Bible Commentary: Proverbs 28:1-11

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Proverbs 28:1-11

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Second Part of Hezekiah Collection Mostly Antithetical 

As earlier noted in regard to the Hezekiah collection of Solomonic proverbs (Proverbs 25–29), the first part (25–27) contains mostly synonymous proverbs, while the second part (28–29), which we are now reading, contains mostly antithetical proverbs contrasting the righteous with the wicked.

17. A Life of Fear (Proverbs 28:1)

"TYPE: INDIVIDUAL PROVERB" (NAC). This verse speaks of one's way of life determining his mental outlook. The wicked, some afflicted by a guilty conscience and fearing consequences and others just chalking life up to whim and chance, live with uncertainty and perhaps even paranoia. The righteous, on the other hand, knowing that God is ultimately in charge and that they are in His care, face life with faith and confidence.

18. Civil Unrest Evil Causes vs. Righteous Stability (Proverbs 28:2)

"TYPE: INDIVIDUAL PROVERB" (NAC). Most commentators take many rulers here as a reference to a succession of many rulers—one after the other—over a short time due to a period of political instability. This certainly happened to Israel and Judah because of unrighteousness. Some, however, see the rulers here as many governors or overlords ruling simultaneously, increasing the burden on the people—the idea being bloated government. Since the contrast is with justice being prolonged—as a mark of stability—the former explanation seems to fit better.

19. Oppression, Keeping in the Right Way, and the Law (Proverbs 28:3-11)

"TYPE: PARALLEL....These verses set up a parallel with an extra verse on the law in the middle of the parallel, as follows:

“A: Oppression of the poor (v. 3)
            “B: The law (v. 4)
                        “C: Understanding or not understanding justice (v. 5)
                                    “D: Poor can be better than rich (v. 6)
            “B: The law (v. 7)
“A: Oppression of the poor (v. 8)
            “B: The law (v. 9)
                        “C: The right path (v. 10)
                                    “D: Poor can be smarter than rich (v. 11)” (NAC).

Verse 6 is one of the proverbs of Hezekiah's Solomonic collection that are very similar in meaning to verses in the major Solomonic collection (see Proverbs 19:1).The language of the first line of verse 3 is disputed. The New King James presents "a poor man who oppresses the poor." Others contend that this should be translated "A poor man and one who oppresses the poor." Alternatively, the line could perhaps mean that a man is poor who oppresses the poor. This would fit the imagery of the second line—a driving rain that leaves no crops. Consider a landlord or employer oppressing his workers so much that they cease to produce for him—or big businesses or abusive governments extorting from the common people to the point that the people can no longer buy enough goods or pay sufficient taxes to support the economy or government. This corresponds to verse 8, which says that the person who abuses others financially is gathering not ultimately for himself but for those who will treat the poor properly. That is, those who treat the poor well are the ones who will end up with all the material blessings in the end. To some extent, this is true during this lifetime, but in an ultimate sense it applies to the inheritance of the righteous at the end of the age.

The next verse, Proverbs 28:7, warning that a companion of gluttons shames his father, recalls Proverbs 23:20-25 from the Words of the Wise.

Proverbs 28:9 says that if people won't listen to God, then He won't listen to them. Indeed, their prayer is an arrogant affront to Him. He considers it loathsome—just as He looks on their other displays of worship (compare Proverbs 15:8).

The warning against leading the upright astray in Proverbs 28:10 resembles Jesus' warning against causing His disciples to sin in Matthew 18:6. This is looked on in the proverb as an entrapment, with the perpetrator falling into his own pit, similar to Proverbs 26:27.

For Proverbs 28:11, the NIV has: "A rich man may be wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has discernment sees through him." As The New American Commentary notes: "In this context the idea probably is that the wealthy think that their money proves they are smarter and morally superior, but the poor see that they are just more ruthless."