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Use Material Possessions Wisely
Proverbs 11:15 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
15 Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm,
but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure.
Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm: The Hebrew word (כִּי־עָרַב ki·arab) rendered put up a security means to pledge something as collateral, make a guarantee, including yourself. Stranger: (זֵר zer) was applied to those who forsook what was in harmony with the Mosaic Law and so were estranged from God and not necessarily as some foreigner or non-Israelite. Here, like in Proverbs 6:1, it simply seems to be a contrast between someone you know (neighbor) with some you do not know (stranger). However, it is possible that the contrast could be a countryman Israelite (neighbor) with a non-Israelite (stranger). The point being made is that it is careless and unwise to make a security for, a pledge for, a deal for a total stranger of whom you have no intimate knowledge so as to make an informed decision, or to make a pledge for one who has estranged himself from God. To make a deal for a total stranger of whom you have no knowledge, or a person who is estranged from God, places you at the mercy of the person you are indebted for, and the odds are you will suffer a loss. Suffer harm (רַע־יֵרוֹעַ ra·yeroa) refers to one who experiences injury or emotional pain. The one who offers a pledge, surety, or guarantee for a stranger can be distressed, disturbed, miserable, a feeling of anxiety over the loss of whatever they had offered.
but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure: Here hates (שָׂנֵא sane) is referring to one who has an intense dislike, who feels an aversion for striking hands in a pledge, especially for or with a stranger. The Hebrew word (תּוֹקְעִים toqeim) translated striking hands is grasping hands or shaking hands with another in order to make a pledge. This person who hates striking hands is secure (בָּטַח batach), that is, a safe state from danger; he has no anxiety or stress over risking a pledge or losing a pledge.
In Solomon’s day, borrowing and lending money was a common practice. The risk-taking investors found many opportunities to lend funds, of course, at high rates of interest and on responsible suretyship (line of insurance). When one entered into such a pledge, it was guaranteed by striking hands. Only the foolish would allow a stranger to talk them into putting up security for him so he could borrow money. This would bring on severe distress of the possibility of the stranger’s disappearing, leaving you to suffer the harm in that it would now be your obligation to repay his loan. Solomon, in all likelihood, was thinking of his son Rehoboam when he penned this Proverb. Rehoboam was the heir apparent to the throne. He loved flattery, which the court parasites gave him in abundance for his generosity, making it foolish to give him his royal inheritance.
It is careless and unwise to make security, a pledge, a deal for a total stranger based on a mere handshake. (Prov. 11:15; 17:18; 20:16; 22:26–27; 27:13) To make a deal for a total stranger based on a handshake alone places you at the mercy of the person you are indebted to and the neighbor. (6:1, 3) Proverbs are concise and to the point of offering responsible actions. Pledge something or self for a stranger (risky), and there will be much distress, pain, and suffering over the risk until all have been repaid, and if it is not repaid, the pain and suffering will increase a thousand-fold. Avoid shaking hands, a gesture in ancient Israel that was like a signature on a contract today. You will be free from financial or personal entrapment and the anxiety and stress of worrying over such a foolish pledge.
Proverbs’ comments about offering or giving monetary or personal help to others could help many of us to avoid the stress of financial problems. Some are emotionally inclined to provide financial help without security or even go surety for others. Frequently, they lose their money in this way and therefore suffer serious economic hardships. Hence, their life would be greatly improved by living in harmony with the above Biblical warning.
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