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A.  (:13) Confessing and Forsaking vs. Concealing – Impenitent Sinner

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper,

But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

Allen Ross: Repentance and renunciation of sin bring God’s mercy and blessing. This verse is unique in Proverbs; it captures the theology of forgiveness found in passages such as Psalm 32:1–5 and 1 John 1:6–9. The contrast is between one who “conceals” his sins and one who “confesses and renounces them.” The former will not prosper; the latter will find God’s “mercy” (yeruḥām). Each part of this verse is essential to the truth: “confession must be coupled with true return in order to assure God’s mercy” (Plaut, 285). Would that the people of God were half as faithful in showing mercy as God is!

Richard Clifford: The saying criticizes people’s inclination to keep quiet about their faults. Colon B makes clear that the confession is done to God. Mercy will be shown to such people (divine passive). This is the only verse in Proverbs that refers to God’s forgiveness of the penitent sinner (Whybray).

Tremper Longman: At bottom, this verse (like 28:11) is against pretense and for openness and mercy.

George Mylne: But such is the folly of many sinners, that they would rather hide their sins from their own eyes, and, if possible, from the eyes of God, than receive mercy under the character of wicked sinners. They will allow themselves to be sinners but they will not confess their sins; or, if they cannot altogether deny them, they endeavor to save their honor, or rather their pride, to the ruin of their souls, by excusing and extenuating them, or by transferring, like our first parents, the blame of them to others. How foolish is it for those who pine away under a mortal disease to conceal it from the knowledge of the world, rather than seek a cure from the physician?

Those who cover their sins shall not prosper. For it is impossible to cover them from the eye of our Judge; and to endeavor to shelter ourselves under coverings, is an additional provocation to the eyes of his glory. If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But if we cover our sins with excuses, and will not allow ourselves to be sensible of our absolute need of sovereign mercy then how can we expect to share in that salvation, which is bestowed on men to the praise of the glory of the grace of God? If we will not acknowledge our disease then we refuse to the physician the praise of a cure.

B.  (:14)  Fearing Sin vs. Hardening the Heart – Hardened Sinner

How blessed is the man who fears always,

But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

Richard Clifford: The Hebrew word rendered by “fears” is a different verb than in the common phrase “to fear (or revere) Yahweh.” The only other occurrence of the verb in this conjugation is Isa. 51:13, which refers to fear and dread of an oppressor. The meaning “to harden the heart” in colon B is illuminated by Ezek. 3:7: “But the house of Israel is unwilling to listen to me, because the whole house of Israel has a hard forehead and a hard heart.

The saying states a paradox. Those who are fearful in the sense of cautious are declared happy, and those who are “bold” in the sense of “tough-hearted” as in Ex. 7:3 will fall into traps they did not foresee or “fear.” In short, there is a good fear and a bad fear.

Lindsay Wilson: While pāḥad (fear, be in dread of) is used instead of yāré‘ (fear), this is elsewhere used of the fear of God (Ps. 36:1 [Heb. 2]; 2 Chr. 19:7). In any event, the contrast in verse 14b makes it clear that those who have a wrong stance towards God (hardening their heart) will suffer calamitous consequences (lit. ‘fall into disaster/evil’). Waltke (2005: 417) sees the impenitent sinner of verse 13a balanced by the hardened sinner of verse 14b.

Paul Koptak: If the previous saying hinted at divine grace, here human fear of Yahweh leads to blessing or happiness (ʾašre; cf. 8:34; 20:7; Ps. 1:1). Note the contrast between one who “fears continually” and one who “hardens the heart.” A hard heart knows no correction and therefore no change; it will hide, not confess (Prov. 28:13), a sure path to “trouble.”

Allen Ross: Perhaps the verse means fear of sin. In other words, the one who is always apprehensive about sin and its results will be more successful at avoiding it and finding God’s blessing.

Tremper Longman: The sages here apparently are commending fear over insensitivity. . .   Fear has a way of keeping people alert to potential problems.  If one does not experience a certain level of stress, then it is likely that complacency will set in, and sooner or later negative consequences will result. . .  On the other hand, those whose hearts are hard, in the sense of unfeeling, will suffer for the opposite reasons.


A.  (:15-16) Value of Integrity in Leadership

  1. (:15) Wicked Rulers Intimidate and Ravage Their People

Like a roaring lion and a rushing bear

Is a wicked ruler over a poor people.

