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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Proverbs 6

 

 

Verse 1

My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger,

Proverbs 6:1-35.-Warning against suretiship (Proverbs 6:1-5); against indolence, by the example of the ant (Proverbs 6:6-11); against crafty mischievousness (Proverbs 6:12-15); against seven things hateful to the Lord (Proverbs 6:16-19); against contact with a whorish woman (Proverbs 6:24-25); prefaced by an introductory setting forth of the blessedness of obeying the commandment, and what it can do for the young in going, sleeping, and waking (Proverbs 6:20-23).

My son, if thou surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger - if thou hast given thy promise, by giving the hand, to be responsible for a stranger. The allusion is to the custom of the surety putting his hand with a quick movement and a clap into the hand of the creditor. "Thy friend" is used in a wide sense, as the parallel, "a stranger," shows. Kabvenaki (in 'Poli. Synopsis') thinks that "thy friend" is the same as "a stranger." He who had been a professed friend, after thou hast become surety for him, becomes estranged from thee, owing to the disagreements which often arise in such money matters. Since the same Hebrew preposition l


Verse 2

Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.

Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth - the consequent of the antecedent supposition "If-if" (Proverbs 6:1). Bayne, Maurer, etc., carry on the "if" to this verse, '(If) thou art snared'-then the consequent begins at Proverbs 6:3, "Do this," etc. But the English version needs no ellipsis to be supplied, and is therefore better. Accordingly, the repetition of "my son" (Proverbs 6:3) marks a fresh proposition beginning there. After the act of suretiship follows the danger, "Thou art snared," etc. Thou thoughtest mere "words" could not involve thee; but "thou art taken." Heretofore thou wast free, now thou art bound fast. Careless youths think the utterance of a few words and giving the hand a light matter. But they forget what weight there is in words and in pledging themselves.


Verse 3

Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend.

Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend. Lose not a moment in seeking a remedy for the evil in which thou hast involved thyself. Though he be a friend into whose power thou hast fallen, still extricate thyself from it if possible; either by prevailing on the debtor to release thee from thy promise of being his surety, or by inducing the creditor or the judge to release thee. Proverbs 6:1 makes it likely that by "thy friend" is meant the debtor.

Go, humble thyself - literally, present thyself to be trodden under foot, like a slave before his master. Since by suretiship thou hast passed from under thine own power to be under another, thou must act as slaves do (Psalms 68:30).

And make sure thy friend , [ r


Verse 4

Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids.

Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids - before that thou hast released thyself from the obligation (cf. the phrase Psalms 132:4).


Verse 5

Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.

Deliver thyself as a roe (the emblem of fleetness, 2 Samuel 2:18; 1 Chronicles 12:8) from the hand (of the hunter), and as a bird from the hand of the fowler. Since a bird has no small regard for its freedom, but tries with its beak at every chink to find a way of escape, so also do thou leave no means untried.


Verse 6

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:

Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. From the particular exhortation of the surety to sleepless energy (Proverbs 6:4), Solomon passes to a general exhortation to industry. God designs us to learn many a lesson from His creatures in the natural world. There is in each creature some spark of the divine excellency testifying silently against our deficiencies. "Go to the ant" as thy teacher. The ant does not borrow or beg, nor is it starved by neglecting to provide for its wants in time, but of its own accord burns with zeal for toil, without any one urging it (Gejer, from Basil). All the ants move on the same path (Aristotle, 'Hist.,' 9: 48). The ants that are without a load make way for those most laden (Plutarch). The burden which would be too difficult to carry they divide. The oldest go before as the leaders, and the others follow (OElian, in 'Poli. Synopsis'). They construct their houses and cells under ground, and fill their stores with grain, and have channels sunk to drain off the rain; and if their food becomes wet, they bring it out to dry, and hide their food in cells protected from the rain.

Moreover, he does not bid us to consider the ant's ways in order that we may be more learned, but that we may "be wise." It is with a view to practice that knowledge is here recommended (Bochart). Kirby and Spence ('Entomology,' p. 313, Ed. 7, London, 1856) doubt that the ants store up their food against winter; nor does it necessarily follow from the statement here: it simply states, they provide their meat in summer, and gather it in harvest.


Verse 7

Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,

Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler - i:e., no leader of any kind; whereas bees and cranes have. It is the more marvelous that the ants should have such order in the absence of one head. It is therefore the more inexcusable that men, who have so many to urge them to work-parents, preceptors, the example of the good effects of energy, and the evil effects of indolence-should ever be lazy. Idleness is against nature. Guides, overseers, and rulers should allow none under them to be indolent.


