Proverbs 6


בְּנִי אִם־עָרַבְתָּ לְרֵעֶךָ תָּקַעְתָּ לַזָּר כַּפֶּיךָ׃   6:1

Prov. 6:1   My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor,

                               your hands pledged to a stranger,

Bible commentators usually regard the two lines of this couplet as referring to different people.  The first line refers to the neighbor for whom the son becomes surety (a pledge to personally make good on a loan in the event of the debtor’s default).  The second line refers to the stranger who is the lender.  Why does the son pledge hands?  I suspect that the pledging of hands involved the accepted gesture of clapping hands, which is mentioned elsewhere.  It seems to signify an agreement about a loan.  I will have more to say about this in other chapters.

                                        [Return to Prov. 11:15]            [Return to Prov. 17:18]            [Return to Prov. 22:26]

נֹוקַשְׁתָּ בְאִמְרֵי־פִיךָ נִלְכַּדְתָּ בְּאִמְרֵי־פִיךָ׃   6:2

Prov. 6:2   you have been snared by the sayings of your mouth,

                               caught by the words of your mouth.

עֲשֵׂה זֹאת אֵפֹוא בְּנִי וְהִנָּצֵל כִּי בָאתָ בְכַף־רֵעֶךָ לֵךְ הִתְרַפֵּס וּרְהַב רֵעֶיךָ׃   6:3

Prov. 6:3   Do this now, my son, and be delivered,

                               because you have come into the hand of your neighbor:

                    Go, be humble but disturb your neighbor.

The word I translate as disturb (in the last English line) carries an implication of haughtiness or belligerence.  Because of this, and coupled with the advised humility, I have to assume the author is trying to convey a sense of urgency:  Go do it quickly, before you are caught in the net.  The next verse also implies urgency -- do it before you lay down to sleep.  But I ask what is the son to do?  Is he to ask for release of his surety?  Is he to urge the neighbor to pay back the loan?  Is he to make the loan?  All questions I am not able to answer.  But regarding his asking for release from his surety, it seems to me he has to go to the lender for that, not the borrower.

אַל־תִּתֵּן שֵׁנָה לְעֵינֶיךָ וּתְנוּמָה לְעַפְעַפֶּיךָ׃   6:4

Prov. 6:4   You must not permit sleep for your eyes

                               or slumber for your eyelids.

הִנָּצֵל כִּצְבִי מִיָּד וּכְצִפֹּור מִיַּד יָקוּשׁ׃   6:5

Prov. 6:5   Be rescued as a gazelle from a hand,

                               or as a bird from the hand of a fowler.

Next, after advising against pledging oneself for a neighbor for these first five verses, the author now moves on to condemning laziness beginning with v. 6 below.  Was Israel “lazy” about following the Torah?

לֵךְ־אֶל־נְמָלָה עָצֵל רְאֵה דְרָכֶיהָ וַחֲכָם׃   6:6

Prov. 6:6   Come to the ant, you sluggard;

                               examine its ways, and become wise,

אֲשֶׁר אֵין־לָהּ קָצִין שֹׁטֵר וּמֹשֵׁל׃   6:7

Prov. 6:7   which having no chief, official, or ruler,

תָּכִין בַּקַּיִץ לַחְמָהּ אָגְרָה בַקָּצִיר מַאֲכָלָהּ׃   6:8

Prov. 6:8   can provide its nourishment in the summer,

                               gathering its food at the harvest.

עַד־מָתַי עָצֵל תִּשְׁכָּב מָתַי תָּקוּם מִשְּׁנָתֶךָ׃   6:9

Prov. 6:9   How long, sluggard, will you rest?

                               When will you rise from your sleep?

מְעַט נֹות מְעַט תְּנוּמֹות מְעַט חִבֻּק יָדַיִם לִשְׁכָּב׃   6:10

Prov. 6:10   A little sleep, a little slumber,

                               a little clasping of the hands to rest?

וּבָא־כִמְהַלֵּךְ רֵאשֶׁךָ וּמַחְסֹרְךָ כְּאִישׁ מָגֵן׃   6:11

Prov. 6:11   So your poverty shall come, as if walking,

                               and your neediness, like a man shielded.

Now the author rails against mischief making in the next four verses.  Certainly there were children of Israel who might wallow in mischief.

