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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Proverbs 28

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The Blessings and the Courage of Wisdom


Proverbs 28:1

The wicked flee when no one pursues,
But the righteous are bold as a lion.

a. The wicked flee when no one pursues: This speaks of a confusion and fear that properly belong to the wicked, not to the godly and wise. This is both because they are under God’s displeasure and because they lack the strength and courage of the Holy Spirit.

i. “The proverb implies that the wicked, prompted by a guilty conscience or a fear of judgment, become fearful and suspicious of everyone.” (Ross)

ii. “God sends a faintness into the hearts of the wicked, and the sound of a shaken leaf frightens them. In arithmetic, of nothing comes nothing, yet they fear where no fear is.” (Trapp)

b. The righteous are bold as a lion: God’s righteous ones stand even when one comes against them, and with God’s strength they are bold as a lion.

i. The righteous: “The straightforward man, like the lion, has no need to look over his shoulder. What is at his heels is not his past (Numbers 32:23) but his rearguard: God’s goodness and mercy (Psalm 23:6).” (Kidner)

ii. “Adam knew no fear until he become a guilty creature. But if guilt brings fear, the removal of guilt gives confidence.” (Bridges)

iii. “Both psychologies are grounded in objective reality. God guarantees the safety of the righteous and dooms the wicked to punishment and disaster.” (Waltke)

Proverbs 28:2

Because of the transgression of a land, many are its princes;
But by a man of understanding and knowledge
Right will be prolonged.

a. Because of the transgression of a land, many are its princes: To have many princes—rulers, officials—is not seen as a blessing. This speaks of how a large, complex, and multi-layered government can be a curse to a people, sent because of the transgression of a land.

i. “As a result of the land’s total break with the Lord they need a large bureaucracy to keep an eye on one another and/or none survives (cf. 1 Kings 6:8-28; 2 Kings 15:8-15). An Arabic curse says, ‘May God make your sheiks many.’” (Waltke)

b. By a man of understanding and knowledge right will be prolonged: Instead of many…princes, God blesses a land with a man of understanding and knowledge. Great and godly leaders can be a wonderful blessing to a nation.

Proverbs 28:3

A poor man who oppresses the poor
Is like a driving rain which leaves no food.

a. A poor man who oppresses the poor: One might think that a poor man would have great sympathy for others who are poor, but this is not always the case. There are the poor who oppress the poor.

i. “Our Lord illustrates this proverb most beautifully, by the parable of the two debtors, Matthew 18:23, &c… Here the poor oppressed the poor; and what was the consequence? The oppressing poor was delivered to the tormentors; and the forgiven debt charged to his amount, because he showed no mercy. The comparatively poor are often shockingly uncharitable and unfeeling towards the real poor.” (Clarke)

b. Like a driving rain which leaves no food: This destructive rain leaves the people hungry and without hope. So is the effect of a poor man who oppresses the poor.

i. “Put an unprincipled spendthrift in power, and he will be like a destructive flood.” (Bridges)

Proverbs 28:4

Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
But such as keep the law contend with them.

a. Those who forsake the law praise the wicked: When the fundamental principles of justice are forsaken, it doesn’t benefit the righteous. It gives benefit and praise to the wicked.

i. Those who forsake the law: “Without revelation, all is soon relative; and with moral relativity, nothing quite merits attack. So, e.g., the tyrant is accepted because he gets things done; and the pervert, because his condition is interesting.” (Kidner)

ii. Praise the wicked: “Praising the wicked may mean calling them good, i.e., no longer able to discern good from evil” (Ross). “As Machiavel doth Caesar Borgia, that bipedum nequissimum, proposing him for a pattern to all Christian princes” (Trapp).

iii. “It is fearful to sin; more fearful to delight in sin; yet more to defend it.” (Bishop Hall, cited in Bridges)

b. Such as keep the law contend with them: Those who do honor and promote the rule of law will resist and oppose the wicked. They understand the principle the Apostle Paul would later explain in Romans 13:1-7, that one reason God gives law and government to men is to restrain the wicked, to contend with them.

i. This proverb presents only two paths: forsake the law or keep the law. “The line dividing humanity is not racial, political or even religious, but spiritual. That line runs through every human heart.” (Waltke)

ii. John Trapp used the phrase contend with them to remember the combative nature of Martin Luther: “It was the speech of blessed Luther, who though he was very earnest to have the communion administered in both kinds, contrary to the doctrine and custom of Rome, yet if the Pope, saith he, as pope, commanded me to receive it in both kinds, I would but receive it in one kind; since to obey what he commands as pope, is a receiving of the mark of the beast.”

