Chapter 6: Commentary

6:1 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have struck hands in pledge for another,

6:2 If you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth,

6:3 Then do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor's hands: Go and humble yourself; press your plea with your neighbor.

6:4 Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids.

6:5 Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

     These verses specifically offer a formula for dealing with the ancient activity of co-signing. But they also present general counsel for addressing any bad choices – by word (:2) or deed (:1). It calls for swift action, beginning with acknowledging that I have actually done it, humbling myself, facing the other party, pleading my cause and freeing myself from my predicament (:3-5).
      At issue in this passage is not even a sin, just a poor decision. But the advice offered is effective for both really bad things as well as just stupid stuff. Admit it, humble myself, face the other party and plead my case. These verses are actually the Biblical basis of Steps 8 and 9 of the 12 Steps. And just like with the Steps, when we get honest and do our part, we can count on Him to do His part and help us out.
      The concept of co-signing in a legal or financial matter is addressed by Solomon in 6:1-5. He doesn't say it is a sin, but that it is just a stupid idea and he advises against it. In fact, he says if we have already co-signed for somebody, we should go and try to get out of that arrangement as soon as possible.
      There are a number of reasons why co-signing for someone else is not a good idea. While we all understand the lack of wisdom in co-signing for a stranger, we may not appreciate Solomon's wisdom in relation to our friends. Yet there are a number of good reasons why we should not co-sign for friends, either. Possibly the most obvious reason is that when we co-sign for someone and they can't cover their end, I am the one who will suffer. A second reason, in conjunction with the first, is that the other person who can't cover their end may well start avoiding me and we may ruin a good relationship because of it. A third associated issue here is the situation that we may have extended ourselves financially for our friend and we see them spending their own money in a way that we think is unacceptable and we begin to develop real animosity toward them because of it.
      A fourth reason we should not co-sign, even for a friend, is the fact that we may be getting in God's way by helping them get something that He doesn't want them to have at this time. After all, if God really wants them to have it now, He doesn't need our help to make it happen! But, you say, I really think God wants him to have this…well, if you feel that strongly about it, don't co-sign for them – just give it to them as a gift.

6:6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!

6:7 It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,

6:8 yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

     These three verses are a unit, addressed to the "sluggard" – a lazy guy and regular character in Proverbs. Maybe this was a well-known wise saying in Solomon's time and not one of his specific father-to-son messages.
      The lazy guy was told to go and watch the ant (only mentioned here and 30:25), a simple task for a guy who has nothing else to do. But he was supposed to "consider its ways and be wise." The end of this exercise was for this guy to gain some wisdom – begin seeing life from God's point of view (see "Wisdom" in the Introduction).
      In case he doesn't know what to actually look for, it was noted that the ant has no recognizable boss – "no commander, overseer or ruler" – and yet stays busy, seemingly always knowing what to do next.
      If he watches long enough, he will observe that the ant gathers food during "harvest" time (:8), when everyone else does, too. But, if he keeps watching, he will also see that the ant also stores up provisions "in summer" (:8; also see 30:25), when there isn't as much to gather (see also 10:5).
      The sluggard could also see that this ant will always have sufficient, even in winter when there's even less to gather. So, if this stupid little insect is smart enough and sufficiently capable to do all this, a grownup lazy guy should be able to do it, too!

6:6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!

     In Proverbs 6, Solomon offers some advice to the "sluggard" (:6-8; 9-11). This verse tells him to "go" and "consider" the ways of the ant - and then he tells him what he should be looking for (:7-8).
      Based on ancient living conditions, I don't suppose it was hard to find an ant or two scurrying around – even in the king's palace! So the lazy guy wouldn't have to go very far or look too hard to find one. And if he is actually thinking, he really can learn a thing or two.
      "Be wise" is the desired outcome of this investment of time and energy for the lazy guy. Later in Proverbs 30:24-25, Agur also notes the ant and extolls the virtue of "ant-hood" (or should that be "ant-dom?"). If you've ever stopped to watch them, they are pretty amazing little dudes!
      The value of this mental exercise is simple. Observe, gain some insights about what we see and then apply it to our lives. The opportunity to see, learn and grow is all around every day – often in seemingly insignificant situations. The ability to grasp this truth and learn such life lessons is the beginning of wisdom...is life-changing...and is liberating!

6:9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep?

6:10 A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest —

6:11 And poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man.

