“So do this, my child, and save yourself, for you have come into your neighbor’s power: go, hurry, and plead with your neighbor.”
~Proverbs 6:3 (NRSV).
Proverbs’ imagery to date has been faultless, and chapter 6 does little to divert from that relentless path. This chapter features several themes, perhaps calling attention to a scatter-gun pattern that continues through Proverbs 10 and following.
This initial section (verses 1-19) focuses on four clear themes.
Escaping the Fowler’s Snare
The first verses concern the imperative to respond with timely due diligence and speed regarding those things left undone and exposed so far as finances, oaths and conflicts is concerned.
This is genuinely about living the good fear of the Lord; that if we don’t respond to the perceived everyday living dangers of life in company we stand to be entangled in consequences that will well need to be paid out; those without quick reconciliation.
Life usually affords many chances in setting our affairs in order. If we’ll perhaps languish in less diligent fashion we’ll only have ourselves to blame—perhaps calling us back to the consequences of Proverbs 1:20-33.
Enter the Sluggard! – With Typical Indolence
The foregoing is the ideal precursor for the Sluggard to enter the fray; however, slothfully is how he or she comes in, no matter the danger! The Sluggard is as key a character in Proverbs as Woman Wisdom is. He makes several important cameos throughout the rest of the book, and these are purposed to warn us against going his way.
The ant is the perfect contrast to the Sluggard. The ant has no master yet it is fully motivated to achieve its tasks, on time and on budget—every time. The ant is always working, preparing always the way during any out-of-season downtime.
The Sluggard sleeps... a lot! Too much. Sleep is the image for not only sleeping-in and lazing about on the sofa or couch, it’s also a metaphor for a sleepy attitude and approach to life. The Sluggard is destined for a particular strain of folly. One important facet of wisdom, then, is the heart drive and resilience to be diligent and to also rebound diligently.
Scoundrels and Villains
Two more fools with immoral intent—wrapped at times in one body—come through the door next. Taking a look at them they’ve taken the trade of deceit to the level of the pathological. Little does this person realise, however, that everything he or she does is in full view of God—they’ll repay their misdeeds with disaster; and it’ll come without remedy (verse 15).
Many Things Does the Lord Despise
The meaning of verse 16—“six things the Lord hates, seven things that are detestable to him”—is simple hyperbole. The list grows by one even the very second the list is considered. Imagine how many more things could be added to this list with a bit more thought. Simply, then, the Lord despises all sin (but importantly, never the sinner).
The general theme, however, is about the deceitful heart, for instance, “haughty eyes, a lying tongue and hands that shed innocent blood” (verse 17). Body parts complete the analysis via hearts devising wickedness and feet that are swift to run to evil. This is clearly a person who has no regard for that triad of virtue introduced in chapters 1 and 2—righteousness, justice and fairness.
It is clear that Proverbs 6:1-20 takes a different tack to the previous five chapters. Apart from verses 1-5, it departs for a moment from the personalised parental advice and takes on a pattern we see much of from Proverbs 10 onwards.
The person with morality problems can be seen in this section to be lazy, dishonest (verse 19), discordant, devious and stubbornly irresponsible i.e. not quick to heed the warnings of life.
In sum, it describes part of our own experience of life when we’ve gone those ways—and we all have and are continually tempted to do so. We can all perhaps locate these effects within the interior of ourselves and the inferiority of our hearts at times in our pasts.
Never mind, today Proverbs 6 calls us to be diligent and to guard against deviancy.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.