Proverbs 28:5

Evil men do not understand justice,
But those who seek the Lord understand all.

a. Evil men do not understand justice: There are those who are fundamentally evil or wicked, and simply do not understand justice. They do not understand the principles of justice and how they apply to themselves.

i. Do not understand justice: “Because their minds are naturally blind, and are further blinded by their own prejudices and passions, and by the god of this world, who rules in and over them.” (Poole)

ii. “There are always those who believe justice is that which benefits them—otherwise it is not justice.” (Ross)

b. But those who seek the Lord understand all: The godly understand justice and much more. They seek the Lord, fear the Lord, and have His wisdom.

i. “Many things, dark to human reason, are simplified by humility.” (Bridges)

Proverbs 28:6

Better is the poor who walks in his integrity
Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich.

a. Better is the poor who walks in his integrity: There are worse things than poverty, and to be a wicked man or woman who does live in integrity is worse. This is an encouragement to the poor who often are despised.

i. “The verse only contrasts a poor man with integrity and a perverse rich man (see Proverbs 19:1)—there are rich people with integrity, and there are poor people who are perverse.” (Ross)

b. Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich: A rich man or woman who is twisted in their life before God or man is worse off than the godly poor person. We are defined more by our character than by our bank account or financial worth.

i. Perverse in his ways: “Heb. in two ways; halting between two ways, pretending to virtue, but practising vice; or covering his wicked designs with good pretences; or sometimes erring on one hand, and sometimes on the other, as wicked men commonly do.” (Poole)

ii. “The double dealing rich person first defrauds the poor and the humble and then covers his wrongdoing over by making himself appear righteous.” (Waltke)

iii. “Many will wish that they had lived and died in obscure poverty rather than having been entrusted with riches, which only made them boldly sin with a high hand against God and their own souls.” (Bridges)

Proverbs 28:7

Whoever keeps the law is a discerning son,
But a companion of gluttons shames his father.

a. Whoever keeps the law is a discerning son: Obedience is a proof of wisdom. Those who claim to be discerning or wise yet live in fundamental disobedience show their folly.

b. A companion of gluttons shames his father: One does not have to be given over to ruinous appetites themselves to be a shame to their family; simply being a companion of such can embarrass the family.

i. “By identifying himself with those who squander all that is precious,—life, food and instruction—the foolish puts to public shame (see Pro 25:8) his father.” (Waltke)

Proverbs 28:8

One who increases his possessions by usury and extortion
Gathers it for him who will pity the poor.

a. One who increases his possessions by usury and extortion: There are some who become rich through economic violence. They charge high and unfair interest (usury) or they use their power to cheat and steal (extortion).

i. “In the Bible nesek [usury] occurs ten times and refers to the charge for borrowed money, which practice in Biblical times came to about 30% of the amount borrowed.” (Waltke)

ii. “Usury or (RSV) interest: the Mosaic law shows that the legitimacy of it depends on its context: what was quite proper in terms of economics (Deuteronomy 23:20) was pronounced improper in terms of family care (Deuteronomy 23:19).” (Kidner)

iii. Adam Clarke pronounced a sharp curse against those who took advantage of their brothers’ need with usury and extortion: “O that the names of all those unfeeling, hard-hearted, consummate villains in the nation, who thus take advantage of their neighbour’s necessities to enrich themselves, were published at every market cross; and then the delinquents all sent to their brother savages in New Zealand. It would be a happy riddance to the country.”

b. Gathers it for him who will pity the poor: God will not allow these oppressive criminals to have the last word. In the resolution of God’s judgment, the wealth of the wicked is simply gathered for those who have love and pity for the poor.

