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Bible Commentaries
Proverbs 6

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verses 1-2

1, 2. If thou be surety It is probable, as suggested by several critics, that אם , ( im,) if, is to be mentally carried forward, not only to the second clause of the first verse, but also to the two clauses of the second verse, the whole of these two verses constituting the protasis, or antecedent member of the sentence, which finds its apodosis, or conclusion, in the third verse.

Thy friend Or, neighbour; any one with whom he may have intercourse.

Stranger Another person. Some think the “friend” and “stranger” mean the same person; others, that they are distinct, the friend being the companion on whose behalf the young man pledges himself, the stranger probably the Phoenician money-lender, to whom he makes himself responsible as surety.

Stricken… hand (Compare Proverbs 17:18; Proverbs 22:26; Job 17:3; Ezekiel 17:8;) if thou hast bound thyself in any way as security, bail, endorsement, to stand instead of another, or hast so mixed thyself in with his affairs as to injuriously involve thyself in case of his failure; if thou hast (Proverbs 6:2) in any wise inconsiderately and imprudently become enslaved or captured by words spoken in the way of pledge or promise. Zockler says: “The stranger is not the creditor, but the debtor, who in the first clause is designated as neighbour. For, according to Job 17:3, the surety gave his hand to the debtor, as a sign that he became bound for him.” “The Phoenician or Jewish money-lenders were ready to make their loans to the spendthrift. He was equally ready to find a companion who would become his security. “It was merely a form, just the writing of a few words, just the ‘clasping of the hands’ in token that the obligation was accepted, and that was all! It would be unfriendly to refuse; and yet, as the teacher warns his hearer, there might be in that moment of careless weakness the first link of a long chain of ignominy, galling, fretting, depriving life of all its peace.” Speaker’s Commentary. For the severity of the Hebrew law in regard to suretyship, compare 2 Kings 4:1; Matthew 18:25; also, Proverbs 11:15; Proverbs 17:18; Proverbs 20:16; Proverbs 26:26; Proverbs 29:13. For the last clause, make sure thy friend, the Geneva Bible has, “solicit thy friende.”

Verses 1-5


In order to secure the peace and happiness of married life, which the teacher has just so highly commended, he now cautions his pupil against two evils, which often bring great distress upon families, reducing them to poverty: namely, inconsiderate suretyship and slothfulness.

Verse 3

3. Humble thyself Or, bestir thyself, and beseech him for whom thou art surety to release thee, or give ample security against the risks encountered. This is supposed to be the general meaning of the passage. Like many other passages of the book, it is to be understood with the appropriate qualifications which common sense suggests. We cannot imagine that the wise man here instructs his pupil to never, in any case, become security for a friend. This may sometimes be an act of justice, of humanity, or of charity, and often involves little risk. With the above qualifications, the warning is one of prudence. A man can scarcely be too careful to avoid risks of this nature. Many a well-doing man and his family have thus been ruined. A wise man will not rashly put his name on another man’s paper; and a good and just man will not ask his friend to run a great risk to accommodate him. In all cases of any risk, the endorser or surety should be made acquainted with the true state of the case. It is dishonest for one man to accept the endorsement or joint liability of another while concealing from him the danger of the transaction.

Verses 4-5

4, 5. Give not sleep, etc. Meaning that he should urge the heedless debtor to fulfil his obligations before it is too late before the creditor commences a judicial process. (Zockler.)

Roe See on Proverbs 5:19.

Verse 6

6. Go to the ant The ant has, in all ages, been a favourite illustration in the inculcation of the duties of industry, diligence, and forethought, for these little insects are among the most notable examples of the instinctive operation of the principle above inculcated. But the latest researches of naturalists indicate that the (European) ant does not store up grain for the winter, as has been commonly supposed. It is generally torpid in winter and needs no food. Perhaps in warmer climates the case may be different. European ants remain active all winter in hot-houses. They are said to become torpid at 27 Fahrenheit.

Verses 6-11


The principle of making suitable provision for the future lies at the very basis of our happiness, and has its applications and illustrations in various spheres of human action. It is our duty to provide for our future physical wants food, raiment, shelter, and whatsoever the body may need for its well-being. It is our duty, also, to provide, in proper time, for the wants of the mind, by suitable education and discipline, and the laying up of those stores of knowledge which will be needed for our coming offices and responsibilities, that we may perform well our parts both with respect to God and man. Above all, it is our duty and interest to cultivate and improve our moral and spiritual nature, securing those measures of divine grace which will be so much needed in future times of trial and in the service of God and humanity, and which are essential to our happiness, both in this world and the world to come. The application in the text is only to the first of these, but it equally belongs to the others. “Diligent in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.” Romans 12:11.

