Proverbs 23:11

For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.
– Proverbs 23:11

This verse adds the consequential warning for the command, “Remove not the old landmark,” in verse 10. The warning has primarily to do with theft and oppression of the poor. The word for redeemer means next of kin and we sometimes refer to kinsman redeemer. A near kinsman was an advocate and deliverer by the law. Sometimes this might be through relieving the suffering of poor relatives (Leviticus 25:25; Ruth 3:12-13). The redeemer might also be the avenger of blood (Number 35:19). Yahweh is the ultimate redeemer who will defend the weak and exact justice (Proverbs 22:23; Exodus 22:22-24). Wisdom teaches us to be mindful of this, though the poor are easily taken advantage of.

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Proverbs 23:10

Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:
– Proverbs 23:10

The old landmark refers to the boundary markers that were set to apportion the land inheritance to the tribes and families throughout Israel. The word for old means time out of mind, referring to antiquity. The saying accords with the setting of landmarks by “thy fathers” in Proverbs 22:28. The law forbade moving or removing those landmarks so as to encroach on the inheritance of another (Deuteronomy 19:14; 27:17). The old landmark is here tied to the fields of the fatherless, which is the focus of the saying. Wisdom teaches with the law against the oppressing, defrauding, extorting, or otherwise afflicted the weak, i.e., widows and fatherless (Jeremiah 22:3; Zechariah 7:10; Malachi 3:5; James 1:27).

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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 22:23

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 21:13

Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard.
– Proverbs 21:13

This proverb is the alternative to Proverbs 19:17, which promises recompense to the generous. Wisdom teaches eye-for-eye justice will be given. The warning here is similar to the warning to those who refuse to hear God’s word (Proverbs 1:22-33). The word for poor means weak, or needy. It’s not just a lack of money, but a vulnerable helplessness. It may include lack of money or be a lack of connection due to low social standing, etc. One’s view and treatment of the poor is an important marker of wisdom (Proverbs 14:31; 17:5; 19:17). Oppressing the poor is wicked and shortsighted (Proverbs 22:16; 28:8, 27).

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Proverbs 21:3

To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice.
– Proverbs 21:3

The word for justice means rightness, or doing what is right by a standard of righteousness. The word for judgment means a verdict, and so refers to our dealings with others being just dealings. The word for sacrifice means slaughter, as in a ritual sacrifice for offering. The proverb says righteous conduct is better to Yahweh than religious acts. The proverb does not disparage religious acts, but rather wisely observes that religious acts without accompanying righteous life are hollow and hypocritical. Another way to see it is that no amount of religious piety can make up for unrighteousness in life (1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 58:1-14; Micah 6:6-8). This proverb is a thematic summary of what all proverbs are saying. People often approach Proverbs topically because it is easier to study the whole book that way. If you think about the various topics, i.e., marriage, children, wealth, parents, work, poverty, business, anger, speech, etc., you get a picture of wisdom that is righteousness in all of life. Men often make the mistake that pious observance of ritual without living in the way of the fear of the Lord is righteousness.

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Proverbs 20:26

A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them.
– Proverbs 20:26

The word for scattereth is the same as in Proverbs 20:8 (see commentary). The term combined with the use of the wheel in the second phrase completes the threshing, winnowing image. The previous proverb highlighted discernment in judgment. The winnowing image had to do with the searching eyes of the king separating the innocent and the guilty. This proverb uses the same imagery, but with two different emphases. Here wicked are not just sorted into proper categories, but rather the wheel is brought over them. So this proverb highlights the execution of just judgment and maintenance of justice by bringing punishment to evildoers.

The second emphasis is the attribution of the king who does this. He is wise. The word for wise means skillful. It was a term used commonly to describe a master craftsman; one who had learned the art and science of his craft and gained the technical expertise to execute a master work. The word was so used to describe the craftsmen who built the tabernacle and its furnishings (Exodus 36:4). The word was also used to describe the work of the craftsmen who fashioned an idol in Isaiah 40:20, where it is translated cunning. The word appears 46 times in Proverbs and refers to one who is skilled in applying the word of God in all areas of life. So a wise king is one skilled in mastery of the art of ruling well and maintaining justice in the fear of the Lord and according to his word.

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Proverbs 20:8

A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.
– Proverbs 20:8

The word for scattereth away means to toss about, or winnow. The word is used with the thought of winnowing in connection with a threshing wheel in Proverbs 20:26. Winnowing has to do with separating the chaff from the wheat. Verse 26 notes a wise king does this. The purpose of civil authority is to root evil out of the land (Proverbs 16:12). The king who is righteous is a blessing to his people and secures the conditions for flourishing for them (Proverbs 29:14). The primary purpose of civil government is to uphold and maintain justice, even as Paul wrote in the New Testament (Romans 13:1-7).

The reference to the king’s eyes here is speaking of discernment. Proverbs references the eyes of the Lord in different places in the sense of discernment (Proverbs 5:21; 15:3; 16:2; 21:2; 22:12). The king is as Paul wrote, “the minister of God” (Romans 13:4). The righteous ruler is seen as doing God’s work in upholding justice for the afflicted and oppressed (Proverbs 31:4-5), and representing and relieving the poor and oppressed (Proverbs 31:8-9).

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