Bible Book List

Proverbs 23New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Chapter 23

[a]When you sit down to dine with a ruler,
    mark well the one who is before you;
Stick the knife in your gullet[b]
    if you have a ravenous appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies;
    it is food that deceives.
Do not wear yourself out to gain wealth,
    cease to be worried about it;
When your glance flits to it, it is gone!
    For assuredly it grows wings,
    like the eagle that flies toward heaven.[c]
[d]Do not take food with unwilling hosts,
    and do not desire their delicacies;
For like something stuck in the throat is that food.
“Eat and drink,” they say to you,
    but their hearts are not with you;
The little you have eaten you will vomit up,
    and you will have wasted your agreeable words.
Do not speak in the hearing of fools;
    they will despise the wisdom of your words.
10 Do not remove the ancient landmark,
    nor invade the fields of the fatherless;[e]
11 For their redeemer is strong;
    he will defend their cause against you.
12 Apply your heart to instruction,
    and your ear to words of knowledge.
13 [f]Do not withhold discipline from youths;
    if you beat them with the rod, they will not die.
14 Beat them with the rod,
    and you will save them from Sheol.
15 My son, if your heart is wise,
    my heart also will rejoice;
16 And my inmost being will exult,
    when your lips speak what is right.
17 Do not let your heart envy sinners,
    but only those who always fear the Lord;[g]
18 For you will surely have a future,
    and your hope will not be cut off.
19 Hear, my son, and be wise,
    and guide your heart in the right way.
20 Do not join with wine bibbers,
    nor with those who glut themselves on meat.
21 For drunkards and gluttons come to poverty,
    and lazing about clothes one in rags.
22 [h]Listen to your father who begot you,
    do not despise your mother when she is old.
23 Buy truth and do not sell:
    wisdom, instruction, understanding!
24 The father of a just person will exult greatly;
    whoever begets a wise son will rejoice in him.
25 Let your father and mother rejoice;
    let her who bore you exult.
26 [i]My son, give me your heart,
    and let your eyes keep to my ways,
27 For the harlot is a deep pit,
    and the foreign woman a narrow well;
28 Yes, she lies in wait like a robber,
    and increases the number of the faithless.
29 [j]Who scream? Who shout?
    Who have strife? Who have anxiety?
Who have wounds for nothing?
    Who have bleary eyes?
30 Whoever linger long over wine,
    whoever go around quaffing wine.
31 Do not look on the wine when it is red,
    when it sparkles in the cup.
It goes down smoothly,
32     but in the end it bites like a serpent,
    and stings like an adder.
33 Your eyes behold strange sights,
    and your heart utters incoherent things;
34 You are like one sleeping on the high seas,
    sprawled at the top of the mast.
35 “They struck me, but it did not pain me;
    they beat me, but I did not feel it.
When can I get up,
    when can I go out and get more?”[k]


  1. 23:1–9 Four admonitions for someone aspiring to be a sage: be careful about advancing your career by socializing with the great (vv. 1–3); avoid greed (vv. 4–5); do not force yourself on an unwilling host (vv. 6–8); do not waste your wisdom on those who cannot profit from it (v. 9).
  2. 23:2 Stick the knife in your gullet: a metaphor for self-restraint. The usual translation, “Put a knife to your throat,” is misleading, for in English it is a death threat. The exhortation is humorously exaggerated: stick the table-knife in your own gullet rather than take too much food. It assumes that the young courtier is unused to opulent banquets and will be tempted to overindulgence.
  3. 23:5 The frustration of covetous intent and elusiveness of wealth are portrayed by the sudden flight of an eagle. Amenemope, chap. 7, has a similar statement: “Do not set your heart on wealth. There is no ignoring Fate and Destiny; / Do not let your heart go straying.” Proverbs imagines covetous intent as a flight of the eyes, whereas Amenemope imagines it as a straying of the heart.
  4. 23:6–8 Some humorous advice on not trading on the courtesy of unwilling hosts who, for convention’s sake, use the language of welcome. Amenemope, chap. 11, gives similar advice: “Do not intrude on a man in his house, / Enter when you have been called; / He may say ‘Welcome’ with his mouth, / Yet deride you in his thoughts.” “Unwilling,” lit., “evil of eye,” is usually translated “stingy,” but the context suggests unwilling. In v. 8, the unwanted guest vomits up the food, thus destroying the desired good impression. Proverbs regards the uninvited banqueters as thieves who will suffer the consequences of their theft. Amenemope, chap. 11, is relevant: “Do not covet a poor man’s goods,…A poor man’s goods are a block in the throat, / It makes the gullet vomit.”
  5. 23:10 In Israel ownership of property and other legal rights were vested mainly in the father as head of the family; thus the widow and fatherless child were vulnerable, left prey to those who would exploit them.
  6. 23:13–14 The young will not die from instructional blows but from their absence, for (premature) death results from uncorrected folly. The sardonic humor means the exhortation is not to be taken literally, as an argument for corporal punishment. The next verses (vv. 15–16) are exceedingly tender toward the young.
  7. 23:17 Those whom one admires or associates with exercise enormous influence. Do not join the wicked, who are a doomed group. The warning is repeated in 24:1–2, 19–20.
  8. 23:22–23 Father and mother are associated with truth and wisdom. One should no more rid oneself of truth and wisdom than rid oneself of one’s parents, who are their source.
  9. 23:26–28 The exhortation is a condensed version of chap. 7 with its emotional appeal to “my son” to avoid the forbidden woman (7:1–5), her traps (7:21–23), and her intent to add the youth to her list of victims (7:24–27). As in 23:15, 19, 22, a trustful and affectionate relationship between student and teacher is the basis of teaching. The danger of the woman is expressed in imagery that has sexual overtones (cf. 22:14).
  10. 23:29–35 A vivid description of the evil effects, physical and psychological, of drunkenness. The emphasis is on the unwise behavior, the folly, caused by alcohol. Cf. 20:1.
  11. 23:35 Drunkards become insensible to bodily and moral harm. Their one desire is to indulge again.
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.


1 of 1

You'll get this book and many others when you join Bible Gateway Plus. Learn more

Viewing of
Cross references