אָדָם בְּלִיַּעַל אִישׁ אָוֶן הֹולֵךְ עִקְּשׁוּת פֶּה׃   6:12

Prov. 6:12   A man, a base fellow, a troubled one proceeding,

                               distorting the mouth,

קֹרֵץ בְּעֵינָיו מֹלֵל בְּרַגְלָו מֹרֶה בְּאֶצְבְּעֹתָיו׃   6:13

Prov. 6:13   winking with his eye,

                               scraping with his foot,

                       pointing with his fingers,

תַּהְפֻּכֹות בְּלִבֹּו חֹרֵשׁ רָע בְּכָל־עֵת (מְדָנִים) [מִדְיָנִים] יְשַׁלֵּחַ׃   6:14

Prov. 6:14   perverse things in his heart,

                               devising misery on every occasion,

                      would sow contentions.                                                     [Return to Prov. 10:10]

The word in the parentheses is missing a yad (or alternatively a vav).  The traditional correction employs a yad, as shown in the brackets.

עַל־כֵּן פִּתְאֹם יָבֹוא אֵידֹו פֶּתַע יִשָּׁבֵר וְאֵין מַרְפֵּא׃   6:15

Prov. 6:15   Therefore his distress shall come suddenly;

                               in an instant he shall be crippled,

                       and there shall be no healing.

Now the author next illuminates the behavior the Lord “hates” in the next five verses.

שֶׁשׁ־הֵנָּה שָׂנֵא יְהוָה וְשֶׁבַע (תֹּועֲבֹות) [תֹּועֲבַת] נַפְשֹׁו׃   6:16

Prov. 6:16   The Lord “hates” these six, or seven, things,

                               abominations of His “soul:”

The assumption that the word in the parentheses is misspelled seems incongruous to me.  The word should be clearly plural, abominations, whereas the correction in the brackets makes it singular, abomination.  This is the first of two “oversights” in this chapter on the part of the sages.  See v. 6:19 below.

עֵינַיִם רָמֹות לְשֹׁון שָׁקֶר וְיָדַיִם שֹׁפְכֹות דָּם־נָקִי׃   6:17

Prov. 6:17   Haughty eyes,

                               a lying tongue,

                       and hands spilling innocent blood,

לֵב חֹרֵשׁ מַחְשְׁבֹות אָוֶן רַגְלַיִם מְמַהֲרֹות לָרוּץ לָרָעָה׃   6:18

Prov. 6:18   a heart devising plans of evil,

                               feet too swift to run to evil,

יָפִיחַ כְּזָבִים עֵד שָׁקֶר וּמְשַׁלֵּחַ מְדָנִים בֵּין אַחִים׃   6:19

Prov. 6:19   a false witness would breathe lies,

                               and sowing contentions among brethren.

Here we have another odd oversight.  The third-from-last word in this verse is identical to the one flagged as an error in v. 6:14.  But this time the error is unmarked.  Very strange!

Next the author advises piety in the following four verses.

נְצֹר בְּנִי מִצְוַת אָבִיךָ וְאַל־תִּטֹּשׁ תֹּורַת אִמֶּךָ׃   6:20

Prov. 6:20   Keep, my son, the commandment of your father,

                               and you must not forsake the teaching of your mother.

Refer to Prov. 1:8 for my remarks about this verse.

קָשְׁרֵם עַל־לִבְּךָ תָמִיד עָנְדֵם עַל־גַּרְגְּרֹתֶךָ׃   6:21

Prov. 6:21   Bind them continually upon your heart;

                               tie them about your neck.

בְּהִתְהַלֶּכְךָ תַּנְחֶה אֹתָךְ בְּשָׁכְבְּךָ תִּשְׁמֹר עָלֶיךָ וַהֲקִיצֹותָ הִיא תְשִׂיחֶךָ׃   6:22

Prov. 6:22   In your walking about, let it guide you.

                               In your lying down, let it watch over you.

                     When you wake up, let it speak to you.

כִּי נֵר מִצְוָה וְתֹורָה אֹור וְדֶרֶךְ חַיִּים תֹּוכְחֹות מוּסָר׃   6:23

Prov. 6:23   For the commandment is a lamp,

                               and the teaching, a light,

                       and reproofs of instruction are the way of life,

לִשְׁמָרְךָ מֵאֵשֶׁת רָע מֵחֶלְקַת לָשֹׁון נָכְרִיָּה׃   6:24

Prov. 6:24   keeping you from the woman of evil,

                               from the smoothness of the alien tongue.

