Proverbs 6 – Wisdom to a Son on Debts and Work, Sin and Seduction
A. The foolishness of taking on other’s debts.
1. (1-2) Taking debts of friends or strangers.
My son, if you become surety for your friend,
If you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,
You are snared by the words of your mouth;
You are taken by the words of your mouth.
a. If you become surety for your friend: Solomon warned his son against guaranteeing the debts of others, whether they were a friend or a stranger. This was the promise to pay the debts of the friend or stranger if they failed to pay.
i. This wasn’t really like loaning someone money, nor exactly like cosigning a loan. In modern financial terms, it was more like guaranteeing someone’s open line of credit. “The New Testament shows us Paul accepting Onesimus’s past liabilities, but not his future ones (Philemon 18, 19).” (Kidner)
ii. “If thou pledge thyself in behalf of another, thou takest the burden off him, and placest it on thine own shoulders; and when he knows he has got one to stand between him and the demands of law and justice, he will feel little responsibility; his spirit of exertion will become crippled.” (Clarke)
iii. “Even to the recipient, an unconditional pledge may be an unintended disservice by exposing him to temptation and to the subsequent grief of having brought a friend to ruin.” (Kidner)
b. You are snared by the words of your mouth: To promise to pay the debts of another person is to put yourself in a trap. It is a promise made with the words of your mouth but will affect and afflict your wallet or purse.
i. “Job 17:3 uses this circle of ideas to declare that Job is too bad a risk for anybody but God—and to plead that God will take him up (cf. Ps. 119:122). So a bridge is made in the Old Testament between the idea of material insolvency and spiritual.” (Kidner)
ii. “Our God, while he warns us against putting up security, has taken it on himself. May his name be praised for this! He has given us his Word, his bond, yes, his blood as security for sinners, which no power of hell can shake.” (Bridges)
2. (3-5) What to do if you have taken the debt of another.
So do this, my son, and deliver yourself;
For you have come into the hand of your friend:
Go and humble yourself;
Plead with your friend.
Give no sleep to your eyes,
Nor slumber to your eyelids.
Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
And like a bird from the hand of the fowler.
a. Deliver yourself: Solomon counseled his son that if he did make himself responsible for the debt of another person, he should do all he could to deliver himself. He should humble himself and plead to be released from his promise.
i. Humble yourself: “Hebrew, offer thyself to be trodden upon, or throw thyself down at his feet. As thou hast made thyself his servant, bear the fruits of thine own folly, and humbly and earnestly implore his patience and clemency.” (Poole)
b. Deliver yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter: A gazelle would do anything to escape the hunter, and a bird would do anything to escape the fowler. Solomon tried to communicate the urgency his son should have in escaping responsibility for the debt of others.
i. “Becoming surety is folly because the surety makes promises for the future that he cannot control (cf. Proverbs 27:1). Moreover, he has handed himself over to the debtor, who may unmercifully throw him into the hands of the creditor.” (Waltke)
ii. “Although we have no information on Israelite laws of surety, seizure of assets and home and even the selling of the debtor into slavery were common penalties for failure to make payment,and the cosigner could well have met the same fate.” (Garrett)
B. The honor of hard work.
1. (6-8) The example of the ant.
Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain,
Overseer or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest.
a. Go to the ant, you sluggard: Solomon spoke wisdom to the sluggard – essentially, the lazy man or woman. That lazy person should learn from the ant, an insect proverbial for hard work.
i. The book of Proverbs speaks a lot about the value of hard work, and for good reason. The difference between success and failure, between potential disappointment or fulfillment is often hard work.
ii. “No insect is more laborious, not even the bee itself; and none is more fondly attached to or more careful of its young, than the ant.” (Clarke)
iii. “Christ sends us to school to the birds of the air, and lilies of the field, to learn dependence upon divine providence, [Matthew 6:25-29] and to the stork, crane, and swallow, to be taught to take the seasons of grace, and not to let slip the opportunities that God putteth into our hands. [Jeremiah 8:7].” (Trapp)
b. Having no captain, overseer or ruler: The ant is wise and worthy of imitation because she works hard without having to be told to work hard. The ethic of diligence comes from within and does not have to be imposed by a captain, overseer or ruler.
