Pro 6: This chapter advises release from foolish indebtedness
(vv 1–5), admonishes avoiding laziness (vv 6–11), warns of the
danger of poverty (vv 9–11) and deviousness (vv 12–15), lists
conduct that the LORD hates (vv 16–19), and -- once again -- warns about
immorality (vv 20–35).
Vv 1-5: These verses "give warning against committing and
obligating ourselves. No one can foresee the future. The useful soldier of God
is the one who is unencumbered (2Ti 2:4) -- 'No man that warreth entangleth
himself with the affairs of this life: that he may please him who hath chosen
him to be a soldier': It is so easy to thoughtlessly put burdens on our backs
and ropes around our necks that will hinder us in the way of life. Here is a
first principle of wisdom. Here again is the dividing line between fools and
"It is every man's wisdom to keep out of debt as much as may
be, for it is an incumbrance upon him, entangles him in the world, puts him in
danger of doing wrong or suffering wrong. The borrower is servant to the lender
[Pro 22:7], and makes himself very much a slave to this world. Christians
therefore, who are bought with a price, should not thus, without need, make
themselves the servants of men (1Co 7:23)" (Henry).
"The advice in this section provides a good example of what
prudence is. A prudent person is one who is capable of exercising sound judgment
in practical matters. He or she is cautious and discreet in conduct, is
circumspect, and is sensible. We often describe a prudent person by saying he or
she has common sense. A prudent person can foresee the consequences of possible
actions. A godly person can and should be prudent because God's revelation helps
us to see the consequences of our actions" (Const).
As to the general background of lending and interest, etc, in
Israel, Ellicott writes: "When the Mosaic law was instituted, commerce had not
been taken up by the Israelites, and the lending of money on interest for its
employment in trade was a thing unknown. The only occasion for loans would be to
supply the immediate necessities of the borrower, and the exaction of interest
under such circumstances would be productive of great hardship, involving the
loss of land, and even of personal freedom, as the insolvent debtor and his
family became the slaves of the creditor (Neh 5:1-5). To prevent these evils,
the lending of money on interest to any poor Israelite was strictly forbidden
(Lev 25); the people were enjoined to be liberal, and to lend for nothing in
such cases. But at the time of Solomon, when the commerce of the Israelites was
enormously developed, and communications were opened with Spain and Egypt, and
possibly with India and Ceylon, while caravans penetrated beyond the Euphrates,
then the lending of money on interest for employment in trade most probably
became frequent, and suretyship also -- the pledging of a man's own credit to
enable his friend to procure a loan."
MY SON, IF YOU HAVE PUT UP SECURITY FOR YOUR NEIGHBOR:
Today we call this cosigning a loan. The wisdom of God is against rashly
guaranteeing debts of others without careful review of their character (Pro
11:15; 20:16), the extent of the obligation (Pro 22:3; 14:15), and your ability
to pay it off (Pro 22:27). More generally, both David and the Preacher warned
about keeping vows, which is helped by vowing reluctantly (Psa 15:4; 24:4; Ecc
"In this matter adults often reveal less capacity for learning
than children. They have the advantage of books containing all the accumulated
wisdom of mankind, and beyond all this and permeating a great deal of it, there
is the instruction that has come direct from God, yet the knowledge is very
little used. Life is full of avoidable evils through men ignoring principles or
rules of conduct which are perfectly well known, and which have had their wisdom
demonstrated in every generation.
"Sometimes the individual failure is so obvious that almost
all observers smile at it. I recall two instances of this kind in which the
facts were related by the victim when sufficient time had passed for him to join
in the amusement. The first was of a capable business man who lightheartedly put
his name to paper and became surety for another without even knowing the full
extent of his commitment. As is usual in such cases, the one thus assisted
failed to pay his way, and the guarantor was for some weeks on the verge of
ruin, not knowing when the crushing blow would fall. While in this worried
condition he one day opened the Bible to find a little consolation, and almost
the very first passage he read was one in Proverbs warning men against the very
folly he had committed. 'What a foolish man I am', he thought. 'I have
carelessly brought myself into this trouble, when all the while the whole matter
is explained in the Bible in the most up-to-date manner. If I had read it before
I might have been warned' " (PrPr).
IF YOU HAVE STRUCK HANDS IN PLEDGE:The guarantee of a pledge was
signaled by a handshake, or even more simply, by a striking of hands (cf Pro
11:15; 17:18; 20:16; 22:26; 27:13). To strike, or join, hands was an ancient
form of entering into contracts in all countries and in all ages (cf Job 17:3,
AV; Psa 144:8,11). "It is interesting to note the expression 'strike hands' in
this connection. It suggests that without any signature, the offering and
acceptance of the hand would constitute a bond which no one would repudiate. We
may sometimes see in English cattle markets a custom which is probably a
survival of that to which the wise man refers. Two men will be haggling over the
price of a beast. Finally the vendor, having made a concession, declares that he
will take nothing less. He holds out his right hand, stating the price, and
perhaps with quite a dramatic indication of finality. The buyer, with no show of
enthusiasm, and without saying a word, strikes the outstretched hand with his
own palm and the sale is effected. Surely a survival from three thousand years
or more" (PrPr).
FOR ANOTHER: A key mitigating factor may be found in
this last phrase: it is unclear why the NIV translated, simply, "another", when
the Hebrew is "zuwr" -- a foreigner, a stranger (AV, RSV). "It was fairly common
for people to put up some kind of financial security for someone else, that is,
to underwrite another's debts. But the pledge in view here was foolish because
the debtor was a neighbor who was not well known, perhaps a misfit in the
community. The one who pledged security for this one was simply gullible"
(NETn). Such a "stranger" (whether a true foreigner, or just new to the
community) would be a bad risk in such a financial arrangement.
This raises the question: do these verses warn against putting
up security for those who are poor risks only, or for ANYONE -- close friend and
family member as well? Some commentators takes these verses (Pro 6:1-5) as
warning against security for the "stranger" or "foreigner" only, but others see
"neighbor... stranger" as inclusive -- identifying the whole spectrum of
individuals for whom security should NOT be put up! A comparison of the other
more-or-less parallel passages in Proverbs seems to confirm this second view:
(a) Pro 11:15 has "zuwr" again -- "stranger" or "foreigner"; (b) Pro 17:18 has
"neighbor" again; and (c) Pro 22:26 does not specify for whom the pledge should
not be taken -- suggesting any and all.
Does this mean there is absolutely no situation in which one
should put up security for another? Perhaps the only time this should be done is
for a very close friend or family member, and only in circumstances where one
can -- in the worst scenario -- withstand the loss altogether. In such a case,
putting up security is more on the order of simply giving to those who have
need, with no (real) expectation of being repaid.
Another OT example of putting up security for another: Judah
guaranteeing the safety of Benjamin, with his own life for the "security" (Gen
Are there any NT examples of putting up security for another?
Constable mentions one, of a sort, when he writes: "Paul offered to pay
Onesimus' past debts, but not his future ones (Phm 1:18,19)." And then -- on a
higher level -- there is the good Samaritan, who, leaving the badly-wounded man
in the care of the innkeeper, says, "Look after him... and when I return, I will
reimburse you for any extra expense you may have" (Luk 10:35) -- in other words,
his word is his "security" for all future debts of the wounded man. Is it a
stretch to see the good Samaritan as a type of Christ? He finds us hurt and
bleeding along the road, binds up our wounds, carries us to a place of safety,
and undertakes to pay all our debts -- this is the essence of the atonement, or
redemption in Christ. Our God -- through His Son -- has undertaken what we
should not: unmitigated security for those who believe in Him, and call upon Him
when in trouble! (It is in the nature of an Almighty God to do this, but it is
not remotely within our capacity!) But -- bearing in mind the exceptions noted
above -- we do not suppose that God or His Son Jesus Christ will be surety for
"strangers", but only for those who are his close family members!
IF YOU HAVE BEEN TRAPPED BY WHAT YOU SAID, ENSNARED BY THE
WORDS OF YOUR MOUTH: "He would be under no obligation to do this -- it was
merely an impulsive act of generosity. A gullible young man might lack judgment
and be easily swept in, only to realize too late that he was 'trapped'
('yaqash') and 'ensnared' ('lakad'). Such a rash act of generosity might take a
lifetime to pay" (EBC).
"To be a man of integrity, only make commitments you can
easily keep. If you promise to be somewhere at a certain time, be there early.
Don't promise hastily, because once you have spoken, you are bound to keep your
word. Performance may be based on diligence; punctuality may be based on time
management; but both can be helped by only making commitments and promises with
great care... Fools and wicked men blast off and make promises they cannot keep
(Pro 12:13; 18:7). Their lips trap them in trouble. Consider Herod and his oath
to Herodias's daughter (Mat 14:3-11)" (LGBT).
THEN DO THIS, MY SON: What began pleasantly with glory
and pride -- thinking oneself so magnanimous in acting the part of gracious
benefactor to a poorer friend! -- must now be reversed painfully with humility
and shame. Sinful choices bring negative consequences; you should not be
TO FREE YOURSELF: The image is one of being snatched or
plucked quickly out of some danger or trouble, in the sense of a rescue, as in a
"brand snatched from the fire" (Zec 3:2).
SINCE YOU HAVE FALLEN INTO YOUR NEIGHBOR'S HANDS: In
other words, your financial wellbeing is entirely in the creditor's power and
GO AND HUMBLE YOURSELF: The verb "raphac" means "to
stamp oneself down" or "to humble oneself". BDB suggests "become a suppliant".
Gesenius translated it "prostrate yourself" 'Go down on your knees and beg, if
PRESS YOUR PLEA WITH YOUR NEIGHBOR!: That is, in this
place, the "creditor" of course, not the person for whom you pledged yourself;
HE can't release you. "Rahav" = to be bold, or boisterous. It almost seems
contradictory: "humble yourself BOLDLY!" The idea is: no matter what it takes,
don't take "No" for an answer. (This reminds us of the parable of the
importunate widow: Luk 18:1-8.)
Alternatively, as the KJV puts it: "Make sure thy friend."
