What does Proverbs 30:20 mean?
ESV: This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, "I have done no wrong."
NIV: "This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’
NASB: This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth, And says, 'I have done no wrong.'
CSB: This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, "I’ve done nothing wrong."
NLT: An adulterous woman consumes a man, then wipes her mouth and says, 'What’s wrong with that?'
KJV: Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.
NKJV: This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth, And says, “I have done no wickedness.”
Verse Commentary:
The primary meaning of this verse stands alone, regardless of how one interprets the prior passage. In the last several verses, Agur (Proverbs 30:1) noted several ideas which are mysterious (Proverbs 30:18–19). One common understanding of those examples is they all leave no immediate trace: birds in flight, snakes on rocks, boats in rough water, and "the way of a man with a virgin." Taken in this way, the implication is that sexual intercourse leaves no obvious, clear evidence in the moments after it has occurred. If, indeed, that was Agur's point, then this verse reinforces a similar idea.

In this context, an "adulteress" suggests a woman who makes a habit of sexual immorality. However, she is not the least bit concerned about her sinful behavior. The commandment, "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14) means nothing to her. She has such a casual attitude about her sexual liaisons that they are as meaningless as eating and wiping her mouth. She commits adultery routinely and brushes off the sin she has committed.

It is possible for a sinner to sear his conscience. Paul described certain false teachers as having a seared conscience (1Timothy 4:2). Punishment awaits an adulteress who does not repent. Jude 1:7 mentions a punishment of eternal fire for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, who "indulged in sexual immorality." He writes that they serve as an example of punishment. A casual approach to sin will come to an abrupt and terrifying halt.
Verse Context:
In Proverbs 30:15–31 Agur (Proverbs 30:1) gives several numerical observations. He lists four things which never lead to satisfaction, only increased desire. Another four ideas are said to be "wonderful," here meant in the sense of being hard to grasp. Next are four examples of the dangers of putting people in sudden positions of power. Then, four seemingly humble animals who achieve great tasks. The last is a series of examples showing the "stately" nature of confidence.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter contains the teachings of Agur, who is only known through this passage. Humility and a sense of one's own limitations are key themes in this section. Agur prays for God's providence and warns about the sins of arrogance, greed, and rebelliousness. He marvels at how the ungodly can sin without care, not realizing their fate. He then notes the way some insignificant animals accomplish great things and comments on the effects of confidence. The chapter ends with a reminder that stirring up anger leads to trouble.
Chapter Context:
This chapter falls between a collection of Solomon's wise sayings (Proverbs 25—29) and King Lemuel's proverbs (Proverbs 31). Chapter 30 contains the wise sayings of Agur, who is otherwise unknown. He may have been the son of Jakeh. His teachings are called an oracle: a weighty message from God. Humility and warnings about arrogance are recurring themes in this chapter.
Book Summary:
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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