Proverbs 28:9

One who turns away his ear from hearing the law,
Even his prayer is an abomination.

a. One who turns his ear from hearing the law: God wants us to always have an open and attentive ear towards His word (the law). To have no hunger for God’s word or to give it no attention is a sign of spiritual sickness in the child of God.

i. “Many suppose, if they do not know their duty, they shall not be accountable for their transgressions; and therefore avoid every thing that is calculated to enlighten them… But this pretense will avail them nothing; as he that might have known his master’s will, but would not, shall be treated as he shall be who did know it, and disobeyed it.” (Clarke)

b. Even his prayer is an abomination: God is not bound to hear or honor the one who neglects His word. Before we would speak to God in prayer we must humbly and attentively listen to His word, or our prayers may be an arrogant abomination.

i. “The prayer certainly will not be a proper prayer; someone who refuses to obey God will not pray according to God’s will—he will pray for some physical thing, perhaps even making demands on God.” (Ross)

Proverbs 28:10

Whoever causes the upright to go astray in an evil way,
He himself will fall into his own pit;
But the blameless will inherit good.

a. Whoever causes the upright to go astray in an evil way: There are those who take pleasure in causing the godly to go astray. It makes them feel better and perhaps superior to those who are upright.

i. Causes the upright to go astray: “This attracted some of Christ’s strongest words: see Matthew 5:19; 18:6; 23:15.” (Kidner)

b. He himself will fall into his own pit: God has a way of protecting His upright, even if they seem to or actually do go astray for a time. God knows how to put the wicked in their place (his own pit) and He knows how to make sure that the blameless will inherit good. God does not leave the final word to the wicked man with his evil plans.

i. “He who strives to pervert one really converted to God, in order that he may pour contempt on religion, shall fall into that hell to which he has endeavoured to lead the other.” (Clarke)

ii. “The line shows that the wicked will be caught in their own devices; but it also shows that the righteous are corruptible—they can be led into morally bad conduct.” (Ross)

Proverbs 28:11

The rich man is wise in his own eyes,
But the poor who has understanding searches him out.

a. The rich man is wise in his own eyes: It is not unusual for a rich man to be proud, and to think himself wise. Other proverbs explain that wisdom often lead to wealth, but not every rich man has gained his wealth through wisdom.

i. “Although riches do not always bring wisdom, the rich man often pretends to have it and ascribes his success to his own sagacity, though he may be manifestly simple and foolish.” (Bridges)

b. The poor man who has understanding searches him out: The poor man with wisdom stands above the rich man with a fool’s pride. That wise poor man may examine the rich man (searches him out), not the other way around.

i. The poor who has understanding: There are some lessons only poverty can teach, and one should never forget those lessons, even if they become wealthy.

ii. “Yet the universe does not possess a more dignified character than the poor man who has discernment. Did not the incarnate Lord honor this station supremely by taking it on himself? To walk in his footsteps, in his spirit, is wisdom, honor, and happiness infinitely beyond what this poor world of vanity can afford.” (Bridges)

iii. Searches him out: “Knoweth him better than he knoweth himself; and, looking through all his pomp and vain show, he sees him to be what indeed he is, a foolish and miserable man, notwithstanding all his riches, and discovers the folly of his words and actions.” (Poole)

Proverbs 28:12

When the righteous rejoice, there is great glory;
But when the wicked arise, men hide themselves.

a. When the righteous rejoice, there is great glory: When those who live with wisdom and righteousness rejoice because of the condition of their community, it is good for everyone. There is great glory.

b. When the wicked arise, men hide themselves: Even wicked men don’t want to be ruled by other wicked men. A culture may live off the inheritance of a previous righteous generation, but when the wicked arise those benefits and the freedoms righteousness bring will slowly diminish.

i. “Thus the man Moses fled and hid himself from Pharaoh, David from Saul, Eliah from Ahab, Obadiah’s clients from Jezebel, Jeremiah from Jehoiakim, Joseph and the child Jesus from Herod.” (Trapp)

ii. Men hide themselves: “The state of that nation is so shameful and dangerous, that wise and good men, who only are worthy of the name of men, withdraw themselves, or run into corners and obscure places; partly out of grief and shame to behold the wickedness which is publicly and impudently committed; and partly to avoid the rage and injuries of wicked oppressors.” (Poole)

iii. The righteous rejoice…the wicked arise: “The first was the case in this country, in the days of Edward VI.; the second in the days of his successor, Mary I. Popery, cruelty, and knavery, under her, nearly destroyed the Church and the State in these islands.” (Clarke)

Proverbs 28:13

He who covers his sins will not prosper,
But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy.

a. He who covers his sins will not prosper: Since Adam and Eve, human instinct leads us to cover our sins. Our conscience makes us ashamed of our sin and we don’t want others to see it. We even think we can hide it from God. Yet, this natural instinct to cover sin doesn’t benefit us. It prevents us from being real about our condition before God.

i. In a sermon on this proverb, Charles Spurgeon described some of the many ways men attempt to cover their sin—all of them in vain.