     These three verses continue the theme of verses 6-8 -- laziness. Verse 9 consists of two rhetorical questions addressing the ongoing pattern of lying down and sleeping. The picture is not of a hard working person taking a break, but someone who doesn't get up or get around to do any work.
      Verses 10-11 are identical to 24:33-34. They speak of the consequences to a life of laziness. It leads to poverty and scarcity, and the process seems to be as painful as being accosted by a bandit. There is little about this lifestyle that sounds meaningful.
      It should be instructive that God felt the need to say this to us twice. It is an ongoing problem for many of us, and God knows what it leads to -- if we don't do something about it.

6:12 A scoundrel and villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth,

6:13 Who winks with his eye, signals with his feet and motions with his fingers,

6:14 Who plots evil with deceit in his heart—he always stirs up dissension.

6:15 Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

     These four verses speak of a bad man who does things that only satisfy his own interests and desires. Because his attitudes and thoughts are bad, what he does will hurt others.
      This man's words ("mouth") will say corrupt things; his "eye(s)" do not express truth, where he goes (his "feet") and what he does ("fingers") do not lead or produce good things. "His heart" plans evil for all and only stirs up dissension.
      It would be pretty understandable that this man can only expect trouble ("disaster" and "destroyed") as a result of his own choices and actions. If we really understand where it all leads, we have the opportunity to do the right thing and expect the appropriate results.

6:16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:

6:17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood,

6:18 A heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil,

6:19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.

     This extended wise saying point out 7 things God hates when we do them. It should be noted that they are the "things the LORD hates...that are detestable to Him." He doesn't hate us!
      Interestingly, this list of detestable activities is very similar to the previous wise saying (:12-15). It's possible Solomon created one or both them at different times. Or maybe one or the other was simply a well-known proverb in that day.
      Both lists also reference activities based on human body parts - eyes, tongue, hands, heart and feet. In each case, these activities are things we do that can be hurtful to others.
      The first list discusses a "troublemaker and a villain." This list describes the things any of us are capable of doing - and they're the same things! We all have it in us to do the dumbest stuff.
      So, today, let's choose to do good things which can make a positive impact in the lives of others. And let's also try to not tick God off!

6:20 My son, keep your father's commands and do not forsake your mother's teaching.

     For the 14th time in the first six chapters (see also :1), "my son" is addressed here in verse 20. Like the others, it's a directive to pay attention to "your father's command." Honestly, who really appreciates hearing that all the time!
      While scholars have noted the father-son relationship was a common literary devise of ancient wisdom literature, the reference to momma brings this one back home. Here, "mother's teaching" is placed on equal footing with "father's commands."
      While Proverbs is mostly guy-talk and sometimes might seem a bit sexist, it really isn't. The main theme of Proverbs - Wisdom - is personified as a wonderful godly woman (9:1-6).
      Admittedly immoral women are a major father-to-son talking point (like in this chapter - :24 to the end) and there are some pretty "interesting" references to wives (like 21:9). Yet, overall, women are held in appropriate esteem - especially mothers and wives.
      In fact, while father talks all the way through the book, Proverbs actually ends with a whole chapter of advice from the mother of King Lemuel (31:1). Once again, momma gets the last word!

6:21 Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck.

6:22 When you walk, they will guide you; when you sleep, they will watch over you; when you awake, they will speak to you.

     This chapter is a series of warnings about bad choices, the last half (:20-35) addressing the issue of immoral behavior. Dad says to his son (:20) "father's command" and "mother's teaching" (:20) will offer appropriate insights for good choices - if we're paying attention.
      In verse 21, we're told to receive their directions by "binding them always on your heart" (see also 3:3; 7:3). "Bind...on the heart" is mentioned first and suggests something on the inside - our daily thoughts and attitudes are supposed to be connected to what they have shared with us.
      "Always" suggests not a single act but a way of life.
      "Fasten them around your neck" (see also 1:8; 3:3) suggests something on the outside - what we've first internalized should also be evident to others in our daily actions and activities.
      This neck-fastening is not negative - like a noose - although some "sons" would tend to think of any parental direction that way! Instead it should be seen as an attractive piece of jewelry - a necklace that enhances our appearance.
      Staying connected with insights we receive from good people who have our best interest at heart will set us up to think and choose right on the inside (heart – attitude) and consequently empower to right behaviors and actions which sets us up for success on the outside (neck – actions).

6:23 For these commands are a lamp, this teaching is a light, and the corrections of discipline are the way to life,

6:24 keeping you from the immoral woman, from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife.