Verse 8

8. Provideth her meat While the original is used of any kind of food, it especially denotes grain. But it is roundly asserted that no European ants feed on any kind of grain that they are altogether carnivorous. Bennett found that, however long they had been kept without food, they would not touch corn, (grain.) Nor has any species of ant been yet found with food of any kind laid up in its nest. These are certainly extraordinary statements, if correct, indicating that not only may popular opinion be wrong, but that a host of learned men in all ages have been in error. Aristotle, Pliny, Horace, Plutarch, Virgil, Juvenal, St. Jerome, as well as Solomon, may be quoted as authority for the fact that ants do lay up food in store for the future. It is true, Solomon does not say what kind of food the ant provides, but only that she provides food in the summer and in the harvest. So also Horace, Sat. i: “The ant, small as she is, sets us an example. She is very laborious. She carries in her mouth whatever she can, and adds it to her constructed store-heap, providing against a future period with great precaution.” The white ants, or termites, so abundant in tropical countries, do, according to reliable authority, store up food in their nests or houses. It is, moreover, admitted by some that ants do carry various things to their nests, as portions of leaves and kernels of grain, not, however, for food, as asserted, but because they have a fancy for them! “They are great robbers,” says Thomson, ( Land and Book,) “and plunder by night and by day, and a farmer must keep a sharp eye on his [threshing] floor or they will abstract a large quantity of grain in a single night.” See article Ant, in M’Clintock and Strong.

To make this note the more complete, we insert, from “Popular Science Monthly,” as further illustrating the habits of certain species of the ant family, the following: “Mr. Traherne Moggridge has recently, by careful observation in the south of Europe, confirmed in many of their minutest details the accounts given by ancient writers, as to the ants being eaters of grain. He describes the ants as ascending the stalks of cereals and gnawing off the grains, while others below detached the seed from the chaff and carried it home; as gnawing off the radicle, to prevent germination; and as spreading their stores in the sun to dry them after wet weather. These statements Mr. Moggridge has verified, supplementing them by discovering the granaries in which they are stored, sometimes excavated in solid rock. He has seen them in the act of collecting seeds, and has traced seeds to the granaries; he has seen them bring out the grains to dry after a rain, and nibble off the radicle from those which were germinating; lastly, he has seen them feed on the seeds so collected. Their depredations are of such extent as must cause serious loss to cultivators.” E.R. Leland.

The most wonderful ant in the world is one, so far as known, found only in the United States. Its scientific name is atta malefaciens, popularly called the stinging ant, on account of the pungency of its venom. Its habits have been thoroughly studied for twelve years by Dr. Lincecum, of Texas, and the results communicated to the Linnean Society by Charles Darwin, Esq. The following is an abstract of Dr. Lincecum’s communication: “It is a large brownish ant. He names it the agricultural ant. It dwells in what may be called paved cities, and, like a thrifty farmer, makes suitable arrangements for the changing seasons. When it has selected a situation for its habitation, if on dry ground, it bores a hole, around which it raises the surface three, and sometimes six, inches, forming a low circular mound, having a very gentle inclination from the centre to the outer border, which, on an average, is three or four feet from the entrance. But if the location is on low, flat, wet land, liable to inundation, though perfectly dry at the time the ant sets to work, it nevertheless elevates the mound in the form of a pretty sharp cone, to the height of fifteen to twenty inches or more, and makes the entrance near the summit. Around the mound, in either case, the ant clears the ground of all obstructions, levels and smooths the surface to the distance of three or four feet from the gate of the city, giving the space the appearance of a handsome pavement, as it really is. Within this paved area not a blade of any green thing is allowed to grow, except a single species of grain-bearing grass. Having planted this crop in a circle around, two or three feet from the centre of the mound, the insect tends and cultivates it with constant care, cutting away all other grasses and weeds that may spring up amongst it and around it outside of the farm-circle to the extent of one or two feet more.

“The cultivated grass grows luxuriantly, and produces a heavy crop of small, white, flinty seeds, which, under the microscope, very closely resemble ordinary rice. When ripe it is carefully harvested, and carried by the workers, chaff and all, into the granary cells, where it is divested of the chaff and packed away. The chaff is taken out and thrown beyond the limits of the paved area.

