Admonitions and Warnings against Dangerous and Destructive Acts, 1-35

6:1 My child, if you have made a pledge for your neighbor,
and have become a guarantor for a stranger,
6:2 if you have been ensnared by the words you have uttered,
and have been caught by the words you have spoken,
6:3 then, my child, do this in order to deliver yourself,
because you have fallen into your neighbor’s power:
go, humble yourself,
and appeal firmly to your neighbor.
6:4 Permit no sleep to your eyes
or slumber to your eyelids.
6:5 Deliver yourself like a gazelle from a snare,
and like a bird from the trap of the fowler.
6:6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
observe its ways and be wise!
6:7 It has no commander,
overseer, or ruler,
6:8 yet it prepares its food in the summer;
it gathers at the harvest what it will eat.

Proverbs devotes no less than three poems to the sluggard (Prov 6:6-11; 24:30-34; 26:13-16) in addition to scattered sayings (Prov 10:26; 13:4; 15:19; 19:24 20:4; 21:25; 22:13; cf. 19:15; 31:27).

The ant – ‘Many types of ants occur in Palestine, but the context clearly identifies this as the harvester ant, sometimes called the agricultural ant, which is about 6 mm long. Its colonies are common and conspicuous in many parts of Israel outside the actual desert. It collects seeds of many kinds, especially grasses, during spring and early summer and stores them in underground galleries, often after removing the husks and letting them blow away in the wind, which clearly indicates the nest entrance.’ (NBD)

v7 The ant has no-one telling it what to do, but it busies itself anyway.

The sluggard loves his ease, lives in idleness, minds no business, sticks to nothing, brings nothing to pass. He speaks here to the sluggard,

I. By way of instruction, Pr 6:6-8. He sends him to school. Observe,

1. The master he is sent to school to: Go to the ant.

2. The application of mind that is required: Consider her ways.

3. The lesson that is to be learned. In general, learn wisdom, consider, and be wise; In particular,

(1.) We must prepare for hereafter, and not mind the present time only. Thus provident we must be in our worldly affairs, not with an anxious care, but with a prudent foresight; lay in for winter, for straits and wants that may happen, and for old age; much more in the affairs of our souls. (2.) We must take pains, and labour in our business. Even in summer, when the weather is hot, the ant is busy in gathering food and laying it up, and does not indulge her ease, nor take her pleasure. (3.) We must improve opportunities, we must gather when it is to be had, as the ant does in summer and harvest, in the proper time. Walk while you have the light.

4. The advantages which we have of learning this lesson above what the ant has. She has no guides, overseers, and rulers, but does it of herself, following the instinct of nature; the more shame for us who do not in like manner follow the dictates of our own reason and conscience, though besides them we have parents, masters, ministers, magistrates, to put us in mind of our duty, to check us for the neglect of it, to quicken us to it, to direct us in it, and to call us to an account about it.

II. By way of reproof, Pr 6:9-11. In these verses,

1. He expostulates with the sluggard, rebuking him and reasoning with him, calling him to his work, as a master does his servant that has over-slept himself:

Sluggards should be roused with a How long? This is applicable,

(1.) To those that are slothful in the way of work and duty, in the duties of their particular calling as men or their general calling as Christians. (2.) To those that are secure in the way of sin and danger:

2. He exposes the frivolous excuses he makes for himself, and shows how ridiculous he makes himself. When he is roused he stretches himself, and begs, as for alms, for more sleep, more slumber; he is well in his warm bed, and cannot endure to think of rising, especially of rising to work. But, observe, he promises himself and his master that he will desire but a little more sleep, a little more slumber, and then he will get up and go to his business; still he asks for a little more sleep, yet a little more; he never thinks he has enough, and yet, when he is called, pretends he will come presently. Thus men’s great work is left undone by being put off yet a little longer, de die in diem-from day to day; and they are cheated of all their time by being cheated of the present moments.

3. He gives him fair warning of the fatal consequences of his slothfulness, Pr 6:11.

(1.) Poverty and want will certainly come upon those that are slothful in their business. Spiritual poverty comes upon those that are slothful in the service of God. (2.) “It will come silently and insensibly, will grow upon thee, and come step by step, as one that travels, but will without fail come at last.” (3.) “It will come irresistibly, like an armed man, whom thou canst not oppose nor make thy part good against.”

(Adapted from MHC)

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

The sluggard puts things off – he procrastinates.

6:10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to relax,
6:11 and your poverty will come like a robber,
and your need like an armed man.


  1. Love of ease, Pr 6:9f; 26:14.
  2. Lame excuses, Pr 22:13; 26:13.
  3. Loss of energy, Pr 19:24; 26:15.
  4. Lack of enterprise, Pr 13:4; 21:25.

The old plumber was admonishing his young helper, who was always taking coffee breaks. “When I was an apprentice,” he said, “we used to lay the first two lengths of pipe—then the boss would turn on the water and we’d have to stay ahead of it.”

Temporarily absent from home, a father left Daniel and his brother James with instructions as to the work they were to do that day. On his return he found the task still unperformed, and questioned them about their idleness. “What have you been doing, James?” he asked. “Nothing, Dad.” “Well, Daniel, what have you been doing?” “Helping Jimmy, Dad.”

