Proverbs 6:1-35

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The father advised his son on what he should do in case he had made himself responsible for the payment of another person’s debt or someone else’s financial transaction. Becoming surety for a companion or friend would mean putting up security for a personal acquaintance. Shaking the hand for a stranger could signify making an agreement with someone not in one’s circle of acquaintances and possibly doing so with a person who represented the stranger. (6:1; see the Notes section.)

If the son had been rash when making a commitment, ensnaring himself with the “words of [his] mouth” to act in a manner that would be detrimental to him or his family and trapping himself with the “words of [his] mouth” into making an agreement that would undermine his welfare or that of his family, he needed to act quickly to extricate himself from the undesirable circumstances. (6:2; see the Notes section.) “Then do this, my son” (the father counseled), “deliver yourself, for you have come into your companion’s hand” or power. Upon taking on the obligation for his companion, the son would have put himself at that one’s mercy. If his companion failed to live up to the promise to pay a debt to someone else, the son who had become surety for him would be the one who would have to pay. According to the Septuagint rendering, the son would come to be in the “hands [or power] of evils [or evil men]” through his friend. The situation would not turn out favorably for the son. Therefore, he needed to go quickly to his companion or friend, “humble” himself (literally, “trample” on himself) or assume the inferior role of a petitioner and importune him. (6:3; see the Notes section.) The son was told not to delay in this case but was advised not to give “sleep to [his] eyes and slumber to [his] eyelids.” (6:4) He should seek to deliver himself from the situation as would a “gazelle from the hand” (“from a snare” [LXX]) or from capture and “like a bird from the hand of a fowler” (“from a trap” [LXX]) (6:5)

The sluggard is told to “go to the ant” and to “consider its ways” (“be zealous for its ways” that he “sees” [LXX] or to imitate it in its diligent activity) and to “be wise” (“wiser than it” [LXX]) or to learn a vital lesson regarding diligence and to apply it. (6:6)

The ant is not forced to work, for it has no “chief, officer, or ruler.” According to the Septuagint, this insect possesses no “field” to cultivate, has no one to compel it to labor, and is not subject to a master. Yet it is diligent in engaging in essential activities. The implied message is that people should likewise be self-motivated to work and should not lead a life of indolence. (6:7; see the Notes section.)

A common ant found in Israel is the harvester ant (Messor semirufus). This ant “prepares its food in the summer,” storing up a large amount of grain when it is available for harvesting. The insect “gathers its food in the harvest” or, according to the Septuagint, makes abundant provision at the harvest. (6:8; see the Notes section.)

The lazy one is addressed with rhetorical questions that constitute a rebuke. “How long, O sluggard, will you lie [there]? When will you rise from your sleep?” The implication is that the sluggard had remained in bed far too long and should have been performing work that needed to be done. (6:9)

Instead of busying himself with work that needs to be done, the sluggard chooses a “little sleep,” a “little slumber,” and a “little folding of the hands.” After mentioning that he sleeps a little, the Septuagint says that the sits a little and slumbers a little. The point about folding the hands is expressed more explicitly in the Septuagint than in the Hebrew text. With his arms folded, the sluggard has his hands positioned over his breasts. (6:10)

For the sluggard, the unwillingness to work leads to poverty, coming upon him like a “vagabond” (a bad wanderer [LXX]) who arrives unexpectedly to steal. Want will come or assail him like an “armed man” who lives by violence and seizes what he wants. The Septuagint says that want will come upon the lazy one “like a good runner,” suggesting that it would happen swiftly. (6:11; see the Notes section.)

A base fellow (literally, a “man” or “earthling of worthlessness”), a wicked man (literally, a “man of wickedness”), goes about with “crookedness of mouth,” lying and deceiving to gain his corrupt objectives. The Septuagint refers to the individual as a “senseless and lawless man”who does not go on any good ways. (6:12)

A base fellow is described as one who “squints” or “winks” (literally, nips or pinches) “with his eyes [indicative of scorning or gloating], scrapes with his feet [possibly in a shifty manner because of his evil intent or, according to the Septuagint, makes signs with his foot], points with his fingers [perhaps to ridicule].” The Septuagint says that he “teaches” with movements of his fingers, possibly when endeavoring to influence others to act according to his corrupt ways. (6:13)

“With perversity in his heart” or being corrupt in thought and his inmost self, the base man “devises evil,” scheming to attain his ignoble aims. He continually “sows” (literally, “sends”) discord, giving rise to conflict and ruining relationships. According to the Septuagint, he plans evil at all times or at every opportunity and causes disturbances for a city. (6:14)

In view of what a corrupt man does, calamity or ruin (“destruction” [LXX]) will come upon him suddenly. At once, he will be broken “beyond healing.” (6:15; see the Notes section.)

