Proverbs 28:28

When the wicked rise, men hide themselves: but when they perish, the righteous increase.
– Proverbs 28:28

This is the second of four similar sayings. The first is Proverbs 28:12, the third is Proverbs 29:2, and the fourth is Proverbs 29:16. These sayings frame this kingly section of wisdom sayings by emphasizing the righteous rule as a blessing to the people and wicked rule as a curse. These sayings form a string where each saying continues from the previous in the sequence. This saying picks up the thread of hiding from wicked rulers.

Thematically, the saying is also linked with the previous one (Proverbs 28:27). There the care or neglect of the poor brings either blessing or curse, and this saying could extend that to a nation. The word for increase means abundance, or being multiplied. The same word is used to denounce extortionary practices on the backs of the poor in Proverbs 28:8. This accords with a wise and righteous ruler who hates covetousness (Proverbs 28:16). So, righteous rule leads to the increase of the people.

Proverbs 28:27

He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.
– Proverbs 28:27

Generosity counters greed. The general tenor of wisdom sayings runs to the blessing of generosity so that the giver needn’t worry about want (Proverbs 11:24-26; 19:17; 22:9). The hiding of the eyes to the plight of the poor reveals selfish indifference of the covetous. Such greed earns curses, from the people (Proverbs 11:26; 24:24) and from the Lord (Proverbs 1:23-33; 3:33; 21:13; Deuteronomy 15:7-11).

Proverbs 28:15

As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.
– Proverbs 28:15

The sayings in verses 15-16 continue the theme of wisdom to rulers. The saying compares a wicked ruler to a roaring lion and a ranging bear. Wild and predatory animals provide descriptive analogies for various foolish human behaviors (Proverbs 19:12; 20:2; 30:29-31). The saying means a wicked ruler abuses power to prey on helpless, poor people. Wisdom teaches that God is a just judge who will execute justice for the poor (Proverbs 14:31; 17:5).

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 28:3

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 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 22:23

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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