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She is a loving doe and a graceful mountain goat;
let her breasts satisfy you at every opportune time—
going astray in her love. Bible

“a graceful mountain goat.” In this text, the father (going back to Prov. 5:7) is trying to inspire his son to stop his adultery and become re-infatuated with his wife by telling him that she is loving, beautiful, and satisfying. The compliments in the ancient and agrarian society of the Old Testament can seem like insults today, but we can be sure they were not insults to the women who received those compliments at the time. In Song of Solomon 4:1 and 6:5, the lover pays his beloved a series of compliments that would not be taken well by women today. He says, “your hair is like a flock of goats” (Song 4:1; 6:5), “your teeth are like a flock of sheep” (Song 4:2), “your neck is like the tower of David” (Song 4:4), and “your two breasts are like two fawns” (Song 4:5). He also refers to her as a garden that is locked up, or bolted closed (Song 4:12), and says she is as awesome as an army marching with banners (Song 6:10), which is a compliment that may relate well to men, but most women would not think that way.

Cultural idioms such as these compliments are one reason why Bible versions differ and sometimes why the Bible can be hard to understand. Some versions, such as the REV, think it is important to reproduce the wording of the original text and give the reader a window into the biblical culture. We trust that although most modern women would not like to receive those compliments themselves, they understand that those compliments warmed the hearts of the women of the time. Other versions might have a different point of view, and adapt the compliment to something more complimentary to women today, capturing the idea but not the vocabulary of the ancient world. The Hebrew word in this verse is “mountain goat,” and in the culture of the time they were considered graceful and beautiful.

The father has the right idea. It is important for men to look for the love and beauty in their wives. It is always the case that there might be a prostitute or an adulteress who seems “more exciting” than your wife, but as Proverbs says, in the end she is bitter as wormwood and her path leads down to death.

“satisfy.” The Hebrew verb is ravah (#07301 רָוָה), which in the Qal form means to be filled, but in the Piel form, which it is here, means to drench, saturate, “make saturated with a liquid” (B. Waltke, Proverbs, p. 304, n. 37). So a literal meaning might be, “let her breasts drench you.” This could be a kind of hyperbole and would not necessarily have to refer to the man drinking the woman’s breast milk, but instead just being satisfied with her love, as the context indicates. However, the text certainly does not exclude the possibility of the man drinking her breast milk, because in biblical times big families were common and women were often pregnant or nursing, and also women regularly breast-fed or supplementally breast-fed until the baby was two or even older. For the husband to drink breast milk is considered erotic and/or bonding by some people.

“going astray.” The phrasing, “going astray” is important because the Hebrew word appears three times in five verses (Prov. 5:19, 20, 23). The Hebrew word is shagah (#07686 שָׁגָה), and it means “to go astray, stray, err, go wrong, meander, swerve,” and also refers to being intoxicated, drunk from wine or beer. The man “is drunk,” “wanders about,” or “loses himself” in her love in Prov. 5:19, and also “errs” and “strays” in his folly in Prov 5:23, but it is best to bring the Hebrew into the same English in all three verses to show the connection the father is making. The interplay between the three verses is significant, but it is hard to find one translation that fits all three verses. We settled with “go astray,” which works quite well in all three verses.


Commentary for: Proverbs 5:19