Verse 8

Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.

Provideth her meat in the summer, (and) gathereth her food in the harvest. The heat of summer does not prevent her toiling while the favourable season for getting food lasts. The European ants are dormant in winter, and therefore need no food. But there may be some species of ants abroad which have magazines for food. Their Hebrew name, nemalah, is perhaps from namal, 'to cut,' like 'insect,' referring to the cut-off or thin appearance at the junction of the thorax and abdomen: or else the Arabic nemil, clever. The Arabs used to place an ant in a newborn infant's hand, saying, May the boy turn out clever. She is a tacit reproof to the indolent youth, who thinks only of the present, and makes no provision for the future, now in the summer-time of his life. Our whole present life is the time for action; the future, for retribution, which shall be ushered in by the judgment: the latter is the harvest (cf. Matthew 25:3-4). 'The ant has three apartments-one, the general lodging of all; a second, for storing food; a third, the repository of the dead' (Plutarch). OElian (Prov. 6:49; 6:43 ) says, 'They bury their dead, and so purify their dwelling; they hide them in the follicles of the grains.' The Septuagint Arabic, Clemens Alexandrinus, Origen, and Basil add here, 'Or go to the bee, and learn how laborious she is, and how she plies her august task; the fruit of whose toils both kings and private individuals enjoy healthfully. And she is desired and renowned before all; and though weak in strength, is advanced through the honour she pays to wisdom.' The Hebrew, Chaldaic, Vulgate, and Syriac reject it.


Verse 9

How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?

How long wilt thou sleep (literally, lie), O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? The ant even at night, by moonlight, carries grain to her store. God designed man to "go forth unto his work, and to his labour, until the evening" (Psalms 104:23). The Latin rule is, 'Septem horas dormi, tres audi, accumbe duabas, Daque decem studiis, expatiare duas;' which allows but seven hours for sleep.


Verse 10

Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:

Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep. This is an ironical imitation of what the sluggard says when called on (Proverbs 6:9) to awake out of sleep. There is a descending gradation from deep "sleep" to "slumber," and from this to 'folding the hands' over the breast, the attitude of one composing himself to sleep.


Verse 11

So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.

So shall thy poverty come as one that traveleth - who actively and steadily advances nearer and nearer his journey's end. So the Vulgate and the Septuagint make it a traveler bent on doing thee evil: a highwayman. So Gesenius. Maurer makes it 'a patrol,' a soldier unexpectedly coming upon thee; to correspond to "an armed man" whom thou canst not repel. The English version is the best. The more thou delayest and sleepest, the more poverty hastens to the. The Piel conjugation in the Hebrew intensifies the signification, 'as one that traveleth strenuously.'

And thy want as an armed man - literally, 'a shielded man;' impetuous, and furnished with arms of defense and offence, whereas thou art unarmed and half asleep (cf. Proverbs 24:34, note).


Verse 12

A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth.

A naughty person (literally, a man of Belial - i:e., worthlessness), a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth. After indolence, he subjoins the opposite fault, busybody-frowardness of heart and mouth, which is often the effect of the former For idleness is the mother of mischief. "Pride, fullness of bread, and abundance of idleness" were the source of Sodom's "iniquity" (Ezekiel 16:49). The "idle" are sure to be "tattlers and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not" (1 Timothy 5:13). He who is nobody in deeds is often strong in words. He whose hands are idle has a tongue anything but idle; and he tries by words suited to men's humours to win that favour which he cannot by deeds (T. Cartwright). "Walketh" implies progress in evil; as the tendency of all sin is to grow more and more inveterate (cf. Jeremiah 6:28, "Walking with slanders;" and Psalms 73:9). The froward mouth refers to lying words for mischief's sake (Proverbs 6:14).


Verse 13

He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers;

He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers. He makes secret signs with all these members; the mark of a deceitful and malignant man (Proverbs 10:10; Psalms 35:19, "Neither let them wink with the eye that hate me"). When he dare not speak openly, he expresses by a sign the wicked deed that he wants to be done. Compare on "teacheth" - i:e., gives instructions to his tools what is to be done - "with his fingers," Isaiah 58:9, "The putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity." Besides his month, he lays himself out wholly, by gesticulation with every member, to impose. 'Thus we see the idle [ argous (Greek #692)] to be over-busy [periergous], and those who will not move even their little finger to any good work, to be very energetic in badness'

(T. Cartwright).


Verse 14

Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord.

