By Vexen Crabtree 2012
Christians were once adamant that the book of Proverbs was written by Solomon, but, the various parts of Proverbs date from such a range of dates, and, other historical evidence has led academics almost universally away from the belief that Solomon was the author. The first nine chapters are philosophical in nature, and the last twelve chapters are a long series of sayings drawn from Jewish and Mesopotamian culture. The book of Proverbs reached its finished editions around the 5th century BCE.
BibleSummary.Info: A little slumber, and poverty will come like a bandit. A scoundrel sows discord. My son, a man who commits adultery destroys himself.1
Vexen Crabtree: Some life advice. Although very short, Proverbs is highly contradictory, and teaches dubious morals.
Proverbs 6 makes little sense. It argues that to promise your word is to be trapped and that a good way out of this is to engage in mutual sleep deprivation between you and your friend. Ant-watching is good for lazy people despite the fact that ants organize mostly into war-waging tribes and food-stealing crime syndicates. It erroneously states that ants don't have leaders. It contradicts several verses from Matthew and Luke in a denial of universalism. In a list of 7 things God detests, Proverbs 6 manages to list the same thing twice, and, contradicts several of the sayings of Jesus. It manages to argue against adultery on the grounds of avoiding the consequences, rather than on the grounds of morality. Proverbs 6 makes sense when it warns that lazy people will become economically poor.
|1||My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger,||My son! if thou hast been surety for thy friend, Hast stricken for a stranger thy hand,|
If you have trapped yourself "with your word" - i.e. by making a promise, agreeing to a deal, then you are "snared". To get out of it, you have to not sleep, strengthen your friend, and prevent your neighbour from sleeping too. This way, you can escape, like a roe or a bird from the hand of a carer! People can run themselves in circles trying to work out what this means: its obscurity means that people tend to read into it (exegesis) what they already believe correct behaviour should be.
|2||Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.||Hast been snared with sayings of thy mouth, Hast been captured with sayings of thy mouth,|
|3||Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend.||Do this now, my son, and be delivered, For thou hast come into the hand of thy friend. Go, trample on thyself, and strengthen thy friend,|
|4||Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids.||Give not sleep to thine eyes, And slumber to thine eyelids,|
|5||Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.||Be delivered as a roe from the hand, And as a bird from the hand of a fowler.|
|6||Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:||Go unto the ant, O slothful one, See her ways and be wise;|
In other words... lazy people should be working together with others, gathering food wherever they find it (including stealing from people's kitchens), and otherwise be patrolling their grounds and waging war with neighbouring tribes. This type of horrible cabal is otherwise known as a crime syndicate! Lazy people should, says Proverbs 6:6, live in a structured dictatorship where slaves and soldiers have clearly defined roles, and all work for the Queen. This is against other verses in the NT that say women shouldn't have power over men!
|7||Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,||Which hath not captain, overseer, and ruler,|
|8||Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.||She doth prepare in summer her bread, She hath gathered in harvest her food.|
This dubious teaching is followed by a basic mistake; for Proverbs 6:7-8 continues to talk about the ant, saying "It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest". The gatherer of food is the worker ant, which certainly does have a commander and overseer: The Queen ant! This ant commands the colony alone, using chemical signals, and does not put up with competition. If you don't think the Queen's control is direct enough, then, you must at least admit that all the worker ants follow a strict instinct which is set in stone in the Queen's DNA and expressed by the worker ants. The queen, directly or indirectly, commands the instincts and behaviour of the hive!
|9||How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?||Till when, O slothful one, dost thou lie? When dost thou arise from thy sleep?|
In a sea of nonsense, the author of Proverbs 6 finally hits upon something with which it is hard to disagree.
|10||Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:||A little sleep, a little slumber, A little clasping of the hands to rest,|
|11||So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.||And thy poverty hath come as a traveller, And thy want as an armed man.|
|12||A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth.||A man of worthlessness, a man of iniquity, Walking `with' perverseness of mouth,|
After a lifetime of mischief, Judgement will suddenly come, and this type of troublesome person will experience calamity in the hands of God (i.e., hell), with no chance for healing or redemption. This contradicts the idea of Universalism which is upheld in other parts of the Bible.
Proverbs 6:12-15 is mentioned on Universalism: If there is a Good God, Everyone Must Go to Heaven: 8. Christian Arguments for Universalism
Proverbs 6:12-15 is mentioned on Christian Universalism in Matthew and Luke: Parables of the Vineyard Workers and the Lost Sheep: 1. Scripture Sometimes Presents a Universal Salvation for All, and Sometimes Only a Select Salvation for Some
|13||He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers;||Winking with his eyes, speaking with his feet, Directing with his fingers,|
|14||Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord.||Frowardness `is' in his heart, devising evil at all times, Contentions he sendeth forth.|
|15||Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.||Therefore suddenly cometh his calamity, Instantly he is broken -- and no healing.|
Within the Context of Universalism:
No Universalism: Matt 20:1-16 presents a God that will only reward some people, and unequally so. Proverbs 6:12-15 says that a person devoted to mischief has no chance of healing. Luke 17:20-32 is the same; those who look back at the unsaved will themselves be punished, like Lot's wife (Genesis 19:23-26) and Revelation 20:10 shows us that some beings will be punished forever. Therefore, there are unsaved people even at the time when God's Kingdom is finally victorious. Likewise the parable found in Matthew 25:1-12 indicates that those who do not prepare for the big event will find that "the door is shut" and God no longer knows them. St Paul teaches the same: If you worship the wrong god, then, you cannot enter heaven, and nor can "whoremongers, unclean persons, nor covetous men" (Ephesians 5:5). Hence, the Bible presents a non-Universalist theology and many Christian organisations have taught a very strict doctrine of select salvation.
