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A Bad or a Good Conscience
“The wicked” may have a big mouth, but inwardly they are always in fear. They have a guilty conscience and are afraid of the judgment. They do not trust anyone, they are suspicious and they even flee for an imaginary danger (cf. Lev 26:36; Psa 53:5a). Wicked people continue to flee, for they always bear their bad conscience with them, wherever they go. Sin makes a man to be a coward.
“But the righteous” are aware of God’s and man’s favor. They have a pure conscience. They don’t always have to look over their shoulders to see whether somebody is chasing them to do them wrong. They “are bold as a lion” and therefore free from fear. The “boldness” that they show, is not in their own power, but in God. The righteous will not run for an imaginary enemy, for that does not exist for them.
The verse shows the connection between courage and a good conscience and also the result of a bad conscience. “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2Tim 1:7). He who is guided by God’s Spirit, does not have to flee. Elijah, a righteous man, was as a man of God “bold as a lion” at Mount Carmel against hundreds of false prophets (1Kgs 18:22).
Not Acknowledging God’s Authority
National sins cause national disasters. When a land does not consider God and His Word, it is due to the fact that it has no God-fearing ruler. The consequence is that the rulers follow each other in a fast pace, for every ruler seeks his own interest (Pro 28:2). The period of the judges with thirteen judges and the days of the northern kingdom of Israel with nine dynasties, are examples of political instability because of sin. During rebellious, turbulent times, a nation has many coups and many people who are fighting for power.
A nation gets the government it deserves. We see that not only in kingdoms but also in countries with a self-chosen government. The one government follows the other, while the government that is resigning, leaves the country in a bigger chaos than when it entered into office.
But when there is “a man of understanding [and] knowledge” in the government, “it endures”. It comes down to understanding and knowledge in the will of God. When that is present, it will “endure”, which means: rule for a long period. Enduring justice means that as soon as evil elements are exposed which endanger the legal order, the evil will be judged. As soon as this is ignored, the cycle of the many princes that succeed one another starts again, with the result of instability in the country. When the legal order is maintained righteously, there will be no change of government over and over again. This is very beneficial for the stability of a country.
It is very tragic when “a poor man” becomes powerful, when he becomes a ruler, and in that position “oppresses the lowly” (Pro 28:3). A poor man could have become a refreshing rain to his former peers in such a position of authority which he acquires by his experiences. None better than him, after all knows what it is to be ‘lowly’. But then one on the contrary can indeed show the greatest despise towards those among whom he formerly lived. His oppression of the lowly implies betrayal.
The second line of the verse tells by a comparison about the result of the attitude of the poor man that became powerful. He is “a driving rain which leaves no food”. Rain is to serve as a blessing to the crop, that the harvest will become good so that there will bread, but here he is doing a devastating work. Hunger arises. A ruler has to take care of a beneficial society (Psa 72:5-7) and not wipe it out by heavy oppression (2Chr 10:10-19).
“Those who forsake the law” have lost the good view, God’s view, on the wicked (Pro 28:4). They are no longer able to discern between good and evil. They are disobedient to God’s law and because of that get admiration for those who have evidently set God aside and determine their own lives. In a society where the wicked are praised, God’s Word has been thrown overboard. The free will, freedom for everyone to say whatever they think and do whatever they want, has become the greatest asset. Whoever supports that, congratulates the wicked with their wickedness (cf. Rom 1:32). An example is the sexual contact between people of the same sex.
He who wants to live according to God’s Word, shall fight against it. That may imply that he openly points out this evil. In any case, this means that he does not participate in praising the wicked. Then the ruling opinion is attacked. When that happens, it will arouse resistance.
To “understand justice” (Pro 28:5) depends on one’s mind, not on one’s intellect (cf. Psa 119:100; Jn 7:17). “Evil men” are people who are not attuned to God, but to their own wicked nature. They set their heart on evil. Their thoughts are corrupt. Therefore they cannot understand “justice”, the legal rights of people, which have been ordained by God. They have no ‘sensor’ for it, for they are darkened in their understanding. They show it by the injustice they do to their fellow-men.