Frowardness (is) in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth (literally, casteth forth) discord - the Hebrew plural, 'frowardnesses.' His heart is so full of them that he cannot help giving vent to them by gestures and words (cf. the figure of a baker and his oven, Hosea 7:6). The Hebrew word for "deviseth" [ choreesh (Hebrew #2790)] is from a root meaning to plow; so that the metaphor is the same as in "soweth." As the agriculturist applies himself wholly to the plowing and sowing of his land, so the froward gives himself wholly to iniquity, seeking his harvest of gain or of enjoyment of malignity in traducing and lying, or in praising with words, while all the time traducing by signs. 'If the godly, on the contrary, put their hand to the plow of sin at times, yet they look back, and do not sow the bad seed so as to disseminate it far and wide' (T. Cartwright).


Verse 15

Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.

Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy - like a potter's Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy - like a potter's vessel which, once broken, cannot be mended (Psalms 2:9; Revelation 2:27). The word "suddenly" shows the vanity of the sinner's hope that he shall have the time or the gift of repentance (Job 21:17-18; Psalms 73:19).


Verse 16

These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:

These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him - literally, unto his soul. The Khethibh (Hebrew text) reads, 'abominable things;' but the Qeri' reads as the English version. As to the phrase "six

... and seven" to imply an accumulation, cf. note, Amos 1:3. Solomon passes from the description of the froward man (Proverbs 6:12-15) to setting forth the many sins which accumulate themselves in him, and which bring on him sudden and irremediable calamity. He fixes on those sins which are most prejudicial to one's neighbour; as it is of these that the context is speaking.


Verse 17

A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,

A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. The "proud look" - literally, 'haughty eyes' (Psalms 18:27; Psalms 101:5; Psalms 131:1) - stands first; as it is often characteristic of the idle and froward (though such a one is utterly without anything to be proud of, Proverbs 26:16); and it especially "soweth discord" (Proverbs 6:19). Ephesians 4:2, on the contrary, puts "lowliness" first, as being the basis of all other graces.


Verse 18

An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,

An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief. The heart (not merely evil, as all men's hearts are naturally, but) deliberately and continually, of set purpose, devising wicked imaginations is set the middle of the seven abominations, for it is the center whence the rest emanate. The 'feet swift to mischief' expresses the eagerness and unhesitating energy of the bad to carry into effect the wickedness which their hearts devise. Though evil thoughts arise in the godly, yet the feet, at the promptings of conscience as it were, refuse to carry out the bad suggestion of the heart (cf. Isaiah 59:7). Contrast David's conduct when Saul was in his power in the cave at Engedi (1 Samuel 24:5, "David's heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul's skirt"): so after the numbering of the people (2 Samuel 24:10).


Verse 19

A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.

A false witness that speaketh lies - literally, 'blows out' or 'breathes out lies' (cf. Psalms 10:5, "He puffeth at them" - his enemies). False witness is a particular manifestation of "a lying tongue" (Proverbs 6:17).

He that soweth discord among brethren - by whisperings, and slanders, and flatteries. Such are the results of idleness (Proverbs 6:6-10; Sirach 33:27, 'Idleness teacheth much evil'). This clause marks the connection of Proverbs 6:16-19 with Proverbs 6:12-15 (cf. Proverbs 6:14, "He soweth discord").


Verse 20

My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:

My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother. Grown sons are apt to despise the mother. Solomon prefaces his charge against whoredom with this general exhortation, whereby he returns to the law of God as that which parents should inculcate and children obey.


Verse 21

Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.

Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck - (Proverbs 3:3.)


Verse 22

When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.

When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee - i:e., it (the law of God, which every wise parent will inculcate on his child) shall be as a companion conversing with thee, and suggesting subject for meditation, prayer, self-examination, and comfort. It shall lead thee in thy path as a guide (Proverbs 6:23; Psalms 73:24). "It shall keep thee" from Satan, and bad thoughts, and bad dreams, and from all dangers to the body (Proverbs 3:23-24; Psalms 121:3-8). The promise confirms the exhortation.


Verse 23

For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:

For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light - illuminating the soul, and guiding us into the true path of faith and life (Psalms 19:8; Psalms 119:105). This gives the reason why he has said, The commandment shall lead thee (Proverbs 6:22).

And reproofs of instruction (disciplinary reproofs) are the way of life. Reproofs coupled with disciplinary chastening are needed, if we are to learn "the way of life" (Proverbs 3:11; Hebrews 12:5).


Verse 24

To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.

