Proverbs 6 – “Four Wisdom Sayings; Adultery Kills”

firewalkHebrew-English Text
I. Summary
Proverbs 6 has two sections. The first section contains four independent Wisdom sayings, and the second section is a father’s lecture to his son. The father warns his son that adultery is a self-destructive practice.

II. Photo
The father warns his son about the dangers of adultery: “Can a man walk on live coals without scorching his feet? It is the same with one who sleeps with his fellow’s wife; None who touches her will go unpunished.” (vv. 28-29)

III. Important Verses
vv. 6-8: Lazy one, go to the ant; Study its ways and learn. Without leaders, officers, or rulers, It lays up its stores during the summer, Gathers in its food at the harvest.
vv. 9-11: How long will you lie there, lazy one; When will you wake from your sleep? A bit more sleep, a bit more slumber, A bit more hugging yourself in bed, And poverty will come calling upon you, And want, like a man with a shield.
vv. 28-29: Can a man walk on live coals Without scorching his feet? It is the same with one who sleeps with his fellow’s wife; None who touches her will go unpunished.
vv. 34-35: The fury of the husband will be passionate; He will show no pity on his day of vengeance. He will not have regard for any ransom; He will refuse your bribe, however great.

IV. Outline

1-19. Interlude: four epigrams
    1-5. Loan guarantees
    6-11. Laziness
    12-15. The good-for-nothing
    16-19. 7 things God hates
20-35. Lecture: adultery kills
    20-23. Introduction (exordium)
    24-35. Lesson

V. Comment
Proverbs 6 has two sections, the first is a group of sayings and the second is a lecture about adultery. The group of sayings contains four separate topics, and they serve as an interlude between the lectures before and after the chapter. All four topics are common themes of Wisdom teaching.

While the first saying (vv. 1-5) begins with the address “My Son,” it cannot be classified as a “lecture” because it lacks the genre’s conventional introductory remarks (e.g. 4:1-2, 5:1-2, etc.) and conclusion (e.g. 1:17-19). The father warns his son to avoid the trap of giving surety, a practice in which one person guarantees the loan of another: “My son, if you have stood surety for your fellow, Given your hand for another, You have been trapped by the words of your mouth, Snared by the words of your mouth” (vv. 1-2). The father is forthright in his warning, “Give your eyes no sleep, Your pupils no slumber. Save yourself like a deer out of the hand [of a hunter], Like a bird out of the hand of a fowler” (vv. 4-5). While the book of Proverbs takes up an extreme opinion on the matter (cf. 11:15; 17:18; 20:16; 22:26–27), the extrabiblical book Ben Sira takes a more nuanced approach: “Do not give surety beyond your means…” (8:3).

The second saying (vv. 6-11) warns about laziness, a common theme in Proverbs (cf. 26:13-16, 10:5, 15:19, etc.). The lazy one is told to study the ant: “Lazy one, go to the ant; Study its ways and learn. Without leaders, officers, or rulers, It lays up its stores during the summer, Gathers in its food at the harvest.” Learning from animals is also seen in Ch. 30 where ants, badgers, locusts, lizards, lions, eagles, dogs, and goats are used to teach a lesson. Vv. 10-11, which deride oversleeping, are identicalal to 24:33-34.

The third saying (vv. 12-15) is about the ‘adam beliyya’al “the good-for-nothing” and the calamity that awaits him. Many body parts are used in the description, e.g. the mouth, eyes, feet, fingers, and heart.

The fourth saying (vv. 16-19) is a numerical saying, “Six things the LORD hates; Seven are an abomination to Him…” This common form (“x and x plus 1”) appears elsewhere, especially in ch. 30: “Three things are beyond me; Four I cannot fathom” (30:18). Like the third saying, the fourth also places an emphasis on body organs: the eyes, tongue, hands, heart, and feet are all mentioned.

The second section of the chapter is a lecture, much like those in the chapters that precede and follow it. It begins with an exordium (vv. 20-23, see commentary on ch. 7 in regards to v. 21) and then proceeds to teach that sleeping with a married woman is a self-destructive behavior: “Can a man walk on live coals Without scorching his feet? It is the same with one who sleeps with his fellow’s wife; None who touches her will go unpunished” (vv. 28-29). In addition to disease and disgrace (v. 6:33), one will be hounded by the husband of the woman with whom he has slept: “The fury of the husband will be passionate; He will show no pity on his day of vengeance. He will not have regard for any ransom; He will refuse your bribe, however great” (vv. 34-35)

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