Proverbs 24:24

He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous; him shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him:
– Proverbs 24:24

The “respect of persons in judgment” from the previous verse is explained as declaring the wicked to be righteous. Declaring the guilty to be innocent is a corruption of justice. Such perverting of justice is an abomination to God (Proverbs 17:15), and also to the general public (Proverbs 11:26). Perverting justice may win power and position, but it will lose the people.

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Proverbs 24:23

These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment.
– Proverbs 24:23

Verse 23 begins an additional collection of wise sayings, which runs through the end of the end of the chapter. Verses 23-26 form a saying concerning just judgment. The phrase respect of persons literally means: look at the face. It is put for showing partiality in judgment. The word for judgment means a verdict, or decision. It has legal connotations. The saying is a warning against perverting justice. We show partiality in giving favor to the rich or powerful. We also show partiality by giving favor the poor or downtrodden. The latter is sometimes called reverse discrimination. Any perversion of justice, regardless of the direction favor is shown, is unjust (Leviticus 19:15; Deuteronomy 1:17; 16:19; Proverbs 18:5; 28:21).

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Proverbs 24:12

If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth the heart consider it? And he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it? And shall not he render to every man according to his works?
– Proverbs 24:12

Proverbs doesn’t often refer cases upward, but verses like this one bring us back to the deeply theological realities of wisdom. We know that justice, or righteousness, is the context of this saying. Walking wisdom means walking in the way of justice, and that may not be the way of momentary successes. If we consider proverbs such as Proverbs 18:16 and Proverbs 17:23, we righteousness is more important than wealth. Additionally, religious acts will not make up for the lack of doing righteousness (Proverbs 15:8; 16:6; 21:27; 28:9, 13). The first phrase is a feigned ignorance and the rest of the verse dismisses this with the sovereign omniscience of Yahweh. Wisdom understands Yahweh knows us inside and out (Proverbs 5:3, 11, 21; 16:2; 17:3; 20:12; 21:2), and shall reward us according the reality of ways (Proverbs 3:32-33; 11:4, 19, 21; 12:14; 15:9; 16:4; 17:5; 19:5; 28:20).

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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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