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1. The wicked flee… righteous are bold A sense of their own mis-doings makes men timorous, but conscious rectitude, with faith in God as the righteous ruler of the universe, gives strong confidence and a sense of security. “Conscience does make cowards of us all.” Shakspeare.
Lion כפיר , ( kephir,) a young lion, esteemed bolder or less discreet than an older one.
2. For the transgression of a land Or, on account of rebellion or revolt, etc.
Many are the princes That is, they are short lived or short reigned, or several reigning at the same time in opposition, producing confusion, lawlessness, and bloodshed. “May Allah multiply your sheiks!” is a fearful Arab malediction. The latter part of this verse is obscure and variously translated. “But because of a man of understanding, (that is, a prince of intelligence,) he who regards what is right shall prolong his days.”
Stuart. “So soon as men become intelligent and knowing, then he (the prince) lives long.” Bertheau. “But with discerning and knowing men there may be permanence.” Conant. “In the sin of a land many are its leaders, but by the plainest man who imparts discernment, it makes itself endure.” Miller. Noyes gives the sense of the verse to be, “Through the rebellion of a land, many are its rulers; but through men of prudence and understanding it shall long endure.” National wickedness results in national ruin, the overthrow of the constituted authority, of order and law, in which case the people are apt to become victims of many petty tyrants, who often rapidly succeed each other, robbing and murdering the people. This is frequently the result of maladministration and injustice or incompetency on the part of the sovereign and his counsellors. But intelligence and a regard to what is right on the part of rulers may prevent these disasters, and both prolong the reign and the life of the ruler, and the stability and order of the State.
3. A poor man גבר רשׁ , ( gebher rash,) literally, a strong one poor, possibly a man naturally strong, but poor.
The poor דלים , ( dallim,) the weak, feeble.
Sweeping rain A flood, sweeping off and carrying every thing before it.
Which leaveth no food Literally, no bread; this is the final result. A man of ability, but a needy wretch, promoted to some station of honour, is often a great scourge. It would be natural to suppose that a poor man would sympathize with the indigent; but observation, as a general thing, proves the contrary. Hence such an overbearing, insolent, and tyrannical officer is compared not to a rain producing its natural beneficent effects, fertilizing the ground, and augmenting the crops; but to a “sweeping rain,” which destroys and carries them away. “The comparatively poor are often shockingly uncharitable and unfeeling to the real poor.” A. Clarke. Comp. Matthew 18:23-35.
4. Contend with them “Are angry with.” Gesenius. “Rouse up themselves against them.” Stuart. “Make war upon them.” Miller. Some think this proverb relates to the preceding. Lawless men will praise and flatter such an oppressor: but good men will firmly oppose him. Compare on first clause Psalms 49:12; Psalms 49:19; Psalms 73:3; Psalms 73:10; Psalms 73:12. For the verb “contend” compare Jeremiah 1:24; Daniel 11:10. See Thomson’s Land and Book, on both of the above, 498.
5. Judgment Justice, or the principle of rectitude.
Understand not Have no proper sense or appreciation of it.
All things Every thing pertaining to the subject. An ingenuous and pious mind readily comprehends and properly appreciates the principle of rectitude. The proverb “asserts the deep interdependence of morality and intellect. We loose ethical discernment in proportion as we do evil. We have a right judgment in all things in proportion as our heart seeks to know God” Speaker’s Commentary. Compare Proverbs 29:7; 1 John 2:20; John 14:26; John 16:13; James 1:23-24.
6. Better More esteemed and better off.
In his ways According to the Hebrew points, in his double ways, double dealing or duplicity of conduct. Riches, like every other good thing, commands respect and deference for their possessor. But let us never forget that it is better to be poor and upright erect and straight than rich and perverse, that is, morally crooked. Comp. Proverbs 19:1; James 1:8.
7. Keepeth the law Is moral in deportment and character. Comp. Mark 10:19; Mark 10:21.
Wise son Discreet, intelligent, he also imparts instruction by his example.