Lindsay Wilson: These verses describe different kinds of people in authority. Wicked rulers – revealed as those who bring poverty to their people – are described in terms of the senseless damage they cause (v. 15), and are compared to a roaring, hungry lion, putting fear into everyone, or a charging bear on a destructive rampage. They boast about themselves, but do nothing to benefit the people over whom they rule. The ruler in verse 16a is just as bad. He has refused to choose the path of wisdom and so lacks understanding (3:13); he is described as an excessive extorter/oppressor (cruel, nrsv/esv, is an over-translation of rab, ‘much’, ‘greatly’). The contrast, however, shows that an ideal ruler is one who hates unjust gain (used of a bribe in Exod. 18:21) and will receive the reward that wisdom offers – lasting days (3:2).

Paul Koptak: Two metaphors for a wicked ruler use the well-known behaviors of two fearsome animals. The lion roars and the bear charges (or, possibly, “ranges” or “roves” over a territory); whether the behaviors are linked to hunting or defending territory is not clear, but the first is most like a wicked ruler, who preys on the poor. In Proverbs, the king’s wrath (presumably a just wrath) is like the lion’s roar (19:12, 20:2); only here is the roar like a wicked person ruling over the helpless poor (dal; 28:8, 11; cf. v. 12).

Allen Ross: Political tyrants are dangerous and destructive. The wicked man who rules over “helpless people” is compared to a “roaring lion” and a “charging bear”—subhuman, beastly, powerful, insensitive, in search of victims (prey). 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.

George Mylne: The lion and the bear are two of the fiercest kinds of animals but they are doubly dreadful when the one is roaring, and the other charging the prey, seeking in the rage of hunger whom they may devour. No less dreadful is a tyrant who spreads desolation and terror through the country, by oppressing his helpless subjects. He is a general enemy but his cruelty is felt most by the poor, who have no means of resistance in their power, and who can least bear his exactions.

Tremper Longman: Tyrants in the past, even as today, were known to suck the lifeblood of their people, making themselves affluent while their people were impoverished.

  1. (:16) Oppressor vs. Ruler with Integrity

A leader who is a great oppressor lacks understanding,

But he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.

Richard Clifford: The antithesis here is lack and abundance. Where there is lack of intelligence there is abundant violence; where there is lack of unjustly acquired wealth, there is abundant life.

Allen Ross: The second line describes the one who rules with integrity; he “will enjoy a long life” (yaʾarîk yāmîm, lit., “extends days”). A righteous administration pleases the people and God, who preserves it.

B.  (:17-18) Value of Integrity in Living Blamelessly

  1. (:17) Burden of Guilt over Bloodshed

A man who is laden with the guilt of human blood

Will be a fugitive until death; let no one support him.

Tremper Longman: This proverb upholds the dignity of human life.  If people take a life, their own lives are forfeit (Gen. 9:5-6).  Here the first colon describes someone who has taken the life of another person and feels oppressed or tormented by that act.  Indeed, the second colon, admittedly difficult to understand with certainty, seems to suggest that the person is suicidal.  That is likely what is suggested by the statement that such a person is on a flight to the pit, with “pit” standing for the underworld.

Allen Ross: the second line of the verse is either saying that it is futile to try to support a murderer on the run or that one should not interfere.

George Mylne: The land is defiled with blood, if the murderer (when he can be found, and the crime can be proven,) escapes unpunished; how deeply then must they be defiled, who support or conceal him! Justifying the wicked, is a crime of the same nature with condemning the righteous. Saving the life of a murderer, has the same relation to the guilt of slaying the innocent. Is God so severe in his laws and providence against murderers? Then let us give no indulgence to any of those passions or dispositions, that lead to such a black and atrocious crime. Hatred and malice do not always end in blood but blood commonly begins with hatred and malice. These malignant passions are viewed as murder by the holy eyes of God; and the man who indulges them has committed murder already in his heart.

  1. (:18)  Benefit of Integrity

He who walks blamelessly will be delivered,

But he who is crooked will fall all at once.

Lindsay Wilson: Verse 18 commends those who walk in integrity, noting that they will be delivered (‘saved’, in the sense of ‘kept safe’; 10:9). However, one whose ways are crooked or twisted will fall (lit. ‘fall into one’, rendered as suddenly fall, esv, or ‘fall into the pit’, niv/nrsv).

Allen Ross: Integrity brings security; perversion brings insecurity. A life of integrity (hôlēk tāmîm; “walk is blameless,” NIV) is contrasted with the one “whose ways [dual; see v.6] are perverse [neʿqaš]”; the result of the righteous lifestyle is being “kept safe,” whereas the wicked will fall. The last word, beʾeḥāt (“at one [once]”), may indicate a sudden fall (cf. NIV).


