Question:

In Proverbs 6:26, what does reducing a man to a piece of bread mean? Does this mean the appearance of a relationship, friendship, and love is so shallow that the reality is the man is viewed as nothing more than an object by which to make money. All thoughts of the man as a human being are gone. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Old Testament p. 918 has a different view. It says this means that sinning with prostitutes is costly, and it can reduce a man to having only a loaf of bread. Which is the correct interpretation?


Answer:

"For by means of a harlot a man is reduced to a crust of bread; and an adulteress will prey upon his precious life. Can a man take fire to his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one walk on hot coals, and his feet not be seared? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; whoever touches her shall not be innocent" (Proverbs 6:26-29 NKJV).

"For on account of a harlot one is reduced to a loaf of bread, and an adulteress hunts for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned? Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?" (Proverbs 6:26-28 NAS95)

I quoted two different translations of this passage to show that Hebrew is vague enough that it can be translated either way. I think the New American Standard translation fits better with the context.

There are a lot of excuses people give themselves as to why they had to commit sexual sin. A guy will visit a prostitute or an adulteress because he is lonely. He can pretend that she really cares about him. She'll listen to his tales of woe, hold him comfortingly -- at least until the sex is done. But Solomon's point is that these types of women don't care about the men they have sex with. The guy is just a way of putting bread on the table. The parallel statement makes the same point. The hunter doesn't search out prey because he cares. The prey is simply the means to the next meal.

Proverbs 6:27 addresses another excuse. How often do you hear someone say, "But I love her!" Solomon's point is that your feelings toward an immoral woman doesn't change who she is or the sin you are committing. You can show a hot coal all the affection you want. You can cuddle it and dote on it and it will still burn you. Your kindness to it doesn't change its nature.

Proverbs 6:28 addresses the excuse, "But I didn't mean for it to go this far!" Using the same example of a hot coal, if you walk on it, it will burn you. You can apologize and say you didn't mean to step on it, but you'll still be hurt because your intentions doesn't change what it is.

Thus, it is when fornication or adultery is committed. You can make all the excuses you want, but the fact is that those excuses don't change the nature of what sex is. Those who engage in it are not innocent.