Proverbs 23:27 for an adulterous woman is a deep pit, and a wayward wife is a narrow well.

Why a deep pit? Why a narrow well? What's that has to do with a wayward wife? What are the images supposed to convey?


Let's see the parallelism:

for   an adulterous woman   is   a deep pit,
and   a wayward wife        is   a narrow well.

Gill's explains it this way:

For a whore is a deep ditch,.... Or, "as a deep ditch", so Aben Ezra; to which she may be compared for the filthiness of her whoredoms, and for her insatiable lust, as well as for her being never satisfied with what she receives from her lovers. Plautus compares (g) her to the sea, which devours whatever you give, and yet nothing appears; and another (h) calls a whore Charybdis, from her swallowing up and devouring all a man has. She is as a ditch that has no bottom, into which those that fall are ever sinking deeper and deeper, till they get into the bottomless pit; for there is seldom any recovery from this dreadful evil; and a strange woman is a narrow pit; or "well" (i); into which when men fall, they bruise themselves in a terrible manner, by beating from side to side; and out of which they cannot extricate themselves; at least not easily, but with great difficulty, if ever.

The deep pit and the narrow well convey a sense of being trapped with little hope of escape.


This verse is part of a passage

Proverbs 23
26 My son, give me your heart
and let your eyes delight in my ways,
27 for an adulterous woman is a deep pit,
and a wayward wife is a narrow well.
28 Like a bandit she lies in wait
and multiplies the unfaithful among men.

The main point of the passage is that the father is advising the son to stay focused on the ways the father has taught - which are God's ways - and to not be distracted by another man's wife. Distractions will entrap and keep the son from God's ways and are difficult to get away from

This verse is an example of parallelism used throughout Proverbs.

Parallelism is a rhetorical device that compounds words or phrases that have equivalent meanings so as to create a definite pattern.

The author says:

  • "an adulterous woman is a deep pit"

another way of saying the same thing is

  • "a wayward wife is a narrow well"

In verse 27 we have the image of a deep pit and a narrow well.

  • The deep pit is a trap, a well - some kind of hole one can get stuck in.
  • The narrow well is also difficult to climb out of once trapped inside.

A super rough paraphrase might be:
26 Don't be distracted from God's ways 27 Don't get involved with another man's wife - it's a trap 28 an adulterous woman is always on the prowl and will entrap many men.

Another aspect of Proverbs is that similar topics are covered in different ways and with different words. Taking all of Proverbs together gives a more complete picture of the author's intent.


Proverbs 23:27 emphasized the danger יְהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ־בִּן־נ֠וּן Yehoshua (Joshua) son of Nun faced as a spy in יְרִיח֑וֹ Yericho (Jericho) , when Yehoshua decided to trust a זוֹנָ֑ה Zonah : "Harlot" named Rahav ( זוֹנָ֛ה** וּשְׁמָ֥הּ רָחָ֖ב** ) in Joshua 2:1.

Proverbs / Mishlei 23:27 [MT]

"For a harlot is like a deep ditch and a foreign woman like a narrow well." ( כִּֽי־שׁוּחָ֣ה עֲמֻקָּ֣ה זוֹנָ֑ה וּבְאֵ֥ר צָ֜רָ֗ה נָכְרִיָּֽה ).

[ https://www.sefaria.org/Proverbs.23.27?with=all&lang=bi ]

  • This means Rahav's offer to help יְהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ Yehoshua & the nation of יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל Yisrael was a questionable trap (deep ditch) , since Rahav's faithfulness to the nation of יְרִיח֑וֹ Yericho was already untrustworthy (narrow well).

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