Take his garment


In The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 20 Verse 16 states:
Take his garment who becomes surety for another,
and for strangers yield it up!
Please explain.


Yikes! Proverbs is (besides revelation) one of the hardest books to understand. I’ll do some research and get back to you.


The version of the NAB that’s on the USCCB web site renders this as, “Take the garment of the one who became surety for a stranger; if for foreigners, exact the pledge!”

Ever take out a loan? And, in order to give you a loan, the bank asks for collateral? That seems to be the context here.

That’s what “surety” is – the value that the person who makes the loan demands against payment of the loan.

(Or, take as an example a bail bond – the person who puts up the cash does so, as a guarantee that the person who is freed from jail will actually appear in court for his court date.)

In the Mosaic law, there were prescriptions about such practices. For one’s countrymen, Hebrews were told not to exact burdensome surety. (Taking a garment (such as a cloak) was the typical example; for fellow Jews, one wasn’t supposed to put a person at a disadvantage with the surety demanded.)

However, this verse seems to be advising that a different standard be applied to those who were “outside the family”, so to speak. When dealing with foreigners – who, one might expect, might be more likely to skip out on an obligation (since they didn’t have the same social pressures to make good on the loan) – the verse seems to suggest that one act cautiously and prudently, in order that the loans one gives will be repaid.

Anyway, that’s what it seems like to me. :shrug:


The proverb is warning hearers that they could literally lose their shirt, or equivalent, off their body if they got involved in risky finances with outsiders. I.e. Don’t do it!





DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.