This word is used in three different connections or groups:
(1) As a derivative of the word "sure" it means "of a certainty" or "surely."--In Genesis 15:13 the infinitive absolute of the verb is used to give emphasis to the idea of the verb and is rendered "of a surety." In Genesis 18:13 the Hebrew 'omnam is translated "of a surety." In Genesis 26:9 'akh is similarly rendered, and has the force of our "indeed." In Acts 12:11 alethos, is translated in the King James Version "of a surety," but better in the Revised Version (British and American) "of a truth."
(2) In the sense of security or pledge for a person.--This means that one person may become security for another, that such a one will do a certain thing at a time in the future. Judah was "surety" to his father Jacob that Benjamin would safely return from Egypt (Genesis 43:9). He pledged his life that the younger brother would return safely. He tells Joseph (Genesis 44:32) how he had become surety for Benjamin, and offers to become Joseph's slave for the sake of his brother. Job says (Job 17:3), "Give now a pledge, be surety for me with thyself; who is there that will strike hands with me?" The striking of hands refers to the action or gesture by which the surety or pledge was publicly manifested and thus ratified. Job here beseeches God to become surety for him, to pledge him that some time in the future He will cause Job's innocence to be made known and be acknowledged by God Himself. In Isaiah 38:14 Hezekiah says, "O Lord, I am oppressed, be thou my surety." He wishes God to give him a pledge of some kind, to go security for him in such a way that he will surely be saved out of his sickness and distress. Jesus is called "the surety (egguos) of a better covenant" (Hebrews 7:22). Jesus is the pledge or surety that through Him we may obtain the assurance and certainty that a more excellent covenant has been established by God, and are assured also of the truth of the promises connected with it.
(3) It is used to describe the practice of going security for another by striking hands with that person and becoming responsible for money or any object loaned.--The Book of Proverbs unhesitatingly condemns the practice. No mention is made of it in the Mosaic Law, as if the custom were then practically unknown. The Book of Proverbs makes no distinction between a stranger and a neighbor; the person who does such a thing is likened unto an animal caught in a trap. He is exhorted to sleep no more until he has got out of the trap, or freed himself from this obligation (Proverbs 6:1-5). The wisdom of such advice has been abundantly verified by experience. It does not necessarily preclude certain special cases, where the practice may be justified. The international relationships of the Jews in the period of the monarchy, together with the unsettled condition of the country (Nehemiah 5:3) and people, needed such commercial strictness. Their trade was mostly in the hands of the Phoenicians and other foreigners, and the pressure of taxation for the payment of foreign tribute, etc., was heavy (Nehemiah 5:4). Proverbs 11:15; 17:18 declare one "void of understanding" who thus goes security for another. Proverbs 20:16 seems to contain an exclamation of contemptuous rebuke for the man who goes security. Proverbs 22:26; 27:13 contain like admonitions.
See DEBT; PLEDGE; SECURITY; STRIKE.
James Josiah Reeve