  • Excuses and justifications
  • Secrecy
  • Lies
  • Schemes to evade responsibility
  • Time
  • Tears
  • Ceremonies or sacraments

ii. He who covers his sins: “Out of his sinful pride he pretends before God and people that he has no need to confess; instead, he seeks to deceive.” (Waltke)

iii. “Sin and shifting came into the world together. Sin and Satan are alike in this, they cannot abide to appear in their own colour.” (Trapp)

iv. “God and man each conceal sin—God in free unbounded grace, man in shame and hypocrisy.” (Bridges)

b. But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy: The path to receiving God’s mercy is to confess and repent (forsake) our sin. This is the way to prosper spiritual and in life in general and receive God’s mercy.

i. “Confession is to take God’s side against sin. It is the lifting out of one thing after another from heart and life, and holding them for a moment before God, with the acknowledgment that it is our fault, our grievous fault.” (Meyer)

ii. The Biblical practice of confessing sin can free us from the heavy burdens (spiritual and physical, as in James 5:16) of unresolved sin, and it can remove hindrances to the work of the Holy Spirit. It is a tragedy when the confession of sin is neglected or ignored among believers, and a cause of much spiritual weakness and hypocrisy.

iii. “Confess the debt, and God will cross the book; he will draw the red lines of Christ’s blood over the black lines of our sins, and cancel the handwriting that was against us.” (Trapp)

iv. In his commentary on James, Moffatt described how this was practiced in the early church: “Now, in the primitive church this was openly done as a rule, before the congregation. The earliest manual of the church practice prescribes: ‘you must confess your sins in church, and not betake yourself to prayer with a bad conscience’ (Didache iv.).” (Moffatt)

v. According to Moffatt, the English Prayer Book instructs the the minister is to give this invitation before the communion service: “Come to me or to some other discreet and learned minister of God’s Word, and open his grief; that by the ministry of God’s holy Word he may receive the benefit of absolution.” There can be great value to opening one’s grief.

vi. The great conviction of sin and the subsequent confession of sin are common during times of spiritual awakening. Charles Finney urged and described the confession of sin. In the North China revivals under Jonathan Goforth, confession was almost invariably the prelude to blessing; one writer describing the significant Korean revivals associated with Goforth wrote: “We may have our theories of the desirability or undesirability of public confession of sin. I have had mine, but I know that when the Spirit of God falls upon guilty souls, there will be confession, and no power on earth can stop it.” (from Calling to Remembrance by William Newton Blair)

vii. Public confession of sin has the potential for great good or bad. Some guiding principles can help.