This takes the first "neighbor" in this verse to be the creditor (see above:
"free yourself" from the creditor's clutches), and the second "neighbor" to be
your "friend" for whom you pledged in the first place. This would then mean:
'Stir him up, encourage him, urge him to pay off the debt quickly, and discharge
the bond, or give you relief from it.'
ALLOW NO SLEEP TO YOUR EYES, NO SLUMBER TO YOUR
EYELIDS: Undertake with great diligence, and without delay, to put right
anything that can be put right! "How important is this warning? If you are
involved in suretyship or other exposure to loss, do everything you can to
protect yourself this very day! Do not delay! How do you know that adversity
will not strike today? Get out of the trap quickly! Immediately! Have you
promised to keep others' obligations, if they don't? Have you co-signed any
loans? Is your personal insurance up to date? Auto liability? Medical?
Homeowner's liability? Is your business insurance current? Especially liability?
Get covered today! In all matters of wisdom and righteousness, it is our urgent
duty to correct them immediately. David said, 'I made haste, and delayed not to
keep thy commandments' (Psa 119:60). This is the holy ambition and action of
every true child of God! Is it yours? You do not know what will happen tomorrow,
so do not plan on it (Pro 27:1). Felix was convicted by Paul's preaching, but
postponed it to a more 'convenient season', which never came (Acts 24:24-27).
Agrippa said he was almost persuaded (Acts 26:27-29)" (LGBT) -- but what good
did it do him?
FREE YOURSELF, LIKE A GAZELLE FROM THE HAND OF THE HUNTER,
LIKE A BIRD FROM THE SNARE OF THE FOWLER: Free yourself by flight, not by
fight! "The exhortation is then repeated and enhanced by two similes that
retrieve the motif of the person's being entrapped by the pledge"
Are you frantic to obey God? Abraham rose early in the morning
to obey a hard request (Gen 22:1-3). The kingdom of God is entered by violent
force -- frantic zeal to conform your life to Jesus Christ (Mat 11:12). You must
strive to press through a strait gate (Luk 13:24; 16:16). We work out our
salvation with fear and trembling (Phi 2:12)! What should you do today? Right
Vv 6-11: "The example of the small, yet mighty, ant is
remarkable. It is proverbial for industry in every country. It is fondly
attached to its young; works quietly, unweariedly, without interfering with
others; works for the good of the community with astonishing organisation (v 7).
The ants are ingenious carpenters and masons, building their own systems of
homes and underground tunnels. They keep their homes scrupulously clean. Each
has a definite job in life for the good of the community. They will fight to the
death to protect their own homes or young. They will not shirk heavy loads, and
will co-operate to bear them. They are set forth as an example for Wisdom. We
need to ponder their example, and apply those wise qualities in our lives"
(GEM). And so we have here "an exhortation to diligence and labor -- [and]
against indolence and slumber. Slumber is more than just lying in bed. It is
mental drifting and inactivity -- spiritual laziness -- natural self-indulgence
and self-pleasing: 'It is high time to awake out of sleep... cast off the works
of darkness... put on the armor of light' (Rom 13:11,12). 'Many are weak and
sickly among you, and many sleep' (1Co 11:30)" (GVG). "Solomon, in these verses,
addresses himself to the sluggard who loves his ease, lives in idleness, minds
no business, sticks to nothing, brings nothing to pass, and in a particular
manner is careless in the business of religion. Slothfulness is as sure a way to
poverty, though not so short a way, as rash suretiship" (Henry). Cf the parallel
section in Pro 24:30-34 -- where the emphasis is on the neglected field of the
sluggard -- as well as Pro 26:13-16.
GO TO THE ANT, YOU SLUGGARD: Heb "atsel" is a lazy or
sluggish person. Such a person does not like to exert himself. He is a pain to
those trusting him (Pro 10:26). Diligent men will be successful (Pro 10:4;
12:24; 14:23; 22:29; 28:19); but lazy men are losers (Pro 6:10,11; 12:24; 19:15;
20:4,13; 24:30-34). They are too arrogant to be taught (Pro 26:16).
CONSIDER ITS WAYS, AND BE WISE: The ant is the ultimate
"gleaner" in the fields (Lev 19:9,10; 23:22; Deu 24:19), often taking -- like
the poor of the land -- only what is left behind, or has fallen to the ground,
and making wonderful use of it. As the old proverb says, "Waste not, want not!"
"Consider... what diligence and industry it uses in providing its food; which,
though a small, weak, feeble creature, yet will travel over flints and stones,
climb trees, enter into towers, barns, cellars, places high and low, in search
of food; never hinder, but help one another in carrying their burdens; prepare
little cells to put their provisions in, and are so built as to secure them from
rain; and if at any time their corn is wet, they bring out and dry it, and bite
off the ends of it, that it may not grow" (Gill). The ant is also mentioned in
Pro 30:25: it is "wise" in providing stores of food for the winter.
"Ants are the amazing little creatures that swarm in their
millions under the earth and on our paths and gardens, and sometimes in our
kitchens. Unless they run around where we don't want them I wonder if we even
"One wonders how we can not notice them for there are some
3,500 species of ants, some living under the soil and some that build their
homes in trees. There can be colonies of a few hundred and others with 100,000
members, all running smoothly and well organised.
"When rain is coming we often see clouds of winged ants stream
out of their holes and fly sky-wards; these are the reproductive ants and this
is their nuptial flight, or their wedding night.
"After this flight the male ant dies and the female drops to
the ground and prepares to set up a colony. She bites off her wings and finds an
indentation in the ground where she proceeds to excavate a larger hole where she
can lay her first eggs.
"She will produce a few female ants, which are infertile, and
they will be the foragers for food. They will be nest-builders and nurses for
further hatchings. If by chance these infertile ants do lay eggs, the eggs will
be used as food for the baby ants.
"The queen ant will also produce worker ants that are small,
and soldier ants, which grow larger and have large mandibles to be used to great
advantage in their many battles while protecting the colony. They also use their
mandibles to help the foragers break up large pieces of food to enable it to be
pulled down into the entrance of the nesting chambers.
"Like the bee, the queen ant is solitary, and is larger than
other ants. As she lays an egg she picks it up in her nippers and tries to place
it away from the squirming larvae about her which love nothing better than a
freshly laid ant egg to eat.
"From the result of the nuptial flight the female ant can
continue to lay millions of eggs for many years, which is something for us to
wonder at, as in God's wisdom He made her so.
"The colony is a wonder of organisation, no fumble, no
arguments, each group of ants, workers, foragers, and soldiers knowing their
jobs and going about them with precision and care.
"The workers are the ones we must try to emulate. They tend
the eggs by licking them to rid them of any infectious fungi, and feed them.
They also have to keep the little clusters of eggs sorted into their various
sizes so that when they hatch the babies will all get their proper ration of
food and equal attention. If they are of uneven sizes the larger larvae get more
food and attention than the little ones who then die of neglect. So the worker
has to do his job particularly well for the good of the colony.
"The worker ants are fed by the foragers with pre-digested
food, some of which is passed on to the larvae. In due course the larvae spin a
cocoon about themselves and stay in there while their bodies change from a grub
to an ant. Then the workers come along to help bite the web-like cocoon cover
away, and so let the little ant out; and another generation is born to take up
"The caste of an ant is determined by the food it has been
given while it was a grub. A high protein diet is fed to the prospective
reproducers while the workers were given a high carbohydrate menu.
"The leaf-cutter ants grow their gardens by stripping leaves
from nearby trees and laying them in the base of their nests. Fungi grow on
these leaves and develop a small body or bromatia, and this is fed to the larvae
-- nothing so good as fresh food from your very own garden!
"These little creatures, like all God's creation, do not need
a highly-educated professor to teach them what to do. They just know about it
for the Almighty Creator has built into their brains the knowledge of
"One could write books on these wonderful, industrious insects
that breathe and eat as we do, but are such regular, assiduous workers that
laziness is unknown to them. They can put us to shame, for we need our days off
and holiday time to recuperate our strength, yet we don't work nearly as hard or
regularly in our ecclesias or jobs as they do.
"Next time you are in your garden watch how busy the ants are,
and, although they sometimes appear to go aimlessly around, be assured that
every little creature knows where he is going, and why. You will sometimes see
several ants meet head-on and have a conference, passing messages down the line
to the colony.
"Bees and ants are much alike in their methods of running
their affairs, but Solomon chose the ant as an example to follow. Can't you see
Solomon in your mind's eye kneeling in his garden and watching the ants in those
early Biblical days?
"He arose, and thinking of the people about him lazing their
days away, and the people, who generations away were doing the same, what could
he say to his people to encourage them? He had in mind Ecc 9:10 -- 'Whatsoever
thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, for there is no work, nor device,
nor knowledge nor wisdom in the grave whither thou goest.'
"He came up with the saying that has come down through the
halls of fame to us, the workers in the colony of Jesus Christ: 'Go to the ant,
thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise' (Pro 6:6)" (Marjorie Spiers, Sh
The phenomenon, of ants biting off the ends of kernels of
grain, so as to keep it from germinating in the "storehouse", is commented on by
a Dr. MacMillan, cited in BI: he "has found the food stored up in the nests of
the ants, and he adds this interesting information: 'Examining the seeds
collected in the nests of the ants on the top of the hill at Nice more
particularly with my magnifying glass, I found to my astonishment that each seed
had its end carefully bitten off. And the reason of this was perfectly plain.
You know each seed contains two parts -- the young plant or germ lying in its
cradle, as it were, and the supply of food for its nourishment, when it begins
to grow, wrapped round it. Now the ants had bitten off the young plant germ, and
they left only the part which was full of nourishment. And they did this to
prevent the seeds from growing and exhausting all the nourishment contained in
them. If they did not do this the seed stored under the ground, when the rains
came, would shoot, and so they would lose all their trouble and be left to
starve. I could not find in the heap a single seed that had not been treated in
IT HAS NO COMMANDER, NO OVERSEER OR RULER: The ant --
like the locust (Pro 30:27) -- appears to have no leader -- even though it
actually does have organization and cooperation. Unlike the ants, many men must
be forced to work, reminded to work, told how to work, reproved for jobs poorly
done, reminded how to do the job right, and constantly followed to keep them
working (Pro 20:13). They will take a day off for a cold or headache. If the
boss is away, they will play. Without the "lash", or the threat of it, ever
present, they will accomplish nothing!