In the midst of a sentence that begins in v. 23, the author now directs his attention to adultery, which he continues in the remaining verses of this chapter.  However, in conformity to my other remarks about the possible intent of this chapter, I wonder if the author is actually referring to adultery per se, or addressing idolatry in cleverly disguised terms.  We have seen other possible examples of this kind of metaphor in other poetry of the bible.  For example, as you will see when you reach the Song of Songs, that book is considered by some to be one long metaphor.

אַל־תַּחְמֹד יָפְיָהּ בִּלְבָבֶךָ וְאַל־תִּקָּחֲךָ בְּעַפְעַפֶּיהָ׃   6:25

Prov. 6:25   You must not desire her beauty in your heart

                               or be taken by her eyelids.

כִּי בְעַד־אִשָּׁה זֹונָה עַד־כִּכַּר לָחֶם וְאֵשֶׁת אִישׁ נֶפֶשׁ יְקָרָה תָצוּד׃   6:26

Prov. 6:26   For through a harlot, one is only like a loaf of bread,

                               and a married woman would hunt a prized life.

How to interpret this verse!  There are lots of variations to the translation in all the popular bibles.  And the interpretations are also varied, none being better than any other.  As for me, I assume a loaf of bread is a metaphor for a thing to be eaten and then forgotten.  A prized life hunted by a married woman would be a marriage to a faithful husband.  That’s the best I can do.  Contact me with your suggestions if you so choose.

הֲיַחְתֶּה אִישׁ אֵשׁ בְּחֵיקֹו וּבְגָדָיו לֹא תִשָּׂרַפְנָה׃   6:27

Prov. 6:27   Can a man snatch up fire to his bosom

                               and his clothes not get burned?

אִם־יְהַלֵּךְ אִישׁ עַל־הַגֶּחָלִים וְרַגְלָיו לֹא תִכָּוֶינָה׃   6:28

Prov. 6:28   If one would walk on the hot coals,

                               then would not his feet be scorched?

כֵּן הַבָּא אֶל־אֵשֶׁת רֵעֵהוּ לֹא יִנָּקֶה כָּל־הַנֹּגֵעַ בָּהּ׃   6:29

Prov. 6:29   So he who goes to the wife of his neighbor.

                               Anyone approaching to her will not be left unpunished.

לֹא־יָבוּזוּ לַגַּנָּב כִּי יִגְנֹוב לְמַלֵּא נַפְשֹׁו כִּי יִרְעָב׃   6:30

Prov. 6:30   They would have no contempt for a thief

                               if he were to steal to satisfy his soul when he would be hungry.

וְנִמְצָא יְשַׁלֵּם שִׁבְעָתָיִם אֶת־כָּל־הֹון בֵּיתֹו יִתֵּן׃   6:31

Prov. 6:31   But were he discovered,

                               he would have to repay sevenfold,

                       give all the substance of his house.

נֹאֵף אִשָּׁה חֲסַר־לֵב מַשְׁחִית נַפְשֹׁו הוּא יַעֲשֶׂנָּה׃   6:32

Prov. 6:32   An adulterer of a woman is lacking understanding;

                               he would do it, destroying his soul.

נֶגַע־וְקָלֹון יִמְצָא וְחֶרְפָּתֹו לֹא תִמָּחֶה׃   6:33

Prov. 6:33   He would acquire wound and disgrace,

                               that his reproach could not be wiped away.

כִּי־קִנְאָה חֲמַת־גָּבֶר וְלֹא־יַחְמֹול בְּיֹום נָקָם׃   6:34

Prov. 6:34   For jealousy is the rage of a strong man,

                               and he will have no pity at the time of vengeance.

Now if I’m correct about the metaphorical character of this chapter, and that adultery is a metaphor for idolatry, then the “strong man” in this verse is the Lord.

לֹא־יִשָּׂא פְּנֵי כָל־כֹּפֶר וְלֹא־יֹאבֶה כִּי תַרְבֶּה־שֹׁחַד׃   6:35

Prov. 6:35   He will not consider any ransom,

                               or consent, even if you would increase the bribe.


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