On being a servant to somebody else the Apostle Paul advises that even if we find ourselves as somebody else's slave, we should "bloom where you are planted" (my paraphrase ;-) but he adds,
Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you -- although if you can gain your freedom, do so... You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. -- 1Cor.7:21,23Employees (so-called "wage slaves") are the closest thing we have today to Biblical servitude. I spent most of my life self-employed, but a few years fresh out of college, and then later when I ran out of money, I worked as an employee for somebody else, so I can confirm from my own experience, self-employed is better (if you can pull it off: not everybody can).
Anyway the point of this first segment in chapter 6 is that co-signing somebody else's loan is A Bad Idea. You are agreeing to pay off their debt if they default. Maybe you might consider cosigning on your kid's first car, but it would be better for them to buy a cheaper car outright and not be saddled with debt they might have trouble paying off. Many parents gift the family car to their child when they buy themselves a new one, and that's not a bad idea, at least not as bad as debt. I always remind myself, "A loan is a gift." If they default, what are you going to do? Sue them? That's not what Christians should be doing [1Cor.6]. If you think of it as a gift, then there are no hard feelings if they default.
Sometimes Bad Things Happen, and you need to borrow to survive. But don't borrow for somebody else. If you can afford to give it to them, give it to them (Paul told the Ephesian church, "It's more blessed to give than to receive" [Acts 20:35]), but if you cannot afford it, don't sign the paper promising to pay what you cannot afford. In another place [Ecc.5:1-6] Solomon warns against defaulting on debts, because "God has no pleasure in fools," so pay your debts. Jesus said [Mat.5:36], and his brother James repeated [James 4:13-17] don't make promises you can't keep.
These first five verses are about not getting yourself into that position for somebody else [read v.1-5]
If you got yourself into this situation, get out quick. Do it now (if
I think it's interesting (but probably not theologically significant) the ants you see running around on your kitchen counter -- well, mine, anyway -- are all genetically female, and the Hebrew word here is female in form, long before they had any way to figure out the genetic sex of the ants. My NIV properly translates the female Hebrew pronouns (literally "her" and "she") into English "it" because in English ants are "it"s.
The point is, ants collect food when there is food to be collected, so the colony can survive during the months when it's too cold for them to go out foraging.
My NIV follows the King James in translating the Hebrew word 'etsel' ("lazy person") using the archaic word "sluggard" -- does anybody ever use that word other than quoting the Bible? At least we know what a slug is, so it's not hard to guess what "sluggard" might mean -- but the New Living Translation "lazybones" is much more accurate. Anyway, the word is repeated in verse 9 [read v.9-11]
Verses 10 & 11 are repeated almost exactly in 24:33,34 (a slight difference in three Hebrew words, two of them only different spelling of the same words, but exactly the same in my NIV translation, I don't know about others).
I used to say "Creative laziness is the foundation of civilization,"
while working a lot longer and harder to write a program to do something
that I could do in less time manually. Of course, once I had the program,
the next time I could just run the program and save all that effort. I
was pretty lazy as a kid, but being able to program my own computer basically
cured me. Maybe I still am lazy, but I try not to be.
The first two verses suggest to us nothing worse than somebody with a high opinion of themself, perhaps lazy or "worthless" but harmless. Verse 14, where such people are involved in deception and dissention, that's actual harm. The Lord God "cannot lie" [Heb.6:18] and Truth is a moral absolute (liars cannot be allowed into Heaven [Rev.21:8] because then it wouldn't be Heaven for the rest of us). Dissention I think is somewhat like "diplomacy, which is war by other means," and war is all about making life miserable for the other country. It's so bad, the Apostle Paul told his apprentice Pastor [Titus 3:10] to throw those people out of the church, after adequate warning. You always want people to repent (change their ways) rather than throw them out, but enough is enough -- that would be verse 15 here in our text.
At first I thought these next four verses are a separate topic -- or perhaps not a coherent topic at all (not even in poetic form) -- but verse 19 recapitulates verse 14, so you can see this as Hebrew poetry describing then Scoundrels aready introduced in the previous four verses [read v.16-19]
Verse 16 is a way of enumerating the items of a list, which we also see in Proverbs 30:15, 18, and 21, where the Poet begins with one less than the actual number, then repeats it undiminished. From the poetic form we see that the six and the seven represent the same number (seven), perhaps a way of gradually easing into it. These verses are all describing one Bad Person, the Scoundrel (Belial) of the previous four verses, with each idea mirroring the same idea in the previous four, so that the 4+4 forms a larger doublet with one topic, the Scoundrel.
Verse 17 has "haughty eyes" to match up with "winks with his eye" in verse 14, "a lying tongue" to match up with "a corrupt mouth" in verse 12, and "hands" matching "fingers in verse 13. Verse 18 has a "wicked heart" aligned with "evil ... in his heart" in verse 14, and "feet" matching verse 13. I already mentioned the "lies" and "dissension" in verse 19 matching "deceit" and "dissension" in verse 14.
Then in good chiastic form, the first four verses have the specifics
before the ensuing calamity in verse 15, while the second four have the
detestation by God (in the big picture, that would be a calamity ;-) in
verse 16 before the details in the other three verses. The structure is
there to emphasize how bad this is, don't go there.
Verse 20 bundles father and mother together for combined parental authority. We saw this first in 1:8, then again in 4:3. The same theme is repeated again nine more times, in 10:1, 15:20, 19:26, 20:20, 23:22,25, 28:24, and finally in 30:11,17.
Verse 21 combines heart and neck as recipients of Solomon's teaching, which we previously saw in 3:3. In other places other body parts are combined with the heart, but not so much with the neck. Remember, the heart is not the seat of emotions anywhere in the Bible (that came in the Middle Ages, a thousand or 2000 years later), the gut ("bowels" in King James, the NIV confusingly translates both into English as "heart"), in the Bible the heart is the generally seat of your will, sort of like the "backbone" or "spine" in English. A stiff neck in the Bible is a stubborn person refusing to Do The Right Thing, so it is closer to the heart in Biblical meaning. This verse is not giving you the modern advice "Follow your heart," but rather the opposite, "Do The Right Thing." Modern salesmen know that people usually "Buy on emotions, then justify with facts," but Solomon is advising his audience to do it the other way around.
This paragraph repeats some of what we saw in chapter 5, but using different words.
Solomon gives a graphic portrayal of the consequences of Doing It Wrong, it sort of makes me wonder if this is personal experience, or merely abstract wisdom from God.
I don't know what to add to what Solomon has already said. I see adultery portrayed in movies, and the guy who's been cuckolded always takes it very hard. For a while -- probably not in the last hundred years or so -- killing the perpetrator was not considered murder. Don't go there, you might get just as dead even if the wounded husband is convicted of killing you.
2022 August 15