The word “but” at the beginning of the second line of the verse, ushers in the contrast in what is stated in the first line of the verse. “Seeking the LORD” means asking Him His will to do it (2Sam 21:1). We seek God’s will when we examine His Word. When we keep his Word closed, we do not seek Him. The Spirit helps us to find God’s will in God’s Word and to understand it and carry it out. We “know all things” by the Spirit Who dwells in us (1Jn 2:20; 27). If we want to experience the full use of it in our lives, then we should be spiritually minded, for then we can appraise all things (1Cor 2:14-15).
Integrity Is Better Than Being Crooked
This verse is again a “better … than” proverb. This proverb says that poverty in integrity is better than being crooked though wealthy. There are certainly dishonest poor people and honest rich people. The verse only contrasts “the poor who walks in his integrity” with someone who “is crooked though he be rich” (cf. Pro 19:1). The word “crooked” suggests that the rich man’s ways goes two ways, sometimes right, sometimes left. It means that he is a hypocrite and that he acts in two ways. Outwardly he is religious, but inwardly he is corrupt and greedy. One moment he plays the role of a religious man, but the other moment he acts like a greedy man.
Integrity is not automatically connected to wealth as an evidence of God’s appreciation for that integrity. Being poor entails the risk to be dishonest or insincere. The poor who walks in his integrity does not give in to that risk. His walk with God protects him in his integrity.
Wealth is not automatically an evidence of God’s appreciation. The rich man who is crooked, shows that he does not see his wealth as a gift from God. His crooked ways are ways without God. He does not walk with God, but he walks according to his own corrupt ideas with which he thinks to keep his wealth and increase it in that way.
A Discerning Son or a Son Who Humiliates
He who keeps the law shows that he “is a discerning son”. His father has been telling him the importance of the law and he has lived up to it; the discerning son has taken that teaching to heart. Therefore he makes wise choices and is a joy to his father.
A son “who is a companion of gluttons” – for example indulging in food and drinks and sexuality – does not care at all about the teaching of his father. He does not say: “Depart from me, evildoers, that I may observe the commandments of my God” (Psa 119:115). Instead, he chooses his own friends who behave cross-bordered in all kinds of areas. He is profligate. This bad company and debauched life are a great sorrow to his father, whom he also “humiliates” by his behavior. He insults his whole family.
Crooked Wealth Increase
The connection between the first and the second line of the verse seems to assume that wealth increase is the result of taking advantage of the poor who had to lend or buy from him. This saying presumes that the wealth of someone who has gained it in a dishonest way, will ultimately find its way to the poor (cf. Jer 17:11; Jam 5:1-6). God will ensure that it will happen (Job 27:16-17; Ecc 2:26). He will ensure that it will come into the hands of someone “who is gracious to the poor”.
The law prohibits it to ask interest from a neighbor, a compatriot (Exo 22:25; Lev 25:36-37; Deu 23:19-20; Psa 15:5). When the poor needed help, the rich had to give it to them as a charity. They were not to exploit the tight situation of another Israelite for their own benefit.
God Is Deaf to Those Who Are Deaf Towards Him
Fellowship with God takes place by His Word and by prayer. Through His Word, God speaks to man and through prayer, man speaks to God. When God speaks, but a man refuses to listen, God will not listen when that man speaks to Him. Listening is not only hearing, but also doing. When a man for his part is deaf for the teaching from God’s Word, when he excludes himself from it, God will, from His side be deaf for this man’s prayer.
His prayer will certainly not be sincere. God is not only deaf for it, but it is an abomination to Him. He who refuses to obey God, cannot possibly pray according to God’s will. If somebody still has the nerve to ask God something in an attitude of disobedience, he will hear that God rejects his prayer (Isa 1:15). When the elders of Israel came to Ezekiel to ask for God’s will, God said that He would not respond to their question, because they did not obey what He earlier had told them to do (Eze 20:1-8). He who does not hear, deserves not to be heard. Of course a prayer of repentance is no abomination to the Lord.
Falling Into His Own Pit or Doing the Good
The judgment is certain for him “who leads the upright astray in an evil way”, which means: who seduce them to commit sin. To God it is a great evil to cause “the upright”, which are those who are in relationship with Him, to stumble (Mt 18:6-7). Satan will try everything to lead the upright astray and he has enough people that he can use for this purpose. The world presents an enormous selection to cause the upright to go astray. That happens via advertisements and the internet. The evil of unfaithfulness in marriage is denied; there is nothing wrong with ‘a love affair’. Satan will fall, together with every creature that does the same as he does, in the pit that he and they have dug.
