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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 6

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-35

9. Warning against inconsiderate suretyship

Proverbs 6:1-5

1          My son, if thou hast become surety for thy neighbor,

hast given thine hand to a stranger

2     if thou art entangled through the words of thy mouth,

art snared by the words of thy mouth:

3     then do this, my son, and free thyself,

since thou hast come into the hand of thy neighbor:
go, bestir thyself, and importune thy neighbor!

4     Give no sleep to thine eyes,

nor slumber to thine eyelids;

5     free thyself, like a roe, from his hand,

and like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

10. Rebuke of the sluggard

Proverbs 6:6-11

6          Go to the ant thou sluggard;

consider her ways and be wise;

7     which hath no governor,

director, or ruler;

8     (yet) she prepareth in summer her food,

she gathereth in harvest her store!

9     How long wilt thou lie, O sluggard?

when wilt thou rise from thy sleep?

10     “A little sleep, a little slumber,

a little folding of the hands to rest;”—

11     then cometh thy poverty like a robber,

and thy want as an armed man!

11. Warning against deceit and violent dealing

Proverbs 6:12-19

12          A worthless creature is the deceiver,

he that walketh in perverseness of speech;

13     he who winketh with his eye, who speaketh with his foot,

who hinteth with his finger.

14     Perverseness is in his heart,

he deviseth evil at all times;
he stirreth up strifes.

15     Therefore suddenly shall his destruction come,

in a moment shall he be destroyed, and there is no remedy.

16     These six things Jehovah hateth,

and seven are an abhorrence of his soul;

17     haughty eyes, a lying tongue,

and hands that shed innocent blood;

18     a heart that deviseth evil plots,

feet that make haste to run to evil;

19     one that uttereth lies as a false witness,

and one that stirreth up strifes between brethren.

12. Admonition to chastity with a warning delineation of the fearful consequences of adultery

Proverbs 6:20-35

20          Keep, O my son, thy father’s commandment,

and reject not the law of thy mother:

21     bind them to thy heart evermore,

fasten it about thy neck.

22     When thou walkest let it guide thee,

when thou liest down let it guard thee,
and at thy waking let it talk with thee.

23     For a lamp is the commandment,

and the law a light, and the reproofs of corrections are a way of life;

24     to keep thee from the vile woman,

from the flattering tongue of the strange woman.—

25     Long not for her beauty in thy heart,

and let her not catch thee with her eyelids!

26     For for the sake of a harlot one cometh to a loaf of bread,

and a man’s wife lieth in wait for the precious life.

27     May one take fire in his bosom,

and his clothes not be burned?

28     Or may one walk upon coals,

and his feet not be scorched?

29     So he who goeth to his neighbor’s wife;

no one that toucheth her shall be unpunished.

30     Men do not overlook the thief, when he stealeth

to satisfy his craving when he is hungry;

31     if he be found he must restore seven fold,

the whole wealth of his house must he give.

32     He who committeth adultery is beside himself;

he that destroyeth himself doeth such things.

33     Stripes and disgrace doth he find,

and his reproach will not pass away.

34     For jealousy is man’s fierce anger,

and he spareth not in the day of vengeance.

35     He regardeth not any ransom,

and is not willing if thou increase thy gift.


Proverbs 6:1; Proverbs 6:3. The form רֵעֶיךָ which is found in some texts, is not a plural, but the ־י, “indicates in pause the pronunciation with ־ֶ as in Genesis 16:5; Psalms 9:15,” Hitzig. Many MSS., moreover, exhibit hero the regular form רֵעֶךָ [Böttcher, § 888, n. 2, utterly rejects the possibility that רֵעֶיךָ can be a singular form, and also that the plural form is admissible here. Holden’s rendering “thy friends,” is incorrectly based upon the plural reading.—A.].

Proverbs 6:8. [Note the appropriate change of tense. The future תָּכִין “Fiens solitum,” Bött. § 943, b, and the perf. אָגְרָה “Perfectum effectivum,” § § 940, 4; 950, 4; the continually recurring “preparation,” the ensured “gathering.”—A.]

Proverbs 6:12. הָלַךְ stands here with the simple accusative without בְּ, as in Micah 2:11; Isaiah 33:15; Psalms 15:2.

Proverbs 6:13. [קוֹרֵץ used here alone with בְּ, usually with a direct object. מוֹלֵל; the verb is in use only in Piel. For the occurrence of participial forms in Piel thus resembling Kal, see Fuerst (sub. 5. מָלַל), and Bött. § 994, 4.—A.].

Proverbs 6:14. For the explanation of the K’ri מִדְיָנִים (instead of the K’thibh מְדָנִים) see Hitzig on this passage, who is probably right in referring to Genesis 37:36 as the source and occasion of this substitution.

