Proverbs 20:14

It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.
– Proverbs 20:14

The general tenor of Proverbs teaches to weigh speech carefully and look beyond the face value of what is said. The line may seem fine between shrewdness in dealings and deception, but the line certainly exists. This proverb presents a sample transaction where the buyer talks down the value of what he wants to purchase. The word for naught means bad, or of little worth, in this context. The buyer appraises the object at little worth in order to drive down the price. The contrast is after the purchase when he boasteth, or makes a show of what he has. The object has suddenly become much more valuable, and he clever because he got it, “for a song.” While many traders love the thrill of negotiation and getting a good deal, we must remember there is a line between shrewd and deceptive. The line crossed is the same as a diverse weight and false balance (Proverbs 11:1; 16:11; 20:10, 23).

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Proverbs 16:11

A just weight and balance are the LORD’s: all the weights of the bag are his work.
– Proverbs 16:11

This proverb speaks of honesty and equity in trade and business. In broader terms, it is about justice and rulers have a responsibility for maintaining standards of justice. 2 Samuel 14:26 refers to the “king’s weight,” which referred to weights and measures standardized by the king’s authority. This proverb refers the standard further upward as “all weights of the bag” are “the Lord’s.” This is the standard of the law as well (Leviticus 19:36). Cheating and trimming in trade is further condemned as abominable to the Lord (Proverbs 11:1; 20:10, 23).

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Proverbs 11:26

He that witholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.
– Proverbs 11:26

The word for witholdeth is different from the one in verse 24. Here it is not the idea of hoarding but rather of denying. This proverb addresses business dealing where a merchant is keeping back the supply to inflate the price. In modern terms we might speak of price gouging. The one who does so will be cursed by people. The contrast is the one who deals uprightly in trade and sells his goods without taking advantage. The one who does this will be blessed by the people.

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