Biblical References: Proverbs 6-7
Leading Question: When can we know that a duty is a matter of life and death?”
Note: In Proverbs 7, “commands” are directly linked with warnings against adultery. In Proverbs, adultery is presented as the life and death issue. Other issues are seen as less important. For the vividness of the adultery warning, see 2:16 – 19; 6:20 – 35; 7:1-27. Here we cite the most forceful passage, 7:1-5 (NIV):
7:1 My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. 2 Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. 3 Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and to insight, “You are my relative.” 5 They will keep you from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words.
1. Compassion vs. the practical dangers of becoming surety for someone else. Several times Proverbs warns against the danger of putting up security for someone (6:1-5; 11:15; 17:18; 22:26, 27). Are there times when Christian compassion could make an exception if a person or family was in genuine need? Prov. 6:1-5 is perhaps the most vivid warning:
6:1 (NIV): My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, 2 you have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth. 3 So do this, my son, to free yourself, since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands: Go—to the point of exhaustion— and give your neighbor no rest! 4 Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids. 5 Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.
2. Seven things the Lord hates (secular vs. religious objections?). Can we rank them? The list of seven abominations that the Lord hates invites our analysis from two perspectives:
1) Would secularists and members of other faith communities also recognize these seven issues as being serious?
2) Could we put these items in some kind of hierarchy? Are some sins more serious than others?
6:16 There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, 19 a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (NIV)
3. A hierarchy of values. In Proverbs 6, two “sins” are considered less serious than the sin of adultery: prostitution and stealing. Here are the passages:
6:26 For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another man’s wife preys on your very life.
6:30 People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving. 31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold, though it costs him all the wealth of his house. 32 But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself. 33 Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away. 34 For jealousy arouses a husband’s fury, and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge. 35 He will not accept any compensation; he will refuse a bribe, however great it is.
Note on adultery: Old Testament scholars often summarize the OT view of marriage and adultery as follows: A woman can only sin against her own marriage, a man can only sin against someone else’s. While the OT indicates that dallying with prostitutes is not advisable, a married man does not formally jeopardize his own marriage if he consorts with a prostitute. But if he is involved with a married woman, i.e. a woman who is bound to another man by a promise, the matter is serious indeed. Though there is no record in the Old Testament of the death penalty being applied in the case of adultery, the practical consequences (according to Proverbs) are serious indeed. And that is illustrated in the case of King David.. Though the death penalty was not enforced against the king, the narrative in Samuel-Kings makes it clear that David’s adultery destroyed the king’s moral authority in his own family.