My son, if you be surety for your friend, if you have stricken your hand with a stranger,
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)VI.
(i). Ninth Discourse:—Against Suretyship (Proverbs 6:1-5).
(1) If thou be surety for thy friend.—When the Mosaic Law was instituted, commerce had not been taken up by the Israelites, and the lending of money on interest for its employment in trade was a thing unknown. The only occasion for loans would be to supply the immediate necessities of the borrower, and the exaction of interest under such circumstances would be productive of great hardship, involving the loss of land and even personal freedom, as the insolvent debtor and his family became the slaves of the creditor (Nehemiah 5:1-5). To prevent these evils, the lending of money on interest to any poor Israelite was strictly forbidden (Leviticus 25:35-37); the people were enjoined to be liberal, and lend for nothing in such cases. But at the time of Solomon, when the commerce of the Israelites had enormously developed, and communications were opened with Spain and Egypt and (possibly) with India and Ceylon, while caravans penetrated beyond the Euphrates, then the lending of money on interest for employment in trade most probably became frequent, and suretyship also, the pledging of a man’s own credit to enable his friend to procure a loan. And when the wealth that accompanied this development of the national resources had brought luxury in its train, borrowing and suretyship would be employed for less worthy purposes, to supply the young nobles of Jerusalem with money for their extravagance. Hence possibly the emphatic language of the text and Proverbs 20:16; Proverbs 27:13.
Stricken thy hand.—That is, as we should say, “shaken hands on the bargain.”
With a stranger.—Or rather, for another, i.e., thy friend.Proverbs 6:1-2. My son, if thou be surety for, or to, thy friend — Namely, rashly and unadvisedly, without considering for whom, or how the thou dost oblige thyself, or how thou shalt discharge the debt if occasion require it: otherwise suretiship, in some cases, may be not only lawful, but an act of justice and charity; if thou hast stricken thy hand — Obliged thyself by giving thy hand, or joining thy hand with another man’s, as the custom then was in such cases; (of which, see Job 17:3, chap. 17:18, and 22:26;) with a stranger — With the creditor, whom he calls a stranger, because the usurers in Israel, who lent money to others, upon condition of paying use for it, were either heathen, or were reputed as bad as heathen, because this practice was forbidden by God’s law, Deuteronomy 23:19. Or, to, or for, a stranger, for here is the same preposition which is rendered for in the former clause. And so the words may imply, that whether a man be surety to, or for, a friend, or to, or for, a stranger, the course to be taken is much of the same kind. Thou art snared, &c. — Thy freedom is lost, and thou art now in bondage to another.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.
Pr 6:1-35. After admonitions against suretyship and sloth (compare Pr 6:6-8), the character and fate of the wicked generally are set forth, and the writer (Pr 6:20-35) resumes the warnings against incontinence, pointing out its certain and terrible results. This train of thought seems to intimate the kindred of these vices.
1, 2. if—The condition extends through both verses.
be surety—art pledged.
stricken … hand—bargained (compare Job 17:3).
with a stranger—that is, for a friend (compare Pr 11:15; 17:18).A dehortation against suretiship, Proverbs 6:1. The danger of it, Proverbs 6:2; and the way of delivery, Proverbs 6:3-5. Sluggards reproved by a similitude of the ant, Proverbs 6:6-11. The carriage of the wicked described, Proverbs 6:12-14; and his sudden ruin, Proverbs 6:15. Of seven things which are displeasing to God, Proverbs 6:16-19. The benefits of keeping the commandments, Proverbs 6:20-24. The mischief of adultery, Proverbs 6:25. Its evil consequences, Proverbs 6:26-35.
if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger; or "to" him (b); whom thou knowest not, and to whom thou owest nothing; and hast given him thine hand upon it, as well as thy word and bond, that what such an one owes him shall be paid; a gesture used in suretyship for the confirmation of it, Proverbs 17:18; or, "for a stranger" (c) And the sense is, either if thou art become bound for a friend of thine, and especially if for a stranger thou knowest little or nothing of, this is a piece of rashness and weakness; or, as Gersom, if thou art a surety to thy friend for a stranger, this also is a great inadvertency and oversight. It is a rash and inconsiderate entering into suretyship that is here cautioned against; doing it without inquiring into, and having sufficient knowledge of the person engaged for; and without considering whether able to answer the obligation, if required, without hurting a man's self and family; otherwise suretyship may lawfully be entered into, and good be done by it, and no hurt to the surety himself and family. Jarchi interprets it of the Israelites engaging themselves to the Lord at Sinai, to keep his commandments.My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger,
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1. be surety] Better, art become surety, R.V.
