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Some Simple Inexperienced Ones Choose Death
Proverbs 9:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
18 But he does not know that the dead are there,
that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.
But he does not know that the dead are there: The conjunction but is a contrast between the banquet invitation and what would be the consequences of accepting such an invitation, that is, death. He is referring to the simple inexperienced ones who received the invitation. The dead is literally (רְפָאִים rephaim); the Hebrew term applies to a tall people or tribe. However, sometimes, it is used in reference to those who are dead. In this verse, it has the sense of those who are powerless in death.
that her guests are in the depths of Sheol: Here, her guests refer to those that the simpleminded foolish woman had ‘called to’ that was passing by her as she sat “at the door of her house; on a seat at the highest places of the city.” (9:14-15) The context is referring to who had accepted that invitation. The depths (עֹמֶק omeq) are so deep in thought that it cannot even be perceived; it is unknowable. The depth of the grave. Sheol: (שְׁאוֹל sheol or שְׁאֹל sheol) occurs sixty-six times in the Hebrew Old Testament. The Greek Septuagint renders Sheol as Hades. It has the underlying meaning of a place of the dead, where they are conscious of nothing, awaiting a resurrection, for both the righteous and the unrighteous. (Gen. 37:35; Psa. 16:10; Ac 2:31; John 5:28-29; Acts 24:15) It corresponds to “Hades” in the New Testament. It does not involve torment and punishment.
The simpleminded foolish woman is not offering mixed wine; rather, hers is offering ‘stolen waters that she claims are sweet, and bread of secrecy, which she says is pleasant.’ In Proverbs chapter 15, we see that drinking water from a cistern other than your own is metaphorical for having sexual relations with a woman other than your wife. (Proverbs 5:15-17) Therefore, we can possibly extrapolate that drinking sweet stolen waters is sexual relations outside of one’s marriage or being unmarried and committing fornication. At the very least, this water is described as sweet and better tasting than the mixed wine because the person drinking it has a racing heart from getting away with stealing it. The bread of secrecy is described as pleasant, more so than the woman of wisdom’s bread and meat because it was ill-gotten gains. Today, we are well aware of how the advertising world sells everything with the sense of a forbidden spirit, a secret or clandestine atmosphere, making everything seem more attractive, which plays on the stupidity of the buyer.
Lady Wisdom is offering life, while the simpleminded foolish woman is silent on what is at the end of her path. However, Solomon makes it quite clear that her house guest ends up in Sheol, that is, death. In other words, her house is really a house of death. So, let us choose life.
The lengthy introduction ends with this final warning, and a compilation of separate proverbs begins. Lady Wisdom and the simpleminded foolish woman have each had their opportunity to speak; the issues of each have been presented rather visually for the reader. The reader now has to decide for himself.