1The wicked flee though none pursue;
but the just, like a lion, are confident.
2If a land is rebellious, its princes will be many;
but with an intelligent and wise ruler there is stability.*
3One who is poor and extorts from the lowly
is a devastating rain that leaves no food.*
4Those who abandon instruction* praise the wicked,
but those who keep instruction oppose them.
5The evil understand nothing of justice,*
but those who seek the LORD understand everything.
6Better to be poor and walk in integrity
than rich and crooked in one’s ways.a
7Whoever heeds instruction is a wise son,
but whoever joins with wastrels disgraces his father.
8Whoever amasses wealth by interest and overcharge*
gathers it for the one who is kind to the poor.
9Those who turn their ears from hearing instruction,b
even their prayer is an abomination.
10Those who mislead the upright into an evil way
will themselves fall into their own pit,
but the blameless will attain prosperity.
11The rich are wise in their own eyes,
but the poor who are intelligent see through them.
12When the just triumph, there is great glory;
but when the wicked prevail, people hide.*
13Those who conceal their sins do not prosper,
but those who confess and forsake them obtain mercy.*
14Happy those who always fear;*
but those who harden their hearts fall into evil.
15A roaring lion or a ravenous bear
is a wicked ruler over a poor people.
16The less prudent the rulers, the more oppressive their deeds.
Those who hate ill-gotten gain prolong their days.
17Though a person burdened with blood guilt is in flight even to the grave,
let no one offer support.
18Whoever walks blamelessly is safe,
but one whose ways are crooked falls into a pit.
19Those who cultivate their land will have plenty of food,
but those who engage in idle pursuits will have plenty of want.c
20The trustworthy will be richly blessed;
but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.d
21To show partiality is never good:e
for even a morsel of bread one may do wrong.*
22Misers hurry toward wealth,
not knowing that want is coming toward them.*
23Whoever rebukes another wins more favor
than one who flatters with the tongue.
24Whoever defrauds father or mother and says, “It is no sin,”f
is a partner to a brigand.
25The greedy person stirs up strife,
but the one who trusts in the LORD will prosper.
26Those who trust in themselves are fools,
but those who walk in wisdom are safe.
27Those who give to the poor have no lack,g
but those who avert their eyes, many curses.
28When the wicked prevail, people hide;
but at their fall the just abound.h
* [28:2] The first line expresses the paradox that rebellion, far from doing away with rulers, actually multiplies them. The second line is corrupt.
* [28:3] The reference may be to tax farmers who collected taxes and took a commission. The collectors’ lack of wealth was the cause of their oppression of poor farmers. They are like a rain too violent to allow crops to grow.
* [28:4] Instruction: torah; the word is used both for the teaching of the wise and the law of Moses.
* [28:5] Understanding nothing of justice plays on the twofold sense of justice as righteousness and as punishment that comes on the wicked. On the other hand, those who seek the LORD understand everything, i.e., that the Lord punishes the wicked and rewards the righteous (themselves).
* [28:8] Interest and overcharge were strictly forbidden in the old law among Israelites because it was presumed that the borrower was in distress; cf. Ex 22:25; Lv 25:35–37; Dt 23:20; Ps 15:5; Ez 18:8. Divine providence will take the offender’s wealth; cf. Eccl 2:26.
* [28:12] People react in opposite ways to the triumph of good and evil. To the triumph of good, they react by public display, public celebration, and to the triumph of evil, by hiding.
* [28:13] Concealing the faults of another is a good thing in Proverbs (17:9), but concealing one’s own sins is not. Ps 32:1–5 expresses the anguish caused by concealing one’s sins rather than bringing them to light so they can be healed by God.
* [28:14] Fear is a different verb than in the phrase “to fear (or revere) the Lord.” In its only other biblical occurrence (Is 51:13), the verb means to dread an oppressor. The saying states a paradox: those who fear in the sense of being cautious are declared happy, whereas those who are fearless will fall into traps they did not “fear.” In short, there is good fear and bad fear.
* [28:21] Cf. 24:23. Verse 21b warns that even in a light matter one must remain impartial.
* [28:22] “Bad of eye” is the Hebrew idiom for miserly. Misers fail to see that poverty is hurrying toward them because of their wrong attitude toward wealth. Because misers are “bad of eye,” they do not see the danger.
g. [28:27] Prv 19:17; Sir 4:3–8.