But if we are “blameless” and remain that, we will not only be kept from falling into the pit of the false teacher, but we “will inherit the good”. God will grant us the good as an inheritance. “The good” includes all things that God has given to the Lord Jesus as a reward, which we will be allowed to share with Him. We can thereby think of the good things which we will enjoy in the kingdom of peace.
The Wise in His Own Eyes and the Poor
This proverb again deals with a contrast between “the rich man” and “the poor”. In this verse the rich man is “wise in his own eyes”. He is filled with self-conceit. He sees only himself and thinks that he can judge everything. “But the poor who has understanding sees through him”; such a poor man does not allow himself to be fooled. The poor sees the lack of the rich man, he sees straight through his arrogance.
Wealth and wisdom do not often go together. It is mostly the case that the wealth of the rich makes him to be blind of his spiritual poverty. He believes that his money determines the value of his soul. He who has money can buy power and can even assert it. But one who has no money but understanding, sees through him and sees that he is just a conceited bigot, who is not what he pretends to be.
Wealth can lead to pride (1Tim 6:17). The wisdom of the righteous is not that he knows how to earn money as much as he possibly can and to become rich as soon as he possibly can. His wisdom is that he sees the insecurity of wealth and does not put his trust in it (Mt 6:19).
The Righteous or the Wicked in Control
The contrast in this verse is between the situation of “the righteous” triumphing and “the wicked” being in control (Pro 11:10). The thought is that when the righteous are exalted, when they are in control, when they “triumph”, the people have much confidence. They have a positive impact on the people. The righteous give glow to the society. The society prospers by that. Everyone is glad and happy, for there is a righteous way of sharing of the burdens and an honest sharing of advantages.
But “when the wicked rise”, when they are in control, it is the end of a peaceful, happy society. They have a negative impact on the people. When the wicked become powerful, it becomes silent on the street, because the people hide themselves out of fear of them. We see the two contrasting effects in the government of Mordechai (Est 8:17) and that of the Midianites (Jdg 6:2).
Confessing and Fearing
The contrast in Pro 28:13 – indicated by the word “but” – is between “he who conceals his transgressions” and “he who confesses and forsakes [them]”. The former “will not prosper”, the latter “will find compassion”. This verse is unique in the book of Proverbs. It deals with the truth about forgiveness. Every part of this verse is essential for this truth. The forgiveness by God is obviously connected to a real return to God to find compassion with Him instead of judgment (Psa 32:1-5; 1Jn 1:6-9).
A ‘transgression’ is the crossing of a border, while the border has clearly been indicated. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba, he transgressed, crossed the border which God had drawn around marriage. First, he covered that sin and was silent about it. He was not prosperous then. His bones wasted away and God’s hand was heavy upon him. Then he acknowledged his sin, he confessed them and said: “My iniquity I did not hide” (Psa 32:3-5). Then he was able to say that God surrounded him “with songs of deliverance” (Psa 32:7b).
The result of receiving compassion is “to fear always” (Pro 28:14) for sin. Fear for sin seems to be more the intention of this verse, than fear for the LORD. The latter is always true, but the emphasis is not on that.
‘To fear’ is to fear greatly. It is to fear greatly for sin, like Joseph feared sin (Gen 39:8-9), a great fear for the consequences caused by sin. It is the fear for falling (again) into sin; it is a fear for or anxiety about the power of sin. The point is that one should always have that fear. We certainly have that fear for the sin that we had to confess (Pro 28:13). If we have this fear, “how blessed”, happy we are, for we will avoid sin.
That we may here preferably think of fear for sin, appears also from the contrast in the second line of the verse. The verse puts the man who ‘always fears’ against “him who hardens his heart”. It is inevitable that he who does the latter, “will fall into calamity”. A deep sense of sin is a special grace. He who has no fear for sin and hardens his heart against the warnings about it, will sin and leads himself and also others into calamity.
