This is the advice given to the son who is being enticed to do evil by others. It is the same advice given in 1 Corinthians 15 where we read that bad company corrupts good morals. The godly father wants to warn his son that he should not be naive about the condition of the human heart. Young men need to know that they cannot trust everyone. They will meet people they should not follow or emulate. If they do, they will ultimately be led astray from God's ways.
Here the father says to the son that he should not walk in the way with these people who are pursuing evil. I want you to notice the exact words the father uses in counselling his son. He says, "Do not WALK in the way with them." The word "way" here is the Hebrew word "derek" that we run into so much in Proverbs. It means a way, a manner of living - and should be understood as walking as a lifestyle. The father warns the son that to walk in the lifestyle that these young men walk in is very dangerous. He goes further to say, "Keep your feet from their path." Again a warning is issued that the "way" in which these people walk is not one that we should follow. Too often we make decisions on who our friends are on the whim of our feelings when we are around them. But wisdom tells us to look at where are friends are GOING. Where is their lifestyle going to lead them? That is the important question we should ask.
Let me take a moment, though, and say what the father did NOT say. He did not say to shun them and never speak to them. Too often this is how we instruct our children - and in so doing make them almost fear being around people who are lost. We should stress to our children that they are not to have their best friends among those who are ungodly - but they should befriend them for the purpose of ministry to them. If they do not, how will they hear the gospel? The wisest thing for a father to do is to have his family come alongside him and befriend other families. This way the entire family can reach out to another family and seek to share the gospel with them - father with the father, mother with the mother - and the children with the children.
The father does go on to say in verse 16 - that the reason his son should not walk in their ways or paths is that their feet run to evil and the hasten to shed blood. These folks seem to be in a hurry to do what is wrong. The father says they "run" to evil. There are no road blocks in their conscience - neither does it seem to be hindering them from going toward the wrong. God's Law is meant to be a hinderance from going the wrong direction. It is a goad and a road block to tell us that their is a bad situation - a sin that is to be avoided. But these people are oblivious to this - and run to do evil. The shedding of blood is also meant to be a very bad sign. I think there is a natural aversion that God has given us to blood. When we see it - we think that something bad has happened and that we need to not do that again. But these people have what I would call blood-lust. They like it when they see blood and are not averse to shedding it if it will get them what they want. Such people should be avoided at all costs - because they are seriously bad news.
Once again we see that a wise man is one that teaches his children about such things. He takes the time to explain to his children that the kind of people they are befriending (not for ministry - but for their closest friendships) will ultimately direct them in a way - a lifestyle will result. What I find sad so often as a pastor is the number of times I know that someone is being charged with being an "accessory" to a crime. This means that they did not commit the crime itself - they were just the friend who was with the fool who did. They didn't say anything to stop them, and now they are being prosecuted for their stupidity for having a friend who did. That is what the wise father is trying to teach his more gullible son. We would be wise if we taught our children the same things - and helped them avoid the kind of friendships that would lead them in a lifestyle that pursues evil.