YET IT STORES ITS PROVISIONS IN SUMMER AND GATHERS ITS FOOD
AT HARVEST: Even without apparent leadership or organization (which actually
is untrue), the ant provides for the future with great industry: "Ants are
creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer" (Pro
30:25). The classic example of such foresight and industry is Joseph, when
elevated to a leading position in Egypt (Gen 41). But even at harvest-time,
human sluggards do not work (Pro 10:5; cp Pro 20:4)!
We are placed on this earth for worthwhile activity and work
(Gen 1:28; 3:19). The purpose of our life is to serve God in joy and enthusiasm
to the fullest limit of our mortal powers, and as a training for future eternal
service in the tireless powers of the divine nature. This alone is true living.
Indulgent self-pleasing is death -- 'she (or he) who lives in pleasure is dead
while she lives' (1Ti 5:6). But the joyful and satisfying ideal of true living
is to be "always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1Co 15:58).
It is wise to put aside for a "rainy day"; saving money is
smart! Ants put aside provisions for themselves and those in their care, by the
instinct or wisdom God gave them. So people should save a portion of their
income. If they spend it all, or spend more than they earn, as many Americans
do, they will create for themselves financial difficulty, pain, stress, and
The ant stays underground during the whole winter season, and
it consumes the food it stored up during the prosperity of summer and harvest.
Without any rulers, guides, or overseers, the ant knows to be conscious of the
future and prepare for it (Pro 6:7). Saving is not something you should be
forced to do; you should want to do it for its great value. If a man is a
diligent self-starter -- following the ant's first two lessons (Pro 6:6) -- he
will earn considerable income during his lifetime, even if he is uneducated
and/or underemployed. But what a man earns does not measure the man; it is
rather what he keeps! For only what he keep shows character, and protects
against future trouble.
Fools live check to check. Wise men save some of all income,
at least ten percent, and put it aside, to be used only for a dire emergency or
solid investment. They think about the future, not just spending whatever comes
to hand (Pro 21:20). They cut silly spending so as to save.
There are spiritual lessons here too. While saving for your
financial future, you must also lay up treasures in heaven for your spiritual
future (1Ti 6:17-19). That was the wisdom Jesus taught from the unjust steward
(Luk 16:1-9). Are you making your calling and election sure (2Pe 1:10,11)?
The LXX adds a lengthy section at the end of the verse on the
lesson from the bee: "Or, go to the bee and learn how diligent she is and how
seriously she does her work -- her products kings and private persons use for
health -- she is desired and respected by all -- though feeble in body, by
honoring wisdom she obtains distinction." This was probably added in the first
place as an uninspired commentary, a parallel note, and then later was
erroneously incorporated into the main text itself.
HOW LONG WILL YOU LIE THERE, YOU SLUGGARD? WHEN WILL YOU
GET UP FROM YOUR SLEEP?: Sluggards stay in bed, for they love sleep (Pro
6:9-11; 20:13; 24:30-34). They want things like other men, but they don't want
to work for them (Pro 13:4). Staying in bed is simply too pleasant! One pictures
an employer, or a father, admonishing the lazy worker, or son, to be up and
Cp Luk 12:39,40 -- the parable of the thief and the unready
householder: "But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what
hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You
also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not
"Sluggards should be roused with a 'How long?' 'How long wilt
thou waste thy time, and when wilt thou be a better husband of it? How long wilt
thou love thy ease, and when wilt thou learn to deny thyself, and to take pains?
How long wilt thou bury thy talents, and when wilt thou begin to trade with
them? How long wilt thou delay, and put off, and trifle away thy opportunities,
as one regardless of hereafter; and when wilt thou stir up thyself to do what
thou hast to do, which, if it be not done, will leave thee for ever undone?' "
"On the day of judgement it will probably become apparent
that, while positive sin has slain its thousands, sheer neglect has slain its
ten thousands. This aspect of our relations with God was clearly before the Lord
Jesus when he spoke the three great parables recorded in Mat 25. The criticism
brought against those of whom the parables are spoken is not that they did not
know, but that they did know and, in various ways, did not act. The foolish
virgins knew they must have lamps, and had them, but they were too lazy 'in the
summer' of their lives to store up oil. The man with one talent knew something
was expected of him, but he was afraid of the magnitude of his task and
neglected to rise to it. Those on the left-hand side in the judgement knew it
was their duty to entertain their brethren, to clothe the naked and to minister
to those who were sick or in prison. They waited too long. The condemnation of
Jesus is applicable; 'Thou wicked and SLOTHFUL servant' " (CPro 124).
"We naturally conceive some abhorrence of a man that is in bed
when he should be at his labour or in his shop. We cannot tell how to think
anything good of him, who is such a slave to drowsiness as to neglect his
business for it.
"Let this therefore teach us to conceive how odious we must
appear in the sight of Heaven, if we are in bed, shut up in sleep and darkness,
when we should be praising God; and are such slaves to drowsiness, as to neglect
our devotions for it.
"For if he is to be blamed as a slothful drone, that rather
chooses the lazy indulgence of sleep, than to perform his proper share of
worldly business; how much more is he to be reproached, that would rather lie
folded up in a bed, than be raising up his heart to God in acts of praise and
Yet another old proverb is apt here: "Early to bed, and early
to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise!"
Vv 10,11 are repeated at Pro 24:33,34. "The worst of sluggards
only ask for a little slumber; they would be indignant if they were accused of
thorough idleness. A little folding of the hands to sleep is all they crave, and
they have a crowd of reasons to show that this indulgence is a very proper one.
Yet by these littles the day ebbs out, and the time for labour is all gone, and
the field is grown over with thorns.
"It is by little procrastinations that men ruin their souls.
They have no intention to delay for years -- a few months will bring the more
convenient season -- tomorrow if you will, they will attend to serious things;
but the present hour is so occupied and altogether so unsuitable, that they beg
to be excused. Like sands from an hour-glass, time passes, life is wasted by
driblets, and seasons of grace lost by little slumbers.
"Oh, to be wise, to catch the flying hour, to use the moments
on the wing! May the Lord teach us this sacred wisdom, for otherwise a poverty
of the worst sort awaits us, eternal poverty. Like a traveller steadily pursuing
his journey, poverty overtakes the slothful, and ruin overthrows the undecided:
each hour brings the dreaded pursuer nearer; he pauses not by the way, for he is
on his master's business and must not tarry. As an armed man enters with
authority and power, so shall want come to the idle, and death to the
impenitent, and there will be no escape. O that men were wise betimes, and would
seek diligently unto the Lord Jesus, or ere the solemn day shall dawn when it
will be too late to plough and to sow, too late to repent and believe. In
harvest, it is vain to lament that the seed time was neglected" (CHS).
A LITTLE SLEEP, A LITTLE SLUMBER: The sluggard himself
appears to reply to the taunt of v 9: 'I don't need much more sleep -- just a
few more minutes!' It feels so good, he mumbles; surely there is nothing wrong
with something that feels this good! But "real men get up; they don't hit the
snooze button!" (LGBT). And young women, as much as young men, need the rule:
virtuous women do not sleep in either (Pro 31:15)!
A LITTLE FOLDING OF THE HANDS TO REST: That is, in
preparation for sleep.
"This little speech [v 10] means, 'I am comfortable;
don’t disturb me; let me alone to enjoy myself.' This is the wish of many
a sinful man. 'Woe to them that are at ease in Zion' [Amo 6:1], living purely
selfish lives; for self-indulgence may, and generally does, mean selfishness.
Self-indulgence is easy. ‘Tis easier to give the reins to our appetites
than to curb them; to slide than to climb; to please ourselves than to deny
ourselves. If we would be men of mark for holiness, usefulness, of eminence
either in things temporal or spiritual, we must know something of self-denial.
Men who 'take it easy' rarely make much headway. Look round amongst Christian
workers, business men, great philanthropists, successful inventors, men
illustrious or famous in any walk of life; read the biographies of men who have
been renowned for any good thing -- you will find that they were men of
self-denial, not self-indulgent. Moses was a self-denying man; 'he esteemed the
reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt' [Heb 11:26]; and
Moses prospered; he became very great; he was appointed leader and commander of
the people of Israel. The apostles were self-denying men; hear them: 'We have
left all, and have followed thee' [Mar 10:28; Luk 18:28]" (Foster, BI).
"Yet a little only!" "Habits, as Aristotle in his 'Ethics' has
shown, are the resultant of repeated acts, and habits entail consequences. So
here the inspired teacher would have it learnt, from the example of the
sluggard, that the self-indulgence which he craves leads on to a confirmed
indolence, which in the end leaves him powerless. 'Yet a little' is the phrase
on the lips of every one who makes but a feeble resistance, and yields supinely
to his darling vice" (Pulpit).
"Here the literal meaning is obvious enough and there is no
difficulty in applying the description just as it stands. The main danger of
wrong application would be from those who have had little experience of gardens.
They might judge a man as slothful when he had only been away for a short
holiday or a few days of illness. The garden, however, is only an illustration,
and there are lessons in this rapid growth of weeds. Wherever the surface of the
soil presents itself seeds will fall and weeds will grow. Wherever there is
unoccupied surface of mind, impressions will be made and thoughts will develop.
Wrong thoughts seem as hardy as weeds while right thoughts are like rare and
tender plants. Just as weeds, unless they are eradicated in the early stages
will quickly run to seed and increase the evil, so it is with wrong thoughts in
the mind" (PrPr).
AND POVERTY WILL COME ON YOU LIKE A BANDIT: Heb "like a
wayfarer" or "like a traveler" (thus the AV). The LXX has "swiftness like a
traveler". And so "Poverty" is personified here, as a traveler: thus, "[Poverty]
has started a long time, it has traversed many a road, crossed many a valley,
surmounted many a hill; but, though travelling long, it is only in sight during
the last ten minutes of its journey. So ruin begins its course as soon as a man
neglects his duties; it travels far and long, its form is hidden behind the
hills, it is only just toward the last that its countenance is seen and
recognized; then, before he expected it, Poverty stares him in the face, and
grasps his hand with cruel clutch" (Pulpit).