“A roaring lion and a rushing bear” are fear instilling animals that have no compassion at all (Pro 28:15). They follow their instincts and chase their prey. As soon as they have caught it they tear it apart. With these animals that are frightening and chase their prey, “a wicked ruler over a poor people” is compared. Political tyrants are like these animals, incalculable, powerful, insensitive, cruel, bloodthirsty and devouring. The ruthless world leaders whom Daniel sees in a vision, are also presented as animals (Dan 7:1-8). The poor are suffering under these tyrants because they cannot meet their requirements (cf. Ecc 4:1).
In this “wicked ruler” we see a picture of the antichrist. This extremely cruel ruler will be accepted by the non-believing mass of the Jewish people as the leader after the rapture of the church. This wicked ruler will be especially targeting the believing remnant that we see in “a poor people”. But they will be redeemed by the true David, when He returns to the earth. Just like David “killed both the lion and the bear” (1Sam 17:34-36), the Lord Jesus will kill the wicked antichrist, which we see here in the picture of the lion and the bear.
A tyrant always “lacks understanding” (Pro 28:16). He is blinded by the lust for power and maintains his power by oppression. His love for money determines his performance. He oppresses people, for example by imposing high tax burdens. On the other hand (“but”) we have the righteous king. That is someone who does not seek his own gain (Exo 18:21). It is not only that he is not focused on money, but it someone who “hates unjust gain”. This ruler “will prolong [his] days”. In this we again see the Lord Jesus, Whose kingdom will have no end (Lk 1:32-33).
The Guilt of Human Blood Leads to the Pit
The first line of the verse literally reads: ‘A man tortured by the blood of one’s life.’ It regards a murderer who is a fugitive. He is a “man who is laden”, which means that he has a laden soul or a guilty conscience. Even when by his run he remains out of the hands of the avenger of blood, his conscience continues to accuse him. This is how his running will always end up in the pit of the grave after a shorter or longer time. Nothing can be done about it. The brother murderer Cain has understood it (Gen 4:12-14).
The second line of the verse reads that it is not good to try to support a murderer who is a fugitive. One should not get involved with him, for justice must take its course (Gen 9:6).
The gospel can however be brought to him, so that he may get rest for his conscience by repentance and conversion. Then he is still on his way to the pit of the grave, for he deserves the death penalty, though not any more as a fugitive for the justified judgment.
To Be Delivered or to Fall
He who walks blamelessly may be threatened by hostile people or be struck by an accident. He who walks blamelessly, walks with God. There is no other possibility to walk blamelessly. Therefore he knows that God is with him and will help him out. He who walks blamelessly, walks safely.
The second line of the verse begins with “but”, which indicates that a contrast follows with the previous line of the verse. There are two contrasts in this verse. “He who walks blamelessly” is in contrast with “he who is crooked”, and “will be delivered” is in contrast with “will fall all at once”. He who is crooked, walks insincerely. He is dishonest and corrupt and seeks to enrich himself at the expense of others. He does not take God into account. Therefore there is no deliverance for him when he needs help. And his fall will suddenly come, it will be all at once.
Results of Diligence and Faithfulness
In Pro 28:19 there is mention of two kinds of saturation (cf. Pro 12:11). There is saturation with food and saturation with poverty. “To have plenty of food” is the result of diligently doing your work daily, which is indicated here with “he who tills his land”. One does not get food by this or that miracle, but you have to work for it. When you do, you will have plenty of food and will be saturated.
The second line of the verse again begins with “but”, which indicates that a contrast follows. In contrast to the diligent worker is someone who “follows empty pursuits”. He who does such a thing shows how he himself is. He does not do anything at all, but profits from others. Once in a while he has something to eat, but ultimately, he “will have poverty in plenty”. He who tills his land, will have his bread bin, his table and his stomach filled with food. He who follows empty pursuits will have a bread bin, table and stomach full of emptiness.
The contrast is between the one who concentrates on his work, and the one who allows himself to be distracted and spends his time and energy to non-productive activities. Some recreation and distraction at the right time is useful, but too much of it leads to poverty, both materially and spiritually.