“During protracted wet weather it sometimes happens that the provision stores become damp, and are liable to sprout and spoil. In this case, on the first fine day, the ants bring out the damp and moistened grain, and expose it to the sun till it is dry, when they carry it back again, and pack away all the sound seeds, leaving those that had sprouted to waste.

* * * *

“There can be no doubt of the fact that the particular species of grain-bearing grass is intentionally planted. In farmer-like manner the ground is carefully divested of all other grasses and weeds during the time it is growing. When it is ripe the grain is taken care of, the dry stubbs cut away and carried off, the paved area being left unencumbered till the ensuing autumn, when the same ant-rice reappears within the same circle, and receives the same agricultural attention as the previous crop; and so on from year to year, as I know to be the case in all situations where the ant settlements are protected from graminivorous animals.”

In a second letter, in answer to inquiries from Mr. Darwin, whether he supposed the ants planted the seeds for the ensuing crop, Dr. L. says: “I have not the least doubt of it. My conclusions are not from hasty or careless observation, nor from seeing the ants do something that looked like it, and then guessing at the results. I have at all seasons watched the same ant-cities during the last twelve years, and I know what I stated in my former letter is true. I visited the same cities yesterday, and found the crop of ant-rice growing finely, and exhibiting also the signs of high cultivation, and not a blade of any other kind of grass or weed was seen within twelve inches of the circular row of ant-rice.”

The author of the book remarks, that “the economical habits of this wonderful insect far surpass any thing that Solomon has written of the ant, and it is not too much to say, that if any of the scriptural writers had ventured to speak of an ant that not only laid up stores of grain, but actually prepared the soil for the crop, planted the seed, kept the ground free from weeds, and finally reaped the harvest, the statement would have been utterly disbelieved, and the credibility, not only of that particular writer, but of the rest of Scripture, severely damaged. Solomon’s statement concerning the ant has afforded one of the stock arguments against the truth of Scripture, and yet we have his statements not only corroborated to the very letter by those who have visited Palestine for the express purpose of investigating its zoology, but far surpassed by the observations of a scientific man [of the United States] who had watched the insects for a series of years.” Comp. Proverbs 30:25.

Verses 9-11

9-11. How long wilt thou sleep As in Proverbs 6:6-8 the instructor had sought to incite his pupil to wise forethought and providence by the example of the ant, so here he seeks to guard him against the love of ease by the ruinous effects of slothfulness.

Sleep… slumber… folding of the hands These three synonymes for sleep are not to be understood too literally and narrowly, as if this was the only way in which indolence is indulged; though it is one of the most common. The words are to be taken more broadly and generally, as applicable to all kinds of inactivity. Tropically, a man is said to be asleep when he is not awake or alive to his own interests. So the words are to be understood here, and the ordinary consequences are vividly exhibited.

Shall thy poverty come As a traveller. The word rendered poverty seems to imply that kind of poverty which comes by the loss of possessions, which loss is occasioned by the slothfulness sought to be guarded against. The word rendered one that travelleth is intensive, and is construed to mean a courier, runner, or swift messenger.

Armed man Literally, man of the shield. There may be an allusion to the “messengers of death,” or executioners which were sent by Eastern monarchs to take off a man’s head, without note or warning, in his own house, or in the way, or wherever they met him. Comp. 1 Kings 2:25; 1 Kings 2:29; 1Ki 2:34 ; 1 Kings 2:46.

Verse 12


12. A naughty person Literally, a man of Belial, or, a man of worthlessness. Compare Deuteronomy 13:13: Judges 19:22.

A wicked man… froward mouth The man of worthlessness is, perhaps, the predicate, and “a wicked man” the subject, to be connected by is; and so we may render, A wicked man is a man of worthlessness. And so Noyes spiritedly renders the passage:

“A wicked man is a worthless wretch,

Who walketh with a deceitful mouth,

Who winketh with his eyes,

Speaketh with his feet,

And teacheth with his fingers.”

The picture of the wicked man, with his language of signs, is drawn as far as the close of Proverbs 6:14; with the therefore of Proverbs 6:15 commences his destiny. Miller translates, “A worthless man, utterly vain, talking with his eyes, speaking with his feet, motioning with his fingers, with upturnings in his heart, fabricating evil, will be putting forth grounds of quarrel all the time.” The last clause is translated rather freely, the rest may pass. He makes that clause the apodosis of all that precedes.

