The wicked flee when no man pursueth: but the righteous are bold as a lion.Proverbs 28:1. The wicked flee when no man pursueth — Because a consciousness of their guilt excites in them a continual expectation and dread of God’s judgments; but the righteous are bold as a lion — Are courageous and resolute, having the testimony of a good conscience, and assurance of the divine favour and protection, and the supports and consolations of the Holy Ghost.
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.Proverbs 28:2. For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof — Contending at the same time for supremacy, or rather succeeding one another. Their princes are soon cut off, and other persons, and frequently persons of other families, come in their stead, which is justly threatened, in the Scriptures, as a curse to a country, because such frequent changes are seldom for the better, but commonly for the worse, and are frequently attended with blood and slaughter, with the change and subversion of laws, with heavy taxes and charges, with the ruin of many families, and with many other mischiefs. But by a man of understanding, &c. — By a wise and good man. This may be understood, 1st, Collectively, according to the translation in the margin, of men of understanding, &c. That is, when the men or people of a land are wise and good: or, rather, 2d, Singularly; of a wise and righteous prince, who, by the good government of himself, and his family, and kingdom; by punishing and preventing the transgressions of the people, turns away God’s wrath, and saves himself and people. Such princes were Asa, Jehoshaphat, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah, who, by their wisdom and piety, were instrumental in averting, for a time, the divine judgments, and prolonging the state and tranquillity of their country; and whose history is the best comment on the latter part of this verse.
A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food.Proverbs 28:3. A poor man that oppresseth the poor — Who, being advanced into a place of authority, abuses it, to oppress those that are poor, and unable to resist him; is like a sweeping rain, or flood, which leaveth no food — Which washeth away the very seeds that are in the earth, and spoils the corn and fruit which are upon it. He is the worst of all oppressors, because his low and base mind is made worse by his sudden elevation into a high condition, and his own necessities inflame his desires, and make him greedy to take all, yea, even the smallest advantages for enriching himself. This the ancients expressed by the similitudes of an empty horseleech, which sticks much more strongly than that which is already filled; and of a dry sponge, which licks up far more water than one which is wet before. See Lord Bacon’s Adv. of Learning, lib. 8. cap. 2.
They that forsake the law praise the wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them.Proverbs 28:4. They that forsake the law — That live in contempt of, and disobedience to, God’s law; praise the wicked — Honour their persons, freely and familiarly associate themselves with them, and approve of their sinful practices: all which proceeds from their great likeness to them. But such as keep the law contend with them — Are so far from praising or applauding them, that they severely rebuke them, and to the utmost of their power oppose them in their wicked enterprises.
Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things.Proverbs 28:5. Evil men understand not judgment — Because their minds are naturally blind, and are further blinded by their prejudices and passions, and by the god of this world, who rules in them, they understand not what is just and right, and what is their duty in all cases and conditions; but they that seek the Lord — By diligent study of his word, and by fervent prayer to him for divine illumination; understand all things — Which are necessary to be known by them, either for the discharge of their present duties to God and men: or for their everlasting happiness.
Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.Proverbs 28:6. Better is the poor — In a much safer and happier condition; that walketh in his uprightness — That sincerely desires and endeavours to walk in all well pleasing before God; than he that is perverse in his ways — Hebrew, דרכים, in two ways, that is, halting in two ways, pretending to virtue, but practising vice; or covering his wicked designs with good pretences; or sometimes erring on one hand, and sometimes on the other, as wicked men commonly do.
Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father.
He that by usury and unjust gain increaseth his substance, he shall gather it for him that will pity the poor.Proverbs 28:8. He that by usury, &c., increaseth his substance — Hebrew, By usury and increase, that is, by any kind of usury whereby the poor are oppressed, or by any unrighteous practices; he shall gather it, &c. — It shall not long continue with him or his, but shall, by God’s righteous and powerful providence, be committed to more just and merciful hands, who will pity, and relieve the poor.
He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.Proverbs 28:9. He that turneth away his ear, &c. — That obstinately refuses to yield obedience to God’s commands; even his prayer shall be abomination — To God, whose law he despises. God will abhor and reject his person and all his services. “He,” says Lord Clarendon, “who will not hearken to what God directs, nor do what he enjoins, hath no reason to pretend to ask any thing of him. If we live like heathens, or infidels, our Christian prayers do but affront his majesty, and our praises depress his glory.” Reader, mark this!
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.Proverbs 28:10. Whoso causeth the righteous to go astray — Who, by evil counsel, or example, or artifice, draws them into such practices as expose them to great danger and mischief; he shall fall himself into his own pit — Into that very mischief which he designed for them; but the upright shall have good things — Shall, by God’s good providence towards him, both keep the good, of which the wicked seeks to deprive him, and escape that mischief which he plots against him.