Proverbs 6:16. [The fern. הֵנָּה used of that which is distinctly neuter. See Bött. § 862, 4.—A.].

Proverbs 6:19. The יָפִיחַ can be regarded as a relative Imperf., with which the participle מְשׁלֵּחַ. interchanges, or it may be regarded as an irregular participial form, lengthened from יָפֵחַ Psalms 27:12, and formed like נָטִיל ,יָצִיא, etc. (So Hitzig explains the form) [Fuerst regards it an Imperf., but Bött., very decidedly as a Hiph. participal, here and in Proverbs 12:17; Proverbs 14:25; Proverbs 19:5; Proverbs 19:9; Psalms 12:6; Psalms 27:12. See § 994, 9.—A.].

Proverbs 6:21. [קָשְׁרֵם, a masc. suffix referring to fem. nouns. Bött. § 877, 3, declares it characteristic of “secular prose, popular poetry, and the majority of the later Hebrew writers” thus to disregard exactness in the use of the suffix pronouns. Proverbs 20:12 is the only similar example adduced from Proverbs. Comp. Green, § 104, g.—A.].

Proverbs 6:32. מַשְׁחִית a future participle. The suffix in יַעֲשֶׂנָּה refers to the נְאֻפִים which is readily supplied from the נאֵף אִשָּׁה of the first member. [Interpretations divide as to the subject and predicate clause of the sentence. Muenscher, Noyes, Holden agree with the E. V. in making destruction the predicted fate of the adulterer; Stuart, Kamph., and De W. agree with our author in making adultery the natural and certain course of the self-destroyer.—A.].


1. The sixth chapter consists of four independent admonitory discourses of unequal length, of quite different contents, and a merely external and circumstantial connection (through points of contact, as between “sleep and slumber” in Proverbs 6:4 and the same expressions in Proverbs 6:10; through the triple warning against impoverishment: Proverbs 6:11; Proverbs 6:15; Proverbs 6:26, etc.). This is as apparent as is the fact that it is only in the last of these four sections that the subject of adultery, that was treated in the fifth chapter, is resumed. It is nevertheless arbitrary and lacks all clear proof, when Hitzig declares the three preceding sections to be the addition of an interpolator different from the author of chaps. 1–9, who is supposed to have taken them from some old book of proverbs, and to have enlarged the third by adding Proverbs 6:16-19. For, it is argued, this numerical group of proverbs, of eight members, clearly shows itself to be the personal production of the interpolator, who was led by the sixfold division of the categories in Proverbs 6:12-14 to the composition of this group of the six things that the Lord hates. As though this parallel sixfold or rather sevenfold arrangement in Proverbs 6:12-19 could not be the work of the composer of the entire group of proverbial discourses that lies before us, just as in the series of similar numerical proverbs contained in chap. 30. (comp. Introd. § 14)! And still further, as if there had not been already in what has gone before at least one isolated warning against unchastity and adultery, as a demonstration of the fact, that in this, connection also the advisory and admonitory discourses that relate to this matter (Proverbs 5:1 sq.; Proverbs 6:20 sq.; Proverbs 7:1 sq.), must not necessarily form a whole continuing without interruption, but might very naturally be interspersed with other shorter passages of differing contents, like those forming the first half of chap. 6!—Apart from this, Hitzig is undoubtedly correct in judging, that attention should be called to the close connection of Proverbs 6:16-19 with Proverbs 6:12-15, and that the first mentioned group should be regarded as a mere continuation and fuller expansion of the import of the last mentioned. A special argument for this is the literal repetition of the expression, “stir up strifes,” from Proverbs 6:14 in Proverbs 6:19. The view recently prevalent (see e.g., Umbreit, Bertheau, Elster on this passage), according to which Proverbs 6:16-19 form a separate group of verses as really independent as the rest (1–5, 6–11, etc.) is to be estimated by what has been already said. The correct division has been before presented by Delitzsch (Herzog’s Real. Encycl. xiv., 698), and also by Ewald (on this passage).

2.Proverbs 6:1-5. Warning against suretyship.—My son, if thou hast become surety for thy neighbor.—The frequent warnings which our book contains against giving security for others (comp. in addition Proverbs 11:15; Proverbs 17:18; Proverbs 20:16; Proverbs 22:26), are to be explained doubtless by the severe treatment, which, in accordance with the old Hebrew jurisprudence, was awarded to sureties; for their goods might be distrained or they even sold as slaves, just as in the case of insolvent debtors (2 Kings 4:1; Matthew 18:25; comp. Sir 8:13; Sir 29:18-25, and also the warning maxim of the Greek philosopher Thales: “ἐγγύα, πάρα δ’ἄτα” [give surety, and ruin is near], and the modern popular proverb “Bürgen soll man würgen” [the alliteration cannot be translated; an approach can be made to it in “worry a surety”].—In the passage before us the warning is not so much against suretyship in general, as merely against the imprudent assumption of such obligations, leaving out of account the moral unreliableness of the man involved; and the counsel is to the quickest possible release from every obligation of this kind that may have been hastily assumed.—Hast given thine hand to a stranger.—The stranger (זָר) is not the creditor, but the debtor, who in the first clause had been designated as “neighbor.” For according to Job 17:3 the surety gave his hand to the debtor as a sign that he became bound for him. Therefore the translation of Ewald and Elster, “for a stranger,” is unnecessary as it is incorrect.