Verse 13

13. His arts are further described.

He winketh with his eyes, etc. He deceives not with speech only, but uses covert means to effect his object.

So associates in wickedness at the present day are said to “give” each other “the wink.” The flash language of modern rogues is, probably, an advance on the speech of villainy in Solomon’s day. The Orientals are wonderfully proficient in making communications to each other by means of signs and gestures with the eyes, the hands, and the feet. The number of signs of this sort which have a wide and most extensively understood signification, and which are, in fact, in current use among the people, is very large. Kitto. They wear neither shoes nor sandals in their houses, so that their feet and toes are exposed. When guests wish to speak with each other, so as not to be observed by the host, they convey their meaning by their feet and toes. When merchants wish to bargain in the presence of others, without having them knew their terms, they sit on the ground, have a piece of cloth thrown over their lap, and then put each a hand under, and thus speak with their fingers. When the Brahmins convey religious mysteries to their disciples, they teach with their fingers, having their hands concealed in the folds of their robes. (Roberts.)

Verse 14

14. Frowardness Perversions.

Soweth Casteth forth, or excites. Such men are perpetually at work contriving mischief, exciting suspicious, stirring up hatred, strife, brawls, lawsuits, discords in families, and revolutions in governments.

Verse 15

15. Broken Shivered, dashed to pieces. This verse expresses more forcibly and in a clearer manner the idea of Proverbs 6:11. Comp. Proverbs 29:1; Isaiah 1:28; Isaiah 30:14; Jeremiah 19:11; Job 40:11.

Verses 16-19


Here the teacher seeks to guard his charge against personal vices, as he had before against associational ones.

16-19. Six things… yea, seven, are specified. These are favourite forms with the Hebrews, and the numbers are not always used definitely. The expression is, perhaps, equivalent to our “six or seven,” meaning several. The origin of this peculiar proverbial form, the using of symbolical numbers, Elster derives from the demands of the 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 in taking one of the next adjacent numbers as the parallel to that which was chiefly in the mind.”

An abomination unto him Literally, to his soul. נפשׁ , ( Nephesh,) soul or life, is often put for the person himself. The expression is forcible.

A proud look Literally, eyes of loftiness indicative of a haughty spirit. Comp. Proverbs 30:13; Psalms 18:27; Psalms 131:1.

Wicked imaginations Plans or purposes.

A false witness עד שׁקר , hadh sheker, Miller renders, “a deceived witness.” It occurs Proverbs 12:17; Proverbs 14:5; Proverbs 14:25; Proverbs 19:5; Proverbs 21:28.

That speaketh lies Breathes falsehood, or, as we say, “utters lies with every breath” one who has no regard for truth. Comp. Proverbs 14:5; Proverbs 14:25; Proverbs 19:5; Psalms 5:9; Matthew 12:34.

There is one parallel worthy of notice between the seven cursed things here and the seven blessed things in Matthew 5:0. The first and the 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, “that soweth discord among brethren” is the exact reverse of the “peacemaker.”

Verse 20


20. My son, etc. See Proverbs 1:8 for substantially the same formula. Compare, also, Proverbs 3:3.

Verse 21

21. Bind them, etc. Meaning, Treasure them in your affections; never be ashamed of them or the practice of them; they are your highest ornaments. In the East, where reverence for parents and ancestors is very great, it is a sufficient reason for any custom or practice that one’s fathers or ancestors enjoined it. If parental precepts in general are held sacred, how much more such as these, which are sacred in themselves? Comp. Jeremiah 35:18, the Rechabites.

Verse 22

22. It Literally, she. Some suppose it spoken of wisdom personified. Blessed is the youth that respects his parents and their wholesome precepts.

Verse 23

23. Reproofs of instruction Instructive reproofs, or restraining admonitions. Youth is self-willed, inclined to throw off restraints of law, and to indulge in sensual gratifications. An observance of parental commands, which, it is hinted, are also the law of God, will direct in all dark and dubious cases, and restrain from that which is dangerous.

Way of life Tend to life. On the first part of the verse compare Psalms 19:8, and Psalms 119:105.

Verse 24

24. To keep thee A special application of the above. One object of pious parental care and training is to preserve from base, sensual gratification. And as it should be one of the highest aims of parental solicitude to guard the youth of their households from base desires and practices, so it is one of the chief efforts of the royal sage and father in this work to describe and illustrate the terrible evils of lawless lust. Hence he returns to it again and again, and presents it under a variety of aspects. Let the reader ponder, and “flee youthful lusts.” 2 Timothy 2:22. “Abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” 1 Peter 2:11.

