The sixth chapter embraces four distinct discourses, each of which is a warning. The subjects treated of are
The continuity of the subject treated of in the preceding chapter appears to be somewhat abruptly interrupted to make way for the insertion of three discourses on subjects which apparently have little connection with what precedes and what follows. Their unlooked for and unexpected appearance has led Hitzig to regard them as interpolations, but it has been conclusively pointed out by Delitzsch that there is sufficient internal evidence, in the grammatical construction, figures, word formations, delineations, and threatenings, to establish the position that they proceeded from the same hand that composed the rest of the book and to guarantee their genuineness. But another and not less interesting question arises as to whether any connection subsists between these discourses and the subject which they apparently interrupt. Such a connection is altogether denied by Delitzsch, Zockler, and other German commentators, who look upon them as independent discourses, and maintain that, if there is any connection, it can be only external and accidental. On the other hand, Bishops Patrick and Wordsworth discover an ethical connection which, though not clear at first sight, is not on that account less real or true. The subject treated of in the preceding chapter is the happiness of the married life, and this is imperilled by incautious undertaking of suretyship, and suretyship, it is maintained, induces sloth, while sloth leads to maliciousness After treating of suretyship, sloth, and malice in succession, the teacher recurs to the former subject of his discourse, viz. impurity of life, against which he gives impressive warnings. That such is the true view them appears little doubt. One vice is intimately connected with another, and the verdict of experience is that a life of idleness is one of the most prolific sources of a life of impurity. Hence we find Ovid saying—
" Quaeritur, AE gisthus, qua re sit factus adulter?
In promptu causa est—desidiosus erat ."
"Do you ask why AE gisthus has become an adulterer?
The reason is close at hand—he was full of idleness."
Within the sphere of these discourses them. selves the internal connection is distinctly observable, Proverbs 6:16-19 being a refrain of Proverbs 6:12-15 , and the phrase, "to stir up strife," closing each enumeration (see Proverbs 6:14 and Proverbs 6:19 ).
12. Twelfth admonitory discourse. In this the teacher returns again to the subject which he has already treated in the eighth discourse. The extreme tendency of men, and especially young men, to sins of impurity is no doubt, as Delitzsch remarks, the reason why this subject is again resumed. The subject is gradually worked up to the preceding admonitions in Proverbs 6:20-23 , pointing out that the way of life, the way of safety, is to be secured by obedience to the precepts of parents, whose commandment and law illumine the perilous road of life, and whose reproofs are salutary to the soul. The arguments against the sin of adultery are cogent in their dissuasiveness, and none stronger of a purely temporal nature could be devised. It may be objected that the sin is not put forward in the higher light, as an offence before God. and that the appeal is made simply on the lines of self-interest; but who will deny that the scope of the teaching is distinctly moral, or that mankind is not influenced and dissuaded from sin by such a category of evils as includes personal beggary, dishonour, and death?
Exhortation to chastity
I. PREFACE . ( Proverbs 6:20 ; see on Proverbs 5:1 , Proverbs 5:2 ; Proverbs 1:8 ).
II. EXHORTATION TO MINDFULNESS OF EARLY LESSONS . ( Proverbs 6:21 ; see on Proverbs 2:3 .) It is in oblivious moments that we sin. We may forget much that we have learned, having outgrown its need. We can never outgrow the simple, early lessons of piety. The chain that links our days each to each in moral progress is the memory of those lessons.
III. VITAL VIRTUE IN THOSE REMEMBERED LESSONS . They have a true vis vitalis. They guide in action, protect in passive hours (see on Proverbs 3:23 , Proverbs 3:24 ). In wakeful hours of the night they seem to talk to the heart, as it "holds communion with the past." "Spirits from high hover o'er us, and comfort sure they bring." The truth becomes as a guardian angel. There is a junction of light and life in religion ( Proverbs 6:23 ). What is seen in the intelligence as true translates itself into health in the habits.
