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Proverbs 6:1-19 by Robert Dean
Are you just snoozing your way through life? Not actually sleeping, but are you clueless about what really matters? Listen to this lesson to learn how to steer clear of three traps you set for yourself that lead to misery. See how watching ants can teach us diligence and find out the caution against taking responsibility for another's debts. Observe the seven characteristics of troublemakers that God hates.
Series:Proverbs (2013)
Duration:59 mins 49 secs

Warnings Against Self-Destruction. Proverbs 6:1-19


This section provides us with some warnings about courses of action that actually lead to self-destruction.  One of the great problems that many of us face in life is that we have a lot of self-induced misery. We have problems that come from our own bad decisions and we suffer the consequences of those bad decisions. And often it is not just for a short time but we make bad decisions when we are young and we have to live with those consequences for much of our life.


In Proverbs the father addresses his son and warns him of certain wrong courses of action. The focus here is more on character than it is on specific decisions, for that which shapes our life and the decisions we make is the character that we have. This is why it is so important that part of the role and responsibility of parents and grandparents is to shape the character of their children, and to teach them and emphasize the positive character traits on integrity, responsibility and honesty, spiritual traits to do with the Word of God and living faithfully before the Lord Jesus Christ.


So this is a passage of warnings. We have seen that in the first nine chapters we have ten basic lessons from the father to the son. Starting in chapter ten there is going to be a shift and we'll get individual proverbs. The reason for saying this is that there are some verses in this passage that are often taken out of context. Remember that one of the most important laws in Bible study is context. In real estate it is location, location,  location; in Bible study it is context, context, context. The context of Proverbs 1-9 is a context of ten integral lessons that have been joined together, unlike the rest of Proverbs, which are basically bullets of wisdom. These first nine chapters really focus us in developed curricula for the son.  There is a unified context here, not just individual, isolated bullet points like we have later on in the book of Proverbs. There is a context to these that is important to understand.


This section we are getting into in chapter 6:1-19 provides an emphasis on character, but it is sandwiched between two lengthy sections warning against sexual immorality. In the middle of that the father sort of sets back and he is going to parenthetically insert these two statements that are warnings against certain character flaws, and then sort of an aside in vv. 16-19 that is often taken out of context as if it is a lone proverb—and it is not. It is directly related to what has just been said in vv. 12-15. 


The eighth lesson focuses on the problems of sexual immorality: the emptiness of sex verses the importance of developing sexual intimacy within marriage.  Then we get into this little insight section: character qualities that lead to self-destruction, and three patterns to avoid. 


Some basic observations. First of all verse one, like in each of the previous lessons, starts of addressing "My son." But we ought to notice that there is a difference. In each of the previous eight lessons we have seen, "My son, listen to my voice; My son, hear what I have to say; My son, pay attention. But we have no exhortation here to listen, pay attention, hear, or any of those things. So that alerts us to the fact that something is a bit different. We have this address (or vocative, as it is known in grammar) to the son in the first five verses, and then in the second section it is addressed to the sluggard. When we get to the third section, which starts in verse 12 and goes to verse 19, it is not addressed to anybody, it is just sort of an outflow from what has just been said. That entire section, while it doesn't stand alone, is a sort of autonomous thing in and of itself. It does represent a third division. There are basically three divisions here: the address dealing with becoming a standing surety or signing a loan for someone else. Verse 5-11 deal with the problem of being a sluggard, and then the third section just addresses separately without being addressed to an individual the problem of being a son of Belial (a technical term throughout the Old Testament for one who is rebellious towards God, their life is extremely disruptive, a person who is a trouble-maker).


The first two lessons are strongly connected to one another. Those two lessons address an individual whereas the third does not address an individual or a category of person. In the first two lessons there are certain words that are repeated, such as the word "go" in verse 3, and the "go and humble yourself" in verse 3b, and in verse 6 we have "go to the ant." Sleep is mention in verse 4, and then again in vv. 9, 10.  There is also in both cases the use of animals and certain characteristics of animals as being illustrative of the kind of quality that should be in a person's life.


The other thing is that the negative qualities in those first two lessons are not necessarily evil per se. Whereas the third section, vv. 12-19, specifically addresses a worthless person,  a son of Belial,  who is defined appositionally as a wicked man.  The connection is that if the warning embedded in the first two sections isn't followed through then the danger of someone going into complete carnality, living out the lust patterns of the sin nature and basically becoming a worthless troublemaker in their life.