Pro 28:20 connects to Pro 28:19. The first line of the verse deals with “a faithful man”, which means that he is among others diligently at work and does it faithfully. He “abounds with blessings”. By the contrast with the second line of the verse it seems that one of the bountiful blessings is that of sufficient income. He doesn’t need to make haste to become rich; he is rich by his faithfulness in his work. Therefore he is able to provide for his family. He is also able to give something to the poor and specially to give to God His part. He rejoices about God’s grace. Faithfulness determines success.
In contrast to a faithful man is “he who makes haste to become rich”, also to be translated as ‘he who cannot wait to become rich’. Such a person uses dishonest means to succeed. We can conclude that from the words “will not go unpunished”. The thought is that the first one is faithful to his obligations towards God and towards other people. The second, which is someone who makes haste to become rich, is doing so without working diligently for it, but by using deceit. In that way he not only overloads himself with riches, but especially with debts. He will be punished for his deceit and misbehavior (1Tim 6:9-10).
Partiality Leads to Transgression
Partiality is not good, it is not allowed (Lev 19:15; Deu 1:17; Deu 16:19; Pro 18:5; Pro 24:23). One can show partiality because a distinguished man is involved, or a rich man, or a family member, or a friend. The second line of the verse begins with the word “because”, which indicates that the reason follows from what is said in the first line of the verse. Partiality causes a dishonest judgment of a conflict. When a judge in a court case, or someone who is in conflict with another person, shows partiality, he is corrupt. His motives are impure. Therefore he already is a transgressor when someone offers him a piece of bread in order to cause him to make a false judgment. He is just that easy to bribe.
We can apply this to the preachers who tell the church people what they love to hear, to benefit from it. Here the following saying is also true: ‘He who pays the piper calls the tune’. People want to pay preachers who make speeches that they love to hear and are willing to pay them for it. The preachers show partiality; they choose for the favor of people and against the grace of God. They transgress God’s Word and violate it for a piece of bread.
Greed Leads to Want
He who seeks to increase his wealth and also hastens after it, is fixed on his wealth in such a way that he doesn’t award anyone, which is literally translated here as “has an evil eye”. The thought of awarding somebody is despicable to him. Then he would shoot into his own foot. No, never award somebody anything. What he would award someone else might cause him to lack something and therefore his wealth will not grow.
He has an evil eye because his eye is focused on the wealth of the world and not on God and His will. Therefore he does not know that God will punish him with “want” for his greed. He will not be able to keep his wealth, but loose it as a result of what God will bring upon him.
Rebuking Is Better Than Flattering
Rebuking someone for his character mistakes or for his wrong actions or remind him on his responsibility often does not reap recognition directly. People may respond negatively or even get angry. But after a course of time the hurt will change into appreciation. They will understand that the rebuke was justified and that listening to it has brought a blessing. Here it is not about interference or a critical spirit, but about a rebuke from love with the intention to help.
A young woman of faith who had a relationship with a young unbeliever had been rebuked for the wrong of it. The Scripture says that a believer should not be bound together with an unbeliever (2Cor 6:14). It is not pleasant to confront anyone with that and it is not pleasant to be confronted with that. The sister accepted the rebuke. Thereafter the man truly came to a living faith in the Lord Jesus. They were both very grateful about the rebuke. After a while they got married.
If this woman had been congratulated with her wrong connection, she would have possibly felt flattered and also supported in her choice at that moment. But how dramatic the development of the relationship would have been then. A rebuke in love based on God’s Word brings a blessing for him who rebukes and for the rebuked.
He who flatters with the tongue, leads others and himself to calamity. He who flatters seeks personal advantage. In any case, he doesn’t want to be found unkind, which indeed can happen at rebuking. If we want to please men we will flatter; if we want to please God and find favor with men, we will rebuke. God doesn’t flatter anyone, but admonishes man to repent. He who listens to Him and does what He says, will find His favor, or grace.
In Pro 28:24 it goes further than not fulfilling the duty of taking care of the parents (Pro 19:26). There is mention of someone who “robs his father or his mother” and who even dares to claim without shame or guilt: “It is not a transgression.” Is it possible to sink lower than this? The person whom it is about here, is one with whom the most elementary form of natural love has disappeared, which is the love for his parents. The company he joins is that “of the man who destroys”.