The frequent mention of suretiship in this Book, and the strong terms of warning and reprobation in which it is invariably spoken of, accord well with what we should suppose to be the condition of society in the reign of Solomon. In earlier and simpler times it was enough for the Law to forbid usury or interest for a loan of money to be exacted by one Israelite of another; and raiment given as a pledge or security for a debt was to be returned before night-fall to be the owner’s covering in his sleep (Exodus 22:25-27; Leviticus 25:35-38). With the developement, however, of commerce and the growth of luxury under Solomon, money-lending transactions, whether for speculation in trade, or for personal gratification, had come to be among the grave dangers that beset the path of youth. Accordingly, though the writer of Ecclesiasticus contents himself with laying down restrictions to the exercise of suretiship, and even goes the length of telling us that “An honest man is surety for his neighbor” (Sir 8:13; Sir 29:14-20), our writer here, with a truer insight, has no quarter for it, but condemns it unsparingly on every mention of it (Proverbs 6:1-5, Proverbs 11:15, Proverbs 17:18, Proverbs 20:16, Proverbs 22:26-27, Proverbs 27:13). Even the generous impulse of youth to incur risk at the call of friendship must yield to the dictates, cold and calculating though they seem, of bitter experience.
In all these places the LXX. use ἐγγυᾶσθαι, ἔγγυος, ἐγγύη (comp. Hebrews 7:22); but the Heb. word here used appears as a noun in a Greek form (ἀρραβών), and is found in the LXX. only in Genesis 38:17-18; Genesis 38:20. It is employed by St Paul to denote the gift of the Spirit as the pledge or earnest of the future inheritance (2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:14). The later history of the word is traced by Dean Plumptre in an interesting note at the end of Proverbs 6 in the Speaker’s Comm.
with a stranger] i.e. if thou hast “become surety for thy friend,” by entering for him, by the usual formality of shaking hands (Proverbs 11:15, Proverbs 17:18, Proverbs 22:26; Job 17:3), into an undertaking with the stranger to whom he is indebted, to be responsible for his debt. In favour of this rendering is perhaps the article before “stranger” (lit. the stranger, i.e. money-lender), with whom he has involved himself.
The rendering, however, of R.V. text, for a stranger, preserves the parallelism better (the preposition moreover is the same in both clauses of the verse), while it understands the “neighbour” which it substitutes for “friend” in the first clause of this verse, to be equivalent to the “stranger,” i.e. “another” than thyself. For this wide use of the Heb. word for “stranger,” comp. Proverbs 27:2; 1 Kings 3:18.
Eleventh Address. Chap. 6. Proverbs 6:1-5. The Surety
“From the solemn principle announced at the close of the last chapter (Proverbs 6:23) the teacher passes … to illustrate the truth by three examples, that of the Surety (Proverbs 6:1-5), that of the Sluggard (Proverbs 6:6-11), and that of the Worthless Man (Proverbs 6:12-19). And then because the horrors of impurity are the most striking and terrible instance of all, this subject coming up again at Proverbs 6:20, like the dark ground tone of the picture, finally runs into the long and detailed description of ch. 7.” Horton, ch. vii. p. 79.Verses 1-35. - The sixth chapter embraces four distinct discourses, each of which is a warning. The subjects treated of are
(1) suretyship (vers. 1-5);
(2) sloth (vers. 6-11);
(3) malice (vers. 12-19); and
(4) adultery (ver. 20 to the end).
