Proverbs 28


‘The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.’ Proverbs 28:1

Plenty Of Nothing

Why would the wicked flee even though no one is after them? Guilt! Fear of God’s wrath!

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

‘What continual frights those are subject to that go on in wicked ways. Guilt in the conscience makes men a terror to themselves, so that they are ready to flee when none pursues; like one that absconds for debt, who thinks everyone he meets a bailiff. Though they pretend to be easy, there are secret fears which haunt them wherever they go, so that they fear where no present or imminent danger is, Psalm 53:5. Those that have made God their enemy, and know it, cannot but see the whole creation at war with them, and therefore can have no true enjoyment of themselves, no confidence, no courage, but a fearful looking for of judgment. Sin makes men cowards.’

How can the righteous be bold? Even when external danger really threatens, they are bold and courageous like a young lion, because their strength is in God, Ephesians 6:10. Think of Paul and his boldness when he stood firm in front of those who wanted to kill him, Acts 22:30-23:35.

‘When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.’ Proverbs 28:2

When I read this verse, the phrase, ‘too many chiefs and not enough Indians’, comes to mind. When the land is in trouble, its rulers will not last long. We need godly people to preserve the kingdom.

Jeremiah sought for a righteous man and because he could not find one the kingdom was destroyed, Jeremiah 5:1-6. King after king was murdered or killed because they wouldn’t listen to God, 2 Kings 15:8-15.

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Nations, as nations, cannot be judged in a future world; therefore, God judges them here. And where the people are very wicked, and the constitution very bad, the succession of princes is frequent – they are generally taken off by an untimely death. Where the people know that the constitution is in their favor, they seldom disturb the prince, as they consider him the guardian of their privileges.’

‘A ruler who oppresses the poor is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.’ Proverbs 28:3

Note that some translations have these words, ‘A needy man that oppresseth the poor is [like] a sweeping rain which leaveth no food.’

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Scholars admit that this is a fair rendition of the Hebrew text; but what is said here does not correspond with certain facts. Throughout the Old Testament, a poor man is nowhere presented as an oppressor of the poor; and furthermore, it could not add to the distress of the poor that the oppressor was one of their own class. This has led to some various renditions. ‘A wicked ruler who oppresses the poor is a beating rain that leaves no food.’ ‘A tyrant oppressing the poor is like a flood that leaves no food.’ If the standard renditions are followed, we might cite Abimelech the son of Gideon as the type of ‘poor man’ oppressor intended by the Hebrew text.’

Floods were frequent in the east, sometimes flocks, crops and houses were carried away with them. those in positions of authority must be careful, Matthew 18:28.

‘Those who forsake instruction praise the wicked, but those who heed it resist them. Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.’ Proverbs 28:4-5

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

1. Those that praise the wicked make it to appear that they do themselves forsake the law, and go contrary to it, for that curses and condemns the wicked. Wicked people will speak well of one another, and so strengthen one another’s hands in their wicked ways, hoping thereby to silence the clamours of their own consciences and to serve the interests of the devil’s kingdom, which is not done by anything so effectually as by keeping vice in reputation.

2. Those that do indeed make conscience of the law of God themselves will, in their places, vigorously oppose sin, and bear their testimony against it, and do what they can to shame and suppress it. They will reprove the works of darkness and silence the excuses which are made for those works, and do what they can to bring gross offenders to punishment, that others may hear and fear.

The idea here is that if it feels good, do it. If it is right for us, it is good, Romans 1:18-32. Usually, those who accept this philosophy are lawbreakers.

God is just, He can’t simply overlook our sins. We should know what justice means, this is also true in spiritual matters, 1 John 2:20 / 1 John 2:27. They know the truth, James 1:23-24.

‘Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse.’ Proverbs 28:6

Solomon is simply saying that wholeness of character is better than money, Proverbs 19:1.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This is a variation of Proverbs 19:1. There the righteous poor man is better than a fool; here he is better than a wealthy wicked man. It’s true both ways.’

‘A discerning son heeds instruction, but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father. Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor. If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction, even their prayers are detestable.’ Proverbs 28:7-9

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

1. Religion is true wisdom, and it makes men wise in every relation. He that conscientiously keeps the law is wise, and he will be particularly a wise son, that is, will act discreetly towards his parents, for the law of God teaches him to do so.

2. Bad company is a great hindrance to religion. Those that are companions of riotous men, that choose such for their companions and delight in their conversation, will certainly be drawn from keeping the law of God and drawn to transgress it, Psalm 119:115.

3. Wickedness is not only a reproach to the sinner himself, but to all that are akin to him. He that keeps rakish company, and spends his time and money with them, not only grieves his parents, but shames them; it turns to their disrepute, as if they had not done their duty to him. They are ashamed that a child of theirs should be scandalous and abusive to their neighbours.

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following, concerning verse 8.

‘By taking unlawful interest for his money; lending to a man in great distress, money, for the use of which he requires an exorbitant sum.’

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following, concerning verse 9.