  • Confession should be made to the one sinned against. “Most Christians display a preference for confession in secret before God, even concerning matters which involve other people. To confess to God seems to them to be the easiest way out. If offenders were really conscious of the presence of God, even secret confession of private sin would have a good effect. Alas, most offenders merely commune with themselves instead of making contact with God, who refuses their prayers under certain conditions. In the words of our Lord, it is clear that sin involving another person should be confessed to that person.” (J. Edwin Orr)
  • Confession should often be public. James 5:16 illustrates this principle. A.T. Robertson, the great Greek scholar, says that in James 5:16 the odd tense of the Greek verb “confess” in this verse implies group confession rather than private confession. It is confession “ones to others” not “one to one other.”
  • Public confession must be discrete. Often the confession needs to be no more than what is necessary to enlist prayer. It can be enough to say publicly, “Pray for me, I need victory over my besetting sin.” It would be wrong to go into more detail, but saying this much is important. It keeps us from being “let’s pretend Christians” who act as if everything is fine when it isn’t. “Almost all sexual transgressions are either secret or private and should be so confessed. A burden too great to bear may be shared with a pastor or doctor or a friend of the same sex. Scripture discourages even the naming of immorality among believers, and declares that it is a shame even to speak of things done in secret by the immoral.” (Orr)
  • Distinguish between secret sins and those which directly affect others. Orr gives a good principle: “If you sin secretly, confess secretly, admitting publicly that you need the victory but keeping details to yourself. If you sin openly confess openly to remove stumbling blocks from those whom you have hindered. If you have sinned spiritually (prayerlessness, lovelessness, and unbelief as well as their offspring, criticism, etc.) then confess to the church that you have been a hindrance.” (J. Edwin Orr)
  • Confession is often made to people, but before God. At the same time, we notice that James 5:16 says “confess your trespasses to one another.” One of the interesting things about confession of sin as noted it in the writings of J. Edwin Orr is that the confessions are almost always addressed to people, not to God. It isn’t that you confess your sin to God and others merely hear. You confess your sin before others and ask them to pray for you to get it right before God.
  • Confession should be appropriately specific. When open confession of sin is appropriate—more than the public stating of spiritual need, but confessing open sin or sin against the church—it must be specific. “If I made any mistakes I’m sorry” is no confession of sin at all. You sinned specifically, so confess specifically. “It costs nothing for a church member to admit in a prayer meeting: ‘I am not what I ought to be.’ It costs no more to say: ‘I ought to be a better Christian.’ It costs something to say: ‘I have been a trouble-maker in this church.’ It costs something to say: ‘I have had bitterness of heart towards certain leaders, to whom I shall definitely apologise.’ ” (Orr, Full Surrender)
  • Confession should be thorough. “Some confessions are not thorough. They are too general. They are not made to the persons concerned. They neglect completely the necessary restitution. Or they make no provision for a different course of conduct in which the sin is forsaken. They are endeavours for psychological relief.” (Orr)
  • Confession must have honesty and integrity. If we confess with no real intention of battling the sin, our confession isn’t thorough and it mocks God. The story is told of an Irishman who confessed to his priest that he had stolen two bags of potatoes. The priest had heard the gossip around town and said to the man, “Mike, I heard it was only one bag of potatoes stolen from the market.” The Irishman replied, “That’s true Father, but it was so easy that I plan on taking another tomorrow night.” By all means, avoid phony confession—confession without true brokenness or sorrow. If it isn’t deeply real, it isn’t any good.
  • One need not fear that public confession of sin will inevitably get out of hand. Orr tells of a time when a woman was overwrought by deep sorrow for sin and became hysterical. He saw the danger immediately and told her, “Quiet, sister. Turn your eyes on Jesus.” She did and the danger of extreme emotion was avoided.
  • Those who hear a confession of sin also have a great responsibility. Those who hear the confession should have the proper response: loving, intercessory prayer, and not human wisdom, gossiping, or “sharing” the need with others.

viii. Real, deep, genuine confession of sin has been a feature of every genuine awakening or revival in the past 250 years. But it isn’t anything new, as demonstrated by the revival in Ephesus recorded in Acts 19:17-20. It says, many who believed came confessing and telling their deeds. This was Christians getting right with God, and open confession was part of it.

ix. “Confession is the soul’s vomit, and those that use it shall not only have ease of conscience, but God’s best comforts and cordials to restore them again.” (Trapp)

Proverbs 28:14

Happy is the man who is always reverent,
But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

a. Happy is the man who is always reverent: Sadly, reverence and happiness are not commonly associated together. The reverent man is often thought to be sour and unpleasant. Nevertheless, to the degree that one can be always reverent, he can genuinely happy.

i. Always reverent: “In all times, companies, and conditions; not only in the time of great trouble, when even hypocrites will in some sort be afraid of sinning, but in times of outward peace and prosperity.” (Poole)

b. He who hardens his heart will fall into calamity: Here, reverence and hardness of heart are set as opposites. A man who hardens his heart will not be a truly reverent man; but he will fall into calamity either in this life or the life to come.

i. Hardens his heart: “When one hardens his heart his psyche can no longer feel, respond, and opt for a new direction. The hardened heart is fixed in unbelief and unbending defiance to God (Exodus 7:3; Psalm 95:8); insensible to admonition or reproof it cannot be moved to a new sphere of behavior.” (Waltke)

ii. “When that fear is absent, courage is mere hardening of the heart, recklessness, foolhardiness. The man who shuts his eyes to God, gathers himself up, and desperately plunges forward, is no hero; he is a fool, and without exception sooner or later lands himself in circumstances which break him; and brings those about him into suffering and catastrophe.” (Morgan)

