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 28:22

He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.
– Proverbs 28:22

This saying continues the theme of greed from the previous one. The phrase evil eye literally means bad of eye and is contrasted with the bountiful eye, or good of eye in Proverbs 22:9. Here, hasteth to be rich is a consequence of having an evil eye. The evil eye is a recurring figure that refers to greed, covetousness, and stinginess. It is contrasted with kind generosity (Proverbs 22:9; 23:6).

The figure is first used in the books of the law in Deuteronomy 28:54-55. The wider context there are the curses upon Israel for covenant disobedience and the more immediate context is talking about famine conditions. The verses describe the severity of the judgments such that a tender man becomes hardened and stingy (evil eye) with his own wife and children in refusing to share food with them. Jesus also used this figure of greed and stinginess during his ministry (Matthew 6:23; 20:15; Mark 7:22; Luke 11:34).

Jesus spoke of the evil eye, which distorted a person’s ability to see reality clearly and the second phrase of the saying agrees with this. The stingy, greedy man is in a hurry to get rich and considereth not, or does not know, the consequences of poverty to come. On the one hand, wisdom has cried out in the streets a warning for the covetous in a hurry to be rich (Proverbs 10:22; 19:2; 20:21; 21:15). The evil eye is darkened and turned away from wisdom and so does not know or consider the end (Proverbs 7:23; 9:18).

Proverbs 28:19

He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.
– Proverbs 28:19

Verses 19 and 20 are sayings related to the rewards for diligence. This saying relies on contrasts. Tilling land and pursuing vanity are contrasts in approach to work. Plenty of bread and plenty of poverty are contrasting parallels regarding the outcomes. Tilling the land refers to one who diligently attends to his work. Following vain persons refers to one who wastes time pursuing empty ideas and gains. This saying agrees with various sayings that teach the wisdom of diligence and the folly of slothfulness (Proverbs 12:11; 13:11; 14:4; 21:5, 25; 27:23-27).

Proverbs 28:11

The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.
– Proverbs 28:11

Being wise in one’s own eyes is a characteristic of a fool, regardless of the particular avenue the fool walks down (Proverbs 3:7; 12:15; 26:5, 12, 16). The foolish rich find false security in wealth (Proverbs 18:11) and here, they take credit for their situation in life. The saying contrasts the foolish rich man with the poor man who has wisdom, understanding. Wisdom looks past the facade of riches and success.

Proverbs 28:6

Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.
– Proverbs 28:6

Proverbs consistently holds that wisdom does not equal wealth and folly does not equal poverty. Uprightness, or integrity, is contrasted with perverse, or twisted or crooked. This proverb is a better than saying that states honest poverty is better than dishonest riches. While it is possible to be honest and rich, as well as being dishonest and poor, the choice is often between integrity/wisdom and wealth. Crooked ways lead to destruction (Proverbs 28:18). Wisdom teaches it is better to be upright than rich, if that’s the choice before you (Proverbs 16:8; 19:1, 22).

Proverbs 24:34

So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man.
– Proverbs 24:34

Verse 34 concludes the sayings with the ultimate conclusion of the wise observation. The “slothful” one who is “void of understanding” and always needing “a little sleep” will come to poverty in the end. The image is of being surprised and waylaid by a robber. From the sluggard’s perspective, he will one day wake up and wonder what has happened. Sloth cannot obtain and cannot keep what has been obtained (Proverbs 10:4; 13:4).

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Proverbs 23:21

For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.
– Proverbs 23:21

The word for poverty means dispossessed, which can be inheritance but at least denotes impoverishing loss. Wisdom here looks to the end of the way of drunkards and gluttons. The word for drowsiness means sleepiness, and is put for indolence. The saying likely includes a third form of excess, indulging in sleep and rest. This is a feature of the sluggard, with the same consequences (Proverbs 6:9-11; 19:15; 24:30-34). All could be generally characterized as lovers of pleasure, and their fate is the same (Proverbs 21:17).

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Proverbs 22:7

The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
– Proverbs 22:7

Wealth brings independence as well as power, at least in terms of leverage. The rich have many friends and can call in many favors (Proverbs 19:4, 6). The wealthy are in power over the poor, whether directly or indirectly (Proverbs 18:23). We tend to look on poverty as a voluntary condition, and it can be so, as in the case of laziness (Proverbs 10:4; 12:11; 14:23; 20:13, 21). Poverty can also be a providential condition owing to no personal fault (Proverbs 14:31; 22:2). The second phrase states the direct dependence of the poor in terms of the borrower serving the lender. The law had many regulations for treatment of the poor, including provisions when a poor man became a slave to pay his debts (Exodus 21:1-7; Leviticus 25:40-43; Deuteronomy 15:12-15). Wisdom teaches to use all diligence to avoid this servitude, but does not guarantee it can be avoided.

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Proverbs 22:2

The rich and poor meet together: the LORD is the maker of them all.
– Proverbs 22:2

This proverb is a wisdom observation. We are warned against oppressing the poor because Yahweh has made them (Proverbs 14:31). This proverb adds he has made the rich, as well as all in between. That both classes meet together means they share common existence in life. God sinks and raises people as he pleases, according to his purpose, and roles can be reversed instantly by his sovereign power (Daniel 4:35). This wisdom gives us two important implications for life. First, we should recognize God’s sovereign order in our own lives. We are where we are and we are what we are by God’s grace. Second, we should treat all people with dignity and respect because God is the creator of all and the ruler of all.

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