Proverbs 23:34

ESV You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast.
NIV You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging.
NASB And you will be like one who lies down in the middle of the sea, Or like one who lies down on the top of a mast.
CSB You'll be like someone sleeping out at sea or lying down on the top of a ship's mast.
NLT You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea, clinging to a swaying mast.
KJV 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.

What does Proverbs 23:34 mean?

Solomon gives further warnings about drunkenness (Proverbs 23:29–33). This statement is part of an extensive description of the dangers of becoming intoxicated. Among those are health symptoms, as well as the serious risk of acting without self-control. A drunk person loses inhibitions, judgment, coordination, and is prone to confusion and numbness. Those make it possible for them to act in ways they never would have considered while sober.

Here, the imagery suggests two different ideas. One echoes the prior warnings about danger; a person who "lies down in the midst of the sea" is likely to drown. A person who becomes drunk is putting themselves at the mercy of their surroundings, which can be deadly. In a more literal sense, the drunkard staggers and struggles to control their body. The person at the top of a mast experiences the same waves as those on the ship's deck, but greatly amplified.

One might hope if a drunk could see his condition, he would abstain from abusing alcohol again. Yet alcohol is also addictive. As the next verse notes, those who are prone to excess drinking often choose to escape back into intoxication, rather than face the consequences of their choices (Proverbs 23:35).
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