Proverbs 11:15

Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm,

but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure.

I don't really understand 2 phrases: "put up security for a stranger" and "striking hands in pledge".

Put up security for a stranger

According to this answer 1:

"Putting up security for a stranger" meant providing a pledge for someone else's loan.

But according to this page, "Pledge" means loan. 2

So from 1 and 2 --> providing a loan for someone else's loan... mmm...??? So does "Putting up security" mean "give someone money and expect he will pay this money back later"?

And what about "stranger"

Proverbs 20:16

Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger,

and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for foreigners.

Proverbs 27:13

Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger,

and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for an adulteress.

So I know that stranger is not foreigner & adulteress, but how can I define a stranger?

Does Proverbs 11:15 means that if you don't take the stranger’s garment when you has put up security for this stranger, you will surely suffer harm?

striking hands in pledge

Does this mean using violence to get back the money that we give someone as a loan? Or this mean the violent people who ask us for money?


Parallelism is a predominant feature of Hebrew Poetry

It is important to read Hebrew poetry with this in mind.

Bible Gateway puts it this way:

Parallelism is the foundation of Hebrew poetry and registers most obviously to the English reader as a balanced repetition:

The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it,

the world, and all who live in it;

for he founded it upon the seas

and established it upon the waters.

How does this help us understand what a stranger is?

Notice in the example cited by Bible Gateway (Proverbs 24:1-2) the two sets of lines mean the same thing:

  • The earth = the world
  • everything in it = all who live in it
  • founded = established
  • seas = waters

Line 2 is a near restatement of line 1 and the same is true for the final two lines.

This is a common feature of Hebrew poetry and we must be careful to read them like this (see diagrams for each of your verses below).

This means the conclusion in your question: "I know that stranger is not foreigner & adulteress" is a false conclusion because it assumes a second statement means something different that the first in your two examples (Proverbs 20:16 and Proverbs 27:13)

A stranger is simply that, a stranger.

A foreigner is a type of stranger. An adulteress is literally a "strange woman." The bottom-line is they are not from around here. We don't know them well. They are strangers to us, not familiar.

What about pledges and striking hands?

In Proverbs 11:15, "putting up security" and "striking hands in pledge" are parallels and the proverb tells us we should avoid them. Putting up security means providing the collateral for a loan. Striking hands in pledge means making a promise to pay (a verbal agreement sealed by shaking hands). Presumably, this means on the behalf of a stranger and would be like our modern day practice of co-signing for a loan.

Parallelism in your examples

Proverbs 11:15 can be diagrammed like this where A = [pledge], B = [strangers] and C = [harm]

  • Whoever does A for B will get C,
  • Whoever does NOT do A for B will NOT get C.

This is an example of contrast, but it is a contrast between doing something and not doing something. They have the same meaning but are stated in different words (as opposites).

By this we are able to see that "putting up security for a stranger" is parallel to "striking hands in pledge" and is a clue that they are likely to be synonyms (which turns out to be true).

Both Proverbs 20:16 and Proverbs 27:13 can be diagrammed like this where A = [collateral], and B = [strangers]:

  • Take A when someone provides A for B
  • Take A when someone provides A for B

This shows us that we have several parallels that are likely to be (near) equivalents:

  • stranger = foreigner = adulteress

Consulting a interlinear for the Hebrew meanings confirms this is the case.


We are told the following:

  1. Don't put up collateral for stranger (Proverbs 11:15)
  2. Don't co-sign for a stranger (Proverbs 11:15)
  3. Do hold collateral put up for a stranger (Proverbs 20:16 and 27:13)
  4. Do hold collateral put up for a "strange woman" (Proverbs 27:13)

Taken together these mean the following: A stranger can not be counted on to pay for their pledges. So don't put up your own collateral for them. But if someone else puts up collateral for them, hold onto it, because it is likely to be the only way you will get paid.



Proverbs 6:1-3 (ESV)

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, 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 neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor.

A footnote to the verse in the Oxford Jewish Study Bible (2nd ed.) reads:

Do not go surety for another’s loan. If you have done so, do your best to get released from your promise. (20.16 tells what happens to one who gets himself into this mess.) Rather than putting up his own property as collateral, a borrower could have the loan underwritten by someone else, whose possessions would then be liable to seizure. Going surety is always risky, but doing so for a stranger (which one might do for a fee) is tantamount to loss; see 27.13. See also 11.15; 17.18; 22.26– 27. The tone and practical main message of this epigram differs significantly from the emphasis on helping the poor found in some Torah texts (e.g., Deut. 15.9).

The word that appears in the Masoretic Text is תּוֹקְעִים (tô·qeʿîm), which describes a non-verbal signal made with the hands (sometimes depicted in movies) that a pledge has been made. The modern custom would be a handshake. It literally means "to strike hands" (as the ESV suggests), but it is not a violent action.

  • Good insights; thanks! +1 – Ruminator Oct 4 '18 at 20:50

The sage is advising his young protege to require collateral for a loan to a stranger or a fool. A loan protected by collateral is a "secured loan".

An unsecured load to someone who is going to use it to benefit a foreigner or to fund his reckless living is foolish.

Deuteronomy 15 provides several rules and conditions relating to lending and several of them are deeply connected to the sanctions of the Torah and are extremely interesting!

Note: This question was asked again and is likely to close as a duplicate so I reproduced my answer here.

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