The Procrastinator’s Poem

I’ve gone for a drink and sharpened my pencils,
Searched through my desk for forgotten utensils.
I reset my watch, I adjusted my chair,
I’ve loosened my tie and straightened my hair.
I filled my pen and tested the blotter
And gone for another drink of water
Adjusted the calendar, and I’ve raised the blind
And I’ve sorted erasers of all different kinds.
Now down to work I can finally sit,
Oops, too late, it’s time to quit.

(Source unknown)

v11 ‘More than any other book Proverbs gives visibility to the causes of poverty. Because of the book’s didactic nature the emphasis is upon controllable circumstances but other reasons are included. Poverty is a result of laziness (6:10-11; 10:4; 20:13; 24:33-34), lack of discipline (13:18), idleness (14:23; 28:19), haste (21:5), excess (21:17; 23:20-21), and injustice (13:23).’ (EDBT)

6:12 A worthless and wicked person
walks around saying perverse things;
6:13 he winks with his eyes,
signals with his feet,
and points with his fingers;
6:14 he plots evil with perverse thoughts in his heart,
he spreads contention at all times.
6:15 Therefore, his disaster will come suddenly;
in an instant he will be broken, and there will be no remedy.
6:16 There are six things that the LORD hates,
even seven things that are an abomination to him:
6:17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
6:18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that are swift to run to evil,
6:19 a false witness who pours out lies,
and a person who spreads discord among family members.

‘These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to him: A proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren.’ The sense is not, that the six things are hateful to God, and the seventh an abomination to him besides; the seven are to be numbered separately, and the seventh is the non plus ultra of all that is hated by God…The chief of all that God hates is he who takes a fiendish delight in setting at variance men who stand nearly related. (John Sanderson)

v17 ‘Lying insults not only your neighbor, whom you may manage to fool, but also God, whom you can never fool. A truth-telling, promise-keeping God who “cannot lie” (Tit 1:2, NEB; also Nu 23:19 1 Sam 15:29), and who wants to see in us his own moral image, naturally “hates. a lying tongue. a false witness who breathes out lies.” (Pr 6:16-19) Lying is part of Satan’s image, not God’s, and we should not wonder that “every one who loves and practices falsehood” should thereby exclude himself from God’s city (Rev 22:15; cf. 21:27). There is no godliness without truthfulness. Lord, have mercy!’ (J.I. Packer, Growing in Christ)

6:20 My child, guard the commands of your father
and do not forsake the instruction of your mother.
6:21 Bind them on your heart continually;
fasten them around your neck.
6:22 When you walk about, they will guide you;
when you lie down, they will watch over you;
when you wake up, they will talk to you.
6:23 For the commandments are like a lamp,
instruction is like a light,
and rebukes of discipline are like the road leading to life,
6:24 by keeping you from the evil woman,
from the smooth tongue of the loose woman.
6:25 Do not lust in your heart for her beauty,
and do not let her captivate you with her alluring eyes;
6:26 for on account of a prostitute one is brought down to a loaf of bread,
but the wife of another man preys on your precious life.

David Instone-Brewer (see link above) thinks that the translation reflected in the NIV – ‘the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life’ – is inferior to that found in the RSV – ‘For a harlot may be hired for a loaf of bread, but an adulteress stalks a man’s very life.’  Kidner agrees that this latter translation has the support of some of the ancient manuscripts, but that it gives an inferior sense (by ‘shrugging off’ the sin of the prostitute, in a way that is untrue both to the reality of the situation and to the moral tenor of Proverbs).

6:27 Can a man hold fire against his chest
without burning his clothes?
6:28 Can a man walk on hot coals
without scorching his feet?
6:29 So it is with the one who has sex with his neighbor’s wife;
no one who touches her will escape punishment.
6:30 People do not despise a thief when he steals
to fulfill his need when he is hungry.
6:31 Yet if he is caught he must repay seven times over,
he might even have to give all the wealth of his house.
6:32 A man who commits adultery with a woman lacks wisdom,
whoever does it destroys his own life.
6:33 He will be beaten and despised,
and his reproach will not be wiped away;
6:34 for jealousy kindles a husband’s rage,
and he will not show mercy when he takes revenge.
6:35 He will not consider any compensation;
he will not be willing, even if you multiply the compensation.

‘An offended husband’s jealousy smolders and bursts forth in a destructive, and uncontrollable, flame.  The word “enrages” refers to heat and wrath.  It is also used to describe poison or venom.  Jealousy is a consuming conflagration.  Jealousy is a bitter poison that consumes one’s body and takes control of its every function.  Such jealousy will not be extinguished by any attempt to appease or restore.

‘A man so enraged “will not spare” the adulterer when his sin is uncovered.  The verb points to holding back expected action or, even further, to the idea of pity or compassion.  A jealous husband will possess no emotional leniency for the one who has defiled his wife and marriage, nor will he, from some dispassionate perspective, withhold the full wrath of his anger.  “Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27.4, ESV).  “Jealousy is fierce as the grave.  Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord” (Song of Solomon 8.6, ESV).’ (John A. Kitchen, Mentor Commentary)