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An Invitation to Life and an Invitation to Death
Proverbs 9:16-17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
And to him who is in want of heart she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet,
and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
Whoever is simple, let him turn in here: The simple (פֶּתִי pethi) referred to hear are the inexperienced, the lowly, humble of God’s people. The simpleminded foolish woman asks these ones of little education, who were scorned and disdained by the elite, to her house to share a feast with her. Simply put, the simple (inexperienced; lacking good sense) are invited to the feast because they are inexperienced and naïve, which the simpleminded foolish woman is using to her advantage. This same invitation is found in 9:4-6, where Lady Wisdom seeks to make these inexperienced ones wise.
And to him who is in want of heart she says: An inexperienced person is newly learning the ways of life. Because he is inexperienced, this one may be in want of heart, as Solomon expresses it. The Hebrew (חָסֵר לֵב chaser leb) is rendered (interpreted) as “lacks sense” in other translations. (ESV, LEB, CSB) Again, this is an inexperienced person who lacks good sense and wisdom, lacking good judgment or discernment in that they are newly learning the ways of life. While Lady wisdom wants them to learn the ways of wisdom, the simpleminded foolish woman has nothing but evil intentions toward them.
“Stolen water is sweet: This reference to stolen water is sexual in nature, just like back in Proverbs 5:15, where water was used as a warning against committing adultery: “Drink water from your own cistern [have sexual relation with your own wife only], flowing water from your own well.” Here “to water” is being used to mean sexual relations that are forbidden, so they must be kept secret.
and bread eaten in secret is pleasant: Here bread [food] eaten in secret is a reference back to the criminal acts or conspiracies that can be a temptation to young men who are seeking the easy way to get money, as described in Proverbs 1:11-14; 4:14-17; and 6:12-15. In our human imperfection, being mentally bet toward evil, pleasures are attractive because they are forbidden (cp. Rom. 7:7).
Lady Wisdom offers the invitation, “Whoever is simple, let him turn here.” (vs. 4) The simpleminded foolish woman offers the invitation, “Whoever is simple, may he turn here!” (vs. 16) The invitations are quite different, though. Notice that the Lady Wisdom is inviting those lacking wisdom and understanding to a feast of wine, meat, and bread. Her offer is to give them wisdom and understanding from the only true God leading to life. On the other hand, the simpleminded foolish woman is not asking these simple ones to an improved life, but to a path leading to death. The simpleminded foolish woman is a loose woman seeking victims by seductively offering them a good time.
 That is, lacking good sense