‘Hearing the law (here) is not a reference merely to hearing it read. It means ‘accepting and obeying the law.’ If a man is disobedient to God, even his prayer is an abomination to God. The same thing is said of the wicked man’s sacrifice, Proverbs 15:1, and even of his very thoughts, Proverbs 15:26. That God indeed refuses to hear some prayers is mentioned by Isaiah, Isaiah 1:15.’

Would it make any difference if this person were a member of the church? Of course not. What’s the point in praying for forgiveness if we intend to deliberately sin again! Not even Moses’ prayer could be answered when it was against God’s law, Numbers 12:13.

‘Whoever leads the upright along an evil path will fall into their own trap, but the blameless will receive a good inheritance. The rich are wise in their own eyes; one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are. When the righteous triumph, there is great elation; but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.’ Proverbs 28:10-12

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘When the wicked succeed in tempting the righteous, Vice seems to win a triumph. But the triumph is suicidal. The tempter will suffer the punishment he deserves, and the blameless, if true to themselves, will be strengthened and ennobled by the temptation.’

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Poor men know what rich men really are. The rich may fool themselves into thinking they are really wise and good; but poor people see through the masks to their true worth.’

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following.

‘When true religion is no longer persecuted, and the word of God duly esteemed, there is great glory; for the word of the Lord has then free course, runs, and is glorified: but when the wicked rise – when they are elevated to places of trust, and put at the head of civil affairs, then the righteous man is obliged to hide himself; the word of the Lord becomes scarce, and there is no open vision.’

We need to be careful that we practice what we preach, all of us have choices, but some Christians have no choice. Under communism, for example, wicked men force Christians to worship in secret.

‘Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.’ Proverbs 28:13

Merely admitting we are sinful is not worth anything! There’s nothing wrong with admitting we have done something wrong as long as we learn from it, Romans 14:11 / Romans 15:9 / James 5:16 / 1 John 1:9.

‘Blessed is the one who always trembles before God, but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble. Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a helpless people. A tyrannical ruler practices extortion, but one who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long reign.’ Proverbs 28:14-16

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The ‘fear’ here is not so much reverential awe, as anxious, or ‘nervous’ sensitiveness of conscience. To most men this temperament seems that of the self-tormentor. To him who looks deeper it is a condition of blessedness, and the callousness which is opposed to it ends in misery.’

‘The form of political wretchedness, when the poverty of the oppressed subjects not only embitters their sufferings but exasperates the brutal ferocity of the ruler.’

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Two things are here intimated to be the causes of the mal-administration of princes:

1. The love of money, that root of all evil; for hating covetousness here stands opposed to oppression, according to Moses’s character of good magistrates, men fearing God and hating covetousness. Exodus 18:21, not only not being covetous, but hating it, and shaking the hands from the holding of bribes. A ruler that is covetous will neither do justly nor love mercy, but the people under him shall be bought and sold.

2. Want of consideration: He that hates covetousness shall prolong his government and peace, shall be happy in the affections of his people and the blessing of his God. It is as much the interest as the duty of princes to reign in righteousness. Oppressors therefore and tyrants are the greatest fools in the world; they want understanding; they do not consult their own honour, ease, and safety, but sacrifice all to their ambition of an absolute and arbitrary power. They might be much happier in the hearts of their subjects than in their necks or estates.

It’s more blessed to have God as our ruler than it is to have a tyrannical cruel leader, who desires unjust gain, which is covetousness, Daniel 7:1-8 / Luke 12:15.

‘Anyone tormented by the guilt of murder will seek refuge in the grave; let no one hold them back.’ Proverbs 28:17

Nero killed so many close friends and relatives that he did not have anyone left to trust. Let the law set the penalty and then enforce it, i.e. death penalty, 2 Chronicles 26:20. If someone won’t repent of their ways, they will die in their sins, Luke 13:3 / Acts 2:38.

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following.

‘He who either slays the innocent, or procures his destruction, may flee to hide himself: but let none give him protection. The law demands his life, because he is a murderer; and let none deprive justice of its claim.’

‘The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit. Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty. A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.’ Proverbs 28:18-20

Here we read about having plenty of nothing.

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

1. Those that are honest are always safe. He that acts with sincerity, that speaks as he thinks, has a single eye, in everything, to the glory of God and the good of his brethren, that would not, for a world, do an unjust thing if he knew it, that in all manner of conversation walks uprightly, he shall be saved hereafter. We find a glorious company of those in whose mouth was found no guile, Revelation 14:5. They shall be safe now. Integrity and uprightness will preserve men, will give them a holy security in the worst of times; for it will preserve their comfort, their reputation, and all their interests. They may be injured, but they cannot be hurt.

2. Those that are false and dishonest are never safe: He that is perverse in his ways, that thinks to secure himself by fraudulent practices, by dissimulation and treachery, or by an estate ill-got, he shall fall, nay, he shall fall at once, not gradually, and with warning given, but suddenly, without previous notice, for he is least safe when he is most secure. He falls at once, and so has neither time to guard against his ruin nor to provide for it; and being a surprise upon him, it will be so much the greater terror to him.

