Proverbs chapter 23

The collection of 30 sayings of the wise men continues.





VERSE 1. When you sit to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before you;


VERSE 2. put a knife to your throat, if you are a man given to appetite.

put a knife to your throat. This is a metaphor for self-restraint. In the presence of a ruler, be dignified. Eat like a statesman, not a glutton.


VERSE 3. Don’t be desirous of his dainties, since they are deceitful food.


VERSE 4. Don’t weary yourself to be rich. In your wisdom, show restraint.

NLT translation: Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit.

trying to get rich. People who are hot on the trail to get rich find that it engulfs all their time and energy. They almost never have time for spiritual pursuits.

Matthew 6:24. No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can’t serve both God and Mammon.


VERSE 5. Why do you set your eyes on that which is not? For it certainly sprouts wings like an eagle and flies in the sky.


VERSE 6. Don’t eat the food of him who has a stingy eye, and don’t crave his delicacies:


VERSE 7. for as he thinks about the cost, so he is. “Eat and drink!” he says to you, but his heart is not with you.

KJV translation: For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.

as a man thinks. This verse is often cited to indicate the importance of our thought life. The idea is that we will become what we think about. We will draw into our lives whatever we dwell upon. If we dwell upon success and wealth, they say, we will become successful and wealthy. If, on the other hand, we dwell on failure and ruin, we will see failure and ruin.

James Allen wrote a very famous book based on this verse. The famous movie, The Secret, has a similar teaching.

But this verse doesn’t actually teach those things. We can tell that when we look other translations. Every major translation says something like this: “as he thinks about the cost, so he is.” In other words, a stingy person’s heart is not with you.

Another way to see that this verse does not teach the things that James Allen and The Secret say is that the rest of the Bible doesn’t teach that. That’s called the “rule of context.” In this case, the “context” is the whole Bible.

When somebody quotes the Bible to promote a teaching that seems “off,” check the verse in the Bible. Read it in the context of the whole chapter.


VERSE 8. The morsel which you have eaten you shall vomit up, and lose your good words.


VERSE 9. Don’t speak in the ears of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.

NLT translation: Don’t waste your breath on fools, for they will despise the wisest advice.

waste your breath on fools. Narcissistic people are often brilliant and handsome and persuasive. But during the early years of their childhood, their human development ceased. Their personality remains that of an under-developed, immature child. Brilliant, handsome and persuasive, yes. But in the biblical sense, they behave as fools.


VERSE 10. Don’t move the ancient boundary stone. Don’t encroach on the fields of the fatherless:


VERSE 11. for their Defender is strong. He will plead their case against you.

NIV translation: Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter.

Rescue those being led away to death. There are real-world instances where people are being beaten to death. We could intervene to save their lives, although the risks to ourselves can be substantial.


VERSE 12. Apply your heart to instruction, and your ears to the words of knowledge.

NLT translation: Commit yourself to instruction; listen carefully to words of knowledge.

Commit yourself to instruction. For true growth, we need to make a commitment. By committing to some path or other, there will be some focused growth. Let’s consider four examples of important commitments:

a. Commitment to a Bible translation. There are a lot of great translations. But do you have a favorite? Are you familiar enough with the other ones so as to even have an opinion about it?

b. Commitment to Great Christian books. There are lots and lots of top-selling Christian books. Everybody thinks that new best-seller is essential to their spirituality. But will these books even be around in a decade or or two? A century? A millennium? Great Christian books have stood the test of time. And won. They are truly worth reading. In our Systematic Theology Project, we are reading the greatest theological books of all time, a few pages per day.

c. Commitment to a discipler. Do you have some seasoned disciple that you meet regularly, for further guidance in your spiritual life? Taking part in the Ministry of Discipleship is a key part of our growth as modern-day disciples of Jesus Christ.

d. Commitment to Spiritual friends. Perhaps you’re blessed with a spiritual friend or two. Having such people in your life is quite rare. They are a gift from God. How can you keep meeting them regularly?

listen carefully to words of knowledge. Do you listen to Bible-based preaching? Regularly? It says “carefully.” Do you take notes? Here is a great example of listening carefully to preaching:

Acts 17:11. Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. (NIV translation)


VERSE 13. Don’t withhold correction from a child. If you punish him with the rod, he will not die.


