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What is a "strange woman"?

"To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words"(Prov. 2:16)

"For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil"(Prov. 5:3)

"And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman , and embrace the bosom of a stranger?"(Prov. 5:20)

"That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words"(Prov. 7:5)

"Take his garment that is surety for a stranger : and take a pledge of him for a strange woman"(Prov. 20:16)

"The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein"(Prov. 22:14)

"Thine eyes shall behold strange women , and thine heart shall utter perverse things"(Prov. 23:33)

"Take his garment that is surety for a stranger , and take a pledge of him for a strange woman"(Prov. 27:13)

According to some Kinists, these texts teach that we should not enter into mixed-race marriages. But is this what "strange" means in such contexts? No. According to one lexicon, one of the meanings for the Hebrew word translated "strange" is "harlot."

to be strange, be a stranger
to become estranged
strange, another, stranger, foreigner, an enemy (participle)
loathsome (of breath) (participle)
strange woman, prostitute, harlot (meton)
(Niphal) to be estranged
(Hophal) to be a stranger, be one alienated

King James Word Usage - Total: 77
stranger 45, strange 18, estranged 4, stranger + (0376) 3, another 2, strange woman 2, gone away 1, fanners 1, another place 1

This, the historically important commentators bear out.

Jamieson-Fausset on Prov. 2:16

"the strange woman—This term is often used for harlot, or loose woman (Jud 11:1, 2), married (Pr 7:5, 19) or not (1Ki 11:1), so called, because such were, perhaps at first, foreigners, though "strange" may also denote whatever is opposed to right or proper, as "strange fire" (Nu 3:4); "strange incense" (Ex 30:9)."

The Pulpit Commentary on Prov. 2:16:

"Verse 16. - To deliver thee from the strange woman. This is the second form of temptation against which wisdom (discretion) is a preservative, and the great and especial dangers arising from it to youth, owing to its seductive allurements, afford the reason why the teacher is so strong in his warnings on this subject. Two terms are employed to designate the source of this evil - "the strange woman" (אִָשה זָרָה, ishshah zara), and "the stranger" (נָכְרִיָה, nok'riyah) - and both undoubtedly, in the passage before us, mean a meretricious person, one who indulges in illicit intercourse. The former term is invariably employed in this sense in the Proverbs (Proverbs 5:2, 20; Proverbs 7:5; Proverbs 22:14; Proverbs 23:33) of the adulteress (זָרִים, zarim), and Jeremiah 2:25. The participle זָר (zar), from the verb זוּר (zur), of which זָרָה (zarah) is the feminine form, is, however, used in a wider sense, as signifying"

John Gill on Prov. 2:16:

To deliver thee from the strange woman,.... As the Gospel of Christ and its doctrines, or the instructions of wisdom, are a means of delivering persons from the evil man, his company, ways, and works; so from a naughty woman, an adulteress, called a "strange" woman; not because of another nation, or unknown, but because she belongs to another person, and not to him whom she entices into her embraces. Gersom interprets this of the sensitive appetite, and Jarchi of idolatry; as others do also of superstition and all false doctrine, and everything that is contrary to true wisdom; and the whole that is here and afterwards said may well enough be applied to the whore of Rome, from whose fornication, or spiritual adultery, that is, idolatry, will worship, and antichristian doctrines, the Gospel delivers men; see Proverbs 7:5, &c

The Geneva Study Bible on Prov. 2:16:

"Meaning, the wisdom which is the word of God, will preserve us from all vices: naming this vice of whoredom to which man is most prone"

Adam Clarke interprets Proverbs 5:3 as referring to an adulteress:

"One that is not thy own, whether Jewess or heathen."

Matthew Henry on Proverbs 5:1-14:

5:1-14 Solomon cautions all young men, as his children, to abstain from fleshly lusts. Some, by the adulterous woman, here understand idolatry, false doctrine, which tends to lead astray men's minds and manners; but the direct view is to warn against seventh-commandment sins. Often these have been, and still are, Satan's method of drawing men from the worship of God into false religion. Consider how fatal the consequences; how bitter the fruit! Take it any way, it wounds. It leads to the torments of hell. The direct tendency of this sin is to the destruction of body and soul. We must carefully avoid every thing which may be a step towards it. Those who would be kept from harm, must keep out of harm's way. If we thrust ourselves into temptation we mock God when we pray, Lead us not into temptation. How many mischiefs attend this sin! It blasts the reputation; it wastes time; it ruins the estate; it is destructive to health; it will fill the mind with horror. Though thou art merry now, yet sooner or later it will bring sorrow. The convinced sinner reproaches himself, and makes no excuse for his folly. By the frequent acts of sin, the habits of it become rooted and confirmed. By a miracle of mercy true repentance may prevent the dreadful consequences of such sins; but this is not often; far more die as they have lived. What can express the case of the self-ruined sinner in the eternal world, enduring the remorse of his conscience!

The Pulpit Commentary on Proverbs 5:3:

Verse 3. - The teacher enters upon the subject of his warning, and under two familiar figures - common alike to Oriental and Greek writers - describes the nature of the "strange woman's" allurements. For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb. The conjunction "for" (Hebrew ki) here, like the LXX. γὰρ, states the reason why the preceding exhortation is worthy of attention. Some commentators render "although," "albeit," as corresponding with the antithetical "but" in ver. 4. The lips; siphthey, the construct case of saphah in ver. 2. The organ of speech is here used for the speech itself, like the parallel "mouth." A strange woman (zarah); i.e. the harlot. The word occurs before in Proverbs 2:16, and again inch. 5:20; 7:5; 22:14; 23. 33. She is extranea, a stranger with respect to the youth whom she would beguile, either as being of foreign extraction, or as being the wife of another man, in which capacity she is so represented in Proverbs 7:19. In this sense she would be an adulteress. St. Jerome, in Ezekiel 6, takes her as the representative of the allurements from sound doctrine, and of corrupt worship (Wordsworth). Drop as an honeycomb (nopheth tithoph nah); rather, distil honey. The Hebrew nophteth is properly a "dropping," distillatio, and so the honey flowing from the honeycombs (tsuphim). Kimchi explains it as the honey flowing from the cells before they are broken, and hence it is the pure fine virgin honey. Exactly the same phrase occurs in Song of Solomon 4:11, "Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as an honeycomb (nopheth tithoph'nah)." The only other places where we meet with the word nopheth are Psalm 24:10 (11) (there combined with tsuphim, which helps to determine its meaning) and Proverbs 24:13; Proverbs 27:7. The meaning is the same as she "flattereth with her words" of Proverbs 7:5, in which chapter the teacher gives an example of the alluring words which the strange woman uses (Proverbs 7:14-20). As honey is sweet and attractive to the taste, so in a higher degree are her words pleasant to the senses. Her mouth is smoother than oil; i.e. her words are most plausible and persuasive. The Hebrew khik is properly "the palate," though it also included the corresponding lower part of the mouth (Gesenius). It is used as the instrument or organ of speech in Proverbs 8:7, "For my mouth (khik) shall speak truth;" and in Job 31:30, "I have not suffered my mouth (khik) to sin." Under the same figure David describes the treachery of his friend in Psalm 55:22, "His words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords."

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