Proverbs 28:21

To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress.
– Proverbs 28:21

Verses 21-23 address greed in some form. This saying refers to the perversion of justice through bribes. Respect of persons refers to discrimination on the basis of a person’s standing, whether ethnically, socially, etc. The miscarriage of justice can go in favor of a person or against them depending on their standing. Such injustice is consistently condemned in Proverbs, as well as in the law (Proverbs 18:5; 24:23; Exodus 23:2, 8; Deuteronomy 1:17; 16:19).

A piece of bread is a slight temptation and so speaks to the power of unchecked greed within a covetous heart. As Kidner pointed out, this sin, or temptation to sin, is not only limited to public officials, but to teachers as well (Ezekiel 13:19).

Proverbs 28:17

A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him.
– Proverbs 28:17

The word for violence is a form of the same word in translated oppressor in verse 16. It typically refers to extortion, and here is coupled with blood, so it refers to murder. Fleeing to the pit refers to going to the grave and means that guilt overwhelms the murderer. The last line is difficult and has been interpreted variously. It most likely seems to be a warning against interfering with justice.

Proverbs 28:8

He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.
– Proverbs 28:8

Just as the previous saying, this wisdom saying follows the law closely (Exodus 22:24; Leviticus 25:36; Deuteronomy 23:20-21). The law forbade exorbitant interest rates and prices, false scales, and other oppressive or predatory business practices. Israelites were not to profit off the poor and needy, or their family, which they were required to care for. The saying speaks to a redistribution of the gain that is consistent with other wisdom sayings (Proverbs 13:22). This saying fits in the general wisdom theme of injustice being resolved by justice.

Proverbs 28:5

Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the Lord understand all things.
– Proverbs 28:5

This verse continues the contrast between the righteous and the wicked. Judgment is the issue at stake in the contrast. The word means a judicial verdict and refers to receiving right treatment according to law. The standard of judgment was referenced in the previous verse and is the law of God. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” and the goal of instruction is wisdom, including the understanding of judgment (Proverbs 1:1-7). Evil men are fools who despise wisdom, so it remains out of reach for them and they do not understand true justice (Proverbs 1:7; 24:7). Evil men do not seek the Lord and do not understand justice, but the wise seek the Lord and do understand (Proverbs 2:1-9).

Proverbs 28:3

A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food.
– Proverbs 28:3

The poor are the oppressed and afflicted in Proverbs. This would be the only occurrence, though, of the poor oppressing the poor. It may be difficult to envision, but not impossible. The simile compares that situation to a sweeping, or driving, rain that beats down the field and destroys the crops. Rain is necessary for the food to grow and where a blessing is expected, a curse can be found when the rain destroys. It is a fitting illustration of a poor man oppressing the poor given the opportunity, such as coming to power. Isaiah used the image of a driving rain that destroys to depict the Assyrians coming upon Ephraim (Isaiah 28:2). Whereas the reign of the righteous King bringing justice and judgment to the poor is compared to a gentle, watering rain that causes the fields to flourish (Psalm 72:1-7).

 


 

 

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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