Proverbs 28:15-16

Like a roaring lion and a charging bear
Is a wicked ruler over poor people.
A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor,
But he who hates covetousness will prolong his days.

a. Like a roaring lion and a charging bear: With these vivid images, Solomon described the effect of a wicked ruler over poor people. The wicked ruler treats those of low standing (poor people) with unpredictable, uncontrollable ferocity. He is dangerous toward them.

i. “Look how the lion frightens the poor beasts with his roaring, so that they have no power to stir, and then preys upon them with his teeth; and as the bear searches them out and tears them limb from limb: so deal tyrants with their poor subjects.” (Trapp)

ii. “Because tyrants are like this, animal imagery (beast imagery?) is used in Daniel 7:1-8 for the series of ruthless world rulers. The poor crumple under such tyrants because they cannot meet their demands.” (Ross)

b. A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor: The foolish ruler (the one who lacks understanding) will oppress his people. His reign will be unhappy and insecure because of the foolish way he leads his people.

i. “The tyranny or oppression of a prince, though by some accounted wisdom, is in truth a manifest act and sign of great folly, because it alienateth from him the hearts of his people, in which his honour, and safety, and riches consist.” (Poole)

ii. “No sentiment of pity softens his heart. No principle of justice regulates his conduct. Complaint only provokes further exactions. Resistance kindles his unfeeling heart into savage fury. Helpless and miserable indeed are the people whom divine anger has placed under his misrule.” (Paxton, cited in Bridges)

c. He who hates covetousness will prolong his days: If a man is wise enough to hate covetousness, he will likely be wise in other responsibilities as a ruler. It is likely that his days as a ruler will be prolonged.

Proverbs 28:17

A man burdened with bloodshed will flee into a pit;
Let no one help him.

a. A man burdened with bloodshed will flee into a pit: We can suppose this may happen because the man burdened with bloodshed has a guilty, anxious mind that clouds and confuses his thinking, and he ends up in a pit. Or, it may happen because God’s curse is on the man burdened with bloodshed.

i. “The proverb states that the offender himself (like the smitten Azariah, 2 Chronicles 26:20) hastens to his punishment, once his conscience is awake.” (Kidner)

ii. Flee into a pit: “Shall speedily be destroyed, being pursued by Divine vengeance, and the horrors of a guilty conscience, and the avengers of blood.” (Poole)

b. Let no one help him: As the man guilty of bloodshed falls into the consequences of his own actions, let no one help him. Often it is best to let people suffer the consequences of their sins.

i. Let no one help him: “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.” (Clarke)

ii. “Protests against all capital punishment is misnamed philanthropy. Shall man pretend to be more merciful than God? Pity is misplaced here. The murderer, therefore, of his brother is his own murderer. Let God’s law take its course.” (Bridges)

iii. Charles Bridges was careful to add: “Yet we must not cast out his soul. Visiting the condemned cell is a special exercise of mercy. While we bow to the stern justice of the great Lawgiver, joyous indeed it is to bring to the sinner under the sentence of the law the free forgiveness of the Gospel; not as annulling his sin, but showing the over-abounding of grace beyond the abounding of sin.”

Proverbs 28:18

Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved,
But he who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall.

a. Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved: This proverb probably does not have eternal salvation in mind; instead, the idea is being saved or rescued from the calamities and troubles of life. Especially under the old covenant, God’s blessing and protection was upon those who walk blamelessly.

b. He who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall: The one who is twisted and crooked in his dealings can’t expect God’s blessing and protection. That crooked, twisted person should expect to suddenly fall one day.

