Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger,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.
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.(3) When thou art come . . .—Rather, for thou hast come under the power of thy friend; thou hast made thy freedom and property dependent on him for whom thou hast become surety.
Humble thyself.—Literally, let thyself be trampled on, humbly sue.
Make sure.—Rather, assail impetuously, importune.
Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.(5) Of the hunter.—This, or some such phrase (perhaps, the hand “that held him”), must be supplied here.
Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,(j). Tenth Discourse:—Against Sloth (Proverbs 6:6-11)
(7) Guide.—Properly, judge (the Arabic cadi), then leader, prince.
So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man.(11) As one that travelleth.—The form of the Hebrew is intensive, “one who moves swiftly,” as in Psalm 104:3, it is applied to God’s “moving upon the wings of the wind.” While the sluggard sleeps, poverty is coming on apace.
A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward mouth.(k). Eleventh Discourse:—Against Deceit and Malice (Proverbs 6:12-19).
(12) A naughty person.—According to its original meaning, a “worthless” person, Heb. a man of Belial,
Froward mouth.—Comp. Proverbs 4:24.
He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he teacheth with his fingers;(13) He winketh with his eyes . . .—A picture, taken from the life, of a malicious tattler and scandalmonger, who fills out his lying tale with winks and signs, whereby even more is suggested than he says, to the blasting of his neighbour’s character.
Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.(15) Suddenly shall he be broken.—Shattered as a potter’s vessel (Isaiah 30:14), without hope of recovery. This character of a malicious mischief-maker would seem to be especially hateful to God; it is described in like terms in Psalms 64 and a similar fate foretold of it; in Proverbs 6:19 also it is held up as the very worst of the seven detestable things there mentioned.
These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:(16) These six things doth the Lord hate . . .—Rather, six are the things which He hateth. It is a sort of climax:—He hates six things, but the seventh worse than all. This numerical form of proverb, to which the name of middah is given by later writers, is found also in Proverbs 30:15-16; Proverbs 30:18-19; Proverbs 30:21-23; Proverbs 30:29-31; Job 5:19; Amos 1:3 - Amos 2:1; Ecclesiasticus 23:16; Ecclesiasticus 25:7; Ecclesiasticus 26:5; Ecclesiasticus 26:28; and in all these instances the number first named is increased afterwards by one. This peculiarity is absent from the instances occurring in Proverbs 30:7-9; Proverbs 30:24-28; Ecclesiasticus 25:1-2.
A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,(17) A proud look.—Hateful to God, because rendering men unfit to receive grace. Till they acknowledge their weakness, they will not seek for His strength, and without it they can make no progress in holiness. (Comp. 1Peter 5:5, and Christ’s commendation of the “poor in spirit,” Matthew 5:3.)
An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,(18) Feet that be swift in running to mischief.—Who do not yield to temptation after a struggle against it, but give themselves up as willing slaves to their lusts.
(l). Twelfth Discourse:—Against Adultery (Proverbs 6:20-35).
Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.(21) Bind them continually upon thine heart.—See above on Proverbs 3:3.
For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life:(23) For the commandment is a lamp . . .—Comp. Psalm 19:8, and Psalm 119:98-100; Psalm 119:104-105. The servant of God may often feel much perplexity as to his duty, darkness may seem to have settled down upon his path. But there is always some “commandment,” or positive order, about which he can have no doubt, calling for his immediate obedience; there is always some “law,” or rather “instruction” in God’s Word offering itself as his guide; there are always some “reproofs of discipline,” that is, he knows he has certain things to shun, others to follow, for the purpose of self-discipline. It is by following out these parts of his duty that he does know, which are, as it were, a “light shining in a dark place “(2Peter 1:19), that man prepares himself for more light and clearer vision; then God “opens his eyes” that he may “behold wondrous things out of His law” (Psalm 119:18); because he has some knowledge of God’s will and desire to do it, more is given unto him (Matthew 13:12), and his path becomes continually clearer, shining “more and more unto the perfect day” (Proverbs 4:18).
So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent.(29) Shall not be innocent.—That is to say, unpunished.
Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;(30) Men do not despise a thief . . .—A man who is driven to theft by poverty is more worthy of pity than disdain; not so the adulterer. Again, the thief can make retribution, while the adulterer can have none to offer.
But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall give all the substance of his house.(31) But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold.—Rather, And if he be found, he may restore sevenfold, he may give up all the wealth of his house. The law only required a two—or four—or fivefold compensation (Exodus 22); he may do even more. “Sevenfold” signifies full restitution. (Comp. Genesis 4:24 : Leviticus 26:28.)
For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not spare in the day of vengeance.(34) For jealousy is the rage of a man.—That is jealousy is furious, and cannot be appeased by bribes.