A.  (:19-20) Importance of Diligence and Faithfulness in Obtaining Wealth

  1. (:19)  Diligence vs. Vanity

He who tills his land will have plenty of food,

But he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty.

Richard Clifford: Doing one’s duty faithfully means being sated with food (yiśba‘ leḥem), whereas frenetic pursuit of what is insubstantial (rēqîm) means being sated with poverty (yiśba‘ rîš).

Lindsay Wilson: Those who work their land will be satisfied with plenty of food, but if their energies are diverted elsewhere (‘fantasies’, niv; worthless pursuits, esv/nrsv; lit. ‘empty things’), they will be ‘full’ of the emptiness of poverty (12:11).

Paul Koptak: Read together with verse 20, this proverb makes a comparison of rewards. Not only is the wordplay on (lit.) “plenty of bread . . . plenty of poverty” a wry contrast in outcomes (repeating yiśbaʿ, “filled”), the contrast of behaviors also sets staying home against riding off in pursuit of vanities. If the goals are empty at the start, the final outcome will be also. This saying is nearly identical to 12:11 (except for the last two words in that proverb, “lacks sense”).

George Mylne: We must seek from God our daily bread but we must not expect to have it rained down like manna from the clouds without any labor of our own. Let us join industry to our dependence upon God and we shall have bread enough for ourselves and our families, and something to give to the poor.

But the man who chases fantasies and loves idle company has no relish for the business of his calling. He learns habits of idleness and dissipation, which will soon bring him to poverty. He behaves as if he were hungering and thirsting after poverty and he shall soon be filled with that which he is so eagerly seeking after!

  1. (:20)  Faithfulness vs. Get Rich Quick Mentality

A faithful man will abound with blessings,

But he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.”

Richard Clifford: The righteous receive blessings (including wealth), whereas those who seek to get rich quick end up with trouble rather than wealth. The verb “to hasten” (’ûṣ) in Proverbs always means to act precipitously (19:2; 21:6; 29:20) and without reflection. The right way to become wealthy is to pursue virtue.

Lindsay Wilson: Similarly, in verse 20 a faithful person will have many blessings (which probably includes material ones, 10:22), but one who is in a hurry to be rich will be given a punishment of an unspecified kind (13:11; 20:21).

Paul Koptak: Like verse 19, this saying asks its hearer to choose outcomes. Do you want to be blessed richly, or are you only in a hurry (ʾaṣ; cf. 19:2; 20:21; 21:6; 29:20) to get rich? The first requires faithfulness, the second abandons virtue to chase after material gains, cutting corners in work and ethics. Once again, it comes down to aims in life; if one seeks the higher goal of virtue, other goods will come. But if one seeks the lower goal of possessions alone, even more will be lost, perhaps even one’s integrity.

Allen Ross: Faithfulness determines success. The “faithful man” (ʾîš ʾemûnôt) is contrasted with the one who is “eager to get rich” (ʾāṣ lehaʿašîr). The first is faithful to his obligations to God and to other people, whereas the one who hastens to make riches is doing it without an honest day’s work and perhaps even dishonestly. In a hurry to acquire wealth, he falls into dishonest schemes and bears the guilt for doing so; he will not go unpunished. The Targum adds the interpretation—probably a correct one—that he hastens through deceit and wrongdoing.

B.  (:21-22) Warning against Wicked Approaches to Obtaining Wealth

  1. (:21) Via Showing Partiality by Taking Bribes

To show partiality is not good,

Because for a piece of bread a man will transgress.

Richard Clifford: Despite the strong prohibition of judicial partiality, the reality is that a judge may sell out for a pittance. The saying expresses contempt for the greed that would pervert the integrity of the court for a piece of bread.

Tremper Longman: The second colon provides the motivation for those who do show favoritism: personal gain.  It parodies those who are willing to show favoritism by pointing out that they engage in such an unethical practice for the slightest kind of bribe.

  1. (:22) Via Stingy Materialistic Motivation

A man with an evil eye hastens after wealth,

And does not know that want will come upon him.

Lindsay Wilson: Related to greed is stinginess, with verse 22 claiming that a person ‘bad of eye’ (i.e. miserly, see 23:6) makes wrongful haste to get wealthy, without knowing that poverty rather than money will come to him.

Paul Koptak: In God’s economy, hoarding and acquisitiveness put riches in bags that are full of holes (Hag. 1:6), but that irony does not occur to this person who “is unaware” (lit., “does not know”; cf. Prov. 7:23; 9:18). Once again, a proverb makes clear that acquiring wealth just to hold onto it makes a poor goal for a life. What is condemned is not work or wealth but making them the center of one’s life and everything else peripheral.


