Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.XXVIII
For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof: but by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged.(2) For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof.—Comp. 1Kings 15:27, sqq., and indeed the whole history of the kingdom of Israel as compared with the regular succession of the family of David in accordance with the promise of Psalm 89:33.
The state thereof shall be prolonged—i.e., its settled condition. Or it may signify “right” (i.e., authority)” continues.”
A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food.(3) A poor man that oppresseth the poor.—If the recollection of his own former troubles has not softened his heart towards his poor neighbours, he will be rendered more callous to their sufferings.
Is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food.—That sweeps away grain and soil, instead of bringing plenty with it.
They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.(4) They that forsake the law praise the wicked.—The mark of extreme wickedness. (Comp. Romans 1:32.)
But such as keep the law contend with them.—Just as the sight of ill-doing was the one thing which roused our Lord to wrath, while insults and wrongs offered to Himself were passed by unnoticed.
Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things.(5) Evil men understand not judgment.—Or, what is right. For God reveals Himself only to those who fear Him (Psalm 25:14, comp. 1Corinthians 2:11; 1John 2:20); they, by following the light they have, are “guided into all truth” (John 16:13); the evil, by continually shutting their eyes to the light, at last can not see it, even if they would (John 12:39, sqq.).
Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.(6) Better is the poor that walketh . . .—A variation of Proverbs 19:1.
Perverse in his ways.—According to the pointing of the text the words signify, “perverse in two ways.” That is, the sinner tries to “go two ways” (Ecclesiasticus 2:12); to follow his own way without entirely deserting God’s; to “serve God and mammon;” he is “double-minded” (James 1:8), instead of setting before himself God’s will as the guide of his life.
He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.(8) He that by usury . . . increaseth his substance.—See above on Proverbs 6:1.
He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.(9) Even his prayer shall be abomination.—See above on Proverbs 15:8.
Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray in an evil way, he shall fall himself into his own pit: but the upright shall have good things in possession.(10) He shall fall himself into his own pit.—See above on Proverbs 26:27.
The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.(11) The rich man is wise in his own conceit.—For the blinding effect of wealth comp. Revelation 3:17.
When righteous men do rejoice, there is great glory: but when the wicked rise, a man is hidden.(12) When righteous men do rejoice—i.e., prosper, or triumph.
There is great glory.—Men rejoice, and array themselves in their gayest attire.
A man is hidden.—Literally, is sought for. They hide themselves for fear (comp. Proverbs 28:28), and must be sought for, in order to be found.
He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.(13) He that covereth his sins.—As Adam and Eve did, when they had transgressed (Genesis 3:8), as David did to his own loss (Psalm 32:3.)
Whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy, and be at once completely forgiven; though he must still suffer the punishment due for his offences (2Samuel 12:14, sqq.), and will, for having yielded to temptation, be the less able to resist it when next assailed by it.
Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.(14) Happy is the man that feareth alway lest he should fall, and so, distrusting himself, seeks heavenly aid (Philippians 2:12).
He that hardeneth his heart.—(Comp. Exodus 8:15, sqq.)
Shall fall into mischief.—As he will have lost the guidance and protection of God.
As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.(15) A ranging bear—i.e., wandering hungrily in great want of food.
Over the poor people—i.e., a people too weak to resist him, over whom he can tyrannise without fear.
The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days.(16) A prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor.—Thereby losing the love of his people, and at the same time impoverishing them; thus killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. He also by his misdeeds draws down upon himself God’s anger in the shape of an early death. Comp. the woe pronounced upon Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:13, sqq.).
A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him.(17) A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person.—Rather, that is burdened with his blood, has wilfully murdered any one.
Shall flee to the pit.—Fulfilling the curse of Genesis 9:6.
Let no man stay him—i.e., attempt to rescue him from the punishment he has deserved.
Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once.(18) He that is perverse in his ways.—Literally, two ways. (Comp. note on Proverbs 28:6.)
At once—i.e., all of a sudden, without warning.
He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.(19) He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread.—The curse of Genesis 3:17-19 being, in God’s mercy, turned into a blessing.
A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.(20) A faithful man, who is true to God and man, “shall abound with blessings” from God and man. Comp. Job’s description of his own blameless life and the blessings attending it (Job 29).
To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress.(21) For, for a piece of bread.—A thing proverbially of little value. (Comp. Ezekiel 13:19.)
That man will transgress.—So degrading is the habit of servility.
He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.(22) Hath an evil eye.—Envies others their prosperity, and keeps all he has for himself.
And considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.—For it is “the liberal soul” that “shall be made fat” (Proverbs 11:25), not such as he, who can get no blessing from God.
He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue.(23) He that rebuketh a man, afterwards shall find more favour . . .—i.e., when the man reproved comes to his senses, and finds how true a friend the reprover has been to him. Or, the words may perhaps mean, He that rebuketh a man (that is going) backwards. (Compare Jeremiah 7:24, and James 5:20.)
Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, It is no transgression; the same is the companion of a destroyer.(24) It is no transgression.—Because all would in time come to him.
The companion of a destroyer.—Comp. Proverbs 18:9. Though the deed may be done secretly, yet he is no better than one who by open violence and wrong assails his neighbour.
He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat.(25) He that is of a proud heart.—Who thinks much of himself, “stirreth up strife” by his struggles with others for pre-eminence, and mostly gains only vexation and disappointment for his trouble; “but he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat,” being richly rewarded with that “peace which passeth all understanding.”
He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.(26) He that trusteth in his own heart, is confident in his own wisdom (comp. 1Corinthians 3:18, sqq.); he will perish in his folly.
But whoso walketh wisely.—Literally, in wisdom, which begins with the “fear of the Lord” (Proverbs 9:10), “shall be delivered” from the trouble into which the “fool” is brought by his self-confidence.
He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.(27) He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack.—See above on Proverbs 11:24.
Shall have many a curse.—With this comp. Ecclesiasticus 4:5-6.