i. “Aristotle also asserted that ants labor without rulers to direct them. Modern entomologists have discovered a perfect social organization among ants, but, as Plaut notes, this does ‘not imply that there is a hierarchy of command.’” (Waltke)
c. Provides her supplies in the summer: The ant works hard when the work is to be done. In the summer and in the harvest, the work gets done. This means that the ant gives a good lesson in her ways and her wisdom.
i. “What a deal of grain gets she together in summer! What pains doth she take for it, labouring not by daylight only, but by moonshine also! What huge heaps hath she! What care to bring forth her store, and lay it drying on a sunshine day, lest with moisture it should putrefy.” (Trapp)
2. (9-11) Warning the lazy man.
How long will you slumber, O sluggard?
When will you rise from your sleep?
A little sleep, a little slumber,
A little folding of the hands to sleep—
So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler,
And your need like an armed man.
a. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? Solomon asked the lazy man to give account for his ways. The thought is, “You want to sleep – how long? There is life to be lived and work to be done.”
i. “The sluggard is the explicit audience, but the implicit audiences are the son and the gullible who are addressed in the book (see Proverbs 1:4-5). They are being warned against laziness through the sluggard’s chastisement (see Proverbs 19:25).” (Waltke)
b. When will you rise from your sleep? Obviously, every person needs sleep. Solomon’s advice is not that we should never sleep, but that we should not excessively sleep.
c. A little sleep, a little slumber: Solomon imagined the lazy man saying this. He claimed that he only needed a little sleep, but actually he needed to work more.
i. “Sleep is the defining characteristic of the sluggard (cf. Proverbs 20:13); for him the love of sleep is pure escapism—a refusal to face the world (Proverbs 26:14). In contrast to the sweet sleep of the laboring person (Proverbs 4:23; Eccl. 5:12), the sluggard’s narcotic sleep ever craves still more sleep to escape the pain of living (Proverbs 19:15).” (Waltke)
d. So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler: The lazy man will find that poverty and need come upon him quickly. The sluggard loves to procrastinate and think things can always be done later. The hard worker can look forward to later; for the lazy man it will come like a prowler. When it comes, it will be your poverty – not one imposed by circumstances or misfortune, but through laziness.
i. Poverty come on you: “At least 14 proverbs relate idleness, either explicitly or implicitly, to poverty, the bitter end of the sluggard (cf. 20:13; 24:33-34). It is not riches the lazy person lacks; it is food, the necessity of life (cf. 19:15; 20:13; 23:21).” (Waltke)
ii. Like an armed man: “That is, with irresistible fury; and thou art not prepared to oppose it.” (Clarke)
3. (12-15) The destiny of the wicked man.
A worthless person, a wicked man,
Walks with a perverse mouth;
He winks with his eyes,
He shuffles his feet,
He points with his fingers;
Perversity is in his heart,
He devises evil continually,
He sows discord.
Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly;
Suddenly he shall be broken without remedy.
a. A worthless person, a wicked man: Solomon moved from the idea of the lazy man (Proverbs 6:6-11) to the worthless and wicked man. These sinful characteristics are often related and combined.
b. Walks with a perverse mouth: One of the main features of the worthless and wicked person’s manner of life (his walk) is the corruption of his speech. He has a perverse mouth, which mainly has the idea of crooked or corrupt, more than what we would think of as moral perversion. What he says isn’t straight, honest, and right.
c. Winks with his eyes: With his eyes, his feet, and his fingers, the worthless and wicked man shows his crooked and dishonest character. Evil and discord come from his life.
d. His calamity shall come suddenly: Solomon did not directly attribute this calamity or breaking (he shall be broken) to the judgment of God, but it is implied. God knows how to set the cynical, crooked-speaking man or woman in their deserved place.
4. (16-19) Seven things the Lord hates.
These six things the Lord hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren.
a. These six things…yes, seven: Several times in the book of Proverbs, Solomon used this expression to give a list. Here the list is of things that the Lord hates, that are an abomination to Him.
i. “The ‘six’ and ‘seven’ of the opening statement have their explanation in the description. The six are first stated, and the seventh is that which results, namely, ‘he that soweth discord among brethren.’” (Morgan)
ii. “The hissing sibilant sound resounds throughout the catalogue, especially in this verse: ses (six), sane (‘hates’), seba (‘seven’), and napso (‘him’).” (Waltke)
b. Seven are an abomination to Him: Solomon listed these seven sins.