The first two warnings have to do with, first of all, a warning to someone who has co-signed on somebody else's loan, which involves being responsible for someone else's future debts; and second, on the problem of being irresponsible and basically just being lazy or loathe to get involved in anything and just sort of sleeping your way through life.  That is a character flaw.


Then we get down to the third section, and that focuses on what can be the ultimate result. And that is being a self-absorbed troublemaker whose unrestrained sin nature leads to disruption in the community, and not only destroys the life of the individual but destroys those around him.


When we look at the first section in 6:1 we see it is addressed to the son, but again there is no statement of listen here, it is markedly different. It just begins stating a certain set of circumstance, a certain situation. It is addressing a problem that many of us have run into at one point or another in our life. That is, on the one hand we know we are commanded to be gracious to other people, to help other people, to show love for other people. But there are times when we don't know where the boundary is and we don't want to get into a situation where our graciousness is being used or where by being helpful to someone we are actually setting them up for failure as well. Or worse, setting ourselves up for failure. So while being gracious to others is important, being generous to others is important, there are limits; and this is a passage that does talk about those limits. We can bring about a certain amount of self-induced misery from a misplaced or naïve benevolence. In other words, good intentions plus folly results in self-destruction. Just because we have our hearts in the right place doesn't mean that the results are necessarily going to be of benefit. 


Proverbs 6:1 NASB "My son, if you have become surety for your neighbor, Have given a pledge for a stranger." This is not addressing borrowing or loaning money to someone; that is a different issue. This is the issue of basically assuming responsibilities jointly for someone else's debt. This is not like the situation in Philemon where Paul has assumed responsibility for the past debts of the slave Onesimus, but this is assuming responsibility for future debts. In Scripture there is a recognition of loaning under certain conditions—not with excessive interest rates—but this scenario is talking about the idea of what we would call co-signing on a loan, becoming responsible for someone else's debts. This is completely prohibited by the father. We see this because of two terms here. First of all, "if you have become," if you have already done this; have given a pledge (signed on the dotted line), reached an agreement to do this "for a stranger." The word here for stranger is the word zar. This is not talking about parents co-signing on a loan for their children; that is within the family. Here it is talking about a friend that is someone you know whom you think you can trust. That is prohibited. And on the other extreme, a stranger, someone you don't know. This is a path to great danger.


Proverbs 11:15 NASB "He who is guarantor for a stranger will surely suffer for it …" Notice how strongly that is stated. If you take on responsibility for someone's debts you are going to suffer. Generally speaking this is not going to end well. In contrast, "But he who hates being a guarantor is secure." He is not going to put himself in a position of vulnerability.


Proverbs 17:18 NASB "A man lacking in sense pledges And becomes guarantor in the presence of his neighbor." To put it in the vernacular, a brainless or a mindless person, someone who is not very bright. This is a path to financial self-destruction. Proverbs 20:16 NASB "Take his garment when he becomes surety for a stranger; And for foreigners, hold him in pledge." Three people are involved in this verse. First, the person who is being addressed. The command is to take the garment. So that is addressed to someone: "You take the garment of one who is surety." That is the person who has co-signed. He has co-signed on a loan for a stranger, for someone he doesn't know. So the command is, if you are involved with somebody who is so foolish as to have co-signed with somebody else, then in order to protect yourself you had better take their garment as a pledge. This idea of taking someone's garment as a pledge was the idea that in the ancient world they didn't own a closet full of clothes like many of us do. Te word "garment" here would indicate the primary wardrobe, and that reflects one of the largest investments that a lot of people had. So that would be given as a pledge when they entered into a loan. If they lost that they would lose a lot.


Exodus 22:26, 27 NASB "If you ever take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear {him,} for I am gracious." So there is a legitimacy to taking a pledge for a loan. This isn't a co-signing situation, this is taking as collateral for a loan.

Proverbs 22:26 NASB "Do not be among those who give pledges, Among those who become guarantors for debts."