A companion of riotous men Profligates; margin, feedeth gluttons, “delighteth in prodigals.” Stuart and Muenscher. But others, with the Authorized Version, read, companion, messmate. The idea probably is, that of a spendthrift who associates with prodigals like himself, feasting them at his own and his father’s expense.
Shameth, etc. This may mean, wounds or injures, possibly by his shameful conduct.
8. Usury and unjust gain The first word is נשׁךְ , ( neshek), from נשׁךְ , ( nashak,) to bite a bite, or biting. So the Latins called it usura vorax, devouring usury. Leigh’s Critica Sacra says: “The increase of usury is called neshek, because it resembles the biting of a serpent; for as this is so small as to be scarcely perceptible at first, but its venom soon spreads and diffuses itself till it reaches the vitals, so the increase of usury, which at first is not felt, at length grows so much, as by degrees to devour another’s substance.” The second word is תרבית , ( tarbith,) from רבה , ( rabhah,) to increase; and it usually means lawful or moderate interest for the use of money, in opposition to neshek, which means unlawful, exorbitant, or compound interest. This position can hardly be sustained, as both were forbidden to the Hebrews. Comp. Proverbs 13:22; Leviticus 25:35-37; Job 27:17; Exodus 22:24; Deuteronomy 23:19-20; Ezekiel 18:8; Ezekiel 18:13; Ezekiel 18:17; Ezekiel 22:12. The proverb is founded on the Mosaic law, which forbade the taking of interest from “their brethren,” (some confine the precept to poor brethren.) “Usury” in its original sense is simply interest, or the premium paid for the use of money. In this sense it is used in the Bible. Its modern meaning is unlawful, or exorbitant, interest.
Zockler translates: “He that increases his wealth by interest and usury;” and says that neshek is interest, and tarbith, usury; the former term being applied to revenue from money, the latter to exaction in other things.
Shall gather it for him that will pity the poor Or, for compensating the weak or feeble. Providence will so order it that it shall benefit the poor.
9. Turneth away… from… the law Neither prayer nor any other devotional act can atone for the violation of the law, or become a substitute for obedience. While we neglect the golden rule our devotions are mockery. Compare Proverbs 15:8; Isaiah 13:15.
10. The righteous to go astray Misleads them so as to make them do wrong.
The upright shall have good The perfect, blameless, or morally whole, shall inherit good, shall hold it as coming by divine promise.
Comp. Proverbs 11:6; Proverbs 8:26-27.
11. Rich… conceit Riches sometimes gives a man an overweening opinion of his own wisdom. A man of intelligence, though poor, easily sees through him, and can easily expose his pretensions.
12. Great glory תפארת , ( tiphareth,) ornament, beauty. In the exulting of the righteous there is great beauty. The latter part of the proverb seems to imply that the rejoicing of the righteous is on account of the promotion of good men to places of trust and influence.
Wicked… hidden When bad men rise to power the good, from disgust or for personal safety, often retire to obscurity. Compare Proverbs 28:28; Proverbs 11:10; Proverbs 29:2; Ecclesiastes 10:6.
When vice prevails, and impious men bear sway,
The post of honour is a private station. ADDISON’S Cato.
13. Covereth… not prosper See this proverb illustrated in Psalms 32:1-5; 1 John 1:9-10.
14. Feareth always That is, to offend God, or do injury to men, and hence is watchful, prayerful.
But… hardeneth his heart Resists this gracious fear, and deems its violation a slight matter, and thus soon becomes presumptuous in sin.
15. Roaring lion The word represents the growling of a lion and other like beast when they have seized their prey, rather than their “roaring” on other occasions. This peculiar growl may be observed in the common cat. It seems expressive of the fierce pleasure of possession.
Ranging bear Rather, hungry, or raging with hunger. The imagery is very vivid, and well represents the rapacity of greedy rulers and office bearers, who make a prey of the helpless people. The picture is eminently Oriental; but, alas! not entirely unsuitable to the Occident.
16. Prince that wanteth understanding It is not a wicked ruler only that oppresses his people, but a weak one also; one who is himself both incapable of governing well and of selecting good advisers. He will probably prefer weak men, like himself, or wicked men, who flatter him and give him evil counsel. Witness the case of Rehoboam, given in 1 Kings.
