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Proverbs 6:6-19

Context

6:6 Go to the ant, you sluggard; 1 

observe its ways and be wise!

6:7 It has no commander,

overseer, or 2  ruler,

6:8 yet it prepares its food in the summer;

it gathers at the harvest what it will eat. 3 

6:9 How long, you sluggard, will you lie there?

When will you rise from your sleep? 4 

6:10 A little sleep, a little slumber,

a little folding of the hands to relax, 5 

6:11 and your poverty will come like a robber, 6 

and your need like an armed man. 7 

6:12 A worthless and wicked person 8 

walks around saying perverse 9  things; 10 

6:13 he winks with his eyes,

signals with his feet,

and points with his fingers; 11 

6:14 he plots evil with perverse thoughts 12  in his heart,

he spreads contention 13  at all times.

6:15 Therefore, his disaster will come suddenly;

in an instant 14  he will be broken, and there will be no remedy.

6:16 There are six things that the Lord hates,

even 15  seven 16  things that are an abomination to him: 17 

6:17 haughty eyes, 18  a lying tongue, 19 

and hands that shed innocent blood, 20 

6:18 a heart that devises wicked plans, 21 

feet that are swift to run 22  to evil,

6:19 a false witness who pours out lies, 23 

and a person who spreads discord 24  among family members. 25 

1 sn The sluggard (עָצֵל, ’atsel) is the lazy or sluggish person (cf. NCV “lazy person”; NRSV, NLT “lazybones”).

2 tn The conjunction vav (ו) here has the classification of alternative, “or” (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 71, §433).

3 tc The LXX adds a lengthy section at the end of the verse on the lesson from the bee: “Or, go to the bee and learn how diligent she is and how seriously she does her work – her products kings and private persons use for health – she is desired and respected by all – though feeble in body, by honoring wisdom she obtains distinction.” The Greek translator thought the other insect should be mentioned (see C. H. Toy, Proverbs [ICC], 124).

tn Heb “its food.”

4 sn The use of the two rhetorical questions is designed to rebuke the lazy person in a forceful manner. The sluggard is spending too much time sleeping.

5 sn The writer might in this verse be imitating the words of the sluggard who just wants to take “a little nap.” The use is ironic, for by indulging in this little rest the lazy one comes to ruin.

6 tn Heb “like a wayfarer” or “like a traveler” (cf. KJV). The LXX has “swiftness like a traveler.” It has also been interpreted as a “highwayman” (cf. NAB) or a “dangerous assailant.” W. McKane suggests “vagrant” (Proverbs [OTL], 324); cf. NASB “vagabond.” Someone traveling swiftly would likely be a robber.

7 tn The Hebrew word for “armed” is probably connected to the word for “shield” and “deliver” (s.v. גָּנַן). G. R. Driver connects it to the Arabic word for “bold; insolent,” interpreting its use here as referring to a beggar or an insolent man (“Studies in the Vocabulary of the Old Testament, IV,” JTS 33 [1933]: 38-47).

8 sn The terms describe one who is both worthless and wicked. Some suggest that בְּלִיַּעַל (bÿliyyaal) is a compound of the negative בְּלִי (bÿli) and a noun יַעַל (yaal, “profit; worth”). Others suggest that the root is from בַּעַל (baal, “lord [of goats]”) or a derivative of בָּלַע (bala’) with reduplication (“confusion” or “engulfing ruin”), or a proper name from Babylonian Bililu. See B. Otzen, TDOT 2:131-36; and D. W. Thomas, “בְּלִיַּעַל in the Old Testament,” Biblical and Patristic Studies in Memory of Robert Pierce Casey, 11-19. Whatever the etymology, usage shows that the word describes people who violate the law (Deut 15:9; Judg 19:22; 1 Kgs 21:10, 13; Prov 16:27; et al.) or act in a contemptuous and foolish manner against cultic observance or social institutions (1 Sam 10:27; 25:17; 30:22); cf. NRSV “a scoundrel and a villain” (NAB and NIV similar). The present instruction will focus on the devious practice of such wicked and worthless folk.

9 tn Heb “crooked” or “twisted.” This term can refer to something that is physically twisted or crooked, or something morally perverse. Cf. NAB “crooked talk”; NRSV “crooked speech.”

