Proverbs 22:16

He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.
– Proverbs 22:16

The wording of this proverb is difficult and interpretations vary. The word for oppresseth means to press upon, or defraud. The word refers to extortion of the poor, which can indicate needy and/or weak. Giving to the rich refers to giving gifts, or even bribes. Wisdom warns against the folly and evil of both bribery and extortion (Proverbs 17:23; 22:22-23; 28:3). The end of this way is want, or poverty. This proverb ends the large collection of the Proverbs of Solomon, which form the largest section of this book.

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Proverbs 22:9

He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.
– Proverbs 22:9

The word for bountiful means good. A good eye is linked with generosity, or a generous disposition. The figure of the eye is used to emphasize seeing needs. A good eye contrasts with the stingy and covetous, evil eye in the New Testament (Matthew 6:21-24; 20:1-16; Mark 7:22). The evil, or dark, eye is a figure of one who greedily hoards his own treasure and will not share, or shares begrudgingly, with those who have needs (Proverbs 23:6-7; 28:22). Wisdom teaches an open-handed, giving disposition to the poor will be blessed (Proverbs 11:24-26; 19:17).

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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 19:17

He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again.
– Proverbs 19:17

Oppressing or mocking the poor will meet with retribution (Proverbs 14:31; 17:5). This proverb gives the same connection. To mock or give to the poor is to mock or give to God, respectively. Jesus affirmed this in the judgment narrative in Matthew 25:40, 46. The word for pity means to bend or stoop in kindness to an inferior. The context with lendeth and pay him again, obviously indicates a giving to the poor. The second phrase promises a recompense for compassionate generosity. God promises reward that could come in different forms and at different times (Proverbs 11:24-25; 28:27).

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Proverbs 17:5

Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Marker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.
– Proverbs 17:5

The word for mocketh means to deride, or ridicule. The word for reproacheth means to defame, or blaspheme. The poor are those who are destitute and needy. The first shows that selfish cruel treatment of the unfortunate is a slight not only to them, but to the God who made them (Proverbs 14:31; Exodus 4:11). The word for calamities means misfortune, or ruin. The word for unpunished means to be held guiltless, or innocent. The second phrase furthers the seriousness of the first. To rejoice in the calamities of others and to take delight in their ruin is evil and God will avenge it (Proverbs 16:5; 24:17).

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Proverbs 14:31

He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoreth him hath mercy on the poor.
– Proverbs 14:31

The word for oppresseth means to extort or defraud. To oppress is to take advantage, even with violence (Proverbs 17:5; 28:8). The word for reproacheth means to blaspheme or rail against. To oppress the poor is to mock and insult God, who will avenge them (Proverbs 22:2, 16, 22-23). The contrast is to honor God and to have mercy on the poor. To have pity on the poor is to understand the providence of God and one’s place in the creation (Proverbs 14:21; 19:17). It is to bear the image of our maker and to love like him (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).

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Proverbs 14:21

He that despiseth his neighbor sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.
– Proverbs 14:21

The word for despiseth means to treat with contempt or view as worthless. The word used is common in the Old Testament for sin. It means to miss the mark or the way. We infer from the parallel the neighbor is in some way needy, so to ignore or despise him is to miss the way of wisdom and righteous (Proverbs 11:12). It is a direct affront to our Creator (Proverbs 17:5) and a mark of the wicked (Proverbs 18:3). The contrast is to show mercy, which is to bend down in pity to one beneath you. To show mercy is the way of wisdom and righteousness to acknowledge that both alike are created by God (Proverbs 22:2). The merciful thereby honor God (Proverbs 14:31). The merciful will also receive mercy and be happy, or blessed (Proverbs 19:17; 28:27).

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Proverbs 14:20

The poor is hated even of his own neighbor: but the rich hath many friends.
– Proverbs 14:20

This proverb is a wise observation of reality. The poor are those without resources and means (Proverbs 10:15; Luke 14:13-14). Consequently, they don’t have so many friends as the rich do. We would call these sorts of friends as belonging to the fair-weather class (Proverbs 19:4, 6).

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