To trap an animal, one must know its ways, including what it eats and where its hole or den is likely to be found. A bit of cheese or peanut butter in the right place, for example, and a careless mouse is easily caught. The key is to spotlight the bait and hide the consequences.
The same holds true in the case of sexual purity, including marital faithfulness. The foolish young man in today’s reading saw only the bait—a willing, beautiful woman—and not the consequences—sin and death. Wisdom would have showed him the truth, protected him from temptation, and strengthened him for righteous obedience (vv. 1–5).
Most of today’s reading is a narrative of how the adulteress lays her trap and how the young man falls into it (vv. 6–23). Dressed to entice, she meets him in the street and invites him home for “dinner.”
There’s no mistaking her real invitation—her husband is away and she asks the young man to join her for a night of lovemaking. This is apparently her habit, as her busy feet (v. 11) and fragrant spices (v. 17) may be read as euphemisms for sexual activity. In short, this woman is shameless, immodest, smooth-talking, and immoral. The young man is quite simply a fool. Lacking in judgment and seduced by her promises and his own desires, he follows her “like a deer stepping into a noose” (v. 22). This does not make him a victim, because he bears full responsibility for his choice to be seduced.
Following the narrative, the writer again exhorts readers to embrace wisdom (pictured as a woman in the next chapter) and resist such temptations (vv. 24–27). Walking the adulteress’s path leads to death, but walking in the way of Wisdom leads to life.