The same word has also been interpreted as a "highwayman" or a
"dangerous assailant". McKane suggests "vagrant". Policemen, as a general rule,
assume that someone moving swiftly is up to no good, and is quite possibly a
robber; the loose parallelism of the second phrase supports this idea. (This
proverb is practically identical to Pro 24:34; cp also Psa 104:3.)
AND SCARCITY LIKE AN ARMED MAN: The term "ish magen" --
a man with a shield -- suggest a soldier, part of a swift-moving invasion force.
An armed man does not fear resistance, for he is armed. He will go where he
pleases, and he will enter any building he chooses. You will not stop him, for
he is armed. So it is with poverty. You cannot stop its arrival. Your defenses
will crumble before its irresistible approach. Your efforts to avoid it will be
Spiritual poverty is also real, but far more costly than
financial poverty (Rev 3:16-18). If you are lax and lazy about spiritual duties,
your poverty with God and lack of wisdom will soon be exposed. The hypocrisy of
your feigned wealth will disappear before God's fiery trials. Get to work!
"Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election
sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a
rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2Pe
Vv 12-15: "Unworthy as slothfulness is, bad and unwise for one
idle [vv 6-11], it is far worse to be active in evil, for this
to others without end" (Kelly).
How to "grow" wickedness: (a) sower = man of Belial; (b) seed
= lies and misrepresentations (vv 17,19); (c) soil = brethren (v 19); and (d)
harvest = strife, dissensikon, and discord (vv 14,19).
A SCOUNDREL: "Adam belial". The phrase is translated in
various ways, but generally is "son of Belial" in the AV. Gesenius, followed by
BDB, suggests that "belial" is a compound of the negative "beli" and a noun
"ya'al" meaning "profit; worth" -- hence, "worthless". Others suggest that the
root is from "ba'al" -- the lord, or false god, ie, "Beelzebub" or other Baalim.
There is also a possible connection with "Babel" -- the place of confusion and
ruin. Whatever the etymology, usage shows that the word describes people who
violate the law (Deu 13:13; 15:9; Jdg 19:22; 1Ki 21:10,13; Pro 16:27; etc), or
act in an otherwise contemptuous and foolish manner (1Sa 1:16; 10:27; 25:17;
30:22). In Deu 13:13, where it first occurs, it refers to one who has fallen
away into idolatry. The word is transliterated into the NT, in 2Co 6:15 -- where
it is parallel to "unbelievers" and to the "idols" they worship (2Co 6:16), and
so plainly refers to an idol, or a false god, and to its devotee.
AND VILLAIN: Hebrew "aven" -- a non-entity, a "nothing"
man! More or less literally, one who is "good for nothing".
WHO GOES ABOUT WITH A CORRUPT MOUTH: Idlers (vv 6-10)
easily become busybodies (1Ti 6:13). The word "corrupt" is from a Hebrew word
"iqqeshuwth", meaning "twisted" or "crooked", and can refer to something that is
physically twisted or crooked, or something morally perverse (sw only in Pro
4:24). One of the marks of the Beast in Revelation -- and indeed of most
"beasts" (Psa 49:12,20) -- is "a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies"
against God, "to slander his name" (Rev 13:5,6).
How can we hope to identify a worthless good-for-nothing? The
answer is simple: by the worthless, good-for-nothing words that flow like sewage
from his mouth. Christ teaches plainly that a wicked mouth proves a wicked heart
(Luk 6:45). A pure heart is known by gracious speech (Pro 22:11). Good speech
does not come from an evil heart, and neither can evil speech come from a good
heart. When we spot such a worthless person, or HEAR him, then the course of
wisdom is to depart from his presence (Pro 14:7; 22:10).
WHO WINKS WITH HIS EYE, SIGNALS WITH HIS FEET AND MOTIONS
WITH HIS FINGERS: He is not only false, irreverent, impure, and audacious (v
12), but he is artful into the bargain! That is, with a serpent-like subtlety,
he uses every bit of sign language or gesture at his disposal to accomplish his
purpose -- which is to deceive or insinuate, without actually speaking. He uses
such gestures (a) to poke fun, cleverly but contemptuously, at the weak or those
who are "different", (b) to show hatred which he can scarcely express in words
(Psa 35:19; Pro 10:10; cp Job 15:12), and/or (c) to trick or swindle those who
are honest, or trusting and naive (cp Pro 16:30) -- all these purposes being
quite contemptible. (One well-known example of this is gamblers, or card-sharks,
developing signals by which information is passed back and forth to the hurt of
others in the game.)
Even Shakespeare wrote of such men: "The shrug, the 'hum!' the
'ha!'... those petty brands that calumny doth use." Are all these the sorts of
things -- among others! -- that Paul proscribes when he warns against
"offer[ing] the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing
wickedness" (Rom 6:19)?
AND MOTIONS WITH HIS FINGERS: Some of the vilest and
most obscene thoughts, threats, and insults are commonly expressed with the
WHO PLOTS EVIL WITH DECEIT IN HIS HEART: "This man
makes his heart a workship, where he fabricates and prepares his villainy (cp
Psa 36:4). He is so degraded that the only way he can obtain pleasure is in
doing evil" (Crawford).
HE ALWAYS STIRS UP DISSENSION: This anticipates the
fuller description in vv 16-19, especially v 19 -- the worst of the seven
detestable things: "a man who stirs up dissension among brothers".
"This is the culminating point in the character of the wicked
man. He takes delight in breaking up friendship and in destroying concord among
brethren (see v 19), and thus destroys one of the most essential elements for
promoting individual happiness and the welfare of the community at large. This
idea of the community is introduced into the LXX, which reads, 'Such an one
brings disturbance to the city'. The motive cause may be either malice or
self-interest" (Pulpit). All this is in direct contravention of Psa 133:1 and
Mat 5:9 -- for it destroys the unity of the brethren, and undermines the work of
THEREFORE DISASTER WILL OVERTAKE HIM IN AN INSTANT; HE WILL
SUDDENLY BE DESTROYED: "Destroyed" is "shabar", used of breaking branches to
be burned (Isa 27:11), ships which are wrecked (Isa 14:29; Eze 27:34; Jon 1:4),
an army defeated (Dan 11:22; 2Ch 14:12), a city destroyed (Isa 8:15; Jer 48:4),
and the complete prostration of the spirit of man by affliction (Psa 34:19).
This last example conveys the idea of the total ruin of this man. Likewise, this
last phrase of Pro 6:15 is found exactly in Pro 29:1: "A man who remains
stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed -- without remedy."
WITHOUT REMEDY: For this type of person, the end will
be sudden and definitive, like the destruction of the wicked portrayed in Pro
3:25, or Dan 11:45 ("he will come to his end, and no one will help
Vv 16-19: The "man of belial" is first identified and
described in vv 12-15; now his sins are enumerated under the headings of the
various body parts (some of which were first mentioned in v 13). The detail is
first presented in an impersonal manner, until the last -- and worst -- trait is
reached. Then (v 19) it is the WHOLE man who stirs up dissension (as was
originally alluded to in v 14). In all, there are seven abominations listed here
(in contrast to the seven pillars of wisdom mentioned in Pro 9:1). [See Lesson,
"So much is said with the secret (though never admitted, even
to ourself) purpose of causing one person to be estranged from, or offended by,
or think less of, another. This is such an ingrained characteristic of the flesh
that we are all guilty. It is so satisfying to the pride of the flesh to
criticize and think evil. And this is the crowning abomination in the sight of
God, but -- 'Love covers a multitude of sins' [Pro 10:12; Jam 5:20; 1Pe 4:8]"
THERE ARE SIX THINGS THE LORD HATES, SEVEN THAT ARE
DETESTABLE TO HIM: The LORD's great and abiding hatred of sin is one of His
most glorifyious attributes -- it separates Him from the pagan deities men have
imagined. Holiness -- the absolute freedom from sin, and the absolute and
loathing of sin -- is what makes God beautiful (Psa 29:2; 96:9)! The more pure
the character, the more glorious the Being! He is like the sun in its radiance
-- He is beyond the sun in His radiance! There is none holy as the LORD (1Sa
2:2; Exo 15:11; Deu 32:4; Psa 99:5,9; 111:9; Isa 6:3; 57:15; 1Pe 1:16). Even the
heavens are not clean in His sight (Job 15:14-16).
How much does the LORD hate sin? He destroyed seven nations of
Canaan for abominations such as immorality and idolatry. A man was stoned to
death for picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Num 15:32-36). And God killed a man
and his wife for lying about their giving (Acts 5:1-11).
How bad is sin? God required capital punishment for
disrespectful children (Pro 30:17; Deu 27:16). He required the death penalty for
adultery (Lev 20:10), and He considers even the desire for another woman as
adultery (Mat 5:28). He considers unjust anger and cruel words as bad as murder
(Mat 5:21-26). And He counts the violation of one precept as breaking the entire
law (Jam 2:10,11).
Sometimes God lets men get away with sin for a while to
deceive them, but He warns about His judgment and wrath for such presumption
(Psa 50:21,22). One of the greatest character traits of the Lord Jesus Christ
was his love of righteousness and hatred of sin (Psa 45:7; Heb 1:8,9). For this
glorious attribute, the blessed God honored him far above all other men. From
his example, we can see that nobility of spirit and approval before God is in
direct proportion to love of virtue and hatred of sin.
DETESTABLE: Or "an abomination". The Hebrew means: that
which is hated, or abhorred; that which is impure or unclean.