The other issue that comes up in 6:1 is whether or not this is a family member or one outside the family or the clan. The idea of using these two terms friends or strangers really seems to be talking about someone outside of the family. A lot of times parents can help their children establish credit by co-signing with them when they get out of high school or college and buy their first car or whatever it is that they're purchasing, helping them to get on their feet financially.


The second verse expresses the problem, and it introduces a certain visual imagery here that runs through this section. That is, the imagery of a trap. If you co-sign for somebody else you have been caught in a trap and it is your life that is at stake. 


Proverbs 6:2 NASB "{If} you have been snared with the words of your mouth, Have been caught with the words of your mouth," [3] The solution. "Do this then, my son, and deliver yourself; Since you have come into the hand of your neighbor, Go, humble yourself, and importune your neighbor." The solution is seen basically at the middle of the second set of commands there. "Humble yourself," and it is a strong word that is used there for humbling, a word that emphasizes pressure, taking pressure on yourself, putting yourself under a lot of strong action in order to make yourself do something. So we are to humble ourselves by putting ourselves in a very awkward situation in order to try to solve this problem and get out of this situation, this trap that we have put ourselves in.


In verse three is "deliver yourself," and then in verse five it is repeated (same word in the Hebrew). These frame what is said in vv. 3, 4, 5. This is how we are to deliver ourselves. We need to deliver ourselves because we have come into the hand of our friend. It is a picture of being captured and coming under his control. He now makes the decisions that affect your financial security. So the solution is to go, to leave, to immediately take action. Don't wait, don't sleep, don't eat; whatever you do just get up now and go and address the problem. 


Proverbs 6:4 NASB "Give no sleep to your eyes, Nor slumber to your eyelids; [5] Deliver yourself like a gazelle from {the hunter's} hand And like a bird from the hand of the fowler." So in this first section we are warned against putting ourselves financially at risk, putting our financial health in the hands of someone else and becoming surety for their debt. 


Then we come to a different situation. We are warned against being overly helpful and naively beneficial to others financially in the first five verses and now there is the problem of being a sluggard—slow to respond to things, not being energetic in the way in which we work, being one who would rather be lazy than exercise diligence in life. We have an example from creation and the author goes to the ant.


One thing we should note here is that throughout the Scriptures we find there are cases where there is an appeal to something in the creation. This is known as natural revelation. Natural revelation is non-verbal; it has to do with "The heaven as the earth declare the glory of God." That is non-verbal; it is not specific. The only way we understand creation specifically and what traits and images from the animal world that we should follow is by what the Word of God says. There are many different things about ants that we would not want to emulate. Ants live in a colony ruled by a queen. It is a matriarchal society where the males exist only to serve the women. Now that is not a biblical pattern for marriage. We don't go to the ants to figure out how to live in marriage, but the ant is a picture of how we should be diligent in planning and saving for the future.


A lot of Christians put themselves in a simplistic financial conundrum and say, 'Well if I should trust God for my needs today them maybe I shouldn't save for the future.' But we have examples in Scripture of the importance of saving and providing for future times when things may not be so good. An example is Joseph when he was serving at Pharaoh's right hand and has been given by revelation from God a warning that there would be seven good years and seven bad years. And so during the seven good years they took in and filled the storehouses with grain so that they would have enough food resources to last through the seven bad years. That is the idea here in the illustration of the ant. 


Proverbs 6:6 NASB "Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, [7] Which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, [8] Prepares her food in the summer {And} gathers her provision in the harvest." When there is a time of prosperity, a time of plenty, you save. You put some aside for the future when you might not be in a time of prosperity.


Then there is a strong rebuke given. Proverbs 6:9 NASB "How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?" The idea here isn't a deep sleep. This is talking about someone who is always dozing off and not paying attention, in and out of it and not quite on top of things. They are just not very energetic, they don't want to get too involved and they don't want to work too hard; they are just kind of easing their way through life. A sluggard is someone who is sluggish in life. There is not a lot of energy there for taking care of their own life, their own responsibilities, and taking care of their own needs.