· Aproud look
· Alying tongue
· Hands that shed innocent blood
· Aheart that devises evil plans
· Feet that are swift in running to evil
· Afalse witness who speaks lies
· One who sows discord among brethren
i. Most of these sins are connected to something we do, in or through our body. The eyes have a proud look, the tongue lies, and so on. We are again reminded of what Paul wrote in Romans about presenting the parts of our body (our members) to God for the work of righteousness, not sin (Romans 6:13).
ii. This collection of seven sins is also focused on how we treat others. We must honor God and worship Him in spirit and in truth, yet God is also concerned about how we treat others. Each of these are serious sins against others.
c. One who sows discord among brethren: This is presented as the result of the previous six or the ultimate among them. It is one of the highest among the things that God hates and regards as an abomination.
i. “Seventh, the one who unleashes conflicts (see v. 14) again climactically brings the catalogue to its conclusion.” (Waltke)
ii. Adam Clarke describes this one as “he who troubles the peace of a family, of a village, of the state; all who, by lies and misrepresentations, strive to make men’s minds evil-affected towards their brethren.”
iii. “None love a mischief-maker, and yet we are apt to think of the sin with something less than the Divine intolerance for it. We may take it as an unqualified certainty that no man in whose heart the fear of Jehovah prevails and rules, can ever sow discord among brethren.” (Morgan)
iv. “A withering blast will fall on those who, mistaking prejudice for principle, cause divisions for their own selfish ends (Romans 16:17-18).” (Bridges)
C. The harm of the harlot.
1. (20-24) God’s word can keep you from the evil woman’s seduction.
My son, keep your father’s command,
And do not forsake the law of your mother.
Bind them continually upon your heart;
Tie them around your neck.
When you roam, they will lead you;
When you sleep, they will keep you;
And when you awake, they will speak with you.
For the commandment is a lamp,
And the law a light;
Reproofs of instruction are the way of life,
To keep you from the evil woman,
From the flattering tongue of a seductress.
a. Keep your father’s command: Solomon probably had in mind both the wisdom a father passed to his children and the word of God received and cherished by the parents. A wise child will keep God’s word close, upon your heart and around your neck.
i. Bind them: “here it pictures him memorizing them in such a way that they are permanently impressed on his essential mental and spiritual being that prompts his every action.” (Waltke)
ii. “Implicit in these verses is the basic understanding that a good home life—i.e., father and mother sharing the rearing of the children together—will go a long way to prevent the youth from falling into immorality.” (Ross)
iii. “In chapters 5-7, each of the warnings against adultery is prefaced by an admonition to pay attention to the Word of God (Proverbs 5:1-2; 6:20-24; 7:1-5).” (Wiersbe)
b. When you roam, they will lead you: The word of God is living and active. When it is cherished and kept close, we benefit from its living power. It then will lead us, it will keep us, and it will speak with us. Anyone who wants God to lead, keep, or speak should begin with cherishing God’s word.
i. Proverbs 6:22 presents God’s word as a person who helps in many ways.
· A guide: will lead you.
· A guardian: will keep you.
· A companion: will speak with you.
ii. Will speak with you: “This Bible is a wonderful talking book; there is a great mass of blessed talk in this precious volume. It has told me a great many of my faults; it would tell you yours if you would let it. It has told me much to comfort me; and it has much to tell you if you will but incline your ear to it. It is a book that is wonderfully communicative; it knows all about you, all the ins and outs of where you are, and where you ought to be, it can tell you everything.” (Spurgeon)
c. The commandment is a lamp: Solomon seems to quote Psalm 119:105 (Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path). When given attention and properly valued, God’s word brings light to us in our darkness.
d. To keep you from the evil woman: Here Solomon spoke to a specific place where wisdom from God’s word can help. God’s word and wisdom will never lead us to the evil woman or keep us with her. The light of God’s word will wisely keep us from her and speak to us better things than her flattering words.
2. (25-29) The damage adultery does.