Proverbs 6:2. If thou art entangled through the words of thy mouth.—This second half of the protasis, which, according to Hebrew idiom, is still dependent on the “if” of Proverbs 6:1, refers to the involved and embarrassed condition of the surety some time after his inconsiderate giving of bonds.

Proverbs 6:3. Then do this, my son, etc.—The apodosis, with its emphatic warning (which extends through Proverbs 6:5), is fitly introduced by the intensive particle אֵפוֹא, now, now therefore. Comp. Job 17:15; Genesis 27:32; Genesis 43:11.—Since thou hast come into the hand of thy neighbor. Hitzig, interpreting the כִּי, as in Proverbs 2:10, as equivalent to אִם, translates “if thou hast come,” etc. But the introduction of a reason is here more pertinent, since the case of an unfortunate issue to the suretyship had already been assumed in Proverbs 6:2.—Stamp with the foot.—This meaning of הִתְרַפֵּם, which is attested also by Psalms 68:30, is urgently commended by the following, “importune thy neighbor” (רְהַב רֵעֶיךָ). [In our version of this phrase in its connection we have substituted Fuerst’s interpretation which is also Holden’s. The verb is found only here and in Psalms 68:30. Gesenius and many others, starting with the radical idea, “to trample,” which they find in רפּשׂ and assume in רפם, translate the Hithp. in both passages, “suffer thyself to be trampled,” i.e., “prostrate thyself.” [So the E. V., De W., M., N. and ST.]. Hupfeld (see Comm. on Psalms 68:31) and others adopt the indirect reflexive as the true meaning,—“prostrate before thyself, i.e., subdue.” Fuerst, distinguishing the two verbs, interprets רפם as meaning, in accordance with many Arabic analogies, “to move, stir, hasten,” and the Hithp. as meaning “sich beeilen, sich sputen,i.e., in the Imperative, make haste, bestir thyself. Although this rendering has not in its favor the weight of authorities, the internal evidence appears to us to be decidedly for it.—A.] The meaning is that one should in every way force the heedless debtor—for it is he, and not possibly the creditor, that is here again intended by the “neighbor”—to the fulfilment of his obligations, before it is too late, i.e., before the matter comes to the distraint of goods or other judicial processes on the part of the creditor.

Proverbs 6:5. Free thyself as a roe from his hand, and like a bird, etc.—Gazelle and bird—in the original a paronomasia: צְבִי and צִפּוֹר—are appropriate emblems of a captive seeking its freedom with anxious haste and exertion. The way is already prepared for these figures by the expressions employed in Proverbs 6:2. Instead of, מִיַד “out of the hand,” all the old versions, except the Vulg. and Venet., had the reading מִפַּת, “out of the snare. “But this is an attempt at rhetorical improvement (perhaps according to the analogy of Psalms 91:3), “in which it was overlooked, that the hand was introduced the first as well as the second time with a reference to the giving of the hand on becoming security” (Proverbs 6:1). Comp. Umbreit and Hitzig on this passage.

3.Proverbs 6:6-11. Go to the ant, thou sluggard.—The ant, ever working of its own impulse quietly and unweariedly, is proverbial as an emblem of industry, both among Orientals and in the West; comp. Meidani’s Arabic Proverbs, iii., 468; Saadi’s Persian fable of the ant and the nightingale; Aristotle’s Historia, Anim., 9, 26; Virgil’s Georg., I., 186 sq.; Horace, Serm., I., 1, 33; also the German word “ämsig” (Old High Germ. emazîc), which is derived from “Ameise” (Weigand, deutsches Wörterb., I., 35). [See Thomson’s Land and Book, 1., 519, 520, for illustrations both of the diligence of the ant and the utter laziness of Oriental laborers, “which have no governor, director, or ruler.”—A.]

Proverbs 6:7. Which hath no governor, director or ruler.—The three expressions שֹׁטֵר קָצִין and משֵׁל are relatively like the Arabic official titles, “Kadi,” “Wali,” and “Emir.” The שֹׁטֵר in particular is the manager, the overseer, who, e.g., in connection with public works urges on to labor (Exodus 5:6; Exodus 5:14 sq.).—Furthermore, compare Proverbs 30:27, where also the first clause of Proverbs 6:8 recurs, in almost literal agreement with our passage.