He is mocked. Notice how God mocks people. What we see here is that there is divinely sanctioned sarcasm throughout the Scripture. God ridicules those who reject Him. He ridicules those who say there is no God. God calls them a fool. That means that is the divine righteous standard. So the mocking goes like this: Proverb 6:10 "A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest— [11] Your poverty will come in like a vagabond And your need like an armed man." Poverty is represented here like a thief, someone who walks about, going around the neighborhood looking for an opportunity to get into your house and take whatever they can. It is going to rob you and steal from you the valuable things that you have and the quality of life that you have, and you never know when it will come upon you if you are not diligent, if you don't have a good work ethic. Suddenly you are impoverished. This is the idea of not having enough, the idea of losing the means of supporting life.


The second illustration ratchets it up a little bit. It is not just the prowler; it is an armed burglar, someone who is going to hold you up and not when you expect it. So there is a warning against being a sluggard and not being diligent and responsible in your life.


Proverbs 13:18 NASB "Poverty and shame {will come} to him who neglects discipline [disdains correction] …" Today we live in such a proud society where nobody wants to take correction from anybody. And so they work for someone who tries to teach them how to work, and they quit the job and say, 'I'm too proud to work for someone like that.' The contrast is, "But he who regards reproof will be honored." They are going to improve their life, they are going to go forward, they are going to learn how to do better and be engaged in their work responsibilities.


Proverbs 14:23 NASB "In all labor there is profit, But mere talk {leads} only to poverty." There is no labor that is dishonorable.


Proverbs 21:5 NASB "The plans of the diligent {lead} surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty {comes} surely to poverty." The diligent is the hard worker. The hasty are not going anywhere, they are running around in circles and that is another form of being lazy.


Proverbs 22:16 NASB "He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself Or who gives to the rich, {will} only {come to} poverty."


There is nothing wrong is Scripture with someone who has a lot; there is nothing wrong in Scripture with someone who works hard. That doesn't mean just physically. You can use your brain and invest your money wisely. Wealth is not wrong in Scripture and people shouldn't be penalized by a tax system or an economic system that takes away from them. They are the productive ones; they are the ones who provide for others.


Proverbs 28:19 NASB "He who tills his land will have plenty of food, But he who follows empty {pursuits} will have poverty in plenty." Remember that in 2 Thessalonians chapter three Paul says that if you don't work you don't eat. That is the biblical principle. It is not if you don't work we'll give you a handout. A handout is no good for somebody who won't work. We have to balance compassion with reality and responsibility.


Then we come to the last section, verses 12-19 which relates to the son of Belial. This is not addressed to anybody, it is rather and outgrowth of what happens when an individual gives himself to irresponsibility. He becomes a "worthless person". Proverbs 6:12 NASB "A worthless person, a wicked man, Is the one who walks with a perverse mouth." This is the worthless human being, a "son of Belial." Belial is a word that is used in many cases for a rebellious or insolent troublemaker. This is someone who rejects any authority that has been set over them. In fact, in 2 Corinthians 6:15 it is a term that has come to be applied to Satan. It is ultimately talking about the rebellious individual, someone who is implacably wicked, someone who agitates against authority. It is used to describe those who have revolted against God in Deuteronomy 13:4; 1 Samuel 2:12; Nahum 1:11, 15. Also those who revolt against the king, 1 Samuel 20:27; 2 Samuel 20:1, 2. Proverbs 19:28 uses it to describe someone who rejects justice. Deuteronomy 15:9 talks about somebody who rebels against the community. It is interesting that in Judges 19:22 in the story that parallels the episode in Genesis 19 of Sodom and Gomorrah. This is the homosexual perverts in Gibea in Judges 19:22 where they are called sons of Belial. 


The phrase "a wicked man" uses the term in Hebrew aven which is the word for evil or wickedness or evildoer, and it refers to someone who has engaged in activity that brings them under condemnation and judgment. They are in violation of God's standards and are violating the will of God. They are abusing power and mistreating others. So the picture of this last person is one of a rebellious person, a troublemaker, stirring up dissention. He is described in these verses by seven characteristics. In verses 16-19 where it says there are six things the Lord hates, seven are an abomination to Him we will see that there is a parallel between the two. The second part of this emphasizes the characteristics that work themselves out in the life of the rebellious person. 

Proverbs 6:13 NASB "Who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet, Who points with his fingers." In our culture we can wink and it is something kind of jovial and fun. It can also be something malicious. Here it is something that is malicious. It refers to an insidious anti-social behavior which is approving that which is evil. He winks with the eyes, he is making light of that which is good, promoting that which is evil. Shuffling his feet was some kind of action that indicated approval of evil activity. Pointing the finger also was one of these sinister gestures behind somebody's back in order to minimize them, show disrespect for them, and to build up an attitude of rejection of their authority. 