SIX THINGS... SEVEN: "This saying involves a numerical
ladder, paralleling six things with seven things (eg, also Pro
30:15,18,21,24,29). The point of such a numerical arrangement is that the number
does not exhaust the list" (Roth, cited NETn). Examples of this phenomenon,
using other numbers, are found in Hos 6:2 ("after two days... on the third"),
Amo 1:3,6,9,11,13; 2:1,4,6 ("for three sins... even for four"), Job 5:19 ("for
six calamities... in seven), Mic 5:5 ("seven shepherds... eight leaders"), and
Ecc 11:2 ("Give portions to seven, yes to eight..."). This is also called "the
climactic use of numbers" -- and is common in other, non-Biblical Middle Eastern
literature. Seemingly, its use emphasized the intensive or progressive effect of
the list, and implied that there were, quite possibly, more to come (JJ David,
HAUGHTY EYES: "A proud look" (AV). Literally, "high or
lofty ('ramot') eyes". The expression refers to a proud look suggesting arrogant
ambition; and is contrasted with the modestly downcast eyes of the servant or
slave. Pride and presumption were the source of the very first sin, for Eve, and
Adam, desired to become like the "Elohim", or like God Himself (Gen 3:5,6). This
term "high" -- in v 17 -- is used in Num 15:30 for the sin of the "high hand",
that is, willful rebellion or presumptuous, defiant sin. The usage of "haughty
eyes" may be illustrated by its use with the pompous Assyrian invader (Isa
10:12–14) and the proud king (Dan 11:12). God does not tolerate anyone who
thinks so highly of himself and who has such ambition.
"God, I thank you that I am not like other men" (Luke 18:11).
"But after Uzziah became powerful, his PRIDE led to his downfall" (2Ch
26:16-19). Cp Psa 101:5; Pro 8:13; 11:2; 13:10; 14:3; 15:25; 16:5,18,19;
21:4,24; 28:25; 29:23; 1Ti 3:6; 1Jo 2:16.
"It is not difficult to see the evils in other people. Haughty
eyes are detested by all who are scorned by them. They are hated by those who --
possibly on a lower plane -- are just as haughty themselves. The haughty manner
is detestable when viewed from below and ridiculous when viewed from above. It
is always indicative of a failure to remember God. It is a hateful assumption of
superiority on the part of a weak and foolish animal. Herod was a good example
of a haughty man, and his fate was an appropriate rebuke" (PrPr).
A LYING TONGUE: The term is used of false prophets who
deceive (Jer 14:14), and of a deceiver who betrays (Psa 109:2; Acts 1:20). The
LORD hates deceptive speech because it is destructive (Pro 26:28). And He hates
all lies and all liars (Pro 10:18; 12:22; 19:5; 20:23; 26:18,19,28; Exo
"A lying tongue is condemned even by liars. Everyone hates to
have dealings with an untruthful man, and even the most untruthful of men will
usually retain sufficient perception of values to resent being called a
"It has been well said that the essence of a lie is in
deception. If we put forth a parable, saying that a certain man did thus and so,
there is no falsehood even though the story is entirely fictitious. We tell it
as a parable and there is no deception. If on the other hand we remain silent
while false statements are made, our silence may be taken to "give consent" and
we may in effect be guilty of falsehood even though we did not speak.
"There are many harmful lies told by men who would greatly
resent the suggestion that they were liars. A slight exaggeration may have all
the effect of a lie. In this matter a little may be worse than much. Extreme
exaggeration does not cause much harm. It is a foolish form of speech but it
does not deceive. A slight exaggeration, on the other hand, may be believed, the
statement may be passed forward and again exaggerated, until by the
contributions of several faulty tongues a destructive lie is produced"
HANDS THAT SHED INNOCENT BLOOD: The hands may be the
instruments of murder, and God hates bloodshed. Gen 9:6 prohibited shedding
blood because people are the image of God. Even David being a man of blood (in
war mostly) was not permitted to build the Temple (1Ch 22:8). But shedding
innocent blood was a greater crime: it usually went with positions of power,
such as King Manasseh filling the streets with blood (2Ki 21:16), or princes
doing it for gain (Eze 22:27). Cp the words of Judas and Pilate in Mat
"Hands that shed innocent blood come third in this list of
evils. Again there will be a readiness on all sides to condemn such violence,
but it only needs a little national excitement or national greed for the
majority of people to be anxious to transgress. Men who have no personal quarrel
and who are entirely innocent of offence against each other will make haste to
shed innocent blood regardless of sex or age" (PrPr).
A HEART THAT DEVISES WICKED SCHEMES: The heart
(metonymy of subject) represents the will; here it plots evil schemes. The heart
is capable of evil schemes (Gen 6:5); the heart that does this is deceitful (Pro
12:20; 14:22). Examples of plotting of evil: Saul (1Sa 24:13), Ahithophel (2Sa
16:20-23; 17:23), Israel (Mic 2:1).
"A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations might be regarded
as being covered by the expression a lying tongue. It is not quite the same,
however. Wicked imaginations may often find expression in lies, but they can be
very evil even if they never reach the tongue. Even the most active of men are
sometimes still, and the most talkative are sometimes silent, but thought and
imagination are with us always even when we are asleep. Envy, anger, bitterness,
pride and many other evil things may build up wicked imaginations which destroy
the character even if they never find expression in word and deed. It is
perfectly true that love leads to the fulfilling of the law, but it does not
follow that a formal observance of the law leads to love. Herein lies one of the
dangers of negatives. A man may refrain from many things because of his respect
for law. He may even deny himself many legitimate blessings in a zeal for
separateness. At times he may refrain from speech lest he should transgress the
law in dealing with his brother, and yet all the while he may be building up
wrong thoughts in his heart and God who looks upon the heart may be displeased"
FEET THAT ARE QUICK TO RUSH INTO EVIL: The first phrase
decries those who plot evil; now this phrase condemns those who run, eagerly, to
carry out that evil. "The MT has literally 'make haste to run,' the idea being
to make haste to begin to run, ie, eager to seize the opportunity... This
captures the enthusiastic and complete involvement in activities that bring pain
to all concerned" (EBCn). Cp Pro 1:16: "For their feet rush into sin, they are
swift to shed blood."
"The expression... probably covers a wider ground than is
usually recognized. Men do not regard the word mischief as applicable to any of
the enterprises in which they desire to engage. We all know the type of man to
whom the words obviously apply, but we are all loathe to recognize the
possibility that we ourselves might be at fault. In ecclesial life we may be
quite certain that dissensions and disputes will sometimes arise. Some members
will do their utmost to minimize the evil, trying to correct error but carefully
avoiding anything which might aggravate ill feeling. They will try to restore
calm judgment and to prevent the stormy strife which tends to accentuate
differences and bring out the worst that is in human nature. In short they are
peacemakers. It is of course possible that love of peace might lead them into a
harmful tolerance of evil. The Lord is their judge. There are other men who give
a very different impression and from whom we expect anything rather than the
motions of peace. It is possible that they are moved by a commendable zeal for
righteousness, and again we say, the Lord is their judge. It is possible, on the
other hand, that peacemakers may be accounted faithful, either because of or in
spite of their gentleness; and it is possible that some men who in all their
uncompromising pugnacity have claimed to be zealous, may be condemned in the
final judgment as men whose feet were swift to run into mischief"
A FALSE WITNESS WHO POURS OUT LIES: In contrast to the
general, casual lies (v 17), these are premeditated, formal lies of witnesses --
with express intention to do harm to another in a public setting. The matter of
"false witness" figured into the very foundations of Israel in the OT: the
eighth commandment (Exo 20:16 and Deu 5:20). Israel's judicial system was built
on the premise of a need for multiple witnesses (as in Deu 17:6; 19:15).
Conversely, the prohibitions in the OT against false witness are innumerable
(eg, Exo 23:1; Pro 12:17; 19:5,9; 25:18; etc) and carry a threat of punishment
(Deu 19:16). Cp also 1Ki 21:10-15; Psa 27:12; 35:11; 40:4; Amo 2:4; Mic 1:14;
Mat 15:19; 26:59; Act 6:13.
"The sixth hateful thing is a false witness. This is not quite
the same as the lying tongue which came earlier in the list. A false witness may
be less definitely false than the ordinary liar of the world and yet be more
evil. In ordinary life a man may tell a lie to save his skin or his reputation,
and hateful as the lie always is, there may be some measure of excuse for him. A
witness, however, stands in a position of peculiar responsibility whether in the
Law Courts or the Church. He stands before God to tell the truth and to suppress
nothing. In the Law Courts this fact is impressed upon him, in the Church he
should need no reminder. 'I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of
God', said the apostle Paul. A heavy responsibility rests upon those who claim
to be witnesses for Christ. We must neither hold back vital truth nor put
forward anything that is false or doubtful. We must be faithful witnesses always
remembering the living power of the One for whom we testify" (PrPr).
AND A MAN WHO STIRS UP DISSENSION AMONG BROTHERS: "He
that SOWETH discord among brethren" (AV): cp parable of wheat and tares in Mat
13. The sin that is done secretly, out of public view, and only later (much
later, perhaps) is it realized what great damage has been done. "Dissension" is
attributed in Proverbs to contentious, quarreling people (Pro 21:9; 26:21;
25:24) who have a short fuse (Pro 15:18). Paul, on the other hand, warns against
envy, malice, and strife (1Ti 6:4).
God loves unity, especially among His people (Psa 133:1-3; 1Co
1:10; Eph 4:3,4). He hates those who openly or subtly disturb fellowship and
peace (Pro 6:12-15; 16:28; 26:20; Rom 16:17,18). He condemns hatred, malice,
strife, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, gossip,
deceit, factions, murder, and envy (Rom 1:29; Gal 5:20,21). Instead He commands
and commends peace (Mat 5:9; 2Co 13:11; Phi 3:16; Col 3:15; Jam 3:17,18). "If a
heavenly dew descends upon the brethren who dwell together in unity... a
withering blast will fall on those who, mistaking prejudice for principle, cause
divisions for their own selfish ends" (Bridges). "Those that by tale-bearing and
slandering, by carrying ill-natured stories, aggravating every thing that is
said and done, and suggesting jealousies and evil surmises, blow the coals of
contention, are but preparing for themselves a fire of the same nature"
"The seventh abomination is one who sows discord among
brethren. In this form of speech we may reasonably assume that the seventh added
evil is the one that is most abominable of all in the sight of God.
" 'Behold how good a thing it is for brethren to dwell
together in unity' (Psa 133). It is like the melting snow of Mount Hermon which
feeds the river Jordan and gives life to the promised land. The final blessing
of eternal life will come to brethren who dwell together in unity. What a
hateful thing to sow seeds of bitterness in a united family and so cause
unnecessary strife! Yet with human nature unredeemed such evil is inevitable.
"It is impossible but that offences shall come", said the Lord Jesus, 'but woe
unto that man by whom they come.' The Lord knew what was in man and needed not
that any should tell him.