Universalism: The Bible wasn't written with any particular theology of salvation in mind. There are plenty of verses and stories where salvation is universal and not selective. Universalism has long been a feature of Christianity. The parable of the Vineyard in Matthew 20:1-16 and of the Lost Sheep in Matthew 12:11; Matthew 18:11-14 and Luke 15:4-7, all portray a God who patiently and tirelessly works until every individual is saved. Romans 2:4 states that God intends on saving everyone - "God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance" [NIV]. As God is all-powerful and perfect, God's intentions are of course made real. Also, Philemon 2:10 says that all will be converted to Christianity (although doesn't say they're all saved) but Luke 3:5 says that even the crooked will be made straight. The great Christian Origen in the third century preached universalism during centuries when Christianity was more varied and interesting. He held in particular that even Satan would be saved eventually. He was condemned by the Council of Constantinople in 543CE but his 'heresy' of Universalism lived on. The Anabaptists held this view too.
Contradictory Ideas: The authors of the Bible did not have a systematic system worked-out; they themselves had different ideas about what was required for salvation and when the wrote the stories, they included their own ideas in them. Since the very beginnings, some Christians have gone one way (the nice way - universalism!), some go the other way (selective salvation).
|16||These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:||These six hath Jehovah hated, Yea, seven `are' abominations to His soul.|
|17||A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,||Eyes high -- tongues false -- And hands shedding innocent blood --|
|18||An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,||A heart devising thoughts of vanity -- Feet hasting to run to evil --|
|19||A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.||A false witness `who' doth breathe out lies -- And one sending forth contentions between brethren.|
God detests 7 things: those with haughty eyes, liars, those who shed innocent blood, evil schemers, evil-doers, liars, those who cause conflict in the community. (You may notice that 'liars' appeared twice in the list; I'm not sure the author of Proverbs 6 had his head screwed on!). God clearly doesn't hate all those who cause conflict in the community: For Jesus himself said in Matthew 10:34-37 that he comes "to set a man at variance against his father, and daughter against her mother" and more. In Luke 12:51-53 Jesus says a similar thing, saying he is on Earth to bring not peace, but division, dividing up families.
|20||My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:||Keep, my son, the command of thy father, And leave not the law of thy mother.|
The writer of Proverbs 6 finally sings a little sense! However the reasons given for not sleeping with the neighbour's wife are not moral ones. They are to do with protecting one's own skin: "For jealousy arouses a husband´s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge". Nowhere does it say that adultery is morally wrong, merely, that it brings negative consequences. Even if you accept that parts of Proverbs 6 are saying that your salvation is in danger if you commit adultery, as well as your physical life, the reasons given are purely practical rather than moral.
The idea that the avoidance of retribution is the be-all and end-all of religious morals is used by atheists to criticize the Christian, and theists, approach to morality.
If I am threatened into behaving in a good manner then I am at best amoral, because I am not acting with free will. If you believe that a supreme god is going to punish you (in hell) or deny you life (annihilation) if you misbehave, it is like being permanently threatened into behaving well. In addition, if you believe there is some great reward for behaving well, then your motives for good behavior are more selfish. An atheist who does not believe in heaven and hell is potentially more moral, for (s)he acts without these added factors. Most atheists who do not believe in divine judgement, and most theists who do, both act morally. Some of both groups act consistently immorally. The claim that belief in God is essential or aids moral behavior is wrong, and any amusing theistic claim that they have "better" morals, despite acting under a reward and punishment system, is deeply questionable. Who is more moral? Those who act for the sake of goodness itself, or those who do good acts under the belief that failure to do so results in hell?
Proverbs 6 is perfect ammunition for such an argument, basing its argument on why you shouldn't commit adultery purely on the negative consequences to your self, rather than even mentioning the pain and anguish you cause to the people involved!
Proverbs 6:20-35 is referenced on Do We Need Religion to Have Good Morals?: 1.2. Rewards and Punishment
|21||Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.||Bind them on thy heart continually, Tie them on thy neck.|
|22||When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.||In thy going up and down, it leadeth thee, In thy lying down, it watcheth over thee, And thou hast awaked -- it talketh `with' thee.|
|23||For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:||For a lamp `is' the command, And the law a light, And a way of life `are' reproofs of instruction,|
|24||To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.||To preserve thee from an evil woman, From the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.|
|25||Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.||Desire not her beauty in thy heart, And let her not take thee with her eyelids.|
|26||For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adultress will hunt for the precious life.||For a harlot consumeth unto a cake of bread, And an adulteress the precious soul hunteth.|
|27||Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?||Doth a man take fire into his bosom, And are his garments not burnt?|
|28||Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?||Doth a man walk on the hot coals, And are his feet not scorched?|
|29||So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent.||So `is' he who hath gone in unto the wife of his neighbour, None who doth touch her is innocent.|
|30||Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;||They do not despise the thief, When he stealeth to fill his soul when he is hungry,|
|31||But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.||And being found he repayeth sevenfold, All the substance of his house he giveth.|
|32||But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.||He who committeth adultery `with' a woman lacketh heart, He is destroying his soul who doth it.|
|33||A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.||A stroke and shame he doth find, And his reproach is not wiped away,|
|34||For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.||For jealousy `is' the fury of a man, And he doth not spare in a day of vengeance.|
|35||He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.||He accepteth not the appearance of any atonement, Yea, he doth not consent, Though thou dost multiply bribes!|
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