Proverbs 6:9-11 add to the positive admonition to industry an emphatic warning against the evil consequences of its opposite.—How long wilt thou lie, O sluggard?—Literally: till when wilt thou, etc. The עַד־מָתַי of the first clause and מָתַי of the second stand in the same order as in Nehemiah 2:6. The meaning of the two parallel questions is substantially “Wilt thou continue lying forever?—Wilt thou never rise?” The double question is, as it were, a logical protasis to he apodosis which follows in Proverbs 6:11 after the interposing of the sluggard’s answer (ver.10): “then cometh (Heb. וּבָא) like a robber,” etc. Comp. Bertheau on this passage.—A little sleep, etc.—Ironical imitation of the language of the lazy man; literally repeated in Proverbs 24:33.—A little folding of the handsi.e., a little folding of the arms, a well-known attitude of one who is settling himself down to sleep (comp. Ecclesiastes 4:5), and who in that act does just the opposite of that for which the hands and arms are naturally designed, that is, for vigorous work.—Then cometh thy poverty like a robber.—מְהַלֵּךְ strictly grassator, a frequenter of the roads, a highwayman, a footpad (LXX: κακὸς ὁδοίπορος). The parallel passage, Proverbs 24:34, has the Hithp. participle מִתְהַלֵּךְ without כְּ, which gives the far weaker sense: “then cometh quietly thy poverty.”—As an armed man—lit., as one armed with, shield (אִישׁ מָגֵן); for even the assailing robber, since he must necessarily be prepared for resistance, must carry with weapons of offence he means of defence.

4.Proverbs 6:12-19. Against the deceitful and violent.—Concerning the relation of the two divisions of this group of verses, the first of which Proverbs 6:12-15) depicts the seven modes of deceitful action, while the second (Proverbs 6:16-19) expressly designates them a seven hated by God, repeating also their enumeration,—see above, § 1 of these exegetical comments.—A worthless man is the deceiver.—In support of this construction if אִישׁ אָוֶן as the subject and of the prefixed אָדָם בְּלִיַּעַל as the predicate [a construction preferred also by Noyes, Kamph. etc.] we have, besides the arrangement, especially the substitution of אָדָם בּ׀ for אִישׁ בּ׀, which was rather to have been expected according to the analogy of 2 Samuel 16:7, etc. If the second expression were only “an intensive appositive to the first” (Bertheau; see also Luther [Wordsw., M., st., H., in agreement with the E. V.]: “a heedless man, a mischievous person”), then we should have looked for אִישׁ in both instances. With אִישׁ אָוֶן, “man of deceit, of falsity, of inward untruth and vileness,” comp. furthermore מְתֵי אָוֶן, Job 22:15; and also, below, Proverbs 6:18.—He that walketh in perverseness of speech.—Comp. Proverbs 4:24; Proverbs 28:18.

Proverbs 6:13. The three participles of this verse are best understood, with Hitzig, as prefixed appositives to the subject contained in בְּלִבּוֹ, Proverbs 6:14, which is indeed the same as that of the 12th verse.—Who winketh with his eyes.—Comp. Proverbs 10:10; Psalms 35:19.—Who speaketh with his feeti.e., gives signs in mysterious ways (LXX: σημαίνει), now with one foot, then with the other.—Who hinteth with his fingers.—מוֹרֶה Hiph. part. from ירה, here used in its most primitive meaning. The evil intent involved in the three forms of the language of signs as here enumerated is of course implied.

Proverbs 6:14. He deviseth evil at all times.—Comp. Proverbs 3:29.—He stirreth up strife.—Literally “he lets loose contentions” (Hitzig), or “he throws out matters of dispute” (Bertheau); comp. Proverbs 6:19 and Proverbs 16:28.

Proverbs 6:15. Therefore suddenly shall his destruction come.—Comp. Proverbs 1:17; Proverbs 3:25; Proverbs 24:22.—Quickly will he be destroyed, etc.—Comp. Proverbs 19:1; Isaiah 1:28; Isaiah 30:14; Jeremiah 19:11.—Without remedy.—Comp. Proverbs 4:22.

