Yesterday, I claimed that the “sealed fountain” in Song of Solomon 4:12 is a reference to female ejaculation.

earl responded by pointing out that Proverbs 5 has similar language in reference to marriage vs. adultery. (The popular interpretation of Song 4:12 is that it’s a reference to female chastity.) This reminded me of something interesting I came across a while back…

Proverbs 5:16-17 has long been a difficult passage for translators. It’s typically rendered as something like:

Drink water from your own cistern,
And running water from your own well.
Should your fountains be dispersed abroad,
Streams of water in the streets?
Let them be only your own,
And not for strangers with you.
Let your fountain be blessed,
And rejoice with the wife of your youth.

But the Hebrew does not literally say that. (You can see for yourself here.)

It was changed into a rhetorical question by the translators because they couldn’t make sense of it as a straight statement. They assumed that a man’s “fountain” should NOT be dispersed.

But the Stone Edition of the Tanach, edited by Rabbi Nosson Scherman, renders the passage as follows:

Drink water from your own cistern and flowing water from your own well. [Then] your springs will spread outwards, streams of water in the thorough-fares. They will be yours alone, strangers not sharing them with you. Your source will be blessed, and you will rejoice with the wife of your youth.

While the conclusion remains the same (don’t sleep with an adulteress), the meaning behind the conclusion drastically changes.

Solomon is not simply saying adultery is bad. He’s saying it’s shameful for strangers to share your seed (e.g. your “springs”, your “source”). It is better to channel your springs into your own wife, so that you keep what is yours.

A man who is “fruitful” will visibly spread his seed (offspring) throughout the kingdom. But to produce bastard children would be a shame to your seed.

Your seed and your identity are bound together. You are only bringing shame to yourself by planting it in foreign fields.

Same conclusion. Different meaning.