Moving from the external actions to the internal actions. The external actions put a window on the character inside the person. His heart is perverse. Proverbs 6:14 NASB "Who {with} perversity in his heart continually devises evil, Who spreads strife." Perversity refers to acts that are contrary to biblical and righteous norms and standards. So inside of his heart, his thinking, his values are completely distorted, they are the opposite of biblical, righteous values. The word "devise" is a word that is also used for plowing or engraving something. It has the idea of setting something in a track. He is working something out, studying a plan that he is going to carry out. He spreads strife [discord]. The word "discord" is the Hebrew word madon, which means to stir up controversy. So he is rebellious, he hates the truth, he is trying to ridicule those who are in authority and trying to cause dissention and controversy among people. The result is self-destruction. 


Proverbs 6:15 NASB "Therefore his calamity will come suddenly; Instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing." Eventually there is judgment.


Verses 12-15 represent one approach to this man, and then in the next section it heightens the theme, bringing God in for the first time, emphasizing that there is accountability to God. God abominates the kind of person who emulates these values.


Proverbs 6:16 NASB "There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him." These are six things that are present in the life of the troublemaker described in verses 12-15. This is one of those Hebraisms which focuses on seven things but it is heightened by emphasizing the list by saying there are six things God hates, yes, even seven. It is just a way of emphasizing the horror of the whole list. 


There are connections between the description of the worthless person, the troublemaker in vv. 12-15 and these sins that God abominates in vv. 16-19. There is mention of a lying mouth or lying tongue in v. 12 and again in v. 17; something negative is said about the eyes in v. 13 and again in v. 17; the feet are mentioned in v. 13 and again in v. 18; fingers or the hands mention in v. 13 and again in v. 17; the perverse heart is mentioned in v. 14 and again in v. 18; the sowing of discord is mentioned at the end of both descriptions in both v. 14 and v. 19. So we can't say that vv. 16-19 stand alone. They are just a sort of definition of what God considers to be really sinful. It is connected to the character traits of the worthless man of vv. 12-15. 


We see them listed. Proverbs 6:17 NASB "Haughty eyes …" Mental attitude sin, arrogance, haughtiness inside the individual and his pomposity. It manifests a rejection of God's authority. "… a lying tongue." The word here for lying is different from the word in verse 19. This is the word sheqer which indicates someone who is aggressively deceitful in order to harm other people. He is engaged in perfidious actions and seeking to entrap or take advantage of somebody by setting up a web of lies. "… And hands that shed innocent blood." This is murder, not killing. The Bible recognizes different kinds of killing, some are legitimate—self-defense, war, capital punishment—but murder is illegitimate.


Proverbs 6:18 NASB "A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil." This is someone who is constantly coming up with new ideas to promote their rebelliousness. They are calculating all the time, computing ways in which they can overturn the authority of God. They are always ready to give in to sin in order to give in to rebellion. 


Proverbs 6:19 NASB "A false witness {who} utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers." A false witness is another word for lying. This is from the Hebrew word kazab which has to do with like a false witness in court telling a lie, someone who is distorting the truth, a perjurer on the witness stand.


So in these three vignettes that we have from vv. 1-5, 6-11, 12-19 we have a warning. If you don't walk with the Lord then you are going to end up getting involved in traps for yourself that lead to self-destruction and self-induced misery. There is only one hope for having wisdom and that is to submit to the Word of God, and to learn the Word of God, study the Word of God and completely internalize it into our thinking. That is the only way we can develop wisdom and skill. And as Proverbs 3:5, 6 says, if we trust in the Lord and commit our life to Him then He is the one who straightens out our paths. Many of the bad decisions, many of the difficult circumstances that people find themselves in, are often because they haven't been on a lath where they have been trusting the Lord, and consequently in discipline God has allowed them to get off the track. And now they are caught up in a situation where they have to face the negative consequences and less than appealing choices.


So if we walk with the Lord He straightens out the path, and the choices we are faced with are not so much between good and bad but between good and better. We need to consistently walk with the Lord.