As a literary device, the initial reference to “six things” and then “seven” in the parallel expression appears to serve to emphasize the things YHWH hates or which are abominable to him (literally, “his soul”). In the verses that follow, the seven things are identified. (6:16; see the Notes section regarding the Septuagint rendering.) They are: (1) “Haughty eyes” (“eye of a haughty one” [LXX]) — eyes of persons who have an exalted view of themselves and arrogantly look down on others, (2) “tongue of falsehood” (an “unrighteous tongue” [LXX] — a tongue used to deceive and defraud others, (3) “hands that shed innocent blood” — means that corrupt individuals use to bring about the death of innocent persons to attain their evil objectives (6:17), (4) a “heart devising schemes of wickedness” or wicked schemes — a mind that plots to harm others for personal gain or profit, (5) “feet hastening to run to evil” (“feet hastening to do evil” [LXX]) — feet used to move quickly to be in a position to injure others (6:18), (6) one who “breathes out lies” as a “witness of falsehood” (a “false witness kindles lies” [LXX]) — a witness who expresses lies when testifying, and (7) “one sending discord among brothers” — one who causes conflict and alienation among brothers or kindred. According to the Septuagint rendering, the “false witness” is the one who “sends” or sows “discord in the midst brothers.” (6:19)

The “son” is admonished to “keep” his father’s “commandment” (“laws” [LXX]) or to observe the sound teaching he had received from his father, treating it as a commandment he should obey. He was also exhorted not to forsake or to disregard his mother’s “law” (“rules” or precepts [LXX]). In this context, “law” refers to the sound principles or precepts a mother teaches by word and example. (6:20)

The “son” is admonished to keep his father’s commandment and mother’s law close to him as guiding principles for his life as if always binding them on his heart (binding “them upon [his] soul [or himself] always” [LXX]) and tying them around his neck. (6:21)

For the son, faithful adherence to parental instruction would provide dependable guidance and safeguard him from pursuing a course that could prove to be ruinous to him. When he walked or moved about to engage in activity, parental instruction would lead or guide him. It would watch over him when he would lie down, for he could rest securely because of having conducted himself aright as he had been taught. When he was awake, parental instruction would “talk” to him, for he would recall the teaching he had received from his father and his mother. This teaching would be like an internal dialogue. In the Septuagint, the thought is expressed somewhat differently. “When you walk, bring it, and let it be with you; when you sleep, let it watch over you so that it may talk to you when you awake.” There was never to be a time when the son was to permit parental instruction to leave him. (6:22)

With apparent reference to the parental instruction and the dependable guidance it provides, the text continues, “For the commandment [is] a lamp, and the law [is] a light,” illuminating the course of life that should be followed. “Reproofs of discipline” (“reproof and disciple” [LXX]) are the “way of life.” The reproofs that are expressed regarding wrongs constitute discipline or training and, when heeded, serve to safeguard the individual from following a course that could lead to a premature death. Therefore, these “reproofs” prove to be a “way of life,” not a “way of death” or ruin. (6:23) The reproofs that form a part of parental discipline or training would guard or serve to protect the responsive son from the “bad woman” (a “married woman” [LXX]). A “bad woman” could be either a prostitute or an adulteress. The son would also be guarded from becoming the victim of the “smoothness” of a foreign woman’s tongue or the seductive words of a woman that is not his wife. (6:24; see the Notes section.) In his “heart” (his mind or inner self), he was not to “desire” the beauty of a prostitute or an adulteress nor to let her capture or captivate him with her “eyelids” or her seductive glances. According to the Septuagint, he should not let “desire for beauty” conquer him nor let himself be captured by his eyes, or by what he sees in the woman. Additionally, he should not let himself be “captivated by her eyelids.” (6:25)

A man might end up giving his last “loaf of bread” for a harlot, or the price for procuring the services of a harlot might be just a “loaf of bread.” Various meanings are found in modern translations. “For a prostitute will bring you to poverty.” (NLT) “The last loaf of bread will go for a harlot.” (Tanakh [JPS, 1985 edition]) “A prostitute will treat you like a loaf of bread.” (NCV) “For a prostitute’s fee is only a loaf of bread.” (HCSB) According to the Septuagint, the “price of a harlot” is as much as about “one loaf of bread.” Intimacy with the wife of another man could lead to a man’s being put to death as an adulterer. Therefore, “another man’s wife” is referred as hunting the “soul of a man” or a man’s life (precious souls” or lives [LXX]). His illicit relationship with her could cost him everything.” (6:26)

Serious consequences for consorting with another man’s wife are inescapable. This is emphasized with two rhetorical questions. “Can a man carry fire in his bosom and his garments not be burned?” (6:27) “Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” (6:28) So a man who “goes in to” (or has an illicit relationship with) another man’s wife will not go unpunished. (6:29; see the Notes section.)

