Proverbs 25:26

A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring.
– Proverbs 25:26

The word for falling down means to shake or slip. Its use here points to a loss of integrity for the righteous, or just man. A troubled fountain describes a water source that has been muddied by stamping, and a corrupt spring is contaminated water in some way. The images portray water that has been ruined and is useless. The comparison is to the compromised person, who’s reputation has been lost and they are effectively useless.

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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 24:20

For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle of the wicked shall be put out.
– Proverbs 24:20

This verse gives the explanation for the warning in the previous verse and takes a deathly serious turn. Commentators vary as to how much the afterlife is in view in Proverbs. Wisdom in Proverbs is concerned with the long view and the end of ways, so it is expected that the end of life, and what’s after, is in view. The word for reward means after part, or end. It is most often translated “end” in this book (Proverbs 5:4; 14:12-13; 16:25; 19:20; 20:21; 23:18; 25:8). Those verses reflect the meaning of outcome, and in many instances it is the outcome of life. When taken with the last phrase, it is plain this verse is talking about death and the loss of expectation or hope for the wicked. The imagery of the candle being put out for the wicked is used consistently to indicate the forfeiture of any good expectation at the death of the wicked (Proverbs 13:9; 20:20).

The saying is a sober warning to realize the end of the wicked and therefore not to envy or begrudge their successes. The prosperity of evil men is temporary, though it may seem to last their entire earthly lives. This warning is echoed throughout Proverbs (Proverbs 5:23; 8:36; 9:18; 11:7; 23:13-14).

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Proverbs 24:19

Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou envious at the wicked;
– Proverbs 24:19

Verses 19-20 form the next saying concerning envying the wicked. This saying focuses on the inner attitude. The word for fret means become angry, and the word for envious means to be jealous. Wisdom teaches neither to be angry with the success of the wicked, nor to be jealous of their prosperity. The saying echoes previous sayings (Proverbs 23:17; 24:1).

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Proverbs 24:16

For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.
– Proverbs 24:16

Verse 16 continues from verse 15 and provides explanation for the warning in that verse. The warning was against plotting against the righteous. Falling seven times is a figure implying strength or resiliency. Such falling would seem to be final, but the righteous will not ultimately fall, but rise. The wicked’s plots may seem to succeed in the short term, but will ultimately fail. The success of the wicked will be short lived as they will finally fall into mischief, or evil. This contrast is consistently thematic throughout Proverbs (Proverbs 4:18-19; 10:28; 11:7, 23; 28:18).

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Proverbs 24:15

Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; spoil not his resting place:
– Proverbs 24:15

Verses 14-15 form the next saying, which speaks to the futility of plotting against the righteous. The dwelling of the righteous and his resting place are figures of the full life of the righteous. The plotting of the wicked is not just an effort to steal money or goods, but an attack on the whole way of life of the righteous. Lying in wait and spoiling reminds of the warnings earlier in the fatherly addresses (Proverbs 1:11; 7:12). This warning, though, is aimed at the wicked.

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Proverbs 21:29

A wicked man hardeneth his face: but as for the upright, he directeth his way.
– Proverbs 21:29

The word for hardeneth means to be strong, or firm. The word appears three times in Proverbs and is translated impudent (Proverbs 7:13), strengthened (Proverbs 8:28), and hardeneth (Proverbs 21:29). The word for directeth means to separate mentally, or understand. The proverb contrasts the wicked and the upright. The wicked man puts up a strong front, whereas the upright considers well his way. The proverb speaks of appearance versus substance. The wicked are more concerned about the right appearance, whereas the upright is more concerned about the right way.

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Proverbs 21:27

The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?
– Proverbs 21:27

The word for abomination means disgusting, or detestable. Here it refers to a form of ritual worship that God hates. The first phrase echoes Proverbs 15:8 and the issue is the odious nature of hypocritical worship. Getting the outward form right is meaningless when the heart is not right (1 Samuel 15:22-23). In the second phrase, wicked mind refers to an evil intent, or plan. We could view this as an attempt to bribe God to overlook unrighteousness, or an attempt to entice God to deliver the wicked one through payment apart from repentance and faith. However, God refuses to hear those who will not hear him (Proverbs 28:9).

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Proverbs 21:18

The wicked shall be a ransom for the righteous, and the transgressor for the upright.
– Proverbs 21:18

Commentators vary on the meaning of this proverb as it presents some difficulty. The word for ransom means covering and, in this context, refers to a price, or compensation. Theologically, we think of atonement with this word and I think that can put us off on the wrong foot. The same word is used in a couple different places in the law. The first is in a section of the law pertaining to ox goring, or more fundamentally, liability (Exodus 21:28-36). Exodus 21:28 refers to an accidental death by ox goring. The ox was to be stoned and not eaten. The owner’s liability was covered by the loss of the ox and there was no further criminal penalty.

However, if the owner knew the ox was disposed to goring and he did not keep it penned up, he would be criminally guilty when the ox killed someone. This would be like what we call involuntary manslaughter today where there is demonstrable criminal negligence leading to death. In this case, the owner shared in the guilt and was to be put to death along with the ox (Exodus 21:29). The law made a provision where the owner could pay a sum of money as a ransom for his life (Exodus 21:30). The phrase sum of money is translated from the same word as ransom in Proverbs 21:18. This was an amount set by the family of the victim, which would be approved by the judge or adjusted as he deemed necessary. The sum of money was a ransom price for the owner’s life, because otherwise he would be executed.

The next occurrence of the word is in Number 35:31-32 where such a satisfaction is not permissible in the case of murder. The ransom was a just restitution to the aggrieved. This proverb becomes clear when we consider the relation of the wicked to the righteous. The wicked are variously described as plotting and planning evil (Proverbs 6:14; 24:8-9). Not only do they plot evil generally, but they plot evil against the righteous specifically (Psalm 37:12, 32; Proverbs 1:11; 24:15). Wisdom also teaches that the evil plans of the wicked will ultimately ensnare them (Proverbs 5:22; 11:5-6; 12:13). This justice will also come specifically because of their plans and schemes against the innocent (Proverbs 1:11, 18). So the wicked transgress against the upright in their plans and actions, and the judgment that comes to them exacts the ransom price from them.

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