Proverbs 28:1

Introduction
Chapter 28 continues the proverbs of Solomon collected by Hezekiah’s men, which runs through chapter 29. These last two chapters of wise sayings are mostly two-line antithetical proverbs. This chapter is part of the kingly instruction and touches on themes of law, justice, hearing, and understanding. There are also references to confession of sin, oppression of the poor, riches, and pride.

The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.
– Proverbs 28:1

Fleeing when no one is pursuing is twice mentioned as a curse upon those who break God’s law covenant (Leviticus 26:17, 36). The word for wicked conveys the idea of a criminal, or one who is guilty of wrongdoing. The word for bold means trust, or confidence. In contrast with the wicked, the righteous, or just, man walks confidently like a lion. The lion does not fear any (Proverbs 30:30), but rather instills fear in others (Proverbs 22:13; 26:13).

The lion symbol is often associated with kings or rulers (Proverbs 19:12; 20:2; 28:15; 30:30-31). David cited his overcoming a lion and a bear as evidence for his confidence in God and the righteous cause against Goliath (1 Samuel 17:34-37). Ultimately, it will be the Lion of Judah that prevails, overcomes all enemies, and will suffer no uprising of the wicked (Genesis 49:9; Numbers 23:24; 24:9; Revelation 5:5).

When the king rules in righteousness, the kingdom is established (Proverbs 16:12; 25:5) and the people dwell safely. When the people walk in righteousness, they walk in confidence and come to reward (Proverbs 12:28; 13:6, 9, 21, 25). The wicked walk in fear and come to destruction (Proverbs 10:2-3, 11, 16, 24-25, 28; 29:16), as their kingdom shall not be established (Proverbs 10:30; 14:34; 16:12).

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:27

And thou shalt have goats’ milk enough for thy food, for the food of thy household, and for the maintenance for thy maidens.
– Proverbs 27:27

This verse ends the saying and the consideration of the reward for diligence. The word for maintenance means alive and has the idea of lively, or active. It speaks of health. The general picture of the faithful farmer-shepherd is a vibrant estate, well supplied.

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:26

The lambs are for thy clothing, and the goats are the price of the field.
– Proverbs 27:26

This verse describes the reward for diligent care of the flocks and herds. The care for living things provides sustainability and stability. Applying the metaphor to a kingdom, it is the downfall of king and kingdom when the shepherd-king steals, kills, and devours the flock (2 Samuel 12:1-12; Jeremiah 23:1-4; Ezekiel 34:1-6).

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:25

The hay appeareth, and the tender grass sheweth itself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered.
– Proverbs 27:25

This part of the saying reflects the divine provision of growth from the earth. The whole saying captures the cyclical nature of life lived in the created world. The hay appears. The grass shows itself. The herbs are gathered. These provide food for the house, servants, and animals. The wise farmer-shepherd-king lives wisely within the created order.

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:24

For riches are not for ever: and doth the crown endure to every generation?
– Proverbs 27:24

Verse 24 gives the reason for the previous verse and is expanded on in the following verses. Flocks and herds, when properly cared for, will produce and reproduce. They are a renewable resource. Riches, or wealth accumulated, do not work the same way. The mention of the crown gives the saying its kingly flavor. The crown is like the stored wealth in that it’s not as renewable. Clearly, the establishment of the crown requires righteous care of the people (2 Samuel 23:3; Proverbs 31:3-9).

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:23

Be thou diligent to know the state of thy flocks, and look well to thy herds.
– Proverbs 27:23

Verses 23-27 form a saying using shepherding as a metaphor for investing in sustainability through care for living things. Ultimately, the saying contributes to the training of the sage/king, as is common to the latter part of the book of Proverbs.

The word for state literally means face and is put for knowing the condition of the flocks. The word for look means to put or set. The word for well means heart. The last phrase means to set your heart to your herds. It doesn’t mean to have sentimental feelings about them, but rather to think on them, to intentionally know their condition and provide for their care. The wise king knows his real business is the welfare of his people (Proverbs 14:28; 29:2).

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:22

Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.
– Proverbs 27:22

The mortar and pestle paints the image of grinding and crushing. The word for bray means to pound. The imagery alludes to the beating of a fool he has merited through his folly (Proverbs 10:13; 18:6; 19:29; 26:3). The last phrase points to the deeper, spiritual problem of a fool and the fact that physical punishment alone is not sufficient to remove folly from him (Proverbs 17:10).

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:21

As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold; so is a man to his praise.
– Proverbs 27:21

The fining pot and furnace are not analytical tools for testing metal, but rather instruments of refining and preparing metal. Metal is tested in the crucible, and that is a common enough image of men being tested by trials, but it doesn’t end there. Metal is purified in the crucible and made ready for use. Likewise, praise tests and purifies a man, or else it tests and discards him. Wisdom warns against self-praise (Proverbs 17:3; 25:27; 27:2).

 


 

 

Proverbs 27:20

Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.
– Proverbs 27:20

The words for hell and destruction are sheol and abaddon in the Hebrew, and occur in Proverbs 15:11 (see comments for discussion of meaning). Here, they are never full and that refers to the grave as insatiable. We might say something like the funeral home and cemetery are always in business. Proverbs 30:15-16 has the same sense where sheol is translated grave. The figure is: the grave is always hungry and ready to swallow up lives.

The parallel comparison is to the insatiable desires of men. Man’s insatiable desires also destroy lives and that is a subtext in the comparison.

 


 

 

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