Others may not despise a thief for stealing to “fill his soul when he is hungry” or when he desperately needs food to eat. (6:30; see the Notes section.) Even in that case, however, the thief who is caught would have to pay “sevenfold,” or pay much more than just equal compensation, and be forced to “give all of the goods of his house.” According to the Septuagint, he would only be able to rescue or ransom himself by handing over all his possessions. (6:31)

An adulterer is described as lacking “heart” or good sense, and the implication is that his action, unlike that of a thief, would be regarded as wholly inexcusable. He who commits adultery brings ruin to “his soul” or to himself. (6:32)

The adulterer will “find” or experience “blows” (singular in Hebrew) or “pains” (LXX) and “disgrace.” This could mean that he would be submitted to severe beating, doubtless by the enraged husband, and would be publicly humiliated. The adulterer’s “reproach” would never be wiped away but would remain as a permanent blot. (6:33) “For jealousy” infuriates a man (literally, “for jealousy [is] the fury of a man” or, more specifically, the fury “of her husband” [LXX]). He will not “show compassion” or spare when he takes vengeance (literally, “in the day of vengeance”) on the adulterer. (6:34)

An adulterer will not be able to buy off the husband whose wife has been violated. The husband will not accept any “ransom” or compensation. Regardless of how greatly the adulterer may “increase” the “gift” or bribe, the husband will not be appeased. According to the Septuagint, the husband will not exchange his “hatred” of the adulterer for any ransom and will not be reconciled to him by “many gifts.” (6:35)

Notes

According to the Septuagint rendering of verse 1, the son’s becoming surety for a friend would constitute giving his hand to an enemy. The unfavorable situation that could result from the friend’s failure to meet his obligation had the potential for ending the friendship, for the son would have to fulfill the obligation.

In verse 2, the Septuagint rendering somewhat differs from the extant Hebrew text. “For a strong snare [are] a man’s own lips, and he is caught by the lips of his own mouth.”

Instead of a term that may be translated “humble” yourself or “trample” upon yourself, the Septuagint (in verse 3) uses a form of the verb eklýo (“to loosen,” “to become weary” or “faint) to indicate what the son should not do. The thought may be that he should not weaken in his determination to get out of the unfavorable situation. Additionally, the friend is identified as the one for whom he had become surety.

In verse 6, the Hebrew word for “chief” or “commander” is qatsín. It may be that the Septuagint translator read this word as qatsár (“to harvest”) and, therefore, chose the rendering geórgion (“field,” “tilled land,” or “farming”).

After the comments about the ant are concluded (in verse 8), the Septuagint adds a section about the bee. “Or go to the bee and learn [what] a worker it is and [how] seriously it does its work, the toils of which [the product of its labors] kings and commoners use for [their] health. And [the bee] is desired by all and honored. Although it is weak in strength, it, having honored wisdom, was advanced.” The thought appears to be that, because of working diligently in keeping with its instinctive wisdom to produce honey, the bee came to be valued among kings and commoners. In this manner, the insect was advanced in the estimation of humans far beyond what its weak physical state suggested.

For verse 11, the Septuagint contains additional words. “If, however, you are resolute, your harvest will come like a fountain” or be abundant, “but want will desert you like a bad runner” (like one who loses the race or fails to reach his goal).

In verse 15, the Septuagint concludes with a reference to “severance and crash” coming without healing.

The wording in the Septuagint for verse 16 departs significantly from the reading of the extant Hebrew text. It identifies the senseless and lawless man as one who “rejoices in everything that the Lord hates” and who is “crushed through the impurity of soul” or who is brought to his ruin because of being corrupt or defiled by the life he has lived.

In verse 24, the Septuagint translator appears to have understood the Hebrew word for “smoothness” to refer to “slander.” The Hebrew expression that can be rendered “foreign woman” is the feminine adjective nokhrí, and the corresponding feminine adjective in the Septuagint is allotrías, meaning “belonging to another,” “foreign,” or “strange.” With the reference being to slander in the Septuagint, the concluding phrase indicates that the son would be guarded against the slanderous tongue of one who is “strange” or “foreign” (or against the “slander of a strange tongue”).

In verse 29, the act of engaging in sexual intercourse with a married woman, is referred to as “touching her,” and this is the reason for not being unpunished. The Septuagint rendering appears to represent “going in to” and “touching” the woman as two separate acts. “So the one going in to a married woman — he will not be acquitted nor [will] anyone touching her.”

In the opening phrase of verse 30, the Septuagint indicates that it is not something at which to marvel when someone is caught stealing. The reason not to be surprised is that the individual was prompted to steal to obtain something to satisfy his hunger.