October 6th 2018 – Proverbs 29:7-12

A righteous man knows the rights of the poor;
    a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.
Scoffers set a city aflame,
    but the wise turn away wrath.
If a wise man has an argument with a fool,
    the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.
Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless
    and seek the life of the upright.
A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
    but a wise man quietly holds it back.
If a ruler listens to falsehood,
    all his officials will be wicked.

Proverbs 29:7-12

The thought in 7 has an interesting implication. A man who is basically righteous has two qualities: on the one hand he is compassionate towards others, and on the other, he is compassionate because he is not self-centred; he has time to think about them. When we read this into our Lord's tremendous words in the parable of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31ff), 'Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered and did not minister unto Thee?' we see the force of what is said in the proverb: 'the wicked regardeth not to know it'. In 8, one commentator cites 1 Kings 12:6-14 as an instance of what is said Rehoboam's attitude to the counsel of the old men around him certainly kindled a disastrous flame in the northern kingdom (see RSV). The meaning of 9 seems to be (to use Kidner's words). 'There is no arguing calmly with a fool'. It is not clear whether 'he' in 9b refers to the wise man or to the fool. The RSV thinks the latter, the AV the former. Perhaps the AV has the truth of the matter. One recalls Jesus' words 'We have piped to you, and ye have not danced, we have mourned with you, and ye have not wept' (Matt 11:17), and this illustrates the point. The second line of 10 is best rendered. 'As for the upright they seek his life' (so RV). Evil men cannot stand righteousness, they react instantly to it. This is something seen with monotonous regularity in common experience. 'Mind' in 11 means 'spirit', and the RSV properly translates it as 'anger'. The proverb is about self-control. The man who cannot control himself is a fool. The message in 12 is 'like king, like people'. A vicious circle operates here: which comes first, the ruler's evil in listening to lies (e g flattering lies), of his servants, in speaking these lies to him. They become evil because of the evil in him that tolerates their evil.