Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The formula of a new counsel, introducing another warning against the besetting sin of youth Pro 2:16.
And that thy lips may keep - literally, "and thy lips shall keep."
Smoother than oil - The same comparison is used in marginal reference to describe the treachery of a false friend.
Wormwood - In Eastern medicine this herb, the absinthium of Greek and Latin botanists, was looked upon as poisonous rather than medicinal. Compare Rev 8:11.
Or (with the Septuagint and Vulgate), Lest she should ponder (or "She ponders not") the way of life, her paths move to and fro (unsteady as an earthquake); she knows not. The words describe with a terrible vividness the state of heart and soul which prostitution brings upon its victims; the reckless blindness that will not think, tottering on the abyss, yet loud in its defiant mirth, ignoring the dreadful future.
Thine honor - i. e., "The grace and freshness of thy youth" (compare Hos 14:6; Dan 10:8). The thought of this is to guard the young man against the sins that stain and mar it. The slave of lust sacrifices "years" that might have been peaceful and happy to one who is merciless.
Strangers - The whole gang of those into whose hands the slave of lust yields himself. The words are significant as showing that the older punishment of death Deu 22:21; Eze 16:38; Joh 8:5 was not always inflicted, and that the detected adulterer was exposed rather to indefinite extortion. Besides loss of purity and peace, the sin, in all its forms, brings poverty.
Yet one more curse is attendant on impurity. Then, as now, disease was the penalty of this sin.
More bitter than slavery, poverty, disease, will be the bitterness of self-reproach, the hopeless remorse that worketh death.
The conscience-stricken sinner had been "almost" given up to every form of evil in the sight of the whole assembly of fellow-townsmen; "almost," therefore, condemned to the death which that assembly might inflict Lev 20:10; Deu 22:22. The public scandal of the sin is brought in as its last aggravating feature.
The teacher seeks to counteract the evils of mere sensual passion chiefly by setting forth the true blessedness of which it is the counterfeit. The true wife is as a fountain of refreshment, where the weary soul may quench its thirst. Even the joy which is of the senses appears, as in the Song of Solomon, purified and stainless (see Pro 5:19 marginal reference).
Wedded love streams forth in blessing on all around, on children and on neighbors and ill the streets, precisely because the wife's true love is given to the husband only.
Better, "A loving hind (is she) and pleasant roe." As in the whole circle of Arab and Persian poetry the antelope and the gazelle are the chosen images of beauty, so they served with equal fitness for the masculine and feminine types of it. (Compare the names Tabitha and Dorcas Act 9:36.
Emphasis is laid (see the Pro 2:16 note) upon the origin of the beguiler.
One more warning. The sin is not against man, nor dependent on man's detection only. The secret sin is open before the eyes of Yahweh. In the balance of His righteous judgment are weighed all human acts.
Pondereth - Note the recurrence of the word used of the harlot herself (see Pro 1:6 note): she ponders not, God does.
The end of the sensual life: to "die without instruction," life ended, but the discipline of life fruitless; to "go astray," as if drunk with the greatness of his folly (the same word is used as for "ravished" in Pro 5:19, see marg.), even to the end. This is the close of what might have gone on brightening to the perfect day Pro 4:18.