Proverbs 28:19

He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,
But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough!

a. He who tills his land will have plenty of bread: The reward of work is a harvest. The one who tills his land will enjoy the harvest that comes, and therefore have plenty of bread.

i. “If we are not to be lazy in business but fervent in spirit, in this world and in all its concerns, how much more we need to be like this in the momentous concerns of eternity!” (Bridges)

b. But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough: The one who ignores his work to have a good time (following frivolity) will not enjoy the fruit of the harvest the way the hard-working man will. Instead of plenty of bread the lazy, frivolous man will have plenty of poverty. The Prodigal Son was a fulfillment of this (Luke 15:13-17).

i. “There is a meaningful repetition here: the diligent person will have ‘plenty [yisba] of bread,’ but the lazy person will have ‘plenty [yisba] of poverty’.” (Ross)

Proverbs 28:20

A faithful man will abound with blessings,
But he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.

a. A faithful man will abound with blessings: This is true as a general principle; faithfulness and obedience to God’s law brings blessings. It was especially true under the old covenant, where God promised blessings on the obedient and curses on the disobedient (Deuteronomy 27-28).

i. The faithful man will abound: “The man who makes fidelity the master principle will be rewarded. He who makes accumulation of wealth the master passion will be punished.” (Morgan)

b. He who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished: The one who hastens to be rich is almost always willing to cheat or compromise to gain wealth. God promises that this one will be punished, either in this life or the next.

i. He who hastens to be rich: “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.” (Garrett)

ii. “Even if no criminal means are resorted to, yet the immoderate desire, the perseverance in every track of Mammon, the laboring night and day for the grand object, and the delight and confidence in the acquisition all prove the idolatrous heart and will not go unpunished.” (Bridges)

Proverbs 28:21

To show partiality is not good,
Because for a piece of bread a man will transgress.

a. To show partiality is not good: In the court of law and in our daily dealings with people, we should not show partiality. We should be those who do not favor or condemn others based on their race, class, nationality, or influence.

b. Because for a piece of bread a man will transgress: Because justice and the opinion of others can be easily bought, we should determine that we will not be bribed for partiality and we should be aware that others may be easily bought.

i. For a piece of bread: “For a trifle he will transgress, and sell his soul dog cheap for a groat, or less money.” (Trapp)

ii. “The price can go still lower, to as little as the fancied approval of a stronger personality; and the preacher (Ezekiel 13:19) is as vulnerable as the judge.” (Kidner)

Proverbs 28:22

A man with an evil eye hastens after riches,
And does not consider that poverty will come upon him.

a. A man with an evil eye hastens after riches: The stingy, ungenerous man will run after riches with the same energy that he will use to selfishly hold on to what he has.

b. And does not consider that poverty will come upon him: Because God’s blessing does not rest on the stingy, ungenerous man, poverty will come upon him—and he will not consider or expect it.

i. “The Lord will see to it that only conscientious and compassionate people finally hold wealth in his kingdom.” (Waltke)

Proverbs 28:23

He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward
Than he who flatters with the tongue.

a. He who rebukes a man will find more favor afterward: It may be necessary to rebuke a man, but it is to invite his displeasure. Still, it should be done in confidence that when done well, the one who rebukes will find more favor afterward.

b. Than he who flatters with the tongue: The one who rebukes may not be as welcomed as he who flatters, but the sacrificial service of he who rebukes will bring him into more favor than the one who always praises.

Proverbs 28:24

Whoever robs his father or his mother,
And says, “It is no transgression,”
The same is companion to a destroyer.

a. Whoever robs his father or his mother: There are some who have little conscience about stealing from their parents. Out of some sense of entitlement, they rob them and then say, “It is no transgression.”

i. Robs his father or mother: “As that idolatrous Micah did his mother of her gold; [Judges 17:2] as Rachel did her father of his gods; as Absalom did David of his crown.” (Trapp)

ii. “He who robs his parents is worse than a common robber; to the act of dishonesty and rapine he adds ingratitude, cruelty, and disobedience.” (Clarke)

iii. “He may rationalize, ‘eventually it all comes to me anyway’ (Pro 19:24), or ‘they can no longer manage their finances,’ or ‘as a family we own everything in common,’ etc.” (Waltke)

b. The same is companion to a destroyer: Despite whatever sense of entitlement the thief may have, they are right next to a destroyer, someone who spreads and even loves destruction.

i. “The language is strong. The word for ‘robs’ could be rendered ‘plunders.’ ‘Him who destroys’ is someone who causes havoc in society.” (Garrett)

Proverbs 28:25

He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife,
But he who trusts in the Lord will be prospered.

a. He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife: A proud man or woman is constantly causing strife, because they want the attention and preeminence. That doesn’t agree with most people, so there is strife.