Proverbs 6:16. These six things Jehovah hateth, and seven, etc.—Of the origin of this peculiar proverbial form, using symbolical numbers, a form for which Arabic and Persian gnomic literature supply numerous illustrations (comp. Umbreit on this passage), Elster probably gives the simplest and most correct explanation, deriving it “purely from the exigencies of parallelism.” “The form of parallelism could not, on account of harmony, be sacrificed in any verse. But how should a parallel be found for a number? Since it was not any definite number that was the important thing, relief was found by taking one of the next adjacent numbers as the parallel to that which was chiefly in mind.” In a similar way Hitzig on Amos 1:3 (where the numbers put into this relation are three and four); “To the number three the number four is appended to characterize the first as one optionally taken, to convey the idea that there are not understood to be precisely three and no more, but possibly more.” At any rate, those expositors are in the wrong, who, as e.g., recently Bertheau and Von Gerlach, find the design of this mode of numeration in the fact that the last of the enumerated elements, the seventh vice therefore in the case before us, is to be brought out with especial emphasis. [Stanley (Hist. Jewish Church, ii. p. 258), adduces this as a probable example of the “enigmas” or “riddles,” which were one of the most characteristic embodiments of the wisdom of the wise king.—Arnot: There is one parallel well worthy of notice between the seven cursed things here, and the seven blessed things in the fifth chapter of Matthew. The first and last of the seven are identical in the two lists. “The Lord hates a proud look” is precisely equivalent to “blessed are the poor in spirit;” and “he that soweth discord among brethren” is the exact converse of the “peacemaker.”—A.].

Proverbs 6:17. Haughty eyes: literally, high or lofty eyes; comp. Proverbs 30:13; Psalms 18:27; Psalms 131:1; Job 21:22; Job 40:11; also the Latin expression grande supercilium.Hands that shed innocent blood. Comp. Proverbs 1:11 sq., and Isaiah 59:7, with which passage Proverbs 6:18 also corresponds in the form of expression, without for that reason being necessarily derived from it, as Hitzig holds. For in case of such derivation the order of words ought to correspond more exactly with the alleged original, as in Romans 3:15-17.

Proverbs 6:19. One that uttereth lies as a false witness, literally, one that breathes lies. The same characterization of the false witness is found also in Proverbs 14:5; Proverbs 14:25; Proverbs 19:5; Proverbs 19:9. As respects the arrangement in which the seven manifestations of treacherous dealing are enumerated in these verses, it does not perfectly correspond with the order observed in Proverbs 6:12-14. There the series is mouth, eyes, feet, fingers, heart, devising evil counsels, stirring up strifes; here it is eyes, tongue, hands, heart, feet, speaking lies, instigating strife. With reference to the organs which are named as the instruments in the first five forms of treacherous wickedness, in the second enumeration an order is adopted involving a regular descent (Proverbs 6:16-19, eyes, tongue, hands, etc.); the base disposition to stir up strife, or to let loose controversy (see rem. on Proverbs 6:14) in both cases ends the series.

5.Proverbs 6:20-24. Admonition to chastity, preparing the way for a subsequent warning against adultery.—Keep, O my son, thy father’s commandment, etc. This general introduction to the new warning against adultery corresponds with the similar preparatory admonitions in Proverbs 5:1-2; Proverbs 7:1-5, and serves, like these, to announce the great importance of the succeeding warnings. With respect to Proverbs 6:20 in particular comp. Proverbs 1:8.–Proverbs 6:21. Bind them to thy heart evermore, etc. So Proverbs 3:3; Proverbs 7:3. On account of the plural which occurs in the verse, with which the singular is interchanged in Proverbs 6:22, Hitzig conjectures the insertion of this verse by a late interpolator, and that in accordance with the standard furnished by Proverbs 3:3, in which place the passage is held to be original. This is arbitrary, for no single ancient manuscript or version confirms the suspicion. Just as well might Proverbs 6:22 be declared interpolated, inasmuch as only in this is the singular form found, while immediately after, in Proverbs 6:23, the double designation “commandment” and “doctrine” returns.

Proverbs 6:22. When thou walkest let it guide thee. The contrast between walking and sleeping or lying is like that in Proverbs 3:23-24.—When thou walkest let it talk with thee. The accusative suffix in תְּשִׂיחֶךָ is here employed as in Psalms 5:4; Psalms 42:4; Zechariah 7:5, etc., for the designation of the person to whom the intercourse indicated in the action of the verb relates. With regard to שִׂיחַ to take, to converse, comp. also Psalms 69:13; with reference to the sentence as a whole comp. Psalms 139:18.

Proverbs 6:23. For the reproofs of correction are a way of life, i.e., they lead to life, comp. Proverbs 2:19; Proverbs 3:2; Proverbs 3:16. “Reproofs of discipline” (תּוֹכְחוֹת מוּסָר) corrective reproofs, reproofs whose aim is correction.