The blessings mentioned are both physical, Mark 10:30, and spiritual, Revelation 2:10. If we’re in a hurry to be rich, not only is it foolish, but it is also sinful, Luke 18:18-23.

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Paul admonished Christians in the strongest language against striving to be rich, 1 Timothy 6:6-10. The lifestyle that is most compatible with the hope of receiving at last the crown of life that never fades away is one that stresses industry, contentment, kindness and a genuine concern for the welfare of others as well as that of one’s own family.’

‘To show partiality is not good—yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread. The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them. Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favour rather than one who has a flattering tongue. Whoever robs their father or mother and says, ‘It’s not wrong,’ is partner to one who destroys.’ Proverbs 28:21-24

Barnes, in his commentary, says the following.

‘Dishonest partiality leads men who have enslaved themselves to it to transgress, even when the inducement is altogether disproportionate. A ‘piece of bread’ was proverbial at all times as the most extreme point of poverty.’

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

1. Flatterers may please those for a time who, upon second thoughts, will detest and despise them. If ever they come to be convinced of the evil of those sinful courses they were flattered in, and to be ashamed of the pride and vanity which were humoured and gratified by those flatteries, they will hate the fawning flatterers as having had an ill design upon them, and the fulsome flatteries as having had an ill effect upon them and become nauseous.

2. Reprovers may displease those at first who yet afterwards, when the passion is over and the bitter physic begins to work well, will love and respect them. He that deals faithfully with his friend, in telling him of his faults, though he may put him into some heat for the present, and perhaps have hard words, instead of thanks, for his pains, yet afterwards he will not only have the comfort in his own bosom of having done his duty, but he also whom he reproved will acknowledge that it was a kindness, will entertain a high opinion of his wisdom and faithfulness, and look upon him as fit to be a friend. He that cries out against his surgeon for hurting him when he is searching his wound will yet pay him well, and thank him too, when he has cured it.

Clarke, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The father’s property is as much his own, in reference to the child, as that of the merest stronger. He who robs his parents is worse than a common robber; to the act of dishonesty and rapine he adds ingratitude, cruelty, and disobedience. Such a person is the compatriot of a destroyer; he may be considered as a murderer.’

So often we do not feel the responsibility for the money borrowed from a relative, but a debt is a debt, and we need to pay it, Judges 17:2 / Mark 7:10-13.

‘The greedy stir up conflict, but those who trust in the LORD will prosper. Those who trust in themselves are fools, but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.’ Proverbs 28:25-26

Note that some translations use the word ‘fat’ instead of ‘prosper’.

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

1. Those make themselves lean, and continually unquiet, that are haughty and quarrelsome, for they are opposed to those that shall be made fat: He that is of a proud heart, that is conceited of himself and looks with a contempt upon all about him, that cannot bear either competition or contradiction, he stirs up strife, makes mischief, and creates disturbance to himself and everybody else.

2. Those make themselves fat, and always easy, that live in a continual dependence upon God and his grace: He who puts his trust in the Lord, who, instead of struggling for himself, commits his cause to God, shall be made fat. He saves the money which others spend upon their pride and contentiousness; he enjoys himself, and has abundant satisfaction in his God; and thus, his soul dwells at ease, and he is most likely to have plenty of outward good things. None live so easily, so pleasantly, as those who live by faith.

The Bible does not endorse the saying, ‘let your conscience be your guide’. If a conscience were biblically trained, then it would properly guide us, Matthew 7:24-27. Those who are self-reliant need to be very careful, Jeremiah 17:9.

‘Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses. When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding; but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.’ Proverbs 28:27-28

Coffman, in his commentary, says the following.

‘The sentiment of the first line here is reiterated in the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 9:6-11. God today blesses liberal and generous Christians. The reference to ‘curses’ in line 2 reflects the extreme bitterness of poor people who are suffering for lack of the bare necessities of life, which are denied to them by people wallowing in affluence and luxury.’

Matthew Henry, in his commentary, says the following.

‘This is to the same purport with what we had, Proverbs 28:12.

1. When bad men are preferred, that which is good is clouded and run down. When power is put into the hands of the wicked, men hide themselves; wise men retire into privacy, and decline public business, not caring to be employed under them; rich men get out of the way, for fear of being squeezed for what they have; and, which is worst of all, good men abscond, despairing to do good and fearing to be persecuted and ill-treated.

2. When bad men are disgraced, degraded, and their power taken from them, then that which is good revives again, then the righteous increase; for, when they perish, good men will be put in their room, who will, by their example and interest, countenance religion and righteousness. It is well with a land when the number of good people increases in it; and it is therefore the policy of all princes, states, and potentates, to encourage them and to take special care of the good education of youth.

Jesus didn’t have a problem meeting with the poor and neither should we. The righteous will always come out on top, Revelation 6:12-17.

‘He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ Luke 4:16-19

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