Wisdom’s Counsel against Putting up Security

Proverbs 6:1-5 (English Standard Version)

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbour,
    have given your pledge for a stranger,
if you are snared in the words of your mouth,
    caught in the words of your mouth,
then do this, my son, and save yourself,
    for you have come into the hand of your neighbour:
    go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbour.
Give your eyes no sleep
    and your eyelids no slumber;
save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
    like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

In v.1, the warning against putting up security is repeated four times in Proverbs (11:15; 20:16; 22:26; 27:13). To put up security is to be a co-signer or guarantor, one responsible for a debt should the borrower default. The expression, given your pledge means ratified the agreement and the stranger refers to a borrower. The fact that this warning is repeated four times indicates that there will be dire consequences should it be unheeded. A Jew’s properties could be seized, and he could be enslaved if he fails in making good his pledge as a guarantor (Neh.5:1 5).

God uses Solomon to caution His people with regards to managing their businesses so as to avert irreversible damage.

In vv.2-4, wisdom counsels that the one who is snared and caught in his own words is to speedily implore his neighbour to allow him to be freed from His obligations. This is to be done without delay and even if he has to lose sleep carrying out this counsel.

In v.5, wisdom counsels that this careless man must understand how severe and urgent his situation is. He is as vulnerable as a gazelle (roe) is to the hunter and the bird is to the fowler. Apparently, it is because of pride and a desire to be well thought of that such a man offers to be a guarantor, without realising that it may be too great an obligation he is committed to. Such a man will do well in humbling himself, admitting his vulnerability and freeing himself from this snare before he tries to take his rest. 

Have you put up a security for anyone? If you have, go get yourself freed without delay! If you have not, never be one!

Ps Peter Goh