Flattery Any kind of enticing speech. The radical idea is that of smoothness, hence pleasantness; pleasant, in this case, because addressed to the carnal appetites and exciting voluptuous desires.

Strange woman Or, strange tongue, (meaning the same thing,) any other woman than a man’s wife; generally in this book meaning a wanton woman. See on Proverbs 2:16.

Verse 25

25. Take thee with her eyelids Captivate with her eyelids. Oriental women paint their eyebrows and eyelids, giving, as is thought, great artificial beauty to them. A writer who had seen them says, “Their eyes appear to be swimming in bliss. Arab poetry is full of praise of this kind of beauty.” Bible Commentary. See note and illustration on Job 42:14, page 301.

Verse 26

26. This verse is difficult because of the supposed ellipsis, and is variously rendered by the versions and critics. The ellipsis indicated by the italics renders the meaning doubtful. The meaning most approved is, that licentiousness leads to starvation, even to a last morsel of bread. There is no verb in the first member of the verse, and one must be supposed, it is possible that תצוד , tatsudh, in the latter clause, rendered will hunt, (better, lies in wait, or, lays snares,) or some verb of similar meaning, is implied in the first clause. The sense thus might be, that while the harlot lies in wait for bread she also lays snares for the precious life. Some eminent authorities refer the terms to two different classes of evil women the harlot and the adulteress. By the one the man is brought to poverty, by the other into peril of his life.

Adulteress The Hebrew denotes, the woman of a man, and is hence rendered adulteress. But this meaning is not certain. The Septuagint has γυνη ανδρων , meaning, a woman of men, that is, of more than one man a common woman. The Hebrew ish, like our word man, is often used in the plural sense, each one, every one, or any one. If this be the sense of the words they would only be another term for ishshah zonah, a harlot, in the preceding clause, and both predicates, the hunting for bread and the hunting for the life, would apply to the same kind of vile person, namely, a lewd woman, married or single. But Miller renders thus: “For after a woman selling herself as low as for a loaf of bread, and she a man’s wife, a precious soul will hunt.” Conant, however, thus: “For a harlot is but a round (loaf) of bread, but the married woman hunts for the precious life.” Round or loaf means her hire. The law punished adultery with death. Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22; Ezekiel 16:40; John 8:5.

Verses 27-29

27-29. Take fire Kindle, or keep up a fire a forcible way of saying that this sin cannot go unpunished; the dreadful consequences will, sooner or later, inevitably follow.

Verses 30-31

30, 31. Do not despise, etc. That is, Do not despise his crime, as if it was venial; others say, Do not wonder at it. Though men pity the poor thief who steals merely to supply a pressing necessity, yet the law will not acquit him. He must suffer the penalty. This varied: sometimes stripes, sometimes restitution, or both. And the amount of restitution varied: in some cases double, in others fourfold, in others five or sevenfold; and if he had not property enough he might be sold for a bondman. See Exodus 22:1-4; Leviticus 25:37. The old law did not require more than fourfold. Sevenfold is, perhaps, to be taken in its frequent Hebrew meaning of ample, sufficient.

Verse 32

32. Whose committeth adultery, taking all the circumstances and consequences into the account, acts like a madman or simpleton like one who seeks to destroy his own life. Unlike the thief who steals to satisfy his hunger, he unnecessarily robs a man of his wife, and when discovered will not merely lose his property, but forfeit his life. See Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22. The argument here is a fortiori, from the less to the greater. If a thief is punished for stealing to satisfy his hunger, how much more the adulterer!

Verse 33

33. A wound… shall he get The language seems to imply some mark of infamy put upon him, either by the injured husband or the magistrates.

Verse 34

34. Jealousy… rage of a man Or husband. He will have no pity or mercy. This and what follows are assigned as justifying the assertion in Proverbs 6:31.

Verse 35

35. Will not regard any ransom Literally, He will not lift up his countenance upon it; will not look at it. He will take no bribe, however large. So implacable his wrath that nothing but the utter ruin or death of the adulterer will satisfy him. For this crime society, rightly or wrongly, even in our day, generally justifies a man in taking summary vengeance with his own hand.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 6". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/proverbs-6.html. 1874-1909.
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