Proverbs 23:35

They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.
– Proverbs 23:35

The saying concludes with the words of the drunkard. It’s a pathetic picture of the self-destruction a man is brought to who indulges and feeds his addictions and compulsions. The drunkard is senseless and painless toward all remedial efforts. He says, “I was not sick,” and, “I felt it not.” The drunkard is truly a particular type of fool, heedless of correction (Proverbs 27:22). In true proverbial fashion, he says, “I will seek it yet again.” The fool who will not learn wisdom, will only continue on hardened against correction and senseless of the consequences (Proverbs 26:11).

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Proverbs 23:34

Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.
– Proverbs 23:34

This verse continues the ill effects of intoxication. It describes drunkenness and the resulting dizziness and sickness. Though man stand upon the earth, drunkenness makes him feel tossed about on the sea.

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Proverbs 23:33

Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
– Proverbs 23:33

This verse continues with the effects of excessive drinking. One’s perception of reality and judgment are impaired. Kings and leaders are not to be indulgent drinkers because they need soberness of mind not to pervert justice (Proverbs 31:5; 1 Timothy 3:3). Of course, wine and strong drink are not the only mind altering substances. The first phrase speaks of the eyes, as in what will attract your attention while under the influence that you would not otherwise consider. The second phrase speaks of the heart, or mind, and what you utter, or speak. Clearly, under the influence of intoxicating drinks, you will think, say, and do things you would not when thinking clearly.

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Proverbs 23:32

At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
– Proverbs 23:32

Wisdom typically looks to the end of a way, or the outcome of a course of action. The previous verse exposed drunkenness’ beginnings and this verse its endings. Excessive indulgence in wine is compared to bites from venomous snakes. Whatever good and pleasure was perceived in wine, the abuse of it has done away with it. Again, the warning against drunkenness is much like the warning against the strange woman (Proverbs 5:3-4, 11).

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Proverbs 23:31

Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
– Proverbs 23:31

Verse 31 begins direct warning against drunkenness. The warning starts where drunkenness, and other sins, start. This verse describes wine in an appealing and tempting way. The word for look means to see, consider, and inspect. Wisdom understands the way of temptation and sinful actions and consequences result from a chain of decisions within. Consider the young simpleton in Proverbs 7:1-27, and though his actions seem impulsive, it is clear his sin worked from inside out. Wisdom warns not to look on, or fantasize about the drink. The warning here is much like the warning to avoid strange women (Proverbs 5:8; 6:25; 7:25) and evil men (Proverbs 4:14-15).

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Proverbs 23:30

They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
– Proverbs 23:30

Verse 30 answers the riddled verse 29. The word for tarry long means to loiter, or stay. It describes on who is constantly drinking wine and being drunk. The word for wine refers to fermented drinks, which are intoxicating (See commentary Proverbs 20:1). The word for mixed wine means a mixture. This wine could have various ingredients added to it, typically to increase its potency (Proverbs 9:2). This fits with the context of the saying. Abusing substances such as alcohol does increase the tolerance to the substance and stronger substances have to be sought.

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Proverbs 23:29

Who hath woe? Who hath sorrow? Who hath contentions? Who hath babbling? Who hath wounds without cause? Who hath redness of eyes?
– Proverbs 23:29

Verses 29-35 form the last saying in this chapter and it is a character study of the drunkard. The saying begins with a riddle that will be answered in the next verse. We are presented with six questions describing a deplorable condition. The word for woe means a lamentation, or a cry of grief. The word for sorrow means an exclamation of pain. The word for contentions means strife, or arguments. The word for babbling means complaining. The word for wounds means injuries. They are without cause, meaning for no reason and indicating the unjust suffering of the complainer. The word for redness describes bleariness, or eyes appearing tired and bloodshot. The sketch pictures one with bloodshot eyes constantly complaining of all the troubles he’s seen while being an innocent victim.

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Proverbs 23:28

She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.
– Proverbs 23:28

The warning further uncovers the character of the strange woman. Her danger is more than a pit one might accidentally fall into. She is described as a hunter for a prey, and the last phrase indicates great success. The warning reinforces the warnings that have come before (Proverbs 2:16-19; 7:12, 22-27; 9:18; 22:14).

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Proverbs 23:27

For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit.
– Proverbs 23:27

The fatherly saying here is reminiscent of the fatherly sayings in the first nine chapters, particularly warnings against the strange woman. The word whore is indelicate today, but it commonly refers to a harlot, or a prostitute. The word for strange woman means a foreign woman but is often put for a forbidden woman, such as a married woman. In this case, she is an adulteress. The deep ditch and narrow pit both indicate a trap with no escape (Proverbs 9:18; 22:14).

Wisdom is not taught just to keep a person from adultery and fornication, though it does that. By addressing the inner lusts, such as greed, gluttony, drunkenness, fornication, etc., the nature of walking the way of wisdom is revealed. Wisdom kept in the heart keeps one in the right way. It affects us transformatively within (Proverbs 20:9; 28:9; 16:6; 28:13). We infer this required inner transformation from the fact wisdom is alien to us, so we must acquire it through correction and instruction (Proverbs 22:15; 19:3). We also know that knowledge must begin with the fear of the Lord, which is put synonymously for knowing God (Proverbs 2:5; 9:10), which can only be had from revelation (Proverbs 2:6). When Proverbs treats of sins like fornication or drunkenness, it’s not just the breaking of a rule that’s warned against but the fundamental root sin of forsaking the God of righteousness (Proverbs 30:7-9).

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