Proverbs 6:24. From the vile woman, strictly the woman of evil, of vileness. רָע (for which the LXX here read רֵעַ) is therefore a substantive, as in the phrase “the way of evil” in Proverbs 2:12.—From the flattering tongue of the strange woman; literally, from the smoothness of the tongue of the strange woman. For instead of לָשׁוֹן, from which reading of the Masoretic text the meaning would result “from the smoothness of a strange tongue,” we must doubtless point לְשׁוֹן (construct state), since the subject of remark here is the strange, wanton woman (just as in Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 5:20), while the thought of a foreign language (γλώσση�, LXX) is altogether remote from the context. In opposition to the translation of Ewald, Bertheau and Elster, “from the smooth-tongued, the strange woman,” comp. Hitzig on this passage.

6. Proverbs 6:25-35. Warning against adultery itself.—With her eyelids, with which she throws amorous and captivating glances at her lover, comp. Sir 26:9. The eyelids (or, more literally, eyelashes) are here compared with the cords of a net, as in Ecclesiastes 12:3, with the lattice of a window, or as in the erotic songs of the Arabs and Persians, with darts, with lances, daggers or swords.

Proverbs 6:26. For, for the sake of a harlot one cometh to a loaf of bread, i.e., to the last bit, the last morsel of bread, as a sign and emblem of utter poverty (thus Schultens, C. B. Michaelis, Umbreit, Elster); or again, the meaning may be to the begging a loaf of bread, to beggary (thus Aben Ezra, Vatablus, Rosenmueller, Elster, Hitzig). In opposition to the translation defended by most of the ancient expositors, and recently by Ziegler, Ewald, Bertheau, etc., “For as the hire of a harlot one gives hardly a bit of bread,” or as others prefer “merely a bit of bread,” may be adduced 1) the context, see the 2d clause; 2) the lexical fact that עַד can neither mean “hardly” nor “merely;” 3) the fact, historical and archæological, established by Genesis 38:17, etc., that the harlot’s reward in ancient Palestine doubtless amounted to more than a mere loaf of bread, e.g. a kid, as in the case cited from Genesis, or a price considerably higher, as seems to follow from Proverbs 29:3; Sir 9:6; Luke 15:30.—Lieth in wait for the precious life. Very appropriately has נֶפֶשׁ, “life,” the predicate יְקָרָה “costly” connected with it; for its value rises above all mere property; comp. Psalms 49:8.

Proverbs 6:27-29. The meaning is this: impossible as it is that the clothing on one’s breast, or that one’s feet should remain unharmed by scorching if fire be brought, near them, so inconceivable is it that the adulterer should follow his unlawful intercourse without evil consequences and just retribution. The two questions in Proverbs 6:27-28 imply a strong negation, like the interrogative clauses in Amos 3:4-6. Proverbs 6:29 is connected with the two negative antecedent clauses as a correlative consequent, and is therefore introduced by כֵּן, so.

Proverbs 6:30-31. A new figure to illustrate the punishment, surely impending and severe, which threatens the adulterer.—Men do not overlook the thief, etc.; literally “they do not contemn it in the thief.” The imperf. יָבוּזוּ expresses the idea of custom, that which occurs in accordance with experience. [Interpreters are divided between the two ideas of “scorn” and “disregard” as proper renderings of the verb. Stuart, Muensch., Words. adopt the former; men do not despise the thief, though he must be punished; they do despise the adulterer. Words. calls attention to a disposition in modern society to reverse this judgment. Noyes, Holden, like De W., Fuerst and our author, adopt the other view.—A.].—To satisfy his craving when he is hungry. This circumstance, which exhibits the guilt of the thief in a milder light, serves evidently to display the punishment that befalls the adulterer with whom he is here compared, as one more richly deserved. For the more presumptuous his crime, the less excused, or, as it were, demanded by his necessities, the more just is the punishment that comes upon him! If Hitzig had taken due notice of this meaning of Proverbs 6:30, which is transparent enough, he would have seen in advance how unnecessary and excessively artificial is the attempt to explain the verse as interrogative. [Kamph. adopts his view but does not strengthen it].—He must restore sevenfold. According to the prescriptions of the law in Ex. 21:37; Exodus 22:1 sq., it should strictly be only four or fivefold (comp. the publican Zaccheus, Luke 19:8). But in common life these prescriptions were probably not ordinarily observed: the injured party allowing his silence, his declining a judicial prosecution of the matter, to be purchased at a higher rate than was exactly allowed. Furthermore, that “sevenfold” is here used loosely, only as a round number (comp. Genesis 4:15), and is not designed, as might be thought, to mark the highest conceivable ransom, appears from the 2d member, which suggests the probability of losing “the whole wealth of his house.”

Proverbs 6:32 stands in the same relation to the two preceding as Proverbs 6:29 to Proverbs 6:27 and Proverbs 6:28; it expresses the conclusion that is to be drawn from the meaning, which is clothed in the form of an analogy or parable, with reference to the well-deserved recompense of the adulterer. It is therefore hasty and arbitrary in Hitzig to reject this as a spurious gloss, and to find in Proverbs 6:33 the direct continuation of the thief’s punishment, which has been depicted in Proverbs 6:31.—He that destroyeth himself doeth such things. Literally, “whoso will destroy his life, he does it.”

