Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you,
To deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things;
From those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness;
Who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil;
Whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways;
To deliver you from the strange woman, from the adulteress who flatters with her words;
That leaves the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God;
For her house sinks down to death and her tracks lead to the dead;
None who go to her return again, nor do they reach the paths of life.
So you will walk in the way of good men and keep to the paths of the righteous.
For the upright will live in the land and the blameless will remain in it;
But the wicked will be cut off from the land and the treacherous will be uprooted from it.
Here, the father claims that the wisdom and shrewdness that comes from the godly heart deliver the son from the tempter for easy money (v. 12-15) and easy sex (v. 16-19) and put him on the way of eternal life (v. 20-22).
First, we see that the promised protection is first defined as deliverance from wicked men who have chosen crooked paths instead of the father’s straight ways. It should be recognized that the path of the wicked is not only sinful, but it is very tempting (to the young and to the old). The path of the godless has a tangible power to those caught in its web from which they one cannot escape on his own. The promise assumes that the son will find himself in the dangerous situation and not be saved from it altogether. However, as the Lord delivered his people out of various distressful situations, so the son’s mature religious understanding will tear him away from the dangerous moral power of the worldview of this present evil age, which would lead the son on the way of death.
The father also gives a background on the individuals who leads the son astray. The wicked seducer typifies those who abandon their own spiritual heritage. This describes faithless men who grew up in covenant homes (as “covenant children” as some would say), had no heart for true piety and morality. Like Esau and Cain, these wicked men are apostates and thus, their words have the ability to draw away the naive. Hence, the father’s instructions are meant to guide the son along the path of the divinely established moral order and so provide safety from the chaos that lies outside of these paths. In reality, the faithless apostatize in order to walk in the ways of darkness, which connotes a malicious concealment of their behaviors. The faithless are individuals who rejoice in evil (v. 4). Waltke describes it in this way
Foolish, self-destructive behavior is rooted not in dullness or simple ignorance, but in a constitutional distortion of moral vision, a twisting of values.
Those who walk in their paths do not fear the Lord but despise Him. They do not trust His word, but they trust in their own devious and oppressive conduct. The Lord finds them repulsive.
In the remaining part of his lesson, the father also promises that the way of godliness and true wisdom will protect the son from sexual immorality. Older godly men are quite aware that sexual immorality is a primary pathway that causes young men to pursue the path of folly. As with the wicked apostate described above, the father cautions his son against the deadly words of sexually immoral women who tempt the son to abandon the words of sound wisdom. This is just as true today as it was in Solomon’s age. In this day, young men may not meet women who directly tempt them with these words, but the siren song of pornography has the same allure. Pornography leads men into crooked paths and into deep darkness, and men who struggle with pornography know its addictive and alluring power.
The father also describes this woman as the adulteress “who abandons the companion of her youth (v. 17)”, which illustrates her infidelity to her marriage covenant, and who “forgets the covenant of her God (v.17)”, which places her within the category of an apostate. The youth who embraces her way of life for her sexual favors will quickly find out that her way descends into death. This is the heart of the father’s warning :
All, without exception, who are unprotected by a relationship with the Lord and a mature spiritual character and who engage in this behavior never return.
This is a lesson that Solomon himself understood. Solomon’s sexual infidelity contributed to his spiritual faithlessness. If anyone thinks that the state of his soul is unaffected by what he does with his body, he is sorely mistaken. As Bruce Waltke states, one’s sexual life and one’s spiritual life “inter-penetrate one another existentially”. Hence, sexual immorality leads to spiritual death and one needs to takes these warning seriously.
The father concludes this lesson by presenting the final position of the righteous and the wicked. Confident of the truth, the father promises the son that if he walks in the truth then, he will walk in the way of good men (v. 20), acting in the best interest of God and of man. The son will also “remain in the land” (v. 21), which is a promise repeated by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:5). However, the judicial sentence of the wicked is that they will be cut off from the earth (v. 22). The wicked are seen as individuals who defile the earth and thus, they will not inherit life.