Bible Commentary: Proverbs 28:12-29:2

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Proverbs 28:12-29:2

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Hezekiah's Solomonic Collection Continued

20. Various Proverbs (Proverbs 28:12–29:27)

The remainder of Hezekiah's collection of proverbs by Solomon concerns "the general health of society. The text emphasizes the need for moral leadership, decries all attempts at easy money, and stresses the need to maintain the fundamental institutions of society....

"(1) Good Government and Bad Government I (Proverbs 28:12) ....TYPE: INDIVIDUAL PROVERB" (NAC). Here we see the righteous rejoicing contrasted with the wicked arising. In context, the righteous rejoicing has to do with them having a reason to rejoice—that being that righteousness is prevailing in society, as opposed to the contrast where wickedness is prevailing. To reflect this idea, some versions use the word "triumph" instead of rejoice—this being the reason for the exultation. Contrariwise, when the wicked take charge of society, people make themselves scarce to avoid suffering abuse and exploitation. This verse corresponds to similar language in verse 28 and 29:2.

"(2) Turning From Sin (Proverbs 28:13-14) .... TYPE: THEMATIC" (NAC). Verse 13 shows the importance of admitting guilt. Yet it also shows that it's not enough to merely confess our sins. We must also forsake them—that is, turn our lives around in repentance. In verse 14, the word rendered "reverent" in the NKJV actually means "in dread"—probably in the sense of being fearful of consequences. Besides the religious meaning here, there may also be a general societal application to these verses—those who are quick to confess mistakes or even crimes remorsefully, making changes with appropriate fear of consequences, are more likely to obtain mercy from others in various settings, whether social, employment or court.

"(3) Tyranny (Proverbs 28:15-16) ....TYPE: THEMATIC....

"(4) Guilt and Innocence (Proverbs 28:17-18) .... TYPE: THEMATIC" (NAC). Verse 17 concerns a murderer trying to escape but not succeeding. The statement "Let no one help him" does not mean that we should not help murderers in any way. After all, we should try to help all sinners admit guilt and come to repentance. The point is that we should not help them in their flight—either supporting their attempt to run from justice or aiding them in their mental flight from guilt by seeking to make them feel better about what they've done.

"(5) Prosperity by Fair Means and Foul (Proverbs 28:19-27) .... TYPE: THEMATIC .... While not condemning possessions in themselves, Proverbs always rejects greed. It contrasts financial prudence, diligence, and generosity with the desire for quick and easy money. Greed can be manifested in unrealistic business enterprises (v. 19), accepting bribes (v. 21) [though there is some question on the point of this verse], ingratiating oneself with powerful people (v. 23), taking from one's parents (v. 24), and general greediness (vv. 22, 25)" (NAC).

Verse 19 is one of the proverbs of the Hezekiah collection that are close in wording or meaning to verses in the main Solomonic collection (compare Proverbs 12:11).

Proverbs 28:20 warns against hastening to be rich. One major problem here, as verse 22 shows, is that a person engaged in this pursuit has an "evil eye"—being self-absorbed when it comes to money. Recall Proverbs 23:6, where the NKJV has "miser" when the literal meaning, as the margin shows, is "one who has an evil eye" (compare Proverbs 22:9, where words literally meaning "good eye" are translated as "generous eye"). This self-focus leads a person to disregard others, to not care if he is taking advantage of them. Pursuing quick and easy money is also a sign of folly in that one is trying to circumvent the principles of hard work and patience laid out in many proverbs. This sooner or later leads to poverty.

The point of verse 21 is disputed. Some see the verse as showing partiality resultant from a very small bribe. Others maintain that the point is that judges not show partiality to the rich in a dispute with the poor as the poor may be acting out of desperation. Still others argue that the point is for judges to not show partiality to the poor—that despite their regrettable circumstances the law must be upheld.

In verse 24, the one who says there's nothing wrong with having robbed his parents perhaps maintains this on the grounds that he will receive an inheritance eventually anyway—or perhaps he simply sees it as something his parents would never seek to punish him over. Yet the verse goes on to label the offender as companion to a destroyer (see the similar phrase in Proverbs 18:9). This is essentially saying that the son is among those who tear down society. Moreover, if one would treat his own parents this way, how will he treat the rest of society?

Verse 27 shows that those who give to others in need will not lack. On a merely human level, generous people are better liked, which serves for advancement in life, and when generous people themselves suffer need, others come to their aid. Furthermore, of course, God rewards the kindnesses we show others. As to those who shut their eyes to the needs of the poor, they will also not suffer lack—of curses, that is! As with the positive result, this negative one is partially because of people's natural reaction and partially because of God's intervention.

"(6) Good Government and Bad Government II (Proverbs 28:28–29:2)....TYPE: THEMATIC, INCLUSIO....The verses echo Proverbs 28:12." Between the framing verses contrasting wicked and righteous rule (Proverbs 28:28; Proverbs 29:2), Proverbs 29:1 assures that those who persist in wickedness will ultimately fall. This is because they stubbornly refuse to change—illustrating the importance of heeding rebukes when given.