Do not lust after her beauty in your heart,
Nor let her allure you with her eyelids.
For by means of a harlot
A man is reduced to a crust of bread;
And an adulteress will prey upon his precious life.
Can a man take fire to his bosom,
And his clothes not be burned?
Can one walk on hot coals,
And his feet not be seared?
So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife;
Whoever touches her shall not be innocent.
a. Do not lust after her beauty in your heart: Solomon granted that the immoral woman may have beauty to lust after. Wisdom and the word can help prevent one from being mastered by the desire of her beauty or her allure.
i. “It is a small praise to have a good face and a naughty nature – a beautiful countenance and a base life.” (Trapp)
b. Nor let her allure you: In Solomon’s day this allure normally took place in a personal encounter. In the modern world images constantly hope to allure. Wisdom and the word help us to see these alluring images for what they are: crooked lies that don’t tell the truth about sex, relationships, or human nature.
i. “The parallelism between ‘do not covet her beauty’ and ‘and do not let her capture you with her eyes’ suggests that coveting begins by allowing eye contact. Desiring comes into his heart through optical stimulation aroused by ‘her beauty,’ and more specifically by ‘the pupils of her eyes,’ followed by her sweet talk.” (Waltke)
ii. With her eyelids: “‘Eyes’ are singled out here because the painted eyes and the luring glances are symptoms of seduction (see 2 Kings 9:30).” (Ross)
c. By means of a harlot a man is reduced to a crust of bread: With her beauty and allure, the harlot promises to add something to the life of her customer. She promises excitement, pleasure, attention, or any number of other things. Yet she does not, and cannot, deliver on those promises; she takes away and does not give. The adulteress will prey upon his precious life.
i. Several commentators favor translating Proverbs 6:26 with the thought of comparing the cost of a harlot and the cost of adultery. “The verse is best rendered, ‘Although the price of a prostitute may be as much as a loaf of bread, / [another] man’s wife hunts the precious life.’” (Garrett)
ii. “This obviously is not meant to endorse going to a prostitute as opposed to having an affair with another man’s wife but to show the complete folly of getting involved with another man’s wife.” (Garrett)
d. Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Solomon’s wisdom is brilliant in its clarity and simplicity. To take up with the harlot or adulteress is to play with fire, and to surely be burned. He warned, whoever touches her shall not be innocent.
i. He who goes in to his neighbor’s wife: “…that lieth with her, as the phrase signifies, Genesis 19:31; 29:21,23, etc. [Whoever touches her]…hath carnal knowledge of her, as this word is used, Genesis 20:6, 1 Corinthians 7:1.” (Poole)
ii. Shall not be innocent: “It is no good for such a man to later on complain about the strength of the temptation. Why did he not avoid it?” (Bridges)
3. (30-35) The disgrace adultery brings.
People do not despise a thief
If he steals to satisfy himself when he is starving.
Yet when he is found, he must restore sevenfold;
He may have to give up all the substance of his house.
Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding;
He who does so destroys his own soul.
Wounds and dishonor he will get,
And his reproach will not be wiped away.
For jealousy is a husband’s fury;
Therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.
He will accept no recompense,
Nor will he be appeased though you give many gifts.
a. People do not despise a thief: Solomon considered how we may, in some way, excuse a thief who steals to survive. Yet even when that thief is caught, justice would require him to restore what he has stolen and more. The adulterer steals, but not out of necessity – and in such a way that true restitution is impossible.
i. He must restore sevenfold: “i.e., Manifold, according as the law limiteth, though it be to the utmost of what the thief is worth. But what restitution can the adulterer make, should he make him amends with as much more? The thief steals out of want; the adulterer of wantonness.” (Trapp)
ii. Though Solomon contrasted theft and adultery, there is an interesting link between them. Sexual immorality and adultery are like stealing. When we have sex with anyone other than our appointed partner in the covenant of marriage, we are stealing something from our spouse (present or future), from our illicit sexual partner, and from the present or future spouse of our illicit sexual partner. Paul confirmed this likeness in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-6, where he wrote that to commit sexual immorality is to take advantage of and to defraud our brother.
