Proverbs: Primer for Princes (7)

The Cost of Calvary

The Surety in Proverbs

Being the surety for a person under Jewish law was costly. One thus became responsible for both the debt and the debtor. Deuteronomy 15 deals with the obligations of the debtor and the surety. Leviticus 23 deals with the remarkable provision of God in the Year of Jubilee that both the debtor and surety are released from debt. This beautifully pictures the grace of our Lord Jesus as our surety.

The first mention of the “surety” in Proverbs is in chapter 6. A surety is one who by promise or vow undertakes the position and debt of another. The debtor may be a relative, friend, or stranger, one to whom he owes no allegiance or obligation, and who is characterized by indolence and untruthfulness. An example of this is Israel. At Mount Sinai they received the law of God and vowed obedience and loyalty to God as their only true God and Savior. We know from Scripture they failed and were unfaithful to God. They proved to be incapable and insensitive to their debt to God. In Romans 3 we learn that each of us have the same nature and incapacity in our debt of sin.

In other passages, Proverbs 11:15, 17:18, and 20:16 we see the serious position of the debtor and his debt. The choice of becoming a surety is described as undesirable and a costly work. The debtor is characterized as bankrupt, unrighteous, and determined to pursue illicit pleasures. The surety must be a remarkably gracious person with an eye to the liberty of the Year of Jubilee. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).


The law itself cannot recover a debtor in default on his debt. His only hope for redemption is a surety. Romans 3:1-19 graphically describes man’s spiritual condition. Paul, by the Holy Spirit, reveals four things declaring the completeness of man’s lost condition spiritually:

1. Human nature cannot be righteous as God is righteous (vv 5, 10).

2. Man with or without law from God has a history dictated by self-will (vv 11-12).

3. Human government has filled history with venom, suffering, and death. Man’s efforts to recover fail; evil increases (vv 13 -18).

4. Accountability to God is denied and compromised by religious rituals. This attempts to dethrone God; mankind requires Him to accommodate to his sinful standards (vv 19 -20).

It is not a helper or a religious sacrifice man needs. Unless a surety from outside the Adamic family steps forward the human race is lost eternally.


Solomon emphasizes three requirements of the surety beautifully displayed in our Lord Jesus Christ:

1. The surety must have knowledge of the claims of the law against the debtor and submit to identification with all charges of lawlessness and incurred debt.

2. A surety must have resources sufficient to clear his own name and that of the debtor. Complete acquittal must be secured. The law must never be able to charge or claim either debtor or surety for insufficiency or unrighteousness. Romans so beautifully states the riches of completeness the believer has in Christ. Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Hallelujah what a Savior!

3. The surety must accept all lawful obligations knowing that his debtor is incapable of returning payment. He evaluates his suretyship in view of the Year of Jubilee. That year both surety and debtor are brought into full inheritance, released of all prior history. “But God, Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).


In the Proverbs of Solomon suretyship is viewed as most undesirable. The surety exposes himself to association with shameful and unrighteous persons. He could lose his reputation and possessions by the merciless claims of the law as he represents the debtor.

We must worship as we contemplate the grace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ. “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation … ” (Philippians 2:6-8). “He was numbered with the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12).

The cost of suretyship to our Lord transcends human ability to comprehend. Our Lord Jesus suffered mentally. What anguish of mind and spirit He expressed in Gethsemane; “being in an agony.” The physical sufferings of Gabbatha and Calvary were all necessary to the accomplishment of our surety’s work. Amidst the painful, merciless, and bloody hours of Calvary, there shines forth the unexcelled and undiminishable glories of our unique surety. “I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6).

What must have been the pit of despair for His holy soul in the darkness of Calvary? “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. …. The Lord’s pleasure was fulfilled in His bruising; when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:5, 10).

The results of such suretyship surpass human conception. The universe will be purged from all sin (Hebrews 1). Israel will be brought into the Lord’s Melchisedec order of priesthood because “by so much was Jesus made the surety of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22). Satan will eternally be confined to the sufferings of the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10). Wonder of all wonders, the church, the masterpiece of God, composed of believing Jews and Gentiles, will be presented to the Father clothed in all the glory of the accomplished suretyship of the Bridegroom. She will be the bride eternally to complement the graces and honors of her Bridegroom as His joint-heir.