A.  (:23) Gaining Friendship via Frank Rebuke

He who rebukes a man will afterward find more favor

Than he who flatters with the tongue.

Richard Clifford: The paradox is that frank and truthful speech wins more favor than flattery. People learn best through honest dialogue that includes the possibility of reproof and correction. Reproof leads to wisdom that wins favor.

Paul Koptak: The reversal of this saying is like the one just before; what one hopes to get eludes the grasp, whether it be riches or favor. Rebuke in teaching and personal feedback may be costly to those who give it and painful to those who receive it (cf. 9:7–9; 27:5–6), but it pays back in time (“at the end”). However, flattery (cf. 6:24; 26:28) earns little real favor, although it is not clear whether the flattery is given with that end in mind or to gain some other unscrupulous advantage. In any case, the reversal shows that it is the honest tongue that earns favor, not a “smooth” one.

Tremper Longman: Although it is true that initially people are likely to get a bad reaction from those whose faults they are highlighting, this proverb indicates that favor, gratitude for the advice, will come not immediately but “afterward.”  Proverbs is interested in cutting through pretense and getting to the truth of a matter.  This proverb motivates honest assessment of others.

George Mylne: Flattery may gain us a transient flow of kindness, and faithful reproof may excite a temporary disgust. For the unbridled self-love of men makes them unwilling to hear any negative reflection on their own conduct, and disposes them to swallow down their own praise, without examining whether it is just or not. But the force of truth and reason will in time appear, and flattery will render the person who presented it odious, when the bad effects of it are found by bitter experience.

On the other side, the faithful reprover is still esteemed, and in time it will be found that his faithfulness will procure him a greater measure of that good-will and friendship which he seemed to forfeit.

If we wish to enjoy a permanent interest in any man’s love, we should make it our first point to secure his esteem by deserving it. But, that we may experience the truth of this proverb, we ought to administer needful reproofs in a friendly manner. For if we behave like enemies in doing the office of a friend we must not think it strange if we are taken for enemies.

B.  (:24) Dishonoring Parents

He who robs his father or his mother,

And says, ‘It is not a transgression,’

Is the companion of a man who destroys.

Lindsay Wilson: Verse 24 targets those who wrongly treat their parents by robbing them but claiming to be innocent (see 19:26; 20:20; 30:11, 17; Mark 7:10–13; 1 Tim. 5:4, 8). What is in view here is taking some of the family property and regarding it as their own, thus showing disrespect for their parents, with attitudes of greed and selfishness. All of this is destructive for the community by undermining one of its key institutions.

Paul Koptak: The robbery is not specified, but one can imagine scenarios of mooching or usurping property. To do such a thing and say (lit.) “no transgression” (ʾen pašaʿ; cf. 29:16, 22) not only adds insult to injury, it betrays a seared conscience (cf. 30:20). Parents who have given of their means and very selves to their children deserve care when it is their turn in their later years. There is a lesson here about returning thanks and service to those who have given much.

Allen Ross: Whoever robs his parents, no matter how he seeks to justify the act, is a destroyer. The point of gôzēl ʾābîw (“he who robs his father”) seems to be that of prematurely trying to gain control of the family property through some form of pressure and in the process reduce the parents’ possessions and standing in the community. He can say, “It’s not wrong” (ʾên-pāšaʿ), because he can reason that it someday will be his anyway. The proverb classifies this type of greedy person as a companion to one “who destroys” (mašḥît).

Caleb Nelson: You also need to honor your father and mother — indeed, all superiors in place, age, or gifts. To steal from your parents is the opposite of honoring them. To take their stuff and act like it’s your stuff is a sin against God.

C.  (:25) Stirring Up Strife

An arrogant man stirs up strife,

But he who trusts in the LORD will prosper.

Richard Clifford: The paradox is that a wide open throat, by metonymy an unbridled appetite, brings strife, whereas its opposite, calm trust in God’s care, attains the very thing that the throat desires — satisfaction of appetite. Elsewhere in Proverbs, anger stirs up quarrels (e.g., 15:18 and 29:22).

Paul Koptak: Greed brings “dissension” (root grh; cf. 28:4; also 15:18; 29:22), trust brings prosperity.

Allen Ross: One’s object of faith determines the direction of one’s life. The antithetical parallelism pits the “greedy man” (reḥab-nepeš, “large appetite”; lit., “wide of soul”) against the one “who trusts” (bôṭēaḥ) the Lord. The first one is completely selfish and usually ruthless. His attitudes and actions stir up strife because people do not long tolerate him. He pushes so hard for the things he wants that his zeal becomes a hindrance to obtaining them. Conversely, the true believer, who is blessed by God, “will prosper” (lit., “will be made fat,” i.e., abundantly prosperous).

