Proverbs 6 – The 7 Deadly Sins?

You may have heard of the 7 Deadly Sins. While these from the Catholic tradition are not specifically laid out in the Bible, the 6th chapter of Proverbs contains a curious list of seven things which God hates, one even being an abomination. ◊

A popular Bible reading practice for many people today is to read one Proverbs chapter every day. As there are 31 Proverbs chapters, and each one is less than 35 verses, one can read all the Proverbs in one month and then reread them throughout the year. So if you’re starting your new year with this reading practice, you would have read Proverbs chapter 6 this past week.

Did you notice the list of 7 sins in Chapter 6?

This is actually not to be confused with what in the Catholic tradition is referred to as the “7 Deadly Sins.” Those seven sins are pride, envy, gluttony, lust, anger, greed, and sloth. This list was first delineated by Pope Gregory the Great in the 6th century and then later expounded upon by Thomas Aquinas in thirteenth century. In the fourteenth century, Dante further immortalized them in his epic poem Inferno in which he pictured Purgatory as having seven terraces corresponding to the seven deadly sins.1

The 6th chapter of Proverbs has a completely different list of 7 sins which God hates, with one being an abomination to Him. These sins are set out in the middle of a chapter which continues with stark warnings about human conduct with neighbors and in marriage.

A Father’s Warnings 
Proverbs 6 continues with King Solomon’s wise counsel to his son. He has just concluded a chapter on warnings against sexual unchastity to experience marital blessings and joys with the wife of your youth.  Now in chapter 6, he covers very practical grounds with warnings about indebtedness to others, avoiding a life of idleness and one that sows discord. The latter being even an abomination to God when compared to six additional human practices which God hates. Finally, he delivers a stern warning against the corrupting foolishness of adultery.

These are actually very stern warnings to a young man and culture that would have been gravely understood and diligently heeded in Solomon’s time. At least with sincere conviction and effort. How unfortunate today these warnings seem so heavy-handed and even quaint against a cultural backdrop that dismisses that which God so clearly presents as abhorrent.

May we take note of these warnings and see them with new eyes in the context of a loving, just, holy, and infinitely patient God.

Warning Against Obligations and Laziness 
The opening lines of this chapter are warnings against suretyship or indebtedness to others. Here suretyship means any debt or obligation that holds one indebted to another person or neighbor. The simple application is not so much about financial lending, but about being in debt or obligation to anyone who would have power or control over you:

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger, you have been trapped…have fallen into your neighbor’s hands…Go…Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter… (Proverbs 6:1-5)

Next comes a warning against idleness or laziness:

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard?…poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man. (Proverbs 6:6-11)

Warning Against Seven Sins
Then Solomon clearly spells out good and bad character and behavior. There is no getting around the simplicity of message in terms of how we should behave among our fellow man:

A troublemaker and a villain, who goes about with a corrupt mouth…who plots evil with deceit in his heart—he always stirs up conflict. Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant; he will suddenly be destroyed…

There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community. (Proverbs 6:12-19)

God has disdain for what we all have disdain for in other people. The 7th sin – an abomination to God, is the troublemaker in verses 12-15 and verse 19 who sows discord among his/her fellow man.

Warnings Against Adultery
Finally, in the context of this behavioral sin against one another, the recurring theme of obedience and adherence to these Biblical teachings is punctuated by a clear call for marital fidelity. This issue occupies the whole second half of this chapter:

My son, keep your father’s command…For this command is a lamp, this teaching is a light, and correction and instruction are the way to life, keeping you from your neighbor’s wife, from the smooth talk of a wayward woman.

Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes. For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another man’s wife preys on your very life.a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself… (Proverbs 6:20-35)

A sober ending while providing insights about God who loves us in spite of our sinful ways. While we’ve been given clear instructions, we’ve turned them into moral platitudes without weight or meaningful impact. But it’s not too late for any of us who humbly come into the presence of our forgiving God who calls us back to obedience while providing a route to restoration and eternal salvation.

How’s your moral behavior?
My son, keep your father’s commandment, and forsake not your mother’s teaching. Bind them upon you heart always; tie them about your neck. – Proverbs 6:20-21

1 What are the Seven Deadly Sins?, in

Categories: Abundant Living, Devotion, Discipleship, Evil, Faith, Fathering, Marriage

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