10 tn Heb “walks around with a perverse mouth.” The term “mouth” is a metonymy of cause, an organ of speech put for what is said. This is an individual who says perverted or twisted things.

11 sn The sinister sign language and gestures of the perverse individual seem to indicate any kind of look or gesture that is put on and therefore a form of deception if not a way of making insinuations. W. McKane suggests from the presence of חֹרֵשׁ (khoresh) in v. 14 that there may be some use of magic here (Proverbs [OTL], 325).

12 tn The noun is an adverbial accusative of manner, explaining the circumstances that inform his evil plans.

13 tn The word “contention” is from the root דִּין (din); the noun means “strife, contention, quarrel.” The normal plural form is represented by the Qere, and the contracted form by the Kethib.

14 tn This word is a substantive that is used here as an adverbial accusative – with suddenness, at an instant.

15 tn The conjunction has the explicative use here (R. J. Williams, Hebrew Syntax, 71, §434).

16 sn This saying involves a numerical ladder, paralleling six things with seven things (e.g., also 30:15, 18, 21, 24, 29). The point of such a numerical arrangement is that the number does not exhaust the list (W. M. Roth, “The Numerical Sequence x / x +1 in the Old Testament,” VT 12 [1962]: 300-311; and his “Numerical Sayings in the Old Testament,” VT 13 [1965]: 86).

17 tn Heb “his soul.”

18 sn The expression “high/ lofty [רָמוֹת, ramot] eyes” refers to a proud look suggesting arrogant ambition (cf. NCV “a proud look”). The use of “eyes” is a metonymy of adjunct, the look in the eyes accompanying the attitude. This term “high” is used in Num 15:30 for the sin of the “high hand,” i.e., willful rebellion or defiant sin. The usage of “haughty eyes” may be illustrated by its use with the pompous Assyrian invader (Isa 10:12-14) and the proud king of the book of Daniel (11:12). God does not tolerate anyone who thinks so highly of himself and who has such ambition.

19 tn Heb “a tongue of deception.” The genitive noun functions attributively. The term “tongue” functions as a metonymy. The term is used of false prophets who deceive (Jer 14:14), and of a deceiver who betrays (Ps 109:2). The Lord hates deceptive speech because it is destructive (26:28).

20 sn The hands are the instruments of murder (metonymy of cause), and God hates bloodshed. Gen 9:6 prohibited shedding blood because people are the image of God. Even David being a man of blood (in war mostly) was not permitted to build the Temple (1 Chr 22:8). But shedding innocent blood was a greater crime – it usually went with positions of power, such as King Manasseh filling the streets with blood (2 Kgs 21:16), or princes doing it for gain (Ezek 22:27).

21 tn Heb “heart that devises plans of wickedness.” The latter term is an attributive genitive. The heart (metonymy of subject) represents the will; here it plots evil schemes. The heart is capable of evil schemes (Gen 6:5); the heart that does this is deceitful (Prov 12:20; 14:22).

22 tc The MT reads “make haste to run,” that is, be eager to seize the opportunity. The LXX omits “run,” that is, feet hastening to do evil. It must have appeared to the LXX translator that the verb was unnecessary; only one verb occurs in the other cola.

sn The word “feet” is here a synecdoche, a part for the whole. Being the instruments of movement, they represent the swift and eager actions of the whole person to do some harm.

23 sn The Lord hates perjury and a lying witness (e.g., Ps 40:4; Amos 2:4; Mic 1:4). This is a direct violation of the law (Exod 20).

24 sn Dissension is attributed in Proverbs to contentious people (21:9; 26:21; 25:24) who have a short fuse (15:8).

25 tn Heb “brothers,” although not limited to male siblings only. Cf. NRSV, CEV “in a family”; TEV “among friends.”

sn These seven things the Lord hates. To discover what the Lord desires, one need only list the opposites: humility, truthful speech, preservation of life, pure thoughts, eagerness to do good, honest witnesses, and peaceful harmony. In the NT the Beatitudes present the positive opposites (Matt 5). It has seven blessed things to match these seven hated things; moreover, the first contrasts with the first here (“poor in spirit” of 5:5 with “haughty eyes”), and the seventh (“peacemakers” of 5:7) contrasts with the seventh here (“sows dissension”).



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