IV. THEY ARE SPECIALLY PRESERVATIVE AGAINST THE WICKED WOMAN AND HER WILES . ( Proverbs 6:24 ; see on Proverbs 2:16 ; Proverbs 5:20 .) Nothing is said directly of the reflex effect of vice upon the mind. It is always the danger externally considered that is pointed out. But this is due to the objective presentative form of the biblical thought and speech. We must learn to render the objective into the subjective form, to note how every outward drama has its reflex in the spirit itself; and thus we draw a double benefit from Bible lore. The pictures must be taken first in their proper meaning, then be converted into figures of the inner life .—J.
Sin and safety
These verses may teach us—
I. THAT MAN LIES OPEN TO STRONG AND SAD TEMPTATIONS . The reference of the text is to the sin of sensuality; the wise man is warning against the wiles of "the evil woman," "the strange woman" ( Proverbs 6:24 ). This sin of sensuality may consist in irregularities, or in things decidedly forbidden, or in gross and shameful violations of law and decency; it may be secret and hidden from every eye, or it may be unblushing and may flaunt itself before high heaven. The words of the text may, in part, apply to other sins; e.g. to intemperance, and also to gambling. To all of these the strong passions of youth often urge the soul; it finds itself drawn or driven by a powerful impulse which it is difficult to overcome. But the truth must be faced—
II. THAT VICE LEADS DOWN BY A SURE AND SHORT ROAD TO THE WORST INFLICTIONS . It leads to:
1 . Self-reproach. The sinner "shall not be innocent" ( Proverbs 6:29 ), and will carry the miserable consciousness of guilt with him into every place.
2 . Corruption of character—such a one "lacketh heart" (marginal reading), "destroyeth his own soul" ( Proverbs 6:32 ); losing all self-respect, his character is as a substance that is smitten, cracked through, ready to fall to pieces, worthless; "a wound" ( Proverbs 6:33 ), a deep wound, it has gotten.
3 . Shame. Men do not despise a thief who steals to allay the gnawing pangs of hunger; they may compel him to restore sevenfold, but they pity him as much as they despise him ( Proverbs 6:30 , Proverbs 6:31 ). But the adulterer, or the confirmed drunkard, or the man who is impoverishing his family to gratify his lust for gambling, him men do despise in their hearts; they dishonour him in their soul, they cry "shame" upon him ( Proverbs 6:33 ).
4 . Impoverishment. Loss of money, of occupation, beggary, the humiliation of borrowing, pledging, etc. ( Proverbs 6:26 ).
5 . Penalty from those who have been wronged ( Proverbs 6:34 , Proverbs 6:35 ). Those who outrage the honour of their feller's may expect the bitterest revenge. To steal the love of a wife from her husband, or of a husband from his wife, is to make one enemy whose wrath nothing will appease. It is an evil thing, even if it be not a dangerous thing, to go through life bearing the malice, exposed to the intense and inextinguishable hatred of a human soul.
III. THAT THERE IS ONE PATH OF SAFETY . It is that which is suggested in Proverbs 6:27 , Proverbs 6:28 , "Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?" etc. The way to escape the evil is not to touch it, to steer clear of it altogether, to keep well out of harm's way—to avoid the house and company of the flippant woman, to leave the sparkling cup untasted, to refuse to stake a farthing in any kind, of lottery whatever. This is the only secure ground to take. Once begin to talk with the seductive woman, or to taste the pleasure of exhilaration from intoxicants, or to enjoy the sweets of appropriating money gained by nothing but a guess, and who shall say what the end. will be? Do not touch the fire, and you will not be burnt.
IV. THAT THE YOUNG SHOULD BEAR THE GUIDING LAMP OF TRUTH ABOUT THEM ALONG THE WHOLE PATH OF LIFE . ( Proverbs 6:20-23 .) In order to sustain the resolution to keep away from the destroying fires, consult the Word of God.
1 . Have it in continual remembrance ( Proverbs 6:21 ).
2 . Illustrate it in every way open ( Proverbs 6:20 ).
3 . Find it a steady light, accompanying the steps everywhere ( Proverbs 6:22 , Proverbs 6:23 ).—C.