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Against suretyship, idleness, and mischievousness. Seven things hateful to God. The blessings of obedience. The mischiefs of fornication and adultery.
Proverbs 6:1. My son, if thou be surety— This and the ten following verses contain precepts oeconomical. The wise man recommends first, not to become surety for another; and, secondly, to avoid idleness: he inculcates the first advice in various places of this book; and certainly nothing is more contrary to true oeconomy, than to expose one's own affairs to ruin from the negligence and ill-conduct of a stranger: Solomon does not forbid us to give or to lend; he exhorts, on the contrary, to do it readily, and with a good heart; but not to engage ourselves in the entangled affairs of others. The first philosophers of Greece held the same maxims; and the ancient Persians had an especial abhorrence of two things, debts and lies. Striking hands was an ancient custom among the easterns, whereby they confirmed their promises and engagements. See chap. Proverbs 17:18. The LXX render this verse, My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, thou wilt give thine hand to an enemy: as much as to say, "Instead of a friend you will have an enemy;" or, "You will be delivered up to your enemy; i.e. to the creditor of your friend." It may be proper just to observe, that this precept is not to be taken in its utmost rigour; since there certainly may be many cases in which suretyship may be as useful as laudable.
Proverbs 6:3. When thou art come, &c.— The LXX render this, For thou art come into the hands of evil men upon thy friend's account; go therefore, be not careless, or remiss, but earnest and importunate with thy friend, to get thyself discharged. This, says Dr. Grey, is more agreeable to the sense, and the metre, and is confirmed by the Syriac.
Proverbs 6:6. Go to the ant— Horace has made use of the same similitude:
———Thus the little ant (to human lore No mean example) forms her frugal store, Gather'd with mighty toils on every side, Nor ignorant, nor careless to provide For future want. Sat. I. lib. 1:
The reader will also find in Virgil's AEn. 4: ver. 404 a fine simile taken from this industrious little creature. Concerning its natural history, Scheuchzer treats at large on the place. See also Spectacle de la Nature, tom. 1: and Dr. Delaney's 17th Sermon on the Social Duties.
Proverbs 6:11. As one that travelleth— Dr. Grey would render this verse, So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want [shall overtake thee speedily] as a post, or messenger. See Jeremiah 51:31. Lord Bacon upon this proverb distinguishes between the poverty which comes as a traveller, and the want which comes as an armed man. The shipwreck of fortune falls upon prodigals, or such as are careless of their estates, by insensible degrees at the first; with soft silent paces, like a traveller, and is hardly perceived; but soon after necessity invades him like an armed man; i.e. presses upon him so hard, that he feels it plainly, and perceives that there is no resistance to be made: whereupon he gives this prudent advice,—to prevent the traveller, and to be well provided against the armed man. See his Advancement of Learning, book 8: chap. 2 parab. 5.
Proverbs 6:12. A naughty person— In the Hebrew a man of Belial, with a froward mouth, Houbigant renders, distorting his mouth. The LXX read, Walketh in ways that are not right. A froward, or distorted mouth, signifies a speech void of truth, fidelity, and honesty.
Proverbs 6:13. He winketh— It is a remark of St. Ambrose, that the mein and gesture of the body are an image of the mind; and he was so delicate upon this subject, that he would not ordain the son of one of his particular friends, because the young man's air and manner were by no means conformable to clerical gravity. The motion of the body is as it were the voice of the soul. Ovid says,
Verba superciliis, fine voce silentia dicant; Verba leges digitis, verba notata mero.
See his Amor. 1: and Calmet.
Proverbs 6:14. Frowardness is in his heart, &c.— Pravo corde architectatur malum, as one translation has it: he does not do mischief by chance or negligently, but deliberates how he may do it with most success; he builds it commodiously and speciously to the eye, that it may invite men to inhabit it: there is no industry nor art wanting to make it prosper, and yield a good harvest.
Proverbs 6:25. With her eyelids— Women in the east used to be particular in painting and beautifying their eyelids; and as their motive was by that means to ensnare and captivate the men, the expression seems to be highly proper. "The eye of a harlot is the snare of her lover," says St. Ambrose. See Philostratus's Epist. γυναικι . Though the words, a man is brought, in the next verse are not in the Hebrew, yet they seem plainly to be understood, and give us a better sense than any of the other versions; which have it, The price of a whore is scarcely that of a single loaf.
Proverbs 6:27-29. Can a man take fire— "The wife of one's neighbour is as fire: if you deliver yourself up to her impure love, it will consume you: you give admission to a passion which is unconquerable, and in the end will fall under the hand of her enraged husband." See Proverbs 6:34.
Proverbs 6:31. If he be found, he shall restore sevenfold— The law, Exo 22:1-4 did not oblige the thief to restore sevenfold, but only five oxen for one, or, in another case, only double: wherefore some commentators think that the word sevenfold, is only used as an indefinite number. "He shall restore the value of that which he has taken, and much more:" others would render it, If he be found out seven times, he shall restore as often, till he give all the substance of his house. But some have thought that the wise man speaks not of that restitution which the law requires, but of that which either the wronged person, being powerful, might force the thief to make, or which the thief would willingly give, rather than be exposed to public shame; as appears by the following clause, wherein he adds to this sevenfold restitution all his substance, which no law of God or man required.
Proverbs 6:34-35. For jealousy is the rage of a man— The wise man carries on the contrast between the punishment of theft and adultery. "The theft (says he) may be ransomed by making restitution; but he that violates the marriage-bed raises such an inexorable spirit of revenge in the bosom of the injured, as nothing but the utmost rigour of the law, the death of the offender, will satisfy." Schultens observes, that no version can express the force of the Hebrew; The inflammation of jealousy is the setting a man on fire: as much as to say, that the jealousy with which a man is inflamed, renders him wholly on fire, and so heated with that fire as never to be appeased, but borne with inexpiable violence to the revenge of his defiled bed. Houbigant renders it, For the fury of the husband shall grow hot. The principal points of instruction to be learned from this chapter are these: care of our family, caution in engaging for others; diligence in some honest employment, hatred of idleness, as contrary to nature; not to contemn the meanest instructor, but to learn something even of the smallest creature: to give good heed to the admonition of our parents and instructors, when they teach the will of God; and above all things to fortify ourselves against sins of uncleanness.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Proverbs 6". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent