The Exclusivity of Marriage
Robert Wurtz II
Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.
Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman and embrace the bosom of an adulteress? For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray (Proverbs 5:15-23).
This entry is a follow-up to my previous article dealing with Israel’s unfaithfulness and the “spirit of whoredom.” In order to avoid the sin and subsequent judgment that God is sure to bring against immorality, some basic boundaries need to be established. At a time when people are committing adultery and wiping their mouths as if they did no evil (Proverbs 30:20), we must return to the Biblical revelation to recalibrate our sense of right and wrong and what it means to be faithful in a monogamous covenant relationship.
Reading our passage I’m reminded of my junior-high-school years when bad-boys would behave in outrageous ways at times, especially in the lunchroom. Imagine eating your meal when suddenly a kid grabs your drink and takes a sip out of it. Did you really just put your mouth on my milk carton, my pop can, my water bottle? Did you just steal my drink? You have your own drink! If it were an accident that would be understandable, but what kind of mindset brazenly tips up another persons’ glass?
Solomon in Proverbs uses the metaphor of a cistern to express a man’s wife (or a woman’s husband) and water for the marital relations that they lawfully enjoy. “Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well” is the instruction Solomon gives. In other words, you have your own source to gratify the natural desires of your flesh; don’t go looking to drink from someone else’s cup (so to speak).
A garden locked is my sister, my bride, a spring locked (Song of Solomon 4:12).
No one has access to a locked garden and spring but the rightful owner and a sealed fountain is shut against all impurity (K&D). This is a powerful illustration when you consider the historical background. Water is at a premium in the Middle East so private wells were dug, locked, and sealed. This speaks of exclusivity. The well belongs to its owner and must not be tampered with. This is a great picture of virginity followed by marital fidelity. Yet there is always the risk of a trespasser who, like the brazen boys at the lunch table, would seek to drink from the locked spring.
I recently participated in an online conversation that began with a FB post that warned against flirting with someone who might lead you to adultery. Keep in mind this is a Christian context. Apparently, as Christians, we are losing the sense that individuals within a marriage should keep themselves exclusively to their marriage partner. It’s not uncommon for married people to flirt with others and in many cases commit adultery.
“And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife” (Genesis 26:8 KJV).
Notice that Abimelech recognized the way Isaac was “sporting” or “playing” with Rebekah and realized that she was his wife and not merely his sister. This didn’t take special discernment. There are ways in which human beings interact with one another that would only be appropriate within marriage. At the least certain behaviors meant you were interested in marriage. The old-timers used to call it “sparkin’.” This word “sparkin’” got its beginning because the couple’s only way to get to talk to each other was to sit side by side in two straight-backed chairs (homemade split bottoms) before the fire, after the family had gone to bed in the same room. Whispering to each other, sparks rising from the chimney told the neighbors that someone was up later than the usual bedtime (AppalachianEnglish/node/675).
Inappropriate and Dangerous Behavior
Let me say categorically that no Christian man or woman has any business flirting with someone who is not their spouse. That should be common sense even among the heathen. In the secular world, that’s a good way to get what one old country boy called “pop knot” (pump knot). In the Ozarks, it’s called “dropping a rusty bucket down my well.” You don’t go around hitting on other peoples’ spouses. Let me just double down and say that nobody needs to be told that and if they do they probably weren’t raised right. It’s common sense or at least it should be.
Yet I have known men and women to flirt and then act like they were just friends or that they didn’t mean anything by it. Sure they meant it. There used to be a commercial in the Midwest where a young woman solicited her qualifications (or lack thereof). When she came up short in an interview she replied, “But I have a brilliant personality.” Really? “I’m just a nice guy and you take me wrong” is another lame excuse for flirting.
It was said of former president Franklin D. Rosevelt that he loved to conquer women with his charm. He was married and had been caught in an adulterous affair by his wife early in their marriage. The moral of the story? Show me a flirt and I’ll show you a cheater (male or female). Many excused FDR because he was the president. Yet why do the so-called “charming” types (flirts) use their “charm?” They love to see if they can solicit a response from men or women so they can tell themselves that if they wanted to… they could have your spouse. It is pride plain and simple. They want to see if the other person will reciprocate. His or hers is the type of behavior I watched from drunk men growing up as a boy.
I have been the designated driver at dances where men would brazenly ask another man’s wife to dance. It’s not uncommon for a drunk man to hit on a man’s wife in a tavern, but it should never happen in the churches. What did Solomon say, “Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets?” The risk is that the person can become so twisted that they end up in adultery or worse. They are no longer satisfied to drink from their own well so they look to sip from whatever well appeals to them.
This is not something that can be dismissed as innocent behavior. It’s a bad boy being a “bad boy” or a bad girl being a “bad girl.” God is watching. What did Solomon say? “For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the LORD, and he ponders all his paths. The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin. He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray.” Lack of discipline (self-control) and foolishness are the root problems.