What does Proverbs 6:30 mean?
ESV: People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry,
NIV: People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.
NASB: People do not despise a thief if he steals To satisfy himself when he is hungry;
CSB: People don't despise the thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry.
NLT: Excuses might be found for a thief who steals because he is starving.
KJV: Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;
Verse Commentary:
As with any "proverb," this is a general-case statement of wisdom. Even those who believe in law and order usually have sympathy for those who resort to theft when truly desperate. The book Les Misérables—later a famous stage musical—involves a character jailed as a child for stealing bread when starving. The story's message is partly founded in how most people sympathize with the motive behind such a crime, even if they don't think it should be left unaddressed. That need to balance compassion and justice is reflected in the following verse (Proverbs 6:31).

Even today, society often pities a desperately hungry person who shoplifts food items when destitute and starving. But now, even as in the ancient world, virtually no sympathy is offered to someone who steals his neighbor's spouse. The thief is still doing wrong, but at least others recognize his end goal was noble. The adulterer violates marriages to satisfy lust—both the ends and the means are corrupt. And adultery has a habit of inspiring other sins, such as lies or violence.

The adulterer doesn't satisfy his soul; he destroys it. He deliberately violates God's command, "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14), and therefore he invites God's judgment. Only God's saving grace can erase the sin of adultery and restore the adulterer to favor with God. In 1 Corinthians 6:9–11, Paul reminds his readers that adulterers will not inherit the kingdom of God, but he recalls that some of them had been adulterers before God washed them from their sins.
Verse Context:
Proverbs 6:20–35 returns to the topic of adultery, something Solomon also discussed in chapter 5. He warns his son to abide by the teaching he received from his parents, because they will guide him and keep him from the adulteress. Further, he cites the harmful and irreversible consequences of adultery.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter provides teaching on two aspects of wealth management. The first is avoiding putting one's property in debt for the sake of some other person's risky investment. The other warns against laziness, indicating that it puts a person at risk for sudden ruin. Solomon then poetically explains attitudes and actions which God finds especially repulsive. Next, Solomon returns to the subject of adultery. He reiterates the inherent risks of sexual immorality, including the catastrophic consequences which it brings. That lesson continues into the following chapter.
Chapter Context:
This chapter of Proverbs continues the wise sayings Solomon addresses to his son. In chapter 5 he addresses adultery and marriage. In this chapter he addresses financial matters, work ethics, characteristics and conduct the Lord despises, and sexual immorality. A common theme of these lessons is to avoid the natural consequences of foolish choices. The next chapter describes the adulteress's ways and the pitfalls involved in committing adultery with her.
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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