To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman - literally, from the flattery of the strange tongue, implying that the strange woman (i:e., one who belongs not to thee) is all tongue, and nothing substantial. A sample of Proverbs 6:22, "The commandment shall keep thee." This one evil-namely, whoredom-is given as an instance to show how the commandment can keep us from all kinds of departure from God, which is spiritual adultery. This one is singled out as one to which the young are prone (and he is addressing the young primarily), and as one which springs from idleness (Proverbs 6:6), and as that by which so excellent a saint as David, too, fell; that none may be too self-confident, but may know that our safety is in keeping close to God and His law.


Verse 25

Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart. Not only the outward act but the inward desire is sin (Matthew 5:28; cf. Exodus 20:17). Suppress the first suggestions and voluptuous emotions of the flesh.

Neither let her take thee with her eyelids - with the beauty of her eyelids, and their wanton motion, drawing thee aside from the right way. Oriental females used to paint the eyelids to make the eyes look more beautiful (2 Kings 9:30; Ezekiel 23:40).


Verse 26

For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life.

For by means of a whorish woman (a man is brought) to a piece of bread - to his last cake of bread - i:e., to indigence (Proverbs 29:3; cf. 1 Samuel 2:36, "Every one that is left in thine house shall come and crouch to him for ... a morsel of bread, and shall say, Put me ... into one of the priests' offices, that I may eat a piece of bread").

And the adulteress (literally, the wife of a man, Leviticus 20:10) will hunt for the precious life - (cf. Ezekiel 13:18, "Ye (women) hunt the souls of my people.") Intercourse with the "whorish woman" - i:e., the adulterous "wife of a man" is bought at the cost of losing not only one's substance, but even one's life-the life of nature, of grace, and of eternal bliss. The detected adulterer was put to death. On "precious," cf. Psalms 49:8. A dear purchase (Matthew 16:26).


Verse 27

Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?

Can a man take fire in his bosom (i:e., in the fold of his garment, across the bosom or lap), and his clothes not be burnt? Perhaps thou art tempted to think thou shalt escape detection, and therefore hurt. Nay, can one carry fire in one's lap and not be burned? The adulteress or whore is a fire clasped in one's bosom.


Verse 28

Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?

Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burnt? The whoremonger or adulterer treads upon the coals of Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burnt? The whoremonger or adulterer treads upon the coals of lust; and he cannot therefore expect not to be burned by the flame of conscience and of judicial vengeance. Burning was often the penalty of adultery (Genesis 38:24; cf. Job 31:9-12, "If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, or if I have laid wait at my neighbour's door; Then, etc. For this is an heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity (to be punished by) the judges. For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and would root out all my increase").


Verse 29

So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent.

So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent - free from guilt and consequent punishment (Numbers 5:19; Job 9:28).


Verse 30

Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;

(Men) do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry. Men do not think a thief to be beneath judicial cognizance, even though his theft may have had the excuse that it was to satisfy his appetite when he was hungry: how much more shall the adulterer not escape who gratuitously, and without any necessity of nature, violates his neighbour's wife!


Verse 31

But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.

But (if) he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house. Exodus 22:1-4 prescribes five-fold, four-fold, and two-fold restitution in the different cases of theft. "Seven-fold," therefore, means plenary and perfect restitution, seven being the number for perfection. The thief who robs through hunger has to make restitution to the last penny of his property. Still his need causes pity to be felt for him, and his life is spared.


Verse 32

But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.

(But) whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding - literally, heart.

He (that) doeth it destroyeth his own soul - rather, as the collocation of the Hebrew requires, and as the Chaldaic translates, 'The destroyer of (whosoever would destroy) his own soul, he (emphatic) doeth it'-such an act. 'If thou desirest safety, my son, do not thou such an act; let those do it who rush on their own perdition' (Junius).


Verse 33

A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.

A wound and dishonour shall he get - from the incensed husband, the law, and the general opinion of society (Proverbs 6:34-35).

And his reproach shall not be wiped away. Among men a perpetual brand of infamy shall be stamped upon him. 'Corpus opes, animum, famam, vim, lumina scortum Debilitat, perdit, necat, aufert, eripit, orbat' (quoted in Bridges).


Verse 34

For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.

For jealousy (is) (i:e., generates) the rage of a man (the husband); therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance - in the day when he gets the opportunity of wreaking his vengeance.


Verse 35

He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts. He will not regard any ransom - i:e., any sum, however large, paid in expiation of thy adultery (Exodus 21:30).

Neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts - to bribe the husband not to prosecute the adulterer, or the judges not to exact full punishment for the adultery. So the Hebrew for "gifts" [ shochad (Hebrew #7810)] is used (Deuteronomy 16:19; Deuteronomy 27:25; Psalms 15:5).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Proverbs 6:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/proverbs-6.html. 1871-8.

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