"But would any man deliberately try to cause division and
strife among those who had been at peace, with no object in view beyond the
accomplishment of such evil? It would be contemptible work even from the world's
standard, and no man likes to excite contempt. But why go naked to such work
when there are so many garments ready to hand? A man who feels bitter can so
easily find a covering by which even he himself can be deceived. Even the best
of human beings are faulty both in knowledge and conduct, and so it follows that
an enemy can easily find a pretext for his attack. He can effectually cover
almost any kind of diabolism under a cloak of righteous zeal.
"Even the immediate disciples of Christ were not faultless,
and we need not expect those who came later to be any better. In a healthy
Christian brotherhood those who are strong help to bear the infirmities of the
weak, and those who are well taught in the Word communicate to those who need
instruction, with all patience and humility. Christian discussion leads to
better understanding, fuller agreement and a higher standard of conduct. Men and
women who have been called by a belief in the Gospel and a genuine love of
Christ can compose their differences and work together in harmony even though
they are of very different temperament.
"Often, however, the flesh rises up in discussion and the
spirit of Christ is forgotten. Fleshly controversy nearly always accentuates the
differences which called it forth. The most evil time is when a man of strong
personality becomes disaffected and bitter just at the critical moment when a
genuine difference of opinion has arisen. The difference supplies him at once
with cloak and weapon. He can easily deceive both himself and others. He hardens
some in their original error and provokes others to increased opposition. He
would claim and perhaps come to believe that his motives were pure and his
actions commendable when all the time he is industriously sowing the seventh
"A great temptation comes in time of strife when there is an
opportunity to set our opponents against each other. It may be legitimate
diplomacy when the strife we cause is directly related to the matter under
discussion. The apostle Paul set the Pharisees and Sadducees against each other
over the subject of the resurrection. It is possible sometimes to end a wrangle
by showing that the logical result of the agitation is to destroy the agitators.
Often, however, such subtlety is used in a manner not at all legitimate. An
attempt is made to besmirch the characters of opponents and to prejudice them
against each other in matters far removed from the original dispute. In such
action there is no attempt to end the strife or to teach any lesson. The effort
is merely to relieve embittered feelings and perhaps to justify harsh action
previously taken. It is the instinct of a fleshly man to malign those whom he
has already wronged.
"The sower of discord often does far more harm than appears on
the surface. Every student of human nature knows how the opinions and feelings
of the average man may be moulded by suggestion either for good or for evil. A
good word in season may not only turn away wrath, but may change the entire
trend of thought. A sower of discord on the other hand may so exacerbate feeling
and through feeling so poison judgment that foolish ideas may be pushed to the
point of conflict and division, though in the calm of twenty years later no one
on earth would tolerate them.
"In ecclesial life there have been many differences of
judgment which have called for calm and sober thought. Often the result of
brotherly discussion has been agreement, perhaps with better understanding on
all sides. It needs no unusual power of observation to perceive that at least
some members have been wise, fully conscious of danger and trying by forethought
to guide the ecclesia aright. It needs no prophet to realize that at such a
time, a sower of discord might have produced a heavy crop of poison, if evil
work had synchronized with evil moment.
"If we desire to be in the Kingdom of God we must be on guard
against the abominations in all their disguises. If we develop the positive side
of Christian character they will give us little trouble. The seven seem to make
a formidable gang, but they are easily put to flight by love" (PrPr).
These seven things the LORD hates (vv 16-19). To discover what
the LORD loves, one need only list the opposites: humility, truthful speech,
preservation of life, pure thoughts, eagerness to do good, honest witnesses, and
peaceful harmony. In the NT the Beatitudes present the positive opposites (Mat
5). It has seven blessed things to match these seven hated things; moreover, the
first contrasts with the first here (“poor in spirit” of Mat 5:5
with "proud eyes"), and the seventh ("peacemakers" of Mat 5:7) contrasts with
the seventh here ("sowing discord or dissension").
MY SON, KEEP YOUR FATHER'S COMMANDS AND DO NOT FORSAKE YOUR
MOTHER'S TEACHING: Vv 20,21 are similar to Pro 3:1-3 and also to Pro 7:1-3.
The youth is exhorted to cling fast to the teachings of his parents. Implicit in
these verses is the basic understanding that a good home life -- that is, father
and mother sharing the rearing of the children together -- will go a long way to
prevent the youth from falling into immorality.
Waddoup writes: "Although Pro 6:20 may look like a repeat of
Pro 1:8, there is a difference. It is the father's commandment here. It is not
the general term of discipline (instruction) used before; one specific teaching
is meant, namely concerning sexual misconduct, and joined with it is the
mother's law... His father's precept is a PARTICULAR lamp, which is going to be
used to illuminate a very dark corner, found in v 24: 'To keep thee from the
evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman'."
BIND THEM UPON YOUR HEART FOREVER; FASTEN THEM AROUND YOUR
NECK: An exhortation based upon the provisions of the LM in Deu 6:8; 11:18
("bind these words... on your hands... and on your foreheads"). Sadly, the Jews
missed the point of this and -- instead of making the commandment something in
their heart -- they made an open show of it by wearing phylacteries. Is our
religion just for "show"?
FASTEN THEM AROUND YOUR NECK: Again, cp Pro 1:9;
WHEN YOU WALK, THEY WILL GUIDE YOU: In keeping with the
previous verse, the "walking" alludes also to Deu 6:7: "when you walk along the
road" (cp Pro 3:23).
WHEN YOU SLEEP, THEY WILL WATCH OVER YOU: "When you lie
down..." (Deu 6:7; cp Pro 3:24). As to the spiritual significance, there is
Christ lying down in the tomb!
WHEN YOU AWAKE, THEY WILL SPEAK TO YOU: "And when you
get up..." (Deu 6:7). The resurrected Christ!
THEY WILL SPEAK TO YOU: Today there are such things as
"talking books" -- audio tapes, to be played in cars and elsewhere. And it is a
good use of time spent walking or driving to play tapes of Bible readings or
Bible talks. But more than that, and beyond that, we ought to read the Bible so
well and so thoroughly, and so frequently, that its thoughts, promises, and
precepts are a part of our own minds. Then, wherever we are, and in whatever
circumstances, the words of God may speak to us and in our minds -- the still
small voice that came to Elijah, or the words whispered in our ear: "This is the
way; walk in it!" By whatever means works for you, get the word of God inside
you, and you may count on it to "speak" to you when you most need it!
Surely the point of this verse is that the word of God has
something to say to us -- IF we would listen! -- on all occasions, and in all
circumstances, of our lives! Religion is not a Sunday-only affair; it is for
Saturday night as well... and for all the nights, and all the mornings, of our
lives. At home, at school, in the workplace, in our times of entertainment and
diversion (maybe especially in those times!), it is still the word of God, and a
light and a lamp pointing to the way of life (v 23).
FOR THESE COMMANDS ARE A LAMP, THIS TEACHING IS A LIGHT,
AND THE CORRECTIONS OF DISCIPLINE ARE THE WAY TO LIFE: With this cp Psa
119:105: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (also cp Psa
19:8 and Pro 13:9).
THE WAY OF LIFE: This is also frequently alluded to in
Proverbs, in its own right: see Pro 2:19; 5:6; 10:17; 15:24.
"Proverbs is about knowing and doing, about learning, and
putting into practice what we have learned. We have called Pro 1–9 a
textbook for the Christian life, having a lot to say about choosing the right
way. Here it is again in Pro 6:23: 'Reproofs of instruction are the way of
life'. There are two ways, one leading to eternal life and the other to eternal
"The two ways are also represented by two women. One is called
'Wisdom' with 'length of days' in her right hand, 'and in her left hand riches
and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She
is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her' (Pro 3:16–18). She calls
to all, 'Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you...'
The other is a 'strange woman, even the stranger which flattereth with her
words; which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of
her God. For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead' (Pro
2:16–18). So far we have read more of the bad woman than we have of the
good, and perhaps we feel the subject of adultery has had sufficient
"If so, we are in for a shock, for warnings against adultery
are still the burden of the exhortations from father to son in Pro 6; 7. How
terribly real are the immoralities which the strange woman practises with the
men she tempts. We should not forget that, even while we see in them figures of
everything which takes us away from God. 'Flee fornication!' [1Co 6:18] has a
literal as well as a deep spiritual application. When we set these dreadful
warnings against the earnest appeal of Wisdom in Pro 8 we shall humbly thank God
for them both. When we hear the chaste woman call, 'Unto you, O men, I call; and
my voice is to the sons of men', we shall all feel ashamed that we did not
always hear, or pay attention when we did, but went after our own ways. We shall
gratefully acknowledge the divine wisdom which caused the words to be written,
not only for the Israel of Solomon, but for all men, 'that men may learn wisdom
and instruction'. Hear! That was the first step, 'Get wisdom, and with all thy
getting get understanding'. Get it at the cost of all you possess, for nothing
you could wish for is to be compared with Wisdom for value" (Waddoup).
KEEPING YOU FROM THE IMMORAL WOMAN: "Ra" signfies,
simply, "evil", in the sense of violating the codes of the community and
inflicting harm on others. (With a slight vowel change, the LXX reads "wife of
another" -- "rea", instead of "ra" -- which is also appropriate.)
FROM THE SMOOTH TONGUE: "Smooth" reminds us of Pro 5:3:
"Her speech is smoother than oil" (see notes there, cp also Pro 2:16).
OF THE WAYWARD WIFE: "Nokriy" signifies "strange", and
is sometimes used to denote "foreign". But in this case "foreign" is within the
context of the people of Israel. She is a "foreigner" in the sense that she is a
nonconformist, wayward, and loose. It does not necessarily mean that she is not
Parents must teach and warn their children (Pro 22:6; 29:15;
Deu 6:4-9; 29:29; Eph 6:4). And their reproofs and instruction must include
regular advice and warning about sexual sins, which are mentioned often in
Scripture (Pro 7:6-27; Gen 2:24,25; 39:7-12; Lev 18:6-30; 20:10-24; 2Sa 11:1-27;
Mal 2:10-16; Mat 5:27-32; 1Th 4:3-8; etc).