D.  (:26) Self-Centered Independence

He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,

But he who walks wisely will be delivered.

Richard Clifford: “To trust in one’s heart” in colon A is not (as the English might suggest) to rely on one’s intuition but on one’s (unaided) judgment, for “heart” is the organ of judgment. Such self-centeredness is dangerous. Genuine wisdom comes as a gift “from above,” that is, from God and mediated by tradition (including parents and teachers). To be virtuous is not to be autonomous but to be obedient and receptive.

Paul Koptak: The punch of this saying comes from what is left out of the syllogism. Those who trust in themselves (lit., “in his own heart”; cf. 3:5) are by definition “fools,” headed for a destruction with no escape (cf. 28:18). To trust in one’s own heart is to believe that one’s own thoughts and intentions are sufficient guides to life, that they will lead us to what is good for ourselves. The sages knew better. Although it seems logical that we know our needs and can look out for our own best interests, nothing is further from the truth.  It is not specified whether the destruction is self-inflicted, imposed by Yahweh, or both.

Tremper Longman: The proverbs typically leave general the danger from which the wise are rescued, but they would at least include things like relational entanglements and early death.

Allen Ross: Security comes from a life of wisdom and not from self-sufficiency. . .   As it stands, v.26 in the Hebrew is set in antithetical parallelism, contrasting the one who trusts in himself (bôṭēaḥ belibbô) with the one who “walks in wisdom.” Toy says that trusting in one’s own heart means following the untrained suggestions of the mind or relying on one’s own mental resources. If he is correct, the idea forms a fitting contrast to walking in wisdom, i.e., the wisdom from above that this book has been teaching.

Matthew Henry: The character of a fool: He trusts to his own heart, to his own wisdom and counsels, his own strength and sufficiency, his own merit and righteousness, and the good opinion he has of himself; he that does so is a fool, for he trusts to that, not only which is deceitful above all things (Jer. 17:9), but which has often deceived him. This implies that it is the character of a wise man (as before, v. 25) to put his trust in the Lord, and in his power and promise, and to follow his guidance, Prov. 3:5, 6.

E.  (:27) Compassion to the Poor

He who gives to the poor will never want,

But he who shuts his eyes will have many curses.

Richard Clifford: What is given to the poor comes back in blessing. What is kept from them gives one no benefit.

Paul Koptak: If the greedy one defrauds, hoards, and comes to poverty (see 28:22, 25), one who gives to and cares for the needy suffers no want. The key is to be able to see need, but many prove unwilling to try, shutting their eyes. Here is no blessing (28:20) but curse (cf. 3:33; Deut. 28:20–27), perhaps a way of stating that one will be poor of health, status, and provisions.

Tremper Longman: Proverbs consistently teaches that those with means must be generous toward the poor.  This proverb motivates such generosity with the promise that the giver will lack nothing.  This would imply that God would take care of such a person and would undercut the primary fear behind not giving.  Not to give is a form of control and a human attempt to grasp at security.  To give requires the giver to trust more.  Those who don’t give, according to the second colon, will only increase their troubles.


When the wicked rise, men hide themselves;

But when they perish, the righteous increase.

Tremper Longman: This proverb, among many others, points out that wisdom benefits not just the individual but also the community.

Lindsay Wilson: When the wicked rise to positions of power, ordinary people in the community steer clear of them, withdrawing from public involvement. However, when the wicked perish, the righteous will grow (‘thrive’, niv). There will then be opportunity to prosper and to build up the community without having to fight with those in power.

Richard Clifford: Wicked rulers mean the disappearance of people in community, probably in the sense of people being afraid of appearing in public and enjoying others’ company. It is the end of a flourishing and happy community (Meinhold). When the wicked rulers disappear, presumably as a result of their wickedness (see 10:25), the righteous increase — again the contrast between disappearance and appearance. The rule of the wicked destroys social life. Verse 12 is similar in sentiment.

Paul Koptak: Certainly other issues come under the umbrella of righteousness and wickedness, but for these proverbs, the central issue is that greed and grasping exemplify wickedness, and when it is characteristic of political leadership, the results are devastating. Wickedness or righteousness alike can thrive and wane, but the final outcome is that the wicked will “perish” (28:28). While the responsibility for these outcomes clearly belongs to Yahweh, people and their leaders are both responsible for establishing the environment in which righteousness gets the upper hand. This chapter is a challenge to develop wisdom’s character, both as individuals and as a people.