My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger,
Surety - The "pledge," or security for payment, which, for example, David was to bring back from his brothers 1 Samuel 17:18. So the word was used in the primitive trade transactions of the early Israelites.
In the warnings against this suretyship, in the Book of Proverbs, we may trace the influence of contact with the Phoenicians. The merchants of Tyre and Zidon seem to have discovered the value of credit as an element of wealth. A man might obtain goods, or escape the pressure of a creditor at an inconvenient season, or obtain a loan on more favorable terms, by finding security. To give such security might be one of the kindest offices which one friend could render to another. Side by side, however, with a legitimate system of credit there sprang up, as in later times, a fraudulent counterfeit. Phoenician or Jewish money-lenders (the "stranger") were ready to make their loans to the spendthrift. He was equally ready to find a companion (the "friend") who would become his surety. It was merely a form, just writing a few words, just "a clasping of the hands" (see the marginal reference) in token that the obligation was accepted, and that was all. It would be unfriendly to refuse. And yet, as the teacher warns his hearers, there might be, in that moment of careless weakness, the first link of a long chain of ignominy, galling, fretting, wearing, depriving life of all its peace. The Jewish law of debt, hard and stern like that of most ancient nations, aright be enforced against him in all its rigour. Money and land might go, the very bed under him might be seized, and his garment torn from his back Proverbs 20:16; Proverbs 22:27, the older and more lenient law Exodus 22:25-27 having apparently fallen into disuse. he might be brought into a life-long bondage, subject only to the possible relief of the year of jubilee, when the people were religious enough to remember and observe it. His wives, his sons, his daughters might be sharers in that slavery Nehemiah 5:3-5. It was doubtful whether he could claim the privilege which under Exodus 21:2 belonged to an Israelite slave that had been bought. Against such an evil, no warnings could be too frequent or to urgent.
Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.
Or, "If thou art snared ... if thou art taken," etc.
Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend.
Better, "Do this now, O my son, and free thyself when thou hast come into thy friend's house; go, how thyself down (perhaps "stamp with thy foot," or "hasten"), press hotly upon thy friend. By persuasion, and if need be, by threats, get back the bond which thou hast been entrapped into signing:" The "friend" is, as before, the companion, not the creditor.
Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids.
Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.
Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
The warning against the wastefulness of the prodigal is followed by a warning as emphatic against the wastefulness of sloth. The point of comparison with the ant is not so much the foresight of the insect as its unwearied activity during the appointed season, rebuking man's inaction at a special crisis Proverbs 6:4. In Proverbs 30:25, the storing, provident habit of the ant is noticed.
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
The words express the wonder with which the Hebrew observer looked on the phenomena of insect life. "Guide," better captain, as in Joshua 10:24. The Septuagint introduces here a corresponding reference to the industry of the bee.
Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.
How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep?
Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep:
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.
The similitude is drawn from the two sources of Eastern terror: the "traveler," i. e., "the thief in the night," coming suddenly to plunder; the "armed man," literally "the man of the shield," the armed robber. The habit of indolence is more fatally destructive than these marauders.
A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth.
A naughty person - literally, "a man of Belial," i. e., a worthless man (see the Deuteronomy 13:13 note). This is the portrait of the man who is not to be trusted, whose look and gestures warn against him all who can observe. His speech is tortuous and crafty; his wink tells the accomplice that the victim is already snared; his gestures with foot and hand are half in deceit, and half in mockery.
He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers;
Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord.
Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.
The duper and the dupe shall share the same calamity.
These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
A new section, but not a new subject. The closing words, "he that soweth discord" (Proverbs 6:19, compare Proverbs 6:14), lead us to identify the sketch as taken from the same character. With the recognized Hebrew form of climax (see Proverbs 30:15, Proverbs 30:18, Proverbs 30:24; Amos 1:1-15; 2; Job 5:19), the teacher here enumerates six qualities as detestable, and the seventh as worse than all (seven represents completeness), but all the seven in this instance belong to one man, the man of Belial Proverbs 6:12.
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.
My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:
Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.
The thought of Proverbs 3:3 is carried step further. No outward charm, but the law of obedience, shall give safety to the traveler, when he sleeps or when he wakes.
When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.
For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
Compare Psalm 119:105.
To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.
Evil woman - literally, "woman of evil." In reading what follows, it must be remembered that the warning is against the danger of the sin of the adulterous wife.
Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids.
Eyelids - Possibly pointing to the Eastern custom of painting the eyes on the outside with kohl so as to give brightness and languishing expression.
For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious life.
The two forms of evil bring, each of them, their own penalty. By the one a man is brought to such poverty as to beg for "a piece of bread" (compare 1 Samuel 2:36): by the other and more deadly sin he incurs a peril which may affect his life. The second clause is very abrupt and emphatic in the original; "but as for a man's wife; she hunts for the precious life."
Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?
Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?
So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent.
Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;
But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.
But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.
A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall not be wiped away.
For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.
He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content, though thou givest many gifts.