     Verse 23 notes that "father's commands" (:20) and "mother's teaching" (:20) are a "lamp" and a "light" to illuminate "the way to life" for their son (:20).
      The guidance of loving parents can be so powerful - offering the same kind of direction and understanding about life as the well-known "lamp" and "light" of God's Word (Psalm 119:105).
      But "the corrections of discipline" sound like such a downer - just plain old punishment!
      Although I'll suggest the phrase actually offers so much more. "Corrections" are designed to put us back on course, after we got sidetracked.
      "Discipline," coming from the same root as being a "disciple," speaks of voluntarily submitting to a "way of life." It's all about being willing to make changes and commit to following a planned system of doing things.
      At first glance these verses has a pretty negative feel - like others always telling me what to do and punishment every time I do wrong! Yet I actually think it offers some pretty optimistic concepts.
      All who are willing to receive direction from those who care for us and accept discipline as being for our own good are well down the road of a pretty exciting and meaningful "way to life."

6:25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes,

     The final section of this chapter (:24-35) relates to a critical issue that father's commands and mother's teaching can help keep their son from getting involved with – the immoral woman (see the adulteress: 2:16; 5:3, 20; 7:5).
      An immoral woman can captivate a man with her words ("smooth tongue;" see 2:16; 6:24; 7:5), her general attractiveness ("beauty") and the seductive look in her "eyes." Knowing men, it would not be surprising that any one of these three "attributes" were sufficient to captivate a man.
      In particular, this immoral woman is a married woman ("wayward wife"). Technically, sexual relations with an unmarried person is fornication, while sexual relations with a married person is adultery. This woman is married and that will lead to further complications (:30-35).
      While all sin is sin, I think they can be classified in relationship to their consequences in 3 categories. Private sins are things I do which only affect me. Personal sins are those which I do but affect someone else. Public sins are those which I do and widely affect others. The choice this young man makes is beyond private and personal – the consequences of his involvement with a married woman will cost him. Thinking our actions through and counting the cost in advance will help us not do something with grave consequences.

6:29 So is he who sleeps with another man's wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.

     When a man enters into an inappropriate relationship with a woman, there will be others who won't let it go without consequences. I hear stories from guys who say they followed a skirt down the street and around the corner – and around the corner were a couple of guys who beat him up and stole his stuff. Other guys told about a girl's father or brother(s) who came after them. Then there is a jealous boyfriend (even ex-boyfriend). Finally there is her husband.
      As noted in verse 24, this immoral woman is married. Her husband will not allow this indiscretion to go unpunished. We need to see the consequences of our actions before we actually do them.

6:31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house.

     This verse indicates the seriousness of the marriage bond. It is clear that the focus of this section of Proverbs was on the husband and the man who was messing with his wife. The responsibilities of (or consequences for) the wife are not discussed. It is going to cost this guy even more than a thief who must pay back seven times.
      Consequences of robbery are high – even to "all the wealth of his house." In the following verses, Solomon will point out that this penalty will not be enough to satisfy the husband of the woman with who this guy had an inappropriate relationship (see :33-35).

6:32 But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment, whoever does so destroys himself.

     In verses 20-35, Solomon again addresses the issue of immorality (a prostitute :26; another man's wife :29) with some very pointed comments. This verse says that a man who commits adultery is just not thinking clearly and is making very poor choices.
      This bad decision is going to cost him and he has no one to blame but himself -- He "destroys himself" And the consequences can be devastating. He get himself in trouble with God, messes up his own relationships and her husband is going to be pretty ticked, too (see :34-35)!
      I thank God that I don't have this sin in my history, but I have done lots of other stupid stuff and had no one to blame, but myself. There's only one way to come back from such a situation -- regardless of the sin. Admit it, deal with it and let it go!

6:34 For jealousy arouses a husband's fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.

6:35 He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse a bribe, however great it is.

     While these two verses are about a husband's jealousy over his wife, it is in the context of his wife being the immoral woman that Solomon is warning his son about (:20-33). A guy should not mess around with another guy's wife for a number of reasons:
          1. It is wrong (God makes that very clear in Scripture)
          2. There are consequences with God over this
          3. There are consequences with people over this
     Here the focus is on the consequences relating to other people – in this case her husband. While his wife is clearly not innocent, Solomon is suggesting to his son that the husband will be coming after the other guy.
      The message here is pretty obvious, if we consider the consequences of our choices, there is a very good chance that we will make different choices. We have to look beyond the immediate situation and see the bigger picture. Whatever that picture looks like, never forget that God is in there, too!