Proverbs 22:29

Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.
– Proverbs 22:29

Proverbs praises diligence and warns against laziness (Proverbs 10:4; 12:24). The word for diligent means ready, or skillful. Promotion is in view in terms of standing before kings as the reward of the diligent. Wisdom seeks promotion on merit, not bribery or empty talk (Proverbs 14:23; 28:19). Even the talk of the diligent differs from the talk of the lazy. The talk of the diligent is a wise plan executed successfully (Proverbs 21:5).

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Proverbs 22:28

Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.
– Proverbs 22:28

The saying of this verse stands alone, giving the simple imperative, “Do not.” No reasons or consequences are given, though those can be found elsewhere in Scripture. The word for landmark literally means a twisted cord. The word is used by implication to refer to a border, edge, or boundary. The word appears over 200 times in the Hebrew Old Testament. It is most often translated border or coast. In a few places it is translated as landmark or bound. In the law, the word refers to the property boundaries given to the tribes by allotment from God. The inheritance was to remain in the families and the borders were important to be maintained. The law forbade falsifying property boundaries (Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:27). This very act brought God’s judgment on the people (Hosea 5:10).

Wisdom reinforces the command of law. Moving a boundary marker was lying and stealing. The law did not provide a specific penalty inflicted by man, but did warn the sin would incur the curse of God (Deuteronomy 27:27). Proverbs echoes this warning by assuring Yahweh will “establish the border of the widow” (Proverbs 15:25) and will “plead their [the fatherless] cause” (Proverbs 23:10-11). This proverb is another stern warning against oppressing, extorting, and defrauding of the weak and vulnerable.

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Proverbs 22:27

If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee?
– Proverbs 22:27

Being surety, or striking hands, is like cosigning a loan for someone today. If the borrower defaults, the cosigner assumes responsibility for the debt. The warning of the previous verse comes home in harsh reality that you could literally lose your bed from under you. Wisdom takes a longer view and looks to the outcomes, or the end of the way you are going. Becoming surety opens yourself to vulnerability and puts you at risk of future loss.

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Proverbs 22:26

Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts.
– Proverbs 22:26

Proverbs has repeated warnings about sureties (Proverbs 6:1-15; 11:15; 17:18; 20:16; 27:13). A surety, or a pledge, secures a debt and Proverbs cautions doing so, particularly for one whose reputation is bad or unknown. A pledge is a form of rash vows and puts a person in unnecessary risk. Solomon advised his son to get out of such a situation as fast as he could if he ever got in it (Proverbs 6:1-15).

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Proverbs 22:25

Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.
– Proverbs 22:25

Verse 25 completes the proverb started in verse 24. The warning against associating with the angry man is to avoid the snare of becoming like him. Wisdom teaches that we become like those we companion with and those we allow to influence our lives (Proverbs 13:20). Wisdom teaches us to discern the character of others and to avoid all forms of folly and wickedness (Proverbs 1:11-19; 2:12-20; 7:22-27). This is more than a question of taste or preference. Wisdom commands to “forsake the foolish and live” (Proverbs 9:6). The hot tempered, angry man is one type of fool to avoid (Proverbs 21:14; 29:22).

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Proverbs 22:24

Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go:
– Proverbs 22:24

The word for friendship literally means to tend a flock and is put for associating with. Wisdom has warned against the folly of anger (Proverbs 15:18; 19:19), but the warning here is along a different line, as seen in the next verse. The word for angry means nostrils and the word for furious means heat. The words describe the marks of a hot tempered man. The saying instructs not to associate with, or be the companion of such a man.

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Proverbs 22:23

For the LORD will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.
– Proverbs 22:23

Verse 23 gives the consequence for verse 22, which forbids unjust treatment of the weak and needy. Wisdom has previously given warning against injustice toward the poor because God is their Creator (Proverbs 14:31; 17:5). Here God is their counsellor and protector. He will plead their cause means he will take their case and contend for them. The word for spoil means to rob. Yahweh will also mete out justice to those who have oppressed the poor. In due time, exploiters will reap what they have sown (Proverbs 1:16-19; 5:22-23; 28:17).

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Proverbs 22:22

Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate:
– Proverbs 22:22

Verse 22 begins “The Words of the Wise” proper and is the largest section. Verses 22 and 23 form a complete saying. The word for rob means take away, or plunder. The word for poor means weak, or needy. The poor are often representative of the weak and vulnerable. Wisdom is very much concerned with righteousness, or justice, and has many sayings concerning just treatment of the poor (Proverbs 10:15; 14:31; 17:5; 19:4, 17; 21:13). The second phrase completes the picture. The word for oppress means to crumble, or crush. The word for afflicted means lowly. The reference to the gate is a reference to the place of judgment. We would say court today. The overall warning is against exploiting, oppressing, or extorting the weak, needy, and otherwise vulnerable, even if it be done legally.

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Proverbs 22:21

That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightiest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?
– Proverbs 22:21

This verse explains and expands on the verse before it, and concludes Solomon’s introduction to “The Words of the Wise.” Various benefits of wisdom appear throughout Proverbs. Here, the method of instruction is to the end of establishing the learner in truth, so he may in turn speak truly to others. The wisdom to be a faithful messenger is one application of this verse (Proverbs 25:13). More generally, the one who acquires wisdom is equipped to impart wisdom to others.

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