Warnings Against Folly
6 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,
2 you have been trapped by what you said,
ensnared by the words of your mouth.
3 So do this, my son, to free yourself,
since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:
Go—to the point of exhaustion—
and give your neighbor no rest!
4 Allow no sleep to your eyes,
no slumber to your eyelids.
5 Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
like a bird from the snare of the fowler.
6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.
9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest—
11 and poverty will come on you like a thief
and scarcity like an armed man.
12 A troublemaker and a villain,
who goes about with a corrupt mouth,
13 who winks maliciously with his eye,
signals with his feet
and motions with his fingers,
14 who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
he always stirs up conflict.
15 Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.
16 There are six things the Lord hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
In this poem, Solomon compares our mistakes to a hunter’s trap. In verse 1, Solomon’s son had good intentions. He wanted to help his neighbour. The son trusted the neighbour. He tried to do the right thing, but the neighbour would not do the right thing. If his neighbour could not pay, Solomon’s son promised to pay instead. Now, his neighbour has failed to pay. The lender expects Solomon’s son to pay. The son’s plan failed and now he is in danger.
These verses resonate with me. I placed myself into so many situations that put me in spiritual and even physical danger. I fell into so many traps. I unwittingly devised some of the traps myself.
Verse 3 calls for humility. If Solomon’s son was proud, he could not escape. He is like an animal in a trap. He cannot free himself. He must ask for freedom. He must ask for help. The only way out of a trap is through humility and the heart of the person that you are appealing to.
Verse 4 calls for swift action to get out of the trap. Waiting and procrastinating or sitting on the fence will not help. It calls for the eagerness, earnestness of repentance. Act quickly, like an animal that runs to escape from a hunter.
In verses 6-11 the virtues of hard work are discussed and the perils of laziness. In 2 Thessalonians 3:10, some Christians refused to work. The church gave food to them. Paul told the church not to do this. ‘If a man will not work, then he shall not eat.’ He added, ‘Do not get too tired to do the right things.’ (2 Thessalonians 3:13)
Evil is generally plotted in secret but there are telltale signs. Verses 12-15 give us some clues. The outcome is not pretty. Not only will he be destroyed but destroyed without remedy. There’s no fix.This strikes fear into me. I think it is supposed to do that.I am fortunate that I was spared destruction without remedy.
Verses 16-19 use a different style of poetry. The poet writes a list of things that God opposes. This style is present in the book of Amos and Proverbs 30. The numbers in the list are not important but the content is a list of attitudes and actions that God hates. I can sadly lay claim to six of the seven. Maybe even seven if viewed in a metaphorical way. I don’t have a leg to stand on.
The qualities to focus on in this section of Proverbs are humility, hard work and being swiftly decisive to do what is right.
Warning Against Adultery
20 My son, keep your father’s command
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
21 Bind them always on your heart;
fasten them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they will guide you;
when you sleep, they will watch over you;
when you awake, they will speak to you.
23 For this command is a lamp,
this teaching is a light,
and correction and instruction
are the way to life,
24 keeping you from your neighbor’s wife,
from the smooth talk of a wayward woman.
25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty
or let her captivate you with her eyes.
26 For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread,
but another man’s wife preys on your very life.
27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap
without his clothes being burned?
28 Can a man walk on hot coals
without his feet being scorched?
29 So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife;
no one who touches her will go unpunished.
30 People do not despise a thief if he steals
to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.
31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold,
though it costs him all the wealth of his house.
32 But a man who commits adultery has no sense;
whoever does so destroys himself.
33 Blows and disgrace are his lot,
and his shame will never be wiped away.
34 For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury,
and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.
35 He will not accept any compensation;
he will refuse a bribe, however great it is.
The pursuit of wisdom should underpin my life and be the foundation of my decision making. My study time each day is a lifeline that helps me to stay away from my own dangerous thinking. It guards me and protects me from myself.
Verse 23 is similar to Psalm 119:105. ‘God’s word is like a lamp for my feet. God’s word is like a light for my path.’
Verse 24 begins a discourse about the lure and danger of the misuse of sex. It will end in disaster. It can be life threatening, it can be financially threatening and it is sure to destroy human relationships. These things are obvious to me. They always were but there was something that propelled me into the abyss. It says something about the strength of the pull.
The passage alludes to the difference between price and cost. The price of a loaf of bread (verse 26) is about £1- £2 at the time of writing. Sex can be obtained freely and easily especially for someone who was skilled with words and perceptive. The price tag may be next to nothing but the cost is established with a question. “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without getting burned?” (verses 27-29)
We read about the thief who is influenced to steal by his hunger. There is some kind of compassion or understanding for the man in this situation and yet he will not escape appropriate punishment. The sex offender is completely without any compassion or goodwill. He will be punished by the system and there will be punishment from the relationships that have been hurt in the process.
I know it. I live it. This is my reality. It is a good thing. I needed a strong physical reminder of where my actions led. I thank God for my circumstances. I need them.