b. He who does so destroys his own soul: To commit adultery (and to commit sexual sin in general) is not only sin against God and others, but also against one’s own soul, his own body (1 Corinthians 6:18-19). We usually think that the penalty for sexual immorality comes if the sin is exposed and known; wisdom and God’s word tell us that it destroys whether it is exposed or not.
i. Lacks understanding: “King David was a brilliant strategist on the battlefield and a wise ruler on the throne, but he lost his common sense when he gazed at his neighbor’s wife and lusted for her (2 Samuel 12).” (Wiersbe)
c. Destroys his own soul: Note that the blame is upon the adulterer. He may blame the temptress, his wife, his lusts, his desires, his circumstances, God, or the devil himself. Yet at the end of it all, he destroys his own soul.
i. “The expression ‘destroys himself’ in v. 32 stresses that the guilty one destroys his own life.” (Ross)
ii. Destroys his own soul: “The vixen hunts for his life, but he is responsible for his self-destruction.” (Waltke)
d. His reproach will not be wiped away: In addition to the ways that sexual immorality brings harm, it will also bring disgrace when it is discovered. The jealous husband will often not spare in the day of vengeance and will not be appeased in his anger.
i. “His reproach shall not be wiped away; although it be forgiven by God, yet the reproach and scandal of it remains.” (Poole)
ii. Accept no recompense: “This is an injury that admits of no compensation. No gifts can satisfy a man for the injury his honour has sustained; and to take a bribe or a ransom, would be setting up chastity at a price.” (Clarke)
iii. “Though the court may sentence the adulterer to caning, shame, and loss of all his property, the cuckold will never be pacified and want nothing less than his death.” (Waltke)
e. Wounds and dishonor he will get: Sexual immorality offers pleasure and excitement and often romance. It may or may not deliver those things, but even if it does, it will also bring wounds and dishonor. It brings wounds to one’s body and soul, and dishonor in the family, congregation, and community.
i. “He is wounded, but not like a soldier or Christian martyr. He is not full of honor but of disgrace. His name is full of shame.” (Bridges)
ii. “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.” (Kidner)
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What does Proverbs 6:3 mean?
Solomon is explaining the dangers of “[putting] up security” for someone else’s borrowing. This is equivalent to the modern idea of cosigning: agreeing to pay on behalf of the other person if they fail to make good on the debt. Agreeing to that obligation when the borrower is a stranger, unreliable, or the loan has excessive interest is foolish.
If someone finds themselves caught in such a situation—by their own words of promise (Proverbs 6:2)—they should try to extricate themselves by humbly asking to be released from the obligation. Solomon puts a sense of urgency on this idea: recommending one act immediately to get out of the situation and beg urgently to be released from the obligation.
In this context, “your neighbor” refers to the first signer of the loan: the actual borrower. The word “neighbor” appears in verse 1 as the person for whom the cosigner agrees to attach his name to the loan. Instead of berating the neighbor for his failure to pay, it is best to withhold one’s anger and humbly plead with him to pay his debt and free you from your part in it. If the cosigner insults the first signer, he may make him angry and unwilling to oblige. This action is hard to take, but it is much harder to fall prey to a money-hungry lender and forfeit one’s property as payment of the loan.
Proverbs 6:1–5 is the first of two teachings on good financial health in this chapter of Proverbs. This passage refers to using one’s own property as collateral, especially for someone else’s loan. The emphasis seems to be on a situation where one has cosigned on high-interest or risky borrowing, on behalf of another person. The book of Proverbs often discourages this kind of gamble (Proverbs 17:18; 22:26–27). Solomon’s advice for those caught in such an arrangement is to immediately seek resolution: remove yourself from that situation without delay. Exodus 22:25–27 and Leviticus 25:35–37 are companion texts regarding lending money. The next passage considers another aspect of money management: avoiding laziness.
This chapter provides teaching on two aspects of wealth management. The first is avoiding putting one’s property in debt for the sake of some other person’s risky investment. The other warns against laziness, indicating that it puts a person at risk for sudden ruin. Solomon then poetically explains attitudes and actions which God finds especially repulsive. Next, Solomon returns to the subject of adultery. He reiterates the inherent risks of sexual immorality, including the catastrophic consequences which it brings. That lesson continues into the following chapter