He that despises his neighbor sins: but he that has mercy on the poor, happy is he.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Proverbs 14:21. He that despiseth his neighbour — That doth not pity and relieve the poor, as this is explained in the next clause; sinneth — And therefore shall be punished for his inhumanity, which is opposed to his being happy, in the next branch; but he that hath mercy on the poor — That shows his compassion for them by his bounty to them; happy is he — He doth a worthy action, and shall be blessed in his deed.Proverbs 14:21 show that it is not to be taken by itself. In spite of all the selfish morality of mere prudence, the hearer is warned that to despise his "neighbor" (Christians must take the word in all the width given to it by the parable of the Good Samaritan) is to sin. The fullness of blessing comes on him who sees in the poor the objects of his mercy. That despiseth his neighbour; that doth not pity and relieve the poor, as this is explained in the next clause; the word neighbour being here generally taken for any man, as it is most commonly used in Scripture; which not relieving him proceeds from a contempt of his person.
Sinneth; and therefore shall be punished for his inhumanity, which is opposed to his being happy in the next clause.
That hath mercy; that showeth his compassion by his bounty and relief.
Happy is he; he doth a worthy action, and shall be blessed in his deed.
but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he; or,
"that gives to the poor,''
as the Targum; who has compassion on him in his distress, and shows it by relieving him: he that shows favour to the meek and humble ones, as the word (s) may be rendered, and as they generally are that are in affliction and poverty, for these tend to humble men; and such who regard them in their low estate are "happy" or blessed; they are blessed in things temporal and spiritual, and both here and hereafter; see Psalm 41:1.He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Verse 21. - He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth. Taken in connection with the preceding verse, this teaches that it is a sin to despise and shun a man because he is poor or of low estate; such a one has a claim for love and pity, and it is a crime to withhold them from him for selfish considerations. The Christian view is taught by the parable of the good Samaritan. But he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he; hail to him! (Proverbs 16:20). Contempt is contrasted with mercy, sin with blessing. "Blessed are the merciful," said Christ (Matthew 5:7): "for they shall obtain mercy;" and St. Paul preserves another precious word, "It is mere blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). The merciful disposition, which shows itself in works of mercy, is a proof that the soul is in union with God, whose mercy is over all his works, whose mercy endureth forever, and therefore such a soul is blessed. "The poor," wrote James Howell, "are God's receivers, and the angels are his auditors" ('Five Hundred New Sayings'). The Vulgate here appends a line absent from the Hebrew and the ether versions, "He who believeth in the Lord loveth mercy." The true believer is charitable and bountiful, knowing that he will not hereby impoverish himself, but lay up a rich store of blessing; he acts thus not from mere philanthropy, but from higher motives: he has the grace of charity which springs from and rests upon his faith in God.
But the prudent takes heed to his step.
We do not translate, "every thing," for "word" and faith are correlates, Psalm 106:24, and פּתי is the non-self-dependent who lets himself be easily persuaded by the talk of another: he believes every word without proving it, whether it is well-meant, whether it is true, whether it is salutary and useful, so that he is thus, without having any firm principle, and without any judgment of his own, driven about hither and thither; the prudent, on the other hand, considers and marks his step, that he may not take a false step or go astray, he proves his way (8a), he takes no step without thought and consideration (בּין or הבין with ל, to consider or reflect upon anything, Psalm 73:17, cf. Psalm 33:15) - he makes sure steps with his feet (Hebrews 12:13), without permitting himself to waver and sway by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14).
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