Proverbs 7:6-9

“For at the window of my house, through my lattice I looked down, that I might peer upon the inexperienced ones. I was interested in discerning among the sons a young man in want of heart, passing along on the street near her corner, and in the way to her house he marches, in the twilight, in the evening of the day, at the approach of the night and the gloom.”—Proverbs 7:6-9.

Through the framework of laths and elaborate carvings King Solomon looks down on the street below. In the darkness he sees a vulnerable man. He describes him as being ‘in want of heart.’ What does that mean? The author uses it in a number of places: Proverbs 6:32; 9:4, 16; 10:13, 21; 11:12; 12:11; 15:21. New International Version uses the expression ‘a youth who had no sense’, New English Translation reads ‘a young man who lacked wisdom’, and King James Version says ‘a young man void of understanding’. Wilhelm Gesenius supports the latter understanding. (Hebräisches und aramäisches Handwörterbuch über das Alte Testament, 17th ed., unchanged new print, 1962, p. 376.) According to Koehler and Baumgartner it means ‘without intelligence’. (Lexicon in Veteris Testamenti Libros, Leiden, 1958, p. 470.) Since ‘want of heart’ marks a person who is lacking good judgement or discernment, it is contrasted with ‘discernment’. (Proverbs 11:12; 15:21) He is ‘inexperienced’, ‘foolish’, lacking in wisdom. (Proverbs 7:7; 9:1-9, 16; 10:21) It is proper to translate the word ‘heart’, because it indicates that positive qualities of the whole inner person are deficient.

That the expression ‘want of heart’ includes the idea of lacking good judgement or discernment is evident from the context in which it is used in the Scriptures. At Proverbs 6:32 the wise man says that one committing adultery ‘is in want of heart’. The adulterer is ‘a senseless fool’ (New English Version) in view of the bitter fruit of such sexual immorality. (Proverbs 1:2-4; 6:23-35; 7:7, 21-27) Outwardly he may appear to be a reputable person, but the inner man is seriously lacking in proper development.

In sharp contrast, you can also ‘acquire heart’. As Proverbs 19:8 says: “He that is acquiring heart (‘The one who acquires wisdom’, New English Translation) is loving his own soul (‘loves life’, New International Version; ‘loves himself’, New English Translation). He that is guarding discernment is going to find good.” He is a person who gives serious attention to what he really is deep down inside. He uses his mind to acquire accurate knowledge of God and of his ways; he meditates on these things and seeks to apply them. He carefully moulds his desires, affections, emotions, and goals in life in harmony with what he realizes will be approved by God. So doing, he benefits himself, demonstrating that he ‘loves his own soul.’ By thus building up the inner person, he ‘guards discernment,’ because he fortifies in wholesome ways those factors that powerfully influence his own ability to think clearly and act wisely.

The young man passes along the street ‘near her corner’. Perhaps he ventured into her neighbourhood out of curiosity. All too quickly, he fails to discern that he is being led into a foolish course that ‘involves his very soul.’ (Proverbs 7:23) Proverbs 7:25 provides a clear warning: “May your heart not turn aside to her ways. Do not wander into her roadways.” If we want God’s spirit to lead us, we need to avoid placing ourselves in the path of temptation. For the young man it was enough to even come near. He ‘marched’ into her house. (Proverbs 5:8) The darkness, in the twilight – this is where this story belongs.—Job 24:15; Romans 13:12; Ephesians 5:11.

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