What does Proverbs 6:1 mean?
ESV: My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger,
NIV: My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, if you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,
NASB: My son, if you have become a guarantor for your neighbor, Or have given a handshake for a stranger,
CSB: My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor or entered into an agreement with a stranger,
NLT: My child, if you have put up security for a friend’s debt or agreed to guarantee the debt of a stranger —
KJV: My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger,
NKJV: My son, if you become surety for your friend, If you have shaken hands in pledge for a stranger,
Verse Commentary:
Under the Old Testament, a person was permitted to lend money to a fellow Israelite as a way of helping him out of distress. However, in those cases, the lender was not supposed to attach an interest rate to the loan. Exodus 22:25 states specifically: "If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him." Further, verse 26 commands: "If ever you take your neighbor's cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down." Returning the cloak before sundown would provide protection against the temperature drop—it was an article of clothing the person needed. Leviticus 25:35–37 also prohibited an Israelite from charging interest or making a profit from a loan to a fellow Israelite.

The phrase "put up security," also translated as "become surety" means to become a cosigner for someone else's loan. The warning here does not seem to be against all borrowing, of all kinds. Rather, the danger is in tying one's own finances to another person's reliability. If the borrower is not faithful, the person who "put up security" for them risks losing their own wealth.
Verse Context:
Proverbs 6:1–5 is the first of two teachings on good financial health in this chapter of Proverbs. This passage refers to using one's own property as collateral, especially for someone else's loan. The emphasis seems to be on a situation where one has cosigned on high-interest or risky borrowing, on behalf of another person. The book of Proverbs often discourages this kind of gamble (Proverbs 17:18; 22:26–27). Solomon's advice for those caught in such an arrangement is to immediately seek resolution: remove yourself from that situation without delay. Exodus 22:25–27 and Leviticus 25:35–37 are companion texts regarding lending money. The next passage considers another aspect of money management: avoiding laziness.
Chapter Summary:
This chapter provides teaching on two aspects of wealth management. The first is avoiding putting one's property in debt for the sake of some other person's risky investment. The other warns against laziness, indicating that it puts a person at risk for sudden ruin. Solomon then poetically explains attitudes and actions which God finds especially repulsive. Next, Solomon returns to the subject of adultery. He reiterates the inherent risks of sexual immorality, including the catastrophic consequences which it brings. That lesson continues into the following chapter.
Chapter Context:
This chapter of Proverbs continues the wise sayings Solomon addresses to his son. In chapter 5 he addresses adultery and marriage. In this chapter he addresses financial matters, work ethics, characteristics and conduct the Lord despises, and sexual immorality. A common theme of these lessons is to avoid the natural consequences of foolish choices. The next chapter describes the adulteress's ways and the pitfalls involved in committing adultery with her.
Book Summary:
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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