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Proverbs 6:1-5 speaks to a son that has become responsible for the debt of another person. It tells him (in verse 3) to hurry up to the debtor and beg him for release. But then in verse 5 it says (GNT):

Get out of the trap like a bird or a deer escaping from a hunter.

As far as I know, a bird or a deer do not beg the hunter - they just try to escape. It seems unlikely that the passage recommends the son to escape his duties, since this is immoral.

So, what is meant by this comparison to a bird or a deer --- do these animals behave in such a way that can be compared to "begging" the hunter for release? (it will be great to see a picture or video illustrating this).

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This passage only makes sense if you read it as the exemplary form of Middle East and Jewish idiom that it is.

The intent of the passage is, like Proverbs 17:18 and 22:26, to issue a dire warning against careless countersigning for debts, whether for friends or for strangers.

The "son" of verse 1 is a figurative form of address that the voice of wisdom uses with her listeners, us, to express endearment and concern for our welfare, rather than an expression of parental relation.

In verse 3, the voice of wisdom appears to counsel something that is clearly debasing and futile, to go and humiliate yourself in front the the creditor. Those who are familiar with the Middle East know just how much respect this behavior buys. So the intent of the verse is not to actually give advice, it is to say "You can go jump in the lake", because even debasing yourself wont save you, and this is the reason that you should never allow yourself to get into this situation.

Verse 4 says, "Don't give sleep to your eyes, drowsiness to your brows". This isn't actually advice. It is saying, "Don't even think about getting any sleep, because you wont, from worrying about the debt".

Verse 5 is the ultimate metaphor of futility - you are as helpless as a bird or deer in the hunter's trap.

So, by giving three graded expressions of mock advice, the author expresses the hopelessness of the situation and therefore the importance of avoiding getting into it in the first place, whatever the expected profit you might forgo.

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  • This is an interesting interpretation. However, the start of verse 3 "do this, my son, and save yourself" does sound like the start of a real advice. – Erel Segal-Halevi Mar 17 '19 at 6:23
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    But it is clear that this "advice" is useless, futile and self-destructive. In fact, that is the point. This mode of expression is a common Semitic idiom, both in Hebrew and Arabic, like "Go drink the sea", اللي زَعْلان يِشْرَب البَحَر, just here it is a little more nuanced. – Abu Munir Ibn Ibrahim Mar 17 '19 at 8:41
  • Very interesting interpretation. Thanks – Erel Segal-Halevi Mar 18 '19 at 5:52
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Proverbs 6:1-5 (DRB) My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, thou hast engaged fast thy hand to a stranger. 2 Thou art ensnared with the words of thy mouth, and caught with thy own words. 3 Do therefore, my son, what I say, and deliver thyself: because thou art fallen into the hand of thy neighbour. Run about, make haste, stir up thy friend: 4 Give not sleep to thy eyes, neither let thy eyelids slumber. 5 Deliver thyself as a doe from the hand, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler.

This passage focuses on the personal struggle of paying off debt, and approaches the issue in terms of avoiding the perils of such in the first place (cf. Mt 5:25). The image of the fleeing doe, or the bird from its capture bring to mind the image of avoiding at all costs an ill fate. Neither have the intention to be caught, but live to be free: so the man is taught by the Teacher to be free of debt whenever he can help it.

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  • This make sense. But, in verse 3 it seems that the son has already "fallen into the hand of the neighbor", and the teacher tries to tell him how to save himself in the present situation. – Erel Segal-Halevi Mar 17 '19 at 6:26
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    I believe the image is being used to discourage an attitude conducive to accumulating debt in the first place, even though it uses the image of a doe already caught. Clearly it's preferable never to be captured, if, once captured, it's perilous. Even so, once 'ensnared' by debt, make every effort to 'escape.' Debt is bad news, basically. – Sola Gratia Mar 17 '19 at 19:59

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