VERSE 14. Punish him with the rod, and save his soul from Sheol.


VERSE 15. My son, if your heart is wise, then my heart will be glad, even mine:


VERSE 16. yes, my heart will rejoice, when your lips speak what is right.

my heart will rejoice. When we hear people speak truth, we feel uplifted.


VERSE 17. Don’t let your heart envy sinners; but rather fear the LORD all day long.


VERSE 18. Indeed surely there is a future hope, and your hope will not be cut off.

there is a future hope. There is always hope:

Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the LORD, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future.


VERSE 19. Listen, my son, and be wise, and keep your heart on the right path!


VERSE 20. Don’t be among ones drinking too much wine, or those who gorge themselves on meat:

drinking too much wine. The Bible does not forbid the drinking of alcohol. But it simply warns us against excess.

Many religious people, especially Christians in the U.S., get this wrong. They imagine the Bible forbids alcohol, and they condemn people who  drink it.

The religious leaders objected to Jesus Christ because he drank alcohol.

Matthew 11:19. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

gorge themselves. The Bible does not forbid eating food. But it simply warns us against gluttony.

The religious leaders accused Jesus Christ of being a glutton:

Luke 7:34. The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man, and a drunkard; a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

These issues come up again and again in the Scriptures. Our spirituality is not based on denying pleasures. Rather, the joy of the LORD is our strength.

Some Christians have a sad face and a somber demeanor. We wish they could know the joy of their Lord. Holiness is marked by joy. Joy equals strength! Read more »


VERSE 21. for the drunkard and the glutton shall become poor; and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

Deuteronomy 21:20. They shall tell the elders of his city, “This our son is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey our voice. He is a glutton and a drunkard.”

Proverbs 23:21. for the drunkard and the glutton shall become poor; and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

Matthew 11:19. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by her children.”

Luke 7:34. The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man, and a drunkard; a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’


VERSE 22. Listen to your father who gave you life, and don’t despise your mother when she is old.

Listen to your father. The author assumes the father is wise. However, that is often not the case. Many foolish men become fathers, and their children should not listen to them,

don’t despise your mother. The author assumes the mother is wise. However, that too is often not the case. Many foolish women become mothers, and their children should not listen to them.


VERSE 23. Buy the truth, and don’t sell it. Get wisdom, discipline, and understanding.

Buy the truth. That is, buy into the truth. Accept it.


VERSE 24. The father of the righteous has great joy. Whoever fathers a wise child delights in him.


VERSE 25. Let your father and your mother be glad! Let her who bore you rejoice!


VERSE 26. My son, give me your heart; and let your eyes keep in my ways.


VERSE 27. For a prostitute is a deep pit; and a wayward wife is a narrow well.

A prostitute . . . a wayward wife. In those days, if a man fell into a sexual sin, he blamed the woman. A man who does that is a coward. A man should “be a man” and take responsibility for his own actions. The last thing he should do is blame someone else for his own actions.


VERSE 28. Yes, she lies in wait like a robber, and increases the unfaithful among men.


VERSE 29. Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?


VERSE 30. Those who stay long at the wine; those who go to seek out mixed wine.


VERSE 31. Don’t look at the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly.

Don’t look at the wine. Some people are strongly tempted to get drunk. If that is you, don’t even look at alcohol.


VERSE 32. In the end, it bites like a snake, and poisons like a viper.

it bites like a snake. Some people are easily addicted to alcohol. Then their life is ruined.


VERSE 33. Your eyes will see strange things, and your mind will imagine confusing things.

see strange things. Sometimes people hallucinate when they are drunk. Or high on drugs.


VERSE 34. Yes, you will be as he who lies down in the middle of the sea, or as he who lies on top of the rigging:


VERSE 35. “They hit me, and I was not hurt! They beat me, and I don’t feel it! When will I wake up? I can do it again. I can find another.”


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Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.


Author: todd

At Explore the Faith, I share insights into the Bible and theological writings. If you like what I write, become my partner by donating. Help me reach the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.