Hateth covetousness shall prolong his days The ruler that is a hater of rapine and plunder shall prolong the days of his reign, and probably also of his life.
17. Violence to the blood The first part of this verse is better read: A man burdened with the blood of a person shall flee to the pit the figure of death.
Let no man stay him Muenscher reads: “That he may not be taken.” So Conant, substantially: “He will rush on to self-destruction, rather than fall into the hands of the avenger of blood.” Our Authorized Version, however, is justifiable. He is hasting to his doom. “Let murder have its due.” Comp. Genesis 9:6; Exodus 21:14.
18. Walketh uprightly Or, as a perfect man.
Shall be saved From danger and evil shall be safe.
Perverse… shall fall That is, a man of tortuous way, whatever his turns or shifts, shall eventually fall in one or another of his crooked ways. Thus many critics. But Conant prefers the Authorized Version.
At once Suddenly, unexpectedly to himself. Compare Proverbs 29:1.
19. Shall have plenty Shall have enough, and more than enough; shall be satiated. Comp. Proverbs 12:11.
Vain persons Worthless fellows: “vanities.” Conant. Substantially the same term as in Matthew 5:22. It is employed as a term of contempt, with the idea of moral depravity superadded. He that chooses such for his companions shall have plenty of poverty.
20. A faithful man Trusty. Literally, a man of fidelities.
But he that maketh haste to be rich Is unduly urgent, and hence open to temptation: cupidity oftentimes leads to fraud and occasionally to violence.
Not be innocent Not be held innocent, but be punished. Compare Proverbs 13:11; Proverbs 20:21; Proverbs 21:5; Proverbs 23:4; 1 Timothy 6:9.
21. To have respect of persons Literally, to know faces.
For a piece of bread That is, for the smallest bribe. While this proverb has special application to magistrates, it is also applicable to others. Compare Ezekiel 13:19. Cato said of M. Caelius: “With a crust of bread he can be hired either to speak or to keep silent.” Comp. Pro 6:26 ; 1 Samuel 2:36. The Septuagint varies in the first clause: “He that reverences not the person of the just is not good.”
22. Hath an evil eye Is covetous or envious in disposition, and hence is in trembling haste for wealth.
Considereth not… poverty Yet, though he knows it not, poverty shall come. So some reputable scholars: but others prefer to follow the Authorized Version in the order of the first clause: “He that is eager for wealth is a man of evil eye.” Conant.
Comp. Proverbs 28:20.
23. Rebuketh Reproves, admonishes. “Those reformed by admonition will afterward be grateful to their monitors.” Stuart. A proverb often verified. Comp. Proverbs 27:6.
24. Robbeth Strips them of their substance in any way.
Companion That is, he is to be classed with a destroyer, perhaps of life, a murderer. Comp. Proverbs 19:26; Matthew 15:4-6; Mark 7:11.
25. Of a proud heart Inflated of soul, or wide of desire of large cupidity. Zockler, “Proud spirited, arrogant.”
Shall be made fat Shall have abundance. Comp. Proverbs 11:25; Proverbs 13:10. Miller reads: “A large appetite stirs up quarrels.”
26. He that trusteth From the apparent lack of antithesis in these two proverbs (25 and 26) one might conjecture that they constituted a quatrain, with the alternate or inverted parallelisms; the continuous sense to be found by reading thus:
He that is of a haughty spirit, stirreth up contention,
But he that walketh wisely shall escape.
He that trusteth in himself is a fool,
But he that trusteth in Jehovah shall be prosperous.
27. Hideth his eyes Covers them up, so that he may not see the wants of the poor; pretends not to know the necessities of those in distress, and so does not relieve them. Comp. Proverbs 11:25; Proverbs 13:4; Isaiah 1:15.
28. When the wicked rise When bad men are in power, good men flee from their tyranny. But when bad rulers are destroyed, the good come back from their exile, or out of obscurity, and multiply in the land.
Righteous increase Or, “are made great.” Miller. Comp. Proverbs 28:12; Proverbs 11:10; Proverbs 11:21; Proverbs 29:2.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Proverbs 28". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27