Proverbs 6:33. Stripes and disgrace. The נֶגַע, plaga, may here very well stand in its literal sense, and so designate the blows with which the adulterer detected in the act will be visited by the husband of the unfaithful wife, and will be driven from the house (Umbreit, Hitzig).

Proverbs 6:34. For jealousy is man’s fierce anger, i.e., the jealousy (קִנְאָה as in Proverbs 27:4) of the injured husband is a fire blazing fiercely, burning and raging with all the might of a man; comp. “the hurling of a man” [or as others “a mighty prostration”] Isaiah 22:17. The 2d half of the verse explains this somewhat brief expression, “man’s wrath,” which, moreover, appears to be chosen not without collateral reference to the more rapidly evaporating wrath of women.

Proverbs 6:35. He regardeth not any ransom, literally, “he does not lift up the face of any ransom,” i.e., does not receive it as adequate to allay his wrath—as one lifts up the face of a suppliant when his request is granted or favorably received.—And is not willing, i.e., to forego his strict right of revenge.


1. The warning against improvident suretyship in the unqualified form, and the urgent and almost passionate tone in which it is presented in Proverbs 6:1-5, rests upon the consideration that “all men are liars” (Psalms 116:11; Romans 3:4), that therefore no one can be trusted (comp. Jeremiah 17:5 : “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man”), that every neighbor is at the same time in a certain sense a “stranger” to us (see above on Proverbs 6:1), in a word, that one must be prepared for manifestations of unfaithfulness, or unreliableness, on the part of any one whatever, though he stood ever so near us. Hence the duty, for the sake of preserving one’s own independence and sparing one’s own strength for his personal work (bodily as well as mental), of extricating one’s self at any cost and as speedily as possible from every relation of suretyship, from the continuance of which injurious consequences might result to our own freedom and welfare. With the admonitions of our Lord in the Sermon on the Mount, to be ready at all times for the lending and giving away of one’s property, even in cases where one cannot hope for the recovery of what has been given out (Luke 6:30; Luke 6:34; Luke 6:36; comp. 1 Corinthians 6:7) this demand is not in conflict. For Christ also plainly demands no such readiness to suffer loss on account of our neighbor, as would deprive us of personal liberty, and rob us of all means for further beneficence; and yet this sort of evil result from suretyship is what the author of our passage has in his eye.

2. Also in the subsequent warning against slothfulness (Proverbs 6:6-11) the reference to the danger of impoverishment appears to be the main motive, brought forward with especial emphasis. This is above all things else the precise thing to be learned from the example of the ant, that it is important to gather diligently “in summer,” that one may not suffer in winter,—that the “harvest time,” when all is within reach in abundance, is the time for earnest and unceasing toils, that one may be able calmly to meet the later seasons of want which offer to the most willing and vigorous industry no opportunity for acquiring. Comp. the example of Joseph in Egypt (Genesis 41:0. sq.), and apply all this to the spiritual department of labors in Christ’s service, e.g., those of the pastor, the missionary, etc.

3. The six or seven vices, twice enumerated in different order and form of expression, against which the paragraph Proverbs 6:12-19 warns (comp. the exegetical notes on Proverbs 6:19), are at the same time all of them manifestations of hatred against one’s neighbor, or sins against the second table of the Decalogue; yet it is not so much a general unkindness as rather an unkindness consisting and displaying itself in falseness and malice that is emphasized as their common element. And only on account of the peculiarly mischievous and ruinous character of just these sins of hatred to one’s neighbor, is he who is subject to them represented as an object of especially intense abhorrence on the part of a holy God, and as threatened with the strongest manifestations of His anger in penalties (Proverbs 6:15-16).

4. As a fundamental proposition for the successful avoidance of all converse with impure wantons, and of the dangers thence resulting, there is introduced in the 1st clause of Proverbs 6:25 a warning even against the very first beginnings of all unlawful sexual intercourse, against impure longings, or unchaste desires and thoughts of the heart. Comp. the last commandment of the Decalogue (Exodus 20:17), as well as Christ’s intensifying and spiritualizing of the Mosaic prohibition of adultery; Matthew 5:28.—The admonition also, which is prefixed as introductory, to keep continually before the eyes and in the heart the teachings of Divine wisdom (comp. Tob 4:6), serves as an emphatic utterance of this “Obsta principüs!” or the exhibition of the necessity that the very first germs and roots of the sin of unchastity must be rooted out.


