settings icon
share icon

What is the meaning of “Can a man take fire in his bosom and not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27)?

fire in his bosom and not burned

Proverbs 6:27 is part of a section that warns against the folly of adultery. The verse is translated variously:

NASB: Can anyone take fire in his lap and his clothes not be burned?
ESV: Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?
NIV: Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?
NLT: Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire?
KJV: Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?

Solomon employs a rhetorical question here. The obvious answer is “NO!” If you scoop up burning coals and hold them close to you, you will burn your clothes and maybe far worse. In the same way, those who choose the path of adultery should expect consequences.

The next question in Proverbs 6:28 is similar: “Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” (ESV). Again, the obvious answer is “NO!” If you step on hot coals, expect your feet to be burned. Even if you allow for the possible exception of some fire walkers who seem to do this very thing, the normal situation is that, if you step on something hot, it will burn your foot.

The writer, in warning about the dangers of adultery, asks these questions and forces us to think of the analogies. Just as scooping up a big bunch of burning logs and hugging them will burn your clothes, and just as stepping on hot coals will result in burned feet, so committing adultery will have painful consequences. Those who break their marriage vows should expect to get “burned.”

Proverbs 6:29 brings home the point of the passage: “So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no one who touches her will go unpunished.” To commit adultery is to knowingly place oneself in harm’s way.

Sexual immorality should be avoided at all costs (see 1 Corinthians 6:18). The Bible consistently warns against it. The aftermath of adultery is never good, and only fools ignore the biblical warnings. “He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away” (Proverbs 6:32–33, ESV).

Only a fool would scoop up hot coals and hug them close or dump them in his lap thinking there will be no negative consequences. Adultery is just as foolish. Negative consequences are guaranteed, and repercussions are unavoidable. Some of the penalties of adultery will take the form of “natural” consequences—a broken marriage, for example, lasting emotional wounds, and vengeance from a jealous husband (see Proverbs 6:34–36). Other penalties may be a more directly divine judgment: “God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral” (Hebrews 13:4).

Return to:

Questions about Proverbs

What is the meaning of “Can a man take fire in his bosom and not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27)?
Subscribe to the

Question of the Week

Get our Question of the Week delivered right to your inbox!

Follow Us: Facebook icon Twitter icon YouTube icon Pinterest icon Instagram icon
© Copyright 2002-2023 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy
This page last updated: February 9, 2023