. Yes, this word can be related to intoxication (as seen in Proverbs 20:1 and Isaiah 28:7), but it’s less about the inebriation than the frankly stupid choices one makes as a result.

In Numbers, we see this word indicating a lack of awareness of one’s action. In Deuteronomy, we’re warned of affecting others with our bad choices. Saul’s repentance to David in 1 Samuel indicates a lack of insight, much like Job. Psalm and Ezekiel reveal a “straying” as if deviating due to daydream.

So let me ask: does your wife’s love leave you stupid? ‘Cause that’s wisdom.

But we’re not done.

Her “love” is ahabâ. You might recall it from our posts on Unexpected Erotica in Song of Songs 5:8 and Song of Songs 2:4. In erotic contexts like this, it’s a word that can easily mean lovemaking more than love. Especially when the “ever be” or “at all times” (depending on your translation) could just as easily be translated “each and every time”.

Have you ever had sex that left you unable to think? Like you’re just some inert matter that happens to be tangled in a pile of sheets? Like you’ve taken leave of your senses and any onlooker would assume you’re having an out-of-body experience? Like you’re flat-out sloshed, drunk to the point of bare consciousness?

I believe the secular world has a term for it: [insert verb here] your brains out.

Yeah, wisdom is pursuing that from your wife for your whole life.

Procreation only? Yeah, right.

Part of a Greater Wisdom

Proverbs is a collection of individual truisms that, when applied to life, lead to wisdom. Sometimes these statements follow a theme, but they’re generally a big pile of standalone statements. Verses 18 and 19 of chapter 5 aren’t the full statement, however. Let’s look at the passage in its entirety, from verse 15 to verse 20.

Drink water from your own cistern,
  running water from your own well.
Should your springs overflow in the streets,
  your streams of water in the public squares?
Let them be yours alone,
  never to be shared with strangers.
May your fountain be blessed,
  and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.
A loving doe, a graceful deer—
  may her breasts satisfy you always,
  may you ever be intoxicated with her love.
Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife?
  Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman?

The wisdom isn’t to appreciate a good rack. It’s not to have mind-blowing sex. The wisdom is to limit that to the safe, healthy context of marriage.

Decide for yourself if “drinking” from a “cistern” is an allusion to oral sex. I’m not sure. But what’s certain is that it’s emphasizing monogamy in “your own”.

Decide for yourself if verse 16 should be an interrogative reproach of promiscuity, or an exhortation to populate the world with lawful children. I’m not sure. But what’s certain is that it’s emphasizing monogamy in “your”.

Verse 17 leaves little room for interpretation: your spouse is not to be shared. And it would hold that the inverse is true. Sexual union is a blessing of marriage, and the only participants of such a union should be the married couple themselves.

With those warnings as a framework, the passage delves into the blessing. It is a wondrous thing, appreciating the beauty of one’s wife. Her breasts can saturate (râvâh) your thirst, and the sex can leave you a quivering pool of idiocy. And all that is a blessing to savor.

Then we conclude with verse 20. Read in light of the previous statement, this doesn’t seem as much of a condemnation as it does when you read it alone. Rather, it seems a conclusion. As if to say, “Look at all these sexual benefits of marriage. What’s the point of looking for something else?” After the vivid imagery in the preceding verses, this might just be the most redundant statement in the Bible.

There is wisdom in marriage, but it’s not “a means God has appointed to keep from these destructive vices” as Matthew Henry writes (about these passages, no less). Rather, the wisdom is in appreciating the tremendously satisfying gift we’ve been given in our spouse. Appreciating to the full. Until we’re spent. And unable to think.

About Phil (239 Articles)
Philip Osgood is a Christian husband, father, and writer who considers himself a passable video game player, fiction reader, camping and hiking enthusiast, welder, computer guy, and fitness aficionado, though real experts in each field might just die of laughter to hear him claim it. He has been called snarky, cynical, intelligent, eccentric, creative, logical, and Steve for some reason. Phil and his beautiful wife Clara live in Texas with their children in a house with a dog but no white picket fence. He does own a titanium spork from ThinkGeek, though, so he must be alright.

1 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Best Christian Sex Links of the Week – Married Christian Sex