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Proverbs 6:20-35 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Warning Against Adultery[a]

20 Observe, my son, your father’s command,
    and do not reject your mother’s teaching;
21 Keep them fastened over your heart always,
    tie them around your neck.
22 When you lie down they[b] will watch over you,
    when you wake, they will share your concerns;
    wherever you turn, they will guide you.
23 For the command is a lamp, and the teaching a light,
    and a way to life are the reproofs that discipline,
24 Keeping you from another’s wife,
    from the smooth tongue of the foreign woman.
25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty,
    do not let her captivate you with her glance!
26 For the price of a harlot
    may be scarcely a loaf of bread,
But a married woman
    is a trap for your precious life.
27 [c]Can a man take embers into his bosom,
    and his garments not be burned?
28 Or can a man walk on live coals,
    and his feet not be scorched?
29 So with him who sleeps with another’s wife—
    none who touches her shall go unpunished.
30 Thieves are not despised
    if out of hunger they steal to satisfy their appetite.
31 Yet if caught they must pay back sevenfold,
    yield up all the wealth of their house.
32 But those who commit adultery have no sense;
    those who do it destroy themselves.
33 [d]They will be beaten and disgraced,
    and their shame will not be wiped away;
34 For passion enrages the husband,
    he will have no pity on the day of vengeance;
35 He will not consider any restitution,
    nor be satisfied by your many bribes.


  1. 6:20–35

    The second of three instructions on adultery (5:1–23; 6:20–35; and chap. 7). The instructions assume that wisdom will protect one from adultery and its consequences: loss of property and danger to one’s person. In this poem, the father and the mother urge their son to keep their teaching constantly before his eyes. The teaching will light his way and make it a path to life (v. 23). The teaching will preserve him from the adulterous woman who is far more dangerous than a prostitute. Prostitutes may cost one money, but having an affair with someone else’s wife puts one in grave danger. The poem bluntly urges self-interest as a motive to refrain from adultery.

    The poem has three parts. I (vv. 20–24, ten lines), in which v. 23 repeats “command” and “teaching” of v. 20 and “keeping” in v. 24 completes the fixed pair initiated by “observe” in v. 20; II (vv. 25–29, ten lines) is a self-contained argument comparing the costs of a liaison with a prostitute and a married woman; III (vv. 30–35, twelve lines) draws conclusions from the comparison of adultery with theft: the latter involves property only but adultery destroys one’s name and very self. The best protection against such a woman is heeding parental instruction, which is to be kept vividly before one’s eyes like a written tablet.

  2. 6:22 They: Heb. has “she.” If this verse is not out of place, then the antecedent of “she” is command (v. 20), or perhaps wisdom.
  3. 6:27–29 There is a play on three words of similar sound, ’îsh, “man,” ’ishshâ, “woman,” and ’ēsh, “fire, embers.” The question, “Can a man (’îsh) take embers (’ēsh) into his bosom / and his garments not be burned?”, has a double meaning. “Into his bosom” has an erotic meaning as in the phrase “wife of one’s bosom” (Dt 13:6; 28:54; Sir 9:1). Hence one will destroy one’s garments, which symbolize one’s public position, by taking fire/another’s wife into one’s bosom.
  4. 6:33–35 The nature of the husband’s vengeance is disputed, some believing it is simply a physical beating whereas others hold it is public and involves the death penalty because Lv 20:20 and Dt 22:22 demand the death penalty.
New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.


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