In the endeavor to comprehend in one homiletic whole the four main divisions of the chapter, one would first of all need to have clearly in view the suggestions given in Proverbs 6:2; Proverbs 6:11; Proverbs 6:15; Proverbs 6:26 sq., with reference to the danger of sinking into poverty and destitution, and to employ these in fixing his central idea. In some such way as this then: Even in the present life want and evil of every sort are wont to be the attendants a) of the lighter offences 1) of inconsiderateness (Proverbs 6:1-5) and 2) of slothfulness (Proverbs 6:6-11); b) of the grosser transgressions and vices, such as result 1) from pride and malignity (Proverbs 6:12-19), and 2) from lust of the eyes and sensuality (Proverbs 6:20-35).—Comp. Stöcker: Against unfaithfulness in life and conversation, as it displays itself 1) in suretyship; 2) in fulfilling the duties of one’s calling: 3) in daily converse with human society; 4) in married life.

Proverbs 6:1-5. Starke: A teacher of the divine word becomes in a certain sense a surety to God for the souls of his hearers (Ezekiel 3:18); therefore must he watch over them day and night, that none be lost through fault of his (Acts 20:28).—J. Lange: In Christ our friend we have a faithful surety who can and will free us from all our debt.—Wohlfarth: From credulity to put at risk one’s property, to which one’s children have the first claim, and which one should employ only for the general good, and thereby to give an impulse to the follies and sins of others, is quite as ruinous as it is morally blameworthy.

Proverbs 6:6-11. Melanchthon: Diligence is the virtue by which we are disposed steadfastly and firmly for God’s sake, and the common welfare, to perform the labors belonging to our calling, with the aid of God, who has promised aid to those that seek it. The extremes of this virtue are indolence and a busy officiousness (πολυπραγμοσύνη). The indolent omits too much; the officious, either from excess of ardor, undertakes many things that are not necessary, or undertakes by-works (πάρεργα) and interferes with others’ vocations,” etc.—Egard: God will not support thee without work, but by work; that is His holy ordinance (Genesis 3:19). Do thy part, and God will do His. … To know how rightly to employ time and opportunity is great wisdom. Gather in summer that thou mayest have in winter; gather in youth that thou mayest have in old age!—Berleb, Bible: Where the ways of Christianity are not directed in accordance with the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25) and according to the impulse of the Spirit of God, but according to any human constitution, there men go more foolishly to work than the ants in their labor.—[Trapp: They are utterly out that think to have the pleasure of idleness, and the plenty of painfulness].

Proverbs 6:12-19. Egard: A proud heart has never done anything specially for God’s honor and a neighbor’s good; through humble hearts God does great things.—Starke: The evil heart cannot long be hidden; it soon shows itself in evil gestures, words and deeds.—(On Proverbs 6:18): The heart underlies the seven vices which are an abomination to God, and in the midst, because it is the fountain from which evil flows in all directions (Matthew 12:34-35; Matthew 15:19). The Lord therefore hates not only the actual outbreakings of sins, but also the devices of the ungodly with which they encompass day and night.—(On Proverbs 6:16 sq.): Eyes, hands, tongue, heart, feet, are in themselves good and well-pleasing to God; but when they turn from the path of virtue and incline to vice, then they are evil and cannot please God.—Wohlfarth: Before the Lord proud eyes, false tongues, guilty hands, etc., cannot stand. His hand lays hold upon all such transgressors according to the holy law according to which every kind of evil finds its penalty.—[Proverbs 6:16-17. W. Bates: Pride is in the front of those sins which God hates, and are an abomination to Him. Pride, like an infectious disease, taints the sound parts, corrupts the actions of every virtue, and deprives them of their true grace and glory.—J. Edwards: It is vain for any to pretend that they are humble, and as little children before God, when they are haughty, impudent, and assuming in their behavior amongst men.]

Proverbs 6:20-35. Stöcker (on Proverbs 6:25): Solomon here warns chiefly against the things by which one may be enticed into adultery, namely 1) against evil desire and lust in the heart; 2) against wanton, over-curious eyes.—Starke (on Proverbs 6:25): Since evil lusts spring up in the heart, Solomon would have us at the very beginning stop up the fountains, i.e., suppress the very first instigations of corrupt flesh and blood (James 1:14-15). For it is always more difficult to extinguish sparks already existing than to guard against the heart’s receiving any.—Von Gerlach (on Proverbs 6:34-35): The fearful rage of the jealous husband grows out of the deep feeling, that the wife is one with her husband, a part of him, whose worth cannot be counterbalanced by any possession however great, outside of him.—Comp. J. Lange: Just as little as the adulterer taken in his adultery is left unpunished by the injured husband, so little, yea even less will the spiritual adulterer remain unpunished of the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:17). 

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Proverbs 6". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/proverbs-6.html. 1857-84.
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