i. Stirs up strife: “Because he makes it his great business to advance and please himself, and hateth and opposeth all that stand in his way, and despiseth other men, and is very jealous of his honour, and impatient of the least slighting, or affront, or injury, and indulgeth his own passions.” (Poole)

ii. “The greedy person’s insatiable appetite brings him into conflict with others, for he transgresses social boundaries. Not content with his portion, he becomes disruptive and destructive, and whose person and property he violates fight back.” (Waltke)

b. He who trusts in the Lord shall be prospered: To trust in the Lord is presented as a contrast to the proud heart. That one should expect to be prospered, as they humbly trust God and forsake pride.

i. “By contrast, those who trust in Yahweh can wait for their appetites to be satisfied, cause no discord, and in fact will be satisfied.” (Garrett)

Proverbs 28:26

He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But whoever walks wisely will be delivered.

a. He who trusts in his own heart is a fool: There is a strong urge—promoted to us by the world, the flesh, and the devil—to trust our own heart and to “follow our heart” instead of humbly receiving our values, morals, and wisdom from God’s word. This trusting in our own heart leads one to be a fool. For answers, values, and guidance we should not look within, but look to the Lord.

i. He who trusts in his own heart: “To trust an impostor who has deceived us a hundred times or a traitor who has proved himself false to our most important interests is surely to deserve the name of fool. This name, therefore, the Scriptures, using great plainness of speech, give to the person who trusts in himself.” (Bridges)

ii. A fool: “For his heart, which is deceitful and desperately wicked, will infallibly deceive him.” (Clarke)

b. Whoever walks wisely will be delivered: In contrast to trusting our own heart, we should instead give attention to walking wisely. Instead of operating on the basis of how we feel, we should direct ourselves to wise living in what we do.

i. Walks wisely: “Distrusting his own judgment, and seeking the advice of others, and especially of God, as all truly wise men do, he shall be delivered from those dangers and mischiefs which fools bring upon themselves; whereby he showeth himself to be a wise man.” (Poole)

ii. “The teaching here recalls the wise and foolish builders of Matt 7:24-27.” (Garrett)

Proverbs 28:27

He who gives to the poor will not lack,
But he who hides his eyes will have many curses.

a. He who gives to the poor will not lack: God promises to bless the generous heart, and one way that generosity should be expressed is to give to the poor.

i. Will not lack: “Not getting but giving is the way to wealth. God will bless the bountiful man’s stock and store, his barn and his basket; [Deuteronomy 15:10] his righteousness and his riches together shall endure for ever. [Psalms 112:3].” (Trapp)

b. He who hides his eyes will have many curses: God will not bless the one who ignores the troubles of the poor and needy.

i. He who hides his eyes: “Describes an attitude which is very common, though popularly supposed not to be wrong. To hide the eyes means to refuse to see poverty. It is the sin of those who say they are too sensitive to visit the slums.” (Morgan)

ii. Many curses: “Men shall curse him, and call him a Pamphagus, a churl, a hog in a trough, a fellow of no fashion, &c. God shall also curse him, and set off all hearts from him.” (Trapp)

Proverbs 28:28

When the wicked arise, men hide themselves;
But when they perish, the righteous increase.

a. When the wicked arise, men hide themselves: When wicked men come to places of prominence and rule, it is bad for the community. Freedom and blessing to the community are much less present and in response men hide themselves.

b. When they perish, the righteous increase: When the wicked and their influence pass, the righteous increase, along with their influence. This is a blessing for a community or a nation.

i. The righteous increase: “They who were righteous do now again appear in public, and being advanced to that power which the wicked rulers have lost, they use their authority to encourage and promote righteousness, and to punish unrighteousness, whereby the number of wicked men is diminished, and the righteous are multiplied.” (Poole)

ii. “When the righteous increase in number and power, the people come out of their hiding…This was the case during the reign of Hezekiah, whose men collected these proverbs (Proverbs 25:1; 2 Chronicles 29-30, esp. Pro 30:13-27; cf. Esther 8:17; Acts 12:23, 24).” (Waltke)

iii. “In the early ages of the Christian church, after the death of the persecuting Herod, the Word of God grew and multiplied.” (Bridges)

©2017 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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