DO NOT LUST IN YOUR HEART AFTER HER BEAUTY: "Lust"
means to "desire, or covet" (sw Exo 20:17, the tenth commandment). Jesus seems
to have this in mind, when he says: "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a
woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mat
5:28). Lusting after someone in the heart, according to Jesus, is a sin of the
same kind as the act, not just the first step toward it.
OR LET HER CAPTIVATE YOU WITH HER EYES: Referring to
the painted eyes and the alluring glances that are the symptoms of seduction
(eg, those of Jezebel in 2Ki 9:30).
"A man's eyes see a woman's beauty in seconds. Thus far there
is no sin. But three sinful stages follow that lead to adultery. The eyes linger
and move to fascination with the details of her beauty, the heart moves from
nobly admiring to hungrily desiring her, and the soul becomes willing to the
invitation of her eyes... The depraved heart of man is polygamous. It is never
content. The other woman is always more desirable, just as the forbidden fruit
in Eden exceeded all others in appeal. The unknown is always presumed superior
to the familiar. Fallen man is vulnerable to a beautiful woman, as the pleasure
she embodies exceeds any other in this life. Therefore, wise men must rule their
eyes and heart to resist her dangerous beauty and wiles...
"Sin follows a simple course. Every man has lusts. When those
lusts are given an object and allowed to consider it, they will powerfully
entice the man. The lusts plan the sin, and the man executes it. Then the sin
brings painful consequences and eventual death. These are the real facts of life
that every young man should be taught (Jam 1:13-16)!
What are the cures for her beauty and eyelids?... (1) First,
avoid seeing a beautiful woman and moving to fascination with her by reducing
your exposure to only the necessary. Take precautions against encountering
beautiful women, especially acquaintances. This cure includes colleagues,
neighbors, or church members. Jesus said you should be willing to cut off your
right hand to avoid her (Mat 5:27-30; Rom 13:14). When you feel the rising heat
due to a desirable woman, get away quickly while your visual impression is still
noble admiration and virtuous appreciation. (2) Second, keep your heart with all
diligence, so it will not recall the images of her beauty and cause you to play
with them by fantasy (Pro 4:23). Fill your heart with wisdom, righteousness,
temperance, and judgment to come (Acts 14:25). Think about Jesus Christ,
Scripture, and prayer (Phi 3:20; Col 3:2). Daily activities must include
self-examination, repentance, and confession (Psa 139:23,24). Remind yourself of
the terrible consequences of sexual sins (Pro 5:1-14). Renew the covenant with
your eyes (Job 31:1). (3) Finally, to avoid her invitations, reject casual
social interaction and eye-to-eye contact. The price is too high, the danger too
great. Every man knows which women tempt him; and they cannot be his social
companions or correspondents. And this warning includes both looks and
conversations. Remember that phones and email can also carry seduction"
"The appeal of an attractive woman is incredibly powerful...
it took David down in seconds (2Sa 11:2). No woman can fully understand the
instantaneous draw a beautiful woman has on the soul of a man through his eyes.
It is an overpowering object of desire, unless he is walking in the Spirit and
ruling his spirit. So Christian women must dress modestly (1Ti 2:9,10). The eyes
are windows of the soul; they can express more sometimes than words can tell.
Solomon knew of their power (Song 4:9). Immodest women paint their faces to
accent their eyes, as did Jezebel (2Ki 9:30). Wanton eyes are the tools of
whores (Isa 3:16). When a woman uses her eyes to flatter a man and offer herself
intimately to him, the most discreet and powerful enticement a man will ever
face, the trap is complete! So Christian women must maintain a look of
shamefacedness and sobriety (1Ti 2:9,10)" (LGBT).
"From this verse onwards to the end of the chapter the
discourse consists of a series of arguments, each calculated to deter youth from
the sins of fornication and adultery, by exhibiting the evil consequences of
such indulgence. The first is the poverty and extreme beggary to which a man is
FOR THE PROSTITUTE REDUCES YOU TO A LOAF OF BREAD, AND THE
ADULTERESS PREYS UPON YOUR VERY LIFE: The NIV, as well as the AV, seem to be
speaking of the poverty to which a man may be brought by prostitutes. On the
other hand, the RSV seems to contrast the relatively cheap price of a prostitute
with the terribly expensive cost of an adulterous affair: "For a harlot may be
hired for a loaf of bread, BUT an adulteress stalks a man's very life" (RSV).
Either way, the point is the same: sexual immorality, whether expensive or
otherwise financially, are infinitely expensive spiritually.
The "but" in the RSV can be misleading: there is no contrast
between good and bad in this verse. "The parallelism in this verse is difficult.
It is not meant to say that whoring is better than adultery because it only
impoverishes whereas adultery preys on the very life. Both are costly sins to be
FOR THE PROSTITUTE REDUCES YOU TO A LOAF OF BREAD:
"Human beings are made in the image of God, and are to be valued and protected.
Prostitution is an offense against both the seller and the buyer, reducing the
human being to a commodity. People are not things to be used. Each individual
man and woman is special, made in God's image, and is to be loved and protected.
The believer can hardly become involved in any 'user relationship', in which the
value of the other person is reduced by treating her or him as a thing"
AND THE ADULTERESS PREYS UPON YOUR VERY LIFE: A
prostitute is looking for her next meal, but a married woman is out for bigger
game! "Preys" is surely the right word here; she is a predator, and the man IS
the "prey"! While a prostitute offers sex as a mere commercial transaction,
selling herself for "bread", a married woman (an "adulteress") -- whether she
will say so or not -- is looking to buy a man's soul, or his very life! And the
man who gets caught in her net -- or pierced by her arrows -- is jeopardizing
his life in so many ways! (Samson, with Delilah, come to mind again and again in
these verses.) "Many a man has... purchased the ruin of his body and soul at the
expense of his wealth" (Henry) -- and thus lost them all in the
In the eyes of many people this part of Proverbs is very much
overdrawn; stealing is considered a far worse sin than adultery, and the idea of
a jealous husband wild with rage is strangely Victorian. That in itself should
be a warning. Jeremiah's words about Judah can be applied now to the whole
world: "Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at
all; they do not even know how to blush" (Jer 6:15). So it behoves us to
remember his next words as well: "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the
ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest
for your souls" (Jer 6:16). When the standards, and the frame of reference, of
this modern world are so far removed from those of God, then keeping always in
mind the "old paths" is the only safe defense -- no matter how "Victorian" or
"puritanical" we may seem to others!
Vv 27-29: A physical analogy of spiritual cause and effect (cp
CAN A MAN SCOOP FIRE INTO HIS LAP WITHOUT HIS CLOTHES BEING
BURNED?: "Lap", or "bosom" (AV), means the folds of the garment, used then
as we might use a pocket today (cp Pro 21:14). The picture here is perhaps not
so far-fetched as we might first suppose. Let us imagine one borrowing hot coals
from the fire of his neighbor, so as to restart his own fire (this is the
beginning point of such passages as Pro 25:22 and Isa 30:14). But let us further
imagine that, having no pot or other suitable container, he decides to wrap them
in the folds of his garment and hurry home with them. (Actually, a small child
might attempt just such a foolhardy thing.) The consequences of such a rash act
would almost certainly be the burning of his garment, and possibly himself along
He who plays with fire will be burned! Fire provides the
analogy for the teacher's warning: it represents the sinful woman drawn close to
him, and the burning of his clothes the inevitable consequences of the liaison.
In short, the punishment of such a man is unavoidable. "You may be sure that
your sin will find you out" (Num 32:23).
Fire is a wonderful analogy for sin: (1) Fire mimics life; it
is full of noise and movement and energy. Yet it is ultimately lifeless: it is
only destructive, of all things and of life itself. Finally, it destroys the
very thing through which it works. (2) Fire tends to spread, leaping from object
to object, rushing over a wide prairie, enveloping a whole city. "Consider what
a great forest is set on fire by a small spark" (Jam 3:5). (3) Fire converts
into fire everything that it lays hold of. So sin turns all that comes under its
power into its own nature. (4) Fire rages furiously. Nothing is so like madness
as a great fire. It is infinitely more horrible than the wildest tempest of wind
and water. Likewise, sin is a fury of passion. (5) When it is done, fire leaves
behind smoldering embers and dismal heaps of ashes. When the fire of passion is
burnt out, the soul is left charred, empty, dismal, as but dust and
There is an elaborate three-part pun in this verse, one part
being implied: the Hebrew for man here is "iysh", for "fire" is "esh", and (here
is the implied part, for this word does not occur in this verse) the Hebrew for
woman is "iyshah". Incidentally, this pun provides the opportunity for an
interesting example of clever rabbinical teaching by word-play. The NETn reads:
"A passage like this probably inspired Rabbi Gamaliel's little explanation that
what binds a man and a woman together in a holy marriage is y (yod) and h (he),
the two main letters of the holy name Yah. But if the LORD is removed from the
relationship, that is, if these two letters are removed, all that is left is the
'esh' -- the fire of passion. Since Gamaliel was the teacher of Paul, this may
have influenced Paul's advice that it was better to marry than to burn [1Co
7:9]." (A further bit of explanation may be helpful here, for those who are not
totally familiar with the Hebrew: "man" in this case, the Hebrew "iysh", would
become -- if the "yod" were removed -- the Hebrew word "esh", or "fire". And
"woman" in this case, the Hebrew "iyshah", would become -- if the "he" were
removed -- the same Hebrew "esh", or "fire".)