The rich man is wise in his own conceit; but the poor that hath understanding searcheth him out.Proverbs 28:11. The rich man is wise in his own conceit — Thinks himself wise when he is not, being puffed up by the opinion of his riches; but the poor, &c., searcheth him out — Knows him better than he knows himself, and, looking through all his pomp and vain show, sees him to be, what indeed he is, a foolish and miserable man, notwithstanding all his riches, and discovers the folly of his words and actions.
When righteous men do rejoice, there is great glory: but when the wicked rise, a man is hidden.Proverbs 28:12. When righteous men rejoice — Are encouraged and promoted to places of trust and power; there is great glory — In that commonwealth. The state of that kingdom is honourable, comfortable and safe, so that good men can show their faces with courage and confidence; but when the wicked rise — Are advanced to honour and authority; a man is hidden — The state of that nation is so shameful and dangerous, that wise and good men withdraw themselves into obscure places. Or, as יחפשׂ אדםis rendered by many, both ancient and later interpreters, a man is sought out, that is, sober and good men, who had retired into secret places, are searched for and brought forth as sheep to the slaughter, as being most suspected, hated, and feared by bloody tyrants.
He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.Proverbs 28:13. He that covereth his sins — That does not confess them (as appears by the opposite clause) to God, and to men too, when occasion requires it: who, being convinced or admonished of his sins, either justifies, or denies, or excuses them; shall not prosper — Shall not succeed in his design of avoiding punishment by the concealment of his sins; shall not find mercy, as is implied from the next clause. But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them — From a sincere hatred to them, and a fixed and hearty resolution to walk in newness of life; shall have mercy — Both from God, who hath promised it, and from men, who are ready to grant pardon and favour to such persons. Observe well, reader: although the dissembling, or hiding of his sins, is sufficient for a man’s damnation, yet mere confession, without forsaking of sin, is not sufficient for his salvation.
Happy is the man that feareth alway: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.Proverbs 28:14. Happy is the man that feareth always — Who, in all times, companies, and conditions, maintains in his mind a holy awe of God, and a reverence for him, his glory and majesty, his wisdom and power, his holiness and justice, his greatness and goodness; that is always afraid of offending him, and incurring his displeasure; that keeps his conscience tender, and has a dread of the appearance of evil; that is always jealous of himself, and distrusts his own sufficiency, and lives in expectation of troubles and changes; so that, when they come, they do not surprise him: he that keeps up such a fear as this in his mind, will live a life of faith, prayer, and watchfulness, and therefore he is happy, blessed, and holy; for he hereby avoids that mischief which befalls fearless and careless sinners, as is expressed in the next clause, and obtains that eternal salvation which they fall short of. But he that hardeneth his heart — That goeth on obstinately and securely in sinful courses, casting off all due reverence for God, and just fear of his threatenings and judgments; shall fall into mischief — Shall fall into still greater guilt and misery.
As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.Proverbs 28:15. As a roaring lion and a ranging bear — Always cruel and greedy in their natures, and especially so when they are hungry and want prey; in which case the lions roar, and bears range about for it; so is a wicked ruler — Instead of being a nursing father, and a faithful and tender shepherd, as he ought to be, he is a cruel and insatiable oppressor of his subjects; over the poor people — Whom he particularly mentions to aggravate this wicked ruler’s sin, in devouring them whom the laws of God and common humanity bound him to relieve and protect; or to express the effect of his bad government, in making the people poor by his frauds and rapines.
The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days.Proverbs 28:16. The prince that wanteth understanding, &c. — The tyranny or oppression of a prince is a manifest sign of great folly, because it alienates from him the hearts of his people, in possessing which his honour, safety, and riches consist; and often causes the shortening of his days, either through God’s cutting him off by some sudden stroke, or through the violence of men who have been injured by him, and are exasperated against him. But he that hateth covetousness — Which is the chief cause of all oppression and unjust practices; shall prolong his days — By God’s favour, the peace and satisfaction of his own mind, and the hearty love of his people, which induces them to pray fervently to God to preserve his life, and makes them willing to hazard their estates and lives in his defence.
A man that doeth violence to the blood of any person shall flee to the pit; let no man stay him.Proverbs 28:17. A man that doeth violence, &c. — That sheds any man’s blood, or takes away his life by any unjust proceedings; shall flee to the pit — Shall speedily be destroyed, being pursued by divine vengeance, the horrors of a guilty conscience, and the avengers of blood; let no man stay him — None should desire or endeavour to save him from his deserved punishment.
Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved: but he that is perverse in his ways shall fall at once.Proverbs 28:18. Whoso walketh uprightly shall be saved — Namely, from destruction, because God hath undertaken and promised to protect him; but he that is perverse in his ways — Hebrew, in two ways, of which see on Proverbs 28:6; shall fall at once — Once for all, so as he shall never rise more.
