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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Proverbs 18:5

It is not good to accept the person of the wicked, to overthrow the righteous in judgment.
– Proverbs 18:5

This proverb refers to the perverting of justice by showing partiality. Such miscarrying of justice is forbidden by the law and by wisdom (Deuteronomy 1:16-17; Proverbs 17:26; 28:21). Accepting bribes (Deuteronomy 16:19), showing favoritism to a class (Leviticus 19:15), and oppressing the vulnerable (Deuteronomy 24:14; Leviticus 19:33-34) can pervert Justice.

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Proverbs 17:15

He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.
– Proverbs 17:15

Injustice is a two-way street that runs to abomination at both ends. Justifying the wicked means to declare innocent one who is guilty. Whether the crime appears victimless or not, it is an injustice. The first phrase comes under the respect of persons and is abhorrent to the righteous Judge of all the earth (Proverbs 24:23-24). The second abomination is the reverse of the first. It is to declare guilty one who is innocent. The Lord abhors and the prophet Isaiah condemned Judah for it (Isaiah 5:20-23). It is one of the ways of calling “evil good, and good evil.”

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Proverbs 17:8

A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.
– Proverbs 17:8

The word for gift means bribe, or reward, and it is mostly negative in the Old Testament usage. The word for precious means favor, or charm. It describes a stone that is seen as some charm of favor, or magic charm. The second phrase describes the one who uses it as prospering wherever he turns his bribe. The proverb describes the short term success of the palm greaser. Using bribes can range on the scale of wickedness, but it is always wicked to do so (Proverbs 17:23). God’s righteousness is described as never taking bribes (Deuteronomy 10:17). The law, which demands holiness like God’s holiness, forbids the giving or taking of bribes (Exodus 23:8; Deuteronomy 16:19; 27:25).

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Proverbs 16:12

It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.
– Proverbs 16:12

The level of authority and responsibility a person has magnifies the severity of their sins (Luke 12:47-48). On the one hand, even good works can become abominable when mixed with the embrace of folly (Proverbs 28:9). Kings are in a special place of responsibility and accountability before God. They must be careful not to follow the counsel of the ungodly (Proverbs 20:18; 25:5). The word for righteousness means justice and is explained as “faithfully judgeth the poor” in a similar proverb (Proverbs 29:14). Bearing authority with wisdom means upholding justice (Deuteronomy 1:17; 16:19; Proverbs 24:23; 28:21).

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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 16:10

A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not in judgment.
– Proverbs 16:10

Verses 10-15 touch on kings and bearing authority. The word for divine sentence can mean divination, such as is forbidden in Leviticus 19:26. It can also mean the speaking of an oracle in a good sense, and so here refers to the authority of the king’s words. The second phrase is a warning to kings to speak in righteousness in light of the authority of their words. The king is not to speak contrary to wisdom and justice (Deuteronomy 17:18-20).

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Proverbs 16:8

Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.
– Proverbs 16:8

Proverbs doesn’t denounce wealth in itself, just as the rest of Scripture, though wealth is never exalted as a goal or the ultimate mark of God’s favor. This proverb highlights wealth in relation to ethics and approaching legality. The terms, righteousness and right, refer to justice. The contrast is between having little or great revenues, or income. The proverb does not exalt poverty, for little is what we would call a modest income. The point of interest is how the little or the great is obtained. It is better to be just in whatever we have, whether little or great (Proverbs 15:16; 21:6-7).

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