"A wise saying is often purposely made too extreme to be
literally applicable to any man. It is intended for all readers and therefore is
not designed to make a perfect fit for any. No sane man would purposely 'walk on
hot coals' [v 28], or 'take fire in his bosom', but there are many who in a
metaphorical sense play with fire and are scorched. There are some who are wise
enough to hear the words of wisdom and intelligent enough to apply them to their
own experience. They see the evil possibilities in careless action and deliver
themselves while the heedless 'pass on and are punished'... Men may be warned
against a thousand follies by the admonition, 'Do not play with fire' "
CAN A MAN WALK ON HOT COALS WITHOUT HIS FEET BEING
SCORCHED?: Another analogy very similar to that of v 27. "He is in imminent
danger of adultery, as he that takes fire in his bosom, or goes upon hot coals,
is in danger of being burnt. The way of this sin is down-hill, and those that
venture upon the temptations to it hardly escape the sin itself. The fly fools
away her life by playing the wanton with the flames. It is a deep pit, which it
is madness to venture upon the brink of. He that keeps company with those of ill
fame, that goes in with them, and touches them, cannot long preserve his
innocency; he thrusts himself into temptation and so throws himself out of God's
Again, as in v 27, there is an allusion -- even if rather
outlandish -- to real-world events. In Fiji, a form of "fire-walking" is
practiced by both Fijians and Indians. Similar customs are to be found, even
today, in Bulgaria, Trinidad, Tahiti, India, and Mauritius. In some cases, it
seems that a hypnotic trance keeps the participants from being burned, or from
showing the effects of the burns immediately (such a force is the mind!); in
other cases, special ointments are applied to the soles of the feet; and in
other cases yet, the real explanation may be trickery or illusion (the tourists
must be entertained!). But such exceptional practices of walking on hot coals,
weird as they are, merely emphasize the ordinary rule and principle.
SO IS HE WHO SLEEPS WITH ANOTHER MAN'S WIFE: Heb "who
goes in to" (cp AV, ASV, RSV). "Who has sex with" (NET). The Hebrew verb "bo"
(“to go in; to enter") is used throughout scripture as a euphemism for the
act of sexual intercourse.
NO ONE WHO TOUCHES HER: And likewise, "touch" is
another euphemism for illegal or unwarranted sexual contact, short of sexual
intercourse (sw Gen 20:6; cp the idea in 1Co 7:1).
WILL GO UNPUNISHED: The verb is "yinnaqeh", derived
from "naqah": "to be empty; to be clean". From it we get the adjectives "clean",
"free from guilt", and "innocent". In this case the man who offends will NOT "be
free, or exempt" (ie, from punishment).
MEN DO NOT DESPISE A THIEF IF HE STEALS TO SATISFY HIS
HUNGER WHEN HE IS STARVING: Here and in v 31 the writer is established a
contrast between hunger and lust. It is true they are similar, in that internal
urges may lead to action: the hungry man may steal, and the lustful man may
commit adultery. But there is a great contrast between the two: hunger is
different because a man must eat to live, and sooner or later hunger unsatisfied
will literally starve a man to death. The desire for sex, though very real in
itself, will never kill a man!
The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, seems to be
quoting a common statement of justification for sexual immorality in 1Co 6:13:
in the NIV this reads: " 'Food for the stomach and the stomach for food' [this
first part being in quotation marks: in other words, 'Sex is as natural as
eating!'] -- but [Paul nows adds his rejoinder...] God will destroy them both.
The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for
the body." On this Wiersbe comments: " 'But sex is a normal desire, given to us
by God,' some people argue. 'Therefore, we have every right to use it, even if
we're not married. It's like eating: If you're hungry, God gave you food to eat;
if you're lonely, God gave you sex to enjoy.' Some of the people in the
Corinthian church used this argument to defend their sinful ways: 'Foods for the
stomach and the stomach for foods' (1Co 6:13, NKJV). But Paul made it clear that
the believer's body belonged to God and that the presence of a desire wasn't the
same as the privilege to satisfy that desire (vv 12-20)."
YET IF HE IS CAUGHT, HE MUST PAY SEVENFOLD, THOUGH IT COSTS
HIM ALL THE WEALTH OF HIS HOUSE: Following on from v 30: EVEN the thief who
steals only to satisfy his hunger (an urge that can be ignored only at peril of
one's very life) may expect to be punished for his crime. Therefore (v 32) HOW
MUCH MORE will an adulterer expect to pay for his crime. And, while the man who
steals a loaf of bread may be pitied, and may have his punishment mitigated, the
adulterer -- the man who steals another man's wife, or who violates the divine
sanctity of his own marriage -- can expect no mercy, and no lessening of his
punishment whatsoever (vv 33-35).
The punishment of "sevenfold" restitution seems too severe: cf
Exo 22:1-3,8 -- where fourfold or fivefold is the rule (cp Luk 19:8). Perhaps
"seven" is used metaphorically to designate everything.
Interesting, though, that David cites the fourfold restitution
for stealing in 2Sa 12:6, when -- as he was shortly brought face to face with --
he was guilty of "stealing" another man's wife: the far greater sin (just as in
Pro 6:27-35)! For him there was no proper restitution, and he knew it: "I have
sinned against the LORD" (v 13). For him the only hope was the absolute
forgiveness of God -- and this he received. Yet, interesting again, he also lost
four sons -- so the fourfold restitution came into play as well -- despite the
LORD taking away his sin.
BUT A MAN WHO COMMITS ADULTERY LACKS JUDGMENT; WHOEVER DOES
SO DESTROYS HIMSELF: He could in fact receive the death penalty (Deu 22:22;
Lev 20:10; cp also Pro 5:14), though how commonly this was followed we cannot
know. But there are other ways of destroying one's life (v 33) as
HIMSELF: "His soul (nephesh)" -- his very
"Lovely as maiden purity is, and crowned with benedictions
though it is by Christ, we have here to learn its excellence and fear its loss,
by the sad, stern picture of impurity and shameless sin. In these sad proverbs
of purity the wise man pictures to us in fearful personification wisdom's rival
standing in the same great thoroughfares of earth and bidding to her shameful
pleasures the simple youth who throng the broad and crowded way. This is no
fancy picture allegorising the dangers of youth. It is drawn from reality, from
every-day life. There is no mistake in the outline, no exaggeration in the
colouring. The power of sin lies in its pleasure. They are mistaken who assert
that there are no gratifications in the enjoyments of sense. Were there none,
they would not be so diligently sought.
"Sin, which brings death to the soul, is yet sweet to the
taste. The more we sin the more perverted becomes our taste, the more clamorous
for further indulgence. But these stolen waters of sinful pleasure are not
always sweet. Pleasant though they may be at the first, they will yet become
bitter indeed. Much of the sinner's peril grows out of his simple
"Sin naturally brings with it temporal and physical suffering.
But the pleasures of the sensualist are the preludes to a misery words refuse to
paint. The sentence that to the 'defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure' [Tit
1:15] is fulfilled to the letter. Even the innocent pleasures of conversation
become to the sensualist defiling, for he turns them into the foul channel of
his own base thought. The mind and conscience of the impure are defiled. The
mental faculties of the depraved and sensual lose at once and for ever the power
of discerning and appreciating that which is excellent, lovely, and true. The
deep things of God are no subjects for the lover of sensual sin to dwell upon.
Sensuality not only prevents us from exercising our mental powers with freedom
and profit, but it also wastes and enfeebles those powers themselves.
"Long since has this enfeebling of the intellectual man been
noticed as the result of impurity of life. The sensualist must make his choice
between intellect and mental imbecility. 'If any man defile the temple of God,
which is our body, him will God destroy' [1Co 3:17]. This avenging work of
destruction is well-nigh accomplished here [in this life]. Body, spirit, and
soul -- all is impure. But to the pure all things are pure. Unheeding the
solicitations of the wanton, they go straight on their way. And this purity may
be ours. Not indeed gained by our own strength, nor by any strength save that
which is found at the foot of the Cross. Why may we not thus purify ourselves?
To the life of purity we are called throughout the Book of Proverbs" (WS Perry,
BLOWS AND DISGRACE ARE HIS LOT, AND HIS SHAME WILL NEVER BE
WIPED AWAY: Even though the previous verse has said that the man caught in
adultery destroys his life, it does not necessarily mean that he was put to
death, although that COULD have happened. It does mean that, at the very least,
he will live on in shame, destroyed socially and spiritually. He might receive
blows or wounds from the husband and shame and disgrace from the spiritual
community. Kidner observes, "The picture of the adulterer as social outcast may
seem greatly overdrawn. If so, the adjustment that must be made is to say that
in any healthy society such an act is social suicide. Condonation, as distinct
from forgiveness, only proves the adulterer to be part of a general decadence
(cf Jer 5:7-9; 6:15)."
HIS SHAME WILL NEVER BE WIPED AWAY: The infamy of his
sin is indelible. It will be a wound to his good name, a dishonor to his family,
and, though the guilt of it may be done away by repentance, the reproach of it
never will, but will stick to his memory when he is gone. David's sin in the
matter of Uriah was not only a perpetual blemish upon his own character, but
gave occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme His name too (2Sa
FOR JEALOUSY AROUSES A HUSBAND'S FURY, AND HE WILL SHOW NO
MERCY WHEN HE TAKES REVENGE: Cp Pro 27:4: "Anger is cruel and fury
overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?" A thief may find mercy from
men, but not the adulterer (vv 30-33). To steal to satisfy hunger is
understandable, but to touch another man's wife is inexcusable. The law of God
provided for jealous husbands (Num 5:11-31). If a man had any jealous worries
about his wife, he could take her to the priests for the test of jealousy. If
she were guilty, the prescribed potion would cause her to rot on the spot,
beginning at her genitals. If she were innocent, she would be cleared by divine
revelation and conceive.
The LORD, espousing Israel to be His bride, declared His name
was Jealous, and He was a jealous God (Exo 34:14). The first commandment is for
us to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and might (Deu 6:4,5). Any
infatuation with other things caused His jealousy to burn, for He will not share
our affections with another (Deu 32:16; Psa 78:58). The Lord Jesus Christ is our
bridegroom, and he likewise demands our total affection (Luk 14:26). All other
relationships must be sacrificed, if they conflict with our love for him. He
considers any friendship with the world as spiritual adultery against him (Jam
HE WILL NOT ACCEPT ANY COMPENSATION: The word rendered
"compensation" is "kopher": a ransom price, a sum to be paid to deliver another
from debt, bondage, or crime (cf the Day of Atonement, or "kopher"/covering of
sin: Lev 16). The husband cannot accept payment as a ransom for a life, since
what has happened cannot be undone so easily
HE WILL REFUSE THE BRIBE, HOWEVER GREAT IT IS: "Many
gifts" (AV). "BDB 1005 suggest that 'shokhad' means 'hush money' or 'a bribe.'
CH Toy takes it as legal compensation [ICC]" (NETn).