He that tilleth his land shall have plenty of bread: but he that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough.Proverbs 28:19-20. He that tilleth, &c. — See note on Proverbs 12:11. A faithful man — Hebrew, אישׁ אמונות, a man of truths, who deals truly and justly in all his bargains and transactions with men; shall abound with blessings — Shall have many blessings from God, and be well spoken of by men; but he that maketh haste to be rich — More than God allows him; he whose eager desires cause him to pursue riches by right or wrong, and who, therefore, is unfaithful and unjust in his dealings; shall not be innocent — Shall bring such guilt upon himself as will render him execrable both to God and men, and instead of blessings, shall bring curses and misery upon him.
A faithful man shall abound with blessings: but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.
To have respect of persons is not good: for for a piece of bread that man will transgress.Proverbs 28:21. To have respect of persons is not good — It is a fundamental error in the administration of justice, and that which will lead men to many transgressions, to consider the quality of the parties concerned more than the merits of the cause; for a piece of bread that man will transgress — When a man hath once accustomed himself to take bribes, a very small advantage will make him sell justice, and his own soul into the bargain. The design of this proverb is to warn men to take heed of the beginnings of that sin, and consequently of all other sins.
He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him.Proverbs 28:22. He that hasteth to be rich — That is pushed on by his desires to get riches by right or wrong; hath an evil eye — Is uncharitable to persons in want, and envious toward those who get any thing besides himself; and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him — And, consequently, that he shall need the pity and help of others, which he cannot reasonably expect, either from God or men, having so hardened his heart against others in misery.
He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue.Proverbs 28:23. He that rebuketh a man — That reproves him for his faults, though he may displease, nay, anger him at the first; afterward shall find more favour than he that flattereth — When the person reproved comes calmly to consider the fidelity, good intention, and disinterestedness of the reprover, and the benefit coming to himself by the reproof, and withal the baseness and mischief of flattery, he will entertain a greater regard for such a man, than for one that humours him in every thing, and, with flattering words, countenances and encourages him in those practices which ought to be reprehended.
Whoso robbeth his father or his mother, and saith, It is no transgression; the same is the companion of a destroyer.Proverbs 28:24. Whose robbeth his father or his mother — Who openly or secretly, by force, fraud, or deceit, by arts or threats, or by negligent or wilful wasting, deprives them of their property, or runs in debt and leaves them to pay it; and saith — In his heart; It is no transgression — Supposing that he hath a right to his parents’ goods; the same is the companion of a destroyer — Not only shows that he associates with spendthrifts, who will lead him to his ruin, but is wicked enough to be a highwayman, and murderer of others, for the satisfaction of his own lusts: he is indeed a thief and a robber, because he hath no right to the actual possession of his parents’ goods before their death, or without their consent.
He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife: but he that putteth his trust in the LORD shall be made fat.Proverbs 28:25. He that is of a proud heart — High-minded, self-conceited, insolent, or ambitious; stirreth up strife — Because he is constantly endeavouring to advance and please himself, and hates and opposes all that stand in his way; and because he despises other men, is jealous of his own honour, and impatient of the least slight, affront, or injury; but he that putteth his trust in the Lord — Who is mean and vile in his own eyes, and therefore trusts not in himself, but in God only, making God’s will, and not his own, nor his passion, honour, or interest, the rule or end of his actions or pursuits, and who therefore can easily deny himself and yield to others, all which things are excellent means to prevent strife, and preserve and promote peace; shall be made fat — Shall live happily and comfortably, because he avoids that strife which makes men’s lives miserable.
He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.Proverbs 28:26. He that trusteth in his own heart — In his own wisdom and counsels, his own strength and sufficiency, his own merit and righteousness, or the good opinion he hath of his own abilities, natural or acquired, neglecting or slighting the advice of others, or the counsel of God; is a fool — And shall receive the reward of his folly, namely, destruction. But whose walketh wisely — Distrusting his own judgment, and seeking the advice of others, and especially of God, as all truly wise men do; he shall be delivered — From those dangers and mischiefs which fools bring upon themselves; whereby he shows himself to be a wise man.
He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shall have many a curse.Proverbs 28:27. He that giveth unto the poor shall not lack — Shall not empoverish himself by it, as covetous men imagine or pretend, but shall be enriched, which is implied; but he that hideth his eyes — Lest he should see poor and miserable persons, and thereby be moved to pity, or obliged to relieve them; shall have many a curse — Partly from the poor, whose curses, being not causeless, shall come upon him, and partly from God, who will curse his very blessings, and bring him to extreme want and misery.
When the wicked rise, men hide themselves: but when they perish, the righteous increase.Proverbs 28:28. When the wicked rise, &c. — See on Proverbs 28:12; but when they perish — When wicked men are displaced, degraded, and their power is taken from them; the righteous increase — They who are righteous appear again in public, and, being advanced to that power which the wicked rulers have lost, they use their authority to encourage and promote righteousness, and to punish unrighteousness, whereby the number of wicked men is diminished, and the righteous are multiplied.