posted on May, 17 2019 @ 05:06 PM
The collector of the Old Testament Proverbs makes his purpose clear from the beginning.
“That men may know wisdom and instruction, understand words of insight” (ch1 v2).
Then he further defines this wisdom as “fear of the Lord” (v7). This phrase, when used in the Bible, means respect and willingness to obey.
I’m studying the different characters of Proverbs, as one way of organising and understanding the teaching
“The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all” (ch22v2).
In this book, the Poor Man is likely to be amongst the righteous, but the Rich Man is not automatically treated as one of the wicked.
Wealth has the potential to work for both good and evil.
It is not to be denied that wealth brings power.
A rich man’s wealth is “his strong city” (ch10 v15).
It gives him the power to “redeem himself”, from the threat of slavery for debt and from most other kinds of trouble (ch13 v8).
He has many friends (ch14 v20), for his wealth gives him the ability to offer bribes, which extend his power further;
“Many seek the favour of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to the man who gives gifts” (ch19 v6).
“A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men” (ch18 v16).
“A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of him who gives it, wherever he turns he prospers” (ch17 v8).
He also gains power over the poor man, by lending him money;
“The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” (ch22v7).
This gets reflected in their sense of confidence;
“The poor use entreaties, but the rich answer roughly” (ch18 v23).
Unfortunately, wealth is frequently acquired in wrong ways.
As a rule of thumb, it is a bad sign if wealth is gained at speed;
“An inheritance gotten hastily at the beginning will in the end not be blessed” (ch20 v21).
The problem is that there are very few righteous ways of gaining wealth at speed, in a mainly agricultural society.
“A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished” -ch28v20
The implication is that the man hastening to be rich is not being faithful- that is, he is being dishonest.
One of these “fast-track” methods is usury.
That is why there is prudential advice against giving security for another borrower and falling into the same mesh;
“He who gives security for a stranger will smart for it” (ch11 v15).
“A man without sense gives a pledge and becomes surety in the presence of his neighbour” (ch17 v18).
Another is the use of false weights in trade;
“A just balance and scales are the Lord’s; all the weights in the bag are his work” (ch16 v11).
“Diverse weights and diverse measures are both an abomination to the Lord” (ch20 v10).
“A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight” (ch11 v1).
This was probably the sin of Zacchaeus, using false measures on the goods to be taxed or on the money received.
As men of influence, they may exploit the poor through judicial fraud and corruption, or by plain old violence;
“Do not rob the poor because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate” (ch22 v22).
“He who oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth or gives to the rich will only come to want” (ch22 v16).
“A greedy man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the Lord will be enriched” (ch28 v25).
While many rich men are increasing their wealth by being miserly with what they have got.
“Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy…
For he is like one who is inwardly reckoning. “Eat and drink”, he says to you, but his heart is not with you.
You will vomit up the morsels which you have eaten, and waste your pleasant words” (ch23 vv6-8).
All this endeavour is wasted, because earthly wealth is fleeting;
“Do not toil to acquire wealth…when your eyes light upon it, it is gone.
For suddenly it takes to itself wings, flying like an eagle toward heaven” (ch23 vv4-5)
“A miserly man hastens after wealth and does not know that want will come upon him” (ch28 v22).
This is partly because they throw their money away in over-indulgence;
“He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich”- ch21 v17
This has a result which can be illustrated from the pages of Dickens;
“One man pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth” (ch13 v7).
Furthermore, this drive to gain wealth works against a man’s righteousness, and therefore against his long-term interests;
“He who augments his wealth by interest and increase[usury] gathers it for him who is kind to the poor” (ch28 v8).
“The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapour and a snare of death”(ch21 v6).
Nevertheless, it is possible to combine wealth and righteousness, by being generous.
“He who has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for his shares his bread with the poor” (ch22 v9).
“He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed” (ch19 v17).
“He who oppresses a poor man insults his maker, but he who is kind to the needy honours him” (ch14 v31).
In consequence, the Lord will reward the generous and penalise the greedy;
“He who gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes [from their need] will get many a curse” (ch28 v27).
“He who closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself cry out and not be heard”-(ch21 v13).
“One man gives freely yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want” (ch11v24).
“A liberal man will be enriched, and one who waters [uses his wealth to give life] will himself be watered.
The people curse him who holds back grain, but a blessing is in the head of him who sells it” (ch11 v25-26).
We see that it isn’t even necessary for him to give the grain away; he earns the name “liberal” by releasing it for sale instead of hoarding it
to gain a better price later, or for his own exclusive use like the “rich fool” of Luke ch12..
So the righteous man is also the man who has acquired the true wealth;
“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.” (ch13 v22).
“He who trusts in his riches will wither, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf” (ch11 v28).
The true wealth, in fact, is to receive life from God and escape his judgement.
“Riches do not profit in the day of wrath ,but righteousness delivers from death” (ch11v4).