The continuity of the subject treated of in the preceding chapter appears to be somewhat abruptly interrupted to make way for the insertion of three discourses on subjects which apparently have little connection with what precedes and what follows. Their unlooked for and unexpected appearance has led Hitzig to regard them as interpolations, but it has been conclusively pointed out by Delitzsch that there is sufficient internal evidence, in the grammatical construction, figures, word formations, delineations, and threatenings, to establish the position that they proceeded from the same hand that composed the rest of the book and to guarantee their genuineness. But another and not less interesting question arises as to whether any connection subsists between these discourses and the subject which they apparently interrupt. Such a connection is altogether denied by Delitzsch, Zockler, and other German commentators, who look upon them as independent discourses, and maintain that, if there is any connection, it can be only external and accidental. On the other hand, Bishops Patrick and Wordsworth discover an ethical connection which, though not clear at first sight, is not on that account less real or true. The subject treated of in the preceding chapter is the happiness of the married life, and this is imperilled by incautious undertaking of suretyship, and suretyship, it is maintained, induces sloth, while sloth leads to maliciousness After treating of suretyship, sloth, and malice in succession, the teacher recurs to the former subject of his discourse, viz. impurity of life, against which he gives impressive warnings. That such is the true view them appears little doubt. One vice is intimately connected with another, and the verdict of experience is that a life of idleness is one of the most prolific sources of a life of impurity. Hence we find Ovid saying -
"Quaeritur, AEgisthus, qua re sit factus adulter?
In promptu causa est - desidiosus erat."
"Do you ask why AEgisthus has become an adulterer?
The reason is close at hand - he was full of idleness." Within the sphere of these discourses them. selves the internal connection is distinctly observable, vers. 16-19 being a refrain of vers. 12-15, and the phrase, "to stir up strife," closing each enumeration (see vers. 14 and 19). Verses 1-5. - 9. Ninth admonitory discourse. Warning against suretyship. Verse 1. - The contents of this section are not to be taken so much as an absolute unqualified prohibition of suretyship as counsel directed against the inconsiderate and rash undertaking of such an obligation. There were some occasions on which becoming surety for another was demanded by the laws of charity and prudence, and when it was not inconsistent with the humane precepts of the Mosaic Law as enunciated in Leviticus 19:19. In other passages of our book the writer of the Proverbs lays down maxims which would clearly countenance the practice (Proverbs 14:21; Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24; Proverbs 27:10), and in the apocryphal writings the practice is encouraged, if not enjoined (Ecclus. 29:14 Ecclus. 8:13). Notwithstanding this limitation, however, it is observable that suretyship is almost invariably spoken of in terms of condemnation, and the evil consequences which it entailed on the surety may be the reason why it is so frequently alluded to. The teacher refers to the subject in the following passages: here; Proverbs 11:15: 17:18; 22:26; 20:16; 27:13. My son. On this address, see Proverbs 2:1; Proverbs 3:1, 17. If thou be surety (Hebrew, im-aravta); literally, if thou hast become surety; LXX., ἐάν ἐγγύσῃ; Vulgate, si spoponderis. What the teacher counsels in the present instance is that, if by inadvertence a person has become surety, he should by the most strenuous endeavours prevail on his friend to free him from the bond. The Hebrew verb arav is properly "to mix," and then signifies "to become surety" in the sense of interchanging with another and so taking his place. The frequent mention of suretyship in the Proverbs is alluded to above. The first recorded instances are those where Judah offers to become surety for Benjamin, first to Israel (Genesis 43:9), and secondly to Joseph (Genesis 44:33). It is singular that it is only once alluded to in the Book of Job, where Job says, "Lay down now, put me in surety with thee; who is he that will strike hands with me?" (Job 17:3); and once only, and that doubtfully, in the whole of the Mosaic writings, in the phrase tesummat yad, i.e. giving or striking the hand in the case of perjury (Leviticus 6:2). The psalmist refers to it in the words, "Be surety for thy servant for good" (Psalm 119:122). It is spoken of twice in Isaiah (Isaiah 38:14; Isaiah 36:8), once in Ezekiel (Ezekiel 27:27) and in Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:3), and the cognate noun, arrabon, "the pledge," security for payment, is met with in Genesis 38:17 and 1 Samuel 17:18. These scattered notices in the Old Testament show that the practice was always in existence, while