He who robs his parents, no matter how he tries to justify it, is a destroyer. He anticipates what he is going to inherit when they die. He can’t wait until it happens. He tries to get control over the possessions of his parents prematurely. He uses a form of psychological pressure or even physical abuse to succeed. His reasoning is that the inheritance will anyway on one day be his. Therefore, no one needs to blame him for a transgression.
Such a man is spiritually related to the Pharisees who have invented cunning methods for robbing father and mother (Mt 15:1-9; Mk 7:6-13). They said to the people that they should speak out the word “Corban” as a spell concerning an amount of money that actually was intended for the support of the parents. In that way the amount of money was declared holy and it was no sin when it was given to the Pharisees. That’s what these corrupt men did for their own financial gain. The Lord Jesus condemns them for this hypocrisy in sharp words.
Pro 28:24 deals with the family atmosphere; Pro 28:25 concerns the whole society. “An arrogant man” (Pro 28:25), believes that happiness is related to possessions. Therefore all his desires are all about that and he makes his best efforts to gather as much as he can. He is a great self-centered man and he is often also ruthless. He would kill you to satisfy his greed. Wherever he comes, he “stirs up strife”. He never cares about anyone but himself. His conduct and actions cause strife because people do not tolerate him for long.
Against the agitation which sounds through the first line of the verse, the second line of the verse is an oasis of peace. The word “but” initiates the contradiction. “He who trusts in the LORD” for the temporal and eternal things, “will prosper”. Trusting in the LORD negates covetousness. There is no need for more earthly possessions, no room for greed. God meets all needs of those who trusts in Him. That is the prosperity that fills a person. For the earthly circumstances, saturation is being content with “food and clothing” (1Tim 6:8).
Self-Confidence or Walking Wisely
A characteristic of “a fool” is that he “trusts in his own heart”. He has no idea that the heart of a human being, even his own, is deceitful (Jer 17:9). Being filled with self-confidence he trusts that what his heart tells him will deliver him most benefit. That is why he follows the promptings of his own foolish heart, without consulting anyone else and certainly not with God. This is not necessary, because he himself knows what is best and he alone knows it. This verse condemns and puts an end to exhortations such as ‘simply follow your heart’ or ‘do what your heart tells you to do’.
The word “but” indicates that there is a contrast following the fool who relies on his heart. Opposite to this fool is “he who walks wisely”. God looks at such a person with pleasure, for he walks according to His Word and listens to its teaching. In this way he escapes the foolishness to follow the promptings of his own heart. It will save him from the disasters and plagues that are the inevitable part of the fool. He escapes from this, while the fool dies in it.
He Who Gives, Has No Lack
Generosity is rewarded, but indifference is cursed (Pro 22:9; Pro 11:24-26). The presence of the poor in God’s people is a test for the rich. God wants His people to be giving people, as imitators of Him (Deu 15:7-11). Whoever gives does not become poorer, but richer. God will not let him suffer a lack, but will provide him with what is needed. That experience is already a great reward. In addition, the poor person will pray for the giver and will also be prepared to do what he can for him.
The contrast, introduced with the word “but”, is the indifferent rich. A person who “shuts his eyes”, or “looks away”, turns his head, when he sees a poor person, is not open to the distress of his neighbor. Every time he “looks away”, he will be “cursed” by that poor person. This is what characterizes the human being in question. The fact that he “will have many curses” indicates that he is a seasoned egoist. He doesn’t want to be confronted with distress, because that costs money or loss of property. Eventually he will be cursed by God.
Wicked People Rise, but They Also Perish
When the wicked can manifest themselves and behave ungodly, when they are given space and even come to power, no man is safe anymore (cf. Pro 28:12). The righteous will hide from this evil. Also other groups of people who may be targets of the wicked will hide. The wicked have no mercy. They are eager to cause as much evil as possible and as much damage as possible.
“But” their reign is limited; they do not reign forever. The moment comes when “they perish”. When this happens, the “righteous” appear and “increase” (cf. Est 8:17). There will be room for multiplication of those who give God what is due to Him. This will be fulfilled in full in the kingdom of peace. When the kingdom of peace will be established, the Lord Jesus first will cleanse the earth by judging the wicked. Then a righteous people can enter the kingdom and be made numerous by God (Isa 26:2; Jer 30:19).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Proverbs 28". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19