Proverbs 23:1

ESV When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you,
NIV When you sit to dine with a ruler, note well what is before you,
NASB When you sit down to dine with a ruler, Consider carefully what is before you,
CSB When you sit down to dine with a ruler, consider carefully what is before you,
NLT While dining with a ruler, pay attention to what is put before you.
KJV When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:

What does Proverbs 23:1 mean?

In the ancient Middle East, sharing meals implied friendship and diplomacy. As Israel's king, Solomon was familiar with dinner events. In this verse he counsels his student to carefully consider what is before him when he dines with a ruler. The overall warning is about complacency and greed. One should not embarrass themselves by abusing someone's hospitality. At the same time, one should be careful that a powerful person's generosity does not turn into a bribe.

The distinction between rich and poor was much greater in the ancient world than it is in most modern cultures. For someone used to working for "daily bread," being invited to a feast of luxurious food might tempt them to eat too quickly or too much. Instead, Solomon advises self-discipline. The ruler may be watching the guest's table manners, but God also watches. The following verse (Proverbs 23:2) uses deliberate exaggeration (Matthew 5:30) about the importance of avoiding excess.

The "desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes" are contrary to God's will, according to 1 John 2:16. Jesus also told a story about a certain rich man, who feasted every day (Luke 16:19), only to learn that true life isn't defined by wealth. He neglected to prepare for eternity (Luke 16:22–30). It is better to eat moderately and trust in God, than to feast in luxury in this life, only to wish for a drop of water in hell.
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