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Be Hardworking Like the Ant
Proverbs 6:6-8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
6 Go to the ant, O sluggard;
consider her ways, and be wise.
7 Without having any chief,
officer, or ruler,
8 She prepares her bread in summer
and gathers her sustenance in harvest.
Go to the ant, O sluggard: Here go (hā·lǎḵ) does not mean to travel from one place to another but rather to go observe and learn from the ant. In other words, go watch and observe how the ants live to learn a lesson about laziness. The ant is likely a reference to the harvester ant also known as the agricultural ant found in the eastern Mediterranean area as well as many other areas of the world. While ant is used in the singular in the Hebrew, it is in a collective sense. The advice is not to watch one single ant but rather to watch an entire colony of ants at work.
Consider her ways and be wise: Here consider (rā·ʾā(h)) means to look at, to observe or watch, to reflect on, to take into consideration, as you make judgments based your newfound awareness. While ant is in the feminine, be wise in the Hebrew (ḥā·ḵǎm) is a command in the masculine to acquire and exercise good judgment and understanding, showing oneself to be wise, which is addressed to the sluggard.
Notably, the ant instinctively preparing for the future being persistent and determined, as they carry or tenaciously dragging objects in an unwavering manner, which weigh twice their own weight or even more, as they do everything possible to carry out their demanding task. They also refuse to turn back even when there is a chance that they may fall, slide, or roll down what seems like to them some very steep rock face or cliff. They are exceptionally helpful and supportive as they carry out their work. They also keep their nests very clean and they demonstrate worry, being anxious for their fellow workers, even helping injured or exhausted ants back to the nest.
Without having any chief: Here chief (Heb. qā·ṣîn) is referring to a clan leader or commander of men (Josh 10:24), who rules over or guides, inspires, and motivates others.
officer, or ruler: An officer (Heb. šō·ṭēr) in the Old Testament can be a judicial, civil, or military person, who is like a working foreman who oversees and manages the tasks at hand, be they judicial, civil, or military, depending on the context. (Ex. 5:6, 10, 14-15, 19) The ruler (Heb. mā·šǎl) is a general term that refers to one who rules, governs, controls, being in charge, commanding others with primacy authority. The purpose of using all three of these terms (chief, officer, ruler) is to highlight the fact that ants do not need many layers of oversight to carry out their tasks.
She prepares her bread in summer: Here again, while it literally says she (singular ant) prepares, it is in a collective sense. Prepare (Heb. kûn) means to get ready in advance, which, in this case, the food (literally bread) is gathered and then stored for future use, i.e., the winter.
And gathers her sustenance in harvest: Here gather (ʾā·ḡǎr) is collecting the food. (Deut. 28:39; Prov. 6:8; 10:5) Here sustenance (mǎ·ʾǎḵāl) has the same meaning as bread in the first line, both meaning food.
One reference work says, “Storing food during the harvest for use during the wintertime, the ant embodied two great virtues, diligence, and wisdom. Actually, the ants either enter a state of dormancy when it is cold or continue working all year round. Obviously, the ants’ endless carrying of grains, leaves, and matter to their ant-heaps must have been the grounds for the proverbial sayings.”
The ant has no chief, officer, or ruler. While it is true that they have a queen ant; however, she is simply responsible for laying eggs, and serving as the mother of the colony. She does not give the ants any sort of direction in carrying out their work. Therefore, the work of hundreds of thousands of ants in a given colony is carried out by hard work and wisdom. The ant wisely stores up its food in the summer, and at harvest, it stockpiles provisions.
The lesson the Israelite was to gain from the ant, was that they needed to be hard working. Whether he is being observed by a supervisor or not, he needs to work hard and strive to improve himself as a worker. For any Christian today, we too need to be doing our best in whatever we are doing, because it brings either glory or reproach to our good name, and more importantly to the name of God. This applies whether we are in the privacy of our home, or at our place of employment, school, or religious services. There are far more benefits to being diligent, as opposed to being lazy.
 Jesper Svartvik, “Ant”, in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, ed. David Noel Freedman, Allen C. Myers and Astrid B. Beck, 66 (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 2000).