the more frequent notices in the Proverbs refer to a condition of society where extended commercial transactions had apparently made it a thing of daily occurrence, and a source of constant danger. In the New Testament one instance of suretyship is found, when St. Paul offers to become surety to Philemon for Onesimus (Philemon 1:19). But in the language of the New Testament, the purely commercial meaning of the word is transmuted into a spiritual one. The gift of the Spirit is regarded as the arrabon, ὀρραβὼν, "the pledge," the earnest of the Christian believer's acceptance with God (2 Corinthians 1:22; 2 Corinthians 5:5; Ephesians 1:14). For thy friend; Hebrew, l'reeka. The Hebrew reeh, more usually rea, is "the companion or friend," and in this case obviously the debtor for whom one has become surety. The word reappears in ver. 3. The לְ (l) prefixed to reeh is the dativus commodi. So Delitzsch and others. If not in the original, but rightly inserted. Thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger (Hebrew, taka'ta lazzar kapeyka); properly, thou hast stricken thy hand for a stranger. The analogous use of l' (לְ) in lazzar determines this rendering. As in the corresponding l'reeyka, the לְ (l) indicates the person for whose benefit the suretyship is undertaken, i.e. the debtor, and not the person with whom the symbolical act is performed, i.e. the creditor. Compare the following passages, though the construction with לְ is wanting: "He that is surety for a stranger" (Proverbs 11:15); "Take his garment that is surety for a stranger" (Proverbs 20:16 and Proverbs 27:13). "The stranger," zar, is not an alien, or one belonging to another nationality, but simply one extraneous to one's self, and so equivalent to akher, "another." The meaning, therefore, seems to be, "If thou hast entered into a bond for one with whom thou art but slightly acquainted." Others (Wordsworth, Plumptre), however, take zar as representing the foreign money lender. The phrase, "to strike the hand," taka kaph, or simply "to strike," taka, describes the symbolical act which accompanied the contract. Taka is properly "to drive," like the Latin defigere, and hence "to strike," and indicates the sharp sound with which the hands were brought into contact. The act no doubt was accomplished before witnesses, and the hand which was stricken was that of the creditor, who thereby received assurance that the responsibility of the debtor was undertaken by the surety. The "striking of the hand" as indicating the completion of a contract is illustrated by the author of the 'Kamoos' (quoted by Lee, on Job 17:3), who says, "He struck or clapped to him a sale... he struck his hand in a sale, or on his hand... he struck his ow hand upon the hand of him, and this is among the necessary (transactions) of sale." So among Western nations the giving of the band has been always regarded as a pledge of bona fides. Thus Menelaus demands of Helena (Euripides, 'Hel.,' 838), Ἐπὶ τοῖσδε νῦν δεξιὰς ἐμῆς θίγε, "Touch my right hand now on these conditions," i.e. in attestation that you accept them. In purely verbal agreements it is the custom in the present day for the parties to clasp the hand. A further example may be found in the plighting of troth in the Marriage Service. Proverbs 5:18 is introduced anew the praise of conjugal love. These three verses, Proverbs 5:18-21, have the same course of thought as Proverbs 5:15-17.
18 Let thy fountain be blessed,
And rejoice in the wife of thy youth.
19 The lovely hind and the graceful gazelle -
May her bosom always charm thee;
In her love mayest thou delight thyself evermore.
20 But why wilt thou be fascinated with a stranger,
And embrace the bosom of a foreign woman?
Like בור and באר, מקור is also a figure of the wife; the root-word is קוּר, from קר, כר, the meanings of which, to dig and make round, come together in the primary conception of the round digging out or boring out, not קוּר equals קרר, the Hiph. of which means (Jeremiah 6:7) to well out cold (water). It is the fountain of the birth that is meant (cf. מקור of the female ערוה, e.g., Leviticus 20:18), not the procreation (lxx, ἡ σὴ φλέψ, viz., φλὲψ γονίμη); the blessing wished for by him is the blessing of children, which בּרוּך so much the more distinctly denotes if בּרך, Arab. barak, means to spread out, and בּרך thus to cause a spreading out. The מן, 18b, explains itself from the idea of drawing (water), given with the figure of a fountain; the word בּאשׁת found in certain codices is, on the contrary, prosaic (Fl.). Whilst שׂמח מן is found elsewhere (Ecclesiastes 2:20; 2 Chronicles 20:27) as meaning almost the same as שׂמח בּ; the former means rejoicing from some place, the latter in something. In the genitive connection, "wife of thy youth" (cf. Proverbs 2:17), both of these significations lie: thy youthful wife, and she who was chosen by thee in thy youth, according as we refer the suffix to the whole idea or only to the second member of the chain of words.
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