Proverbs 6 Study Notes


6:1-2 To put up security is “to pledge oneself as a guarantee for another’s debts”; if the debtor defaulted, the son would have to pay or be liable to seizure (Bruce Waltke). Entered into an agreement is literally “struck your palm,” probably referring to a gesture that made it official (Ru 4:7-8), an ancient equivalent of shaking hands or signing a contract. To risk one’s assets and reputation for a neighbor or friend is inadvisable (17:18), much less for a stranger (11:15; 20:16; 27:13; cp. 22:26).

6:3 The son is in his neighbor’s power (lit “palm”; see v. 2) because if the neighbor defaults, the son must pay. He should plead (lit “assault” his neighbor) incessantly to be released from the security agreement. The word translated humble yourself could also be translated “weary yourself.”

6:4 Sleep and slumber when a person should be working leads to ruin (vv. 9-11).

6:5 This hunter is a “fowler” who hunts birds (Ps 91:3; Jr 5:26; Hs 9:8).

6:6 A slacker is a lazy person (26:14) who hopes to sustain his life without actually working (20:4; 21:25)—he literally refuses to lift a hand (19:24). He makes excuses not to work (22:13). Unlike the oppressed (31:9), the slacker has brought his poverty on himself and is not an object of pity. His opposite is a diligent person (13:4). As the son listens to his father admonishing the slacker, he himself is warned against laziness (19:25). A wise person learns from observation (24:32; 30:24-28; see “prudent” in note at 1:3).

6:7-8 These verses describe harvester ants that store grain in their nests.

6:9 Asking how long generally implies that something bad has been going on for too long (1:22; cp. Ex 10:3; Ps 74:10).

6:10 On sleep and slumber, see note at v. 4.

6:11 Poverty in this context is destitution brought on oneself (13:18; 28:19). It is not the same as oppressed people who are poor because of circumstances beyond their control, and who deserve pity (19:17). The robber is literally a “traveler,” perhaps a vagabond or drifter. The bandit is literally a “man with a shield,” an armed man. His attack is sudden and unexpected.

6:12 The Hebrew word beliyya‘al (worthless) identifies a troublemaker who rebels against all good and godly authority (16:27; 19:28; 2Ch 13:7; Jb 34:18). Beliyya‘al is translated “wicked” in many places (Dt 13:13; Jdg 19:22; 20:13; 1Sm 2:12; 2Sm 20:1). This “worthless” person is described in vv.12-14. “Belial” became a synonym for Satan (2Co 6:15).

6:13 This body language was apparently conspiratorial or deceptive (16:30; Is 58:9). He literally “compresses” his eyes, “shuffles” his feet, and “throws in” his fingers.

6:14 On perversity, see note at 2:12. To stir up trouble is to spread dissension and strife (6:19; 16:28; Jr 15:10).

6:15 Suddenly implies surprise (24:22; Jos 10:9; Ec 9:12; Is 47:11). Instantly further emphasizes the speed of the destruction (Is 29:5-6; 30:13; cp. Jr 4:20). The last words are literally “there is no healing.”

6:16 On detestable, see note at 3:32.

6:17 Arrogant is literally “raised high.” It describes proud people who deny God’s authority (21:4; 30:13; cp. 2Kg 19:22; Ps 18:27; 131:1; Is 10:12; 37:23).

6:18 At the center of this list is the wicked heart. Cp. 1:16.

6:19 To be a lying witness and to give false testimony are the same; the two expressions are used for clarity (14:5; 19:5). On trouble, see note at v. 14.

6:20-24 Instruction that has been internalized sustains the person who faces moral challenges (Ps 119:11). While v. 21 refers to them, v. 22 literally says “she” will guide you, perhaps referring to the command or the teaching in v. 20 or to lady wisdom, a common personification of wisdom. The word for “guide” is the same as “leads” in Ps 23:3. Walking, lying down, and waking cover all aspects of daily life (Dt 6:7; Ps 139:2). On life, see note at 3:22; on wayward woman and flattering, see note at 2:16-17.

6:25 Sexual sin often begins with visual stimulation and eye contact (cp. Jms 1:14-16).

6:26 This verse is very difficult to translate. It may mean that the one who goes to a prostitute will eventually be left with only a loaf of bread, or that the one who goes to a prostitute is merely a meal ticket for her. This is not to excuse prostitution (1Co 6:15-20) but to illustrate the terrible penalty of adultery by way of comparison; the adulteress will destroy someone’s life.

6:27-29 These verses illustrate the inevitability of punishment. To go unpunished is a legal term meaning to be acquitted, declared innocent, pardoned, or released; to be set free from guilt, liability, or punishment (Ex 21:19; Nm 5:31). The basic meaning of the word is “to be pure, clean, or free.” To say that someone will not go unpunished is more emphatic than simply saying he will be punished (Pr 11:21; 16:5; 17:5; 19:5,9; 28:20; cp. Ex 34:7; 1Kg 2:9; Jr 25:29; 49:12).

6:30-33 A thief is guilty of a crime and must pay a severe penalty, but if there are mitigating circumstances he does not totally lose the respect of the community. Seven times is not literal here but is an expression that implies he must pay the full penalty, from twice to five times what he stole (Ex 22:1,7,9; cp. Lk 19:8); a repeat offender could go broke. An adulterer, on the other hand, suffers punishment plus complete, permanent disgrace. The person who brings this on himself lacks sense (lit “has no heart,” see note at 4:23; cp. 8:5)—he is brainless.

6:34-35 While a court can be satisfied when a fine is paid (v. 31), a jealous husband can never be satisfied (27:4; cp. Sg 8:6). On appeased, see “show partiality” in note at 18:5. Verse 35a can be translated, “He will not look favorably on any kind of ransom.” The bribes are “gifts” with strings attached to subvert justice (17:8,23; 21:14).