Proverbs 6 has four distinct sections, on financial prudence (Proverbs 6:1–3), diligence (Proverbs 6:6–11), troublemakers (Proverbs 6:12–19), and adultery (Proverbs 6:20–35).
Verses 1–3 urge the son to be prudent in financial affairs. Entering an agreement to be a guarantor for a neighbour’s debt (Proverbs 6:1) means becoming responsible for another person’s foolish choices; such an agreement is a trap (Proverbs 6:2; see Proverbs 17:18). The father urges the son to lose no time and spare no effort in liberating himself from this snare (Proverbs 6:3–5).
Verses 6–11 urge the son to observe the ant and learn diligence from it. The industrious ant is a model of wise activity (Proverbs 6:6–8; see Proverbs 30:25); its hard work (Proverbs 6:6–7) is contrasted with the sluggard who finds every excuse to rest (Proverbs 6:10; see also Proverbs 24:30–34). One results in ample provision (Proverbs 6:8) while the other results in scarcity (Proverbs 6:11).
Verses 12–19 warn against the wicked and the troublemaker, who has a perverse mouth (Proverbs 6:12) and devious behaviour that come from evil intentions (Proverbs 6:13–14); such a person will ultimately be destroyed (Proverbs 6:15). In this context, the writer introduces seven things which God hates (Proverbs 6:16–19). Heading the list is pride; note that wickedness includes works of the hands, feet, tongue, and heart. Finally, we are told that God detests the one who “stirs up conflict in the community” (Proverbs 6:19).
The final section, verses 20–35, stresses the vital importance of resisting adultery, a repetition of the warnings given in Proverbs 5 to 7. The writer makes it clear that adultery is a process that begins with lustful eyes (Proverbs 6:25), and also notes that while relations with a prostitute (Proverbs 6:26), bought with the equivalent of a loaf of bread, are bad enough, taking another man’s wife—even if it’s at her initiative (Proverbs 6:26)—is even worse.
This chapter’s warning against adultery stresses the consequences of adultery more than in previous chapters. The author warns: “Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched? So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished” (Proverbs 6:27–29). While theft may be understood when there are desperate circumstances (Proverbs 6:30–31), adultery will earn nothing but destruction (Proverbs 6:32), shame, and disgrace (Proverbs 6:33), as well as a husband’s fury (Proverbs 6:34).
Note that in a civil society, an adulterer is to be named and shamed (Proverbs 6:33). Any other response is indicative of a society’s decadent attitude of compromise and tolerance.