Proverbs 28:16
The prince that wants understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hates covetousness shall prolong his days.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(16) A prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor.—Thereby losing the love of his people, and at the same time impoverishing them; thus killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. He also by his misdeeds draws down upon himself God’s anger in the shape of an early death. Comp. the woe pronounced upon Jehoiakim (Jeremiah 22:13, sqq.).

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.28:1 Sin makes men cowards. Whatever difficulties the righteous meet in the way of duty, they are not daunted. 2. National sins disturb the public repose. 3. If needy persons get opportunities of oppressing, their extortion will be more severe than that of the more wealthy. 4. Wicked people strengthen one another in wicked ways. 5. If a man seeks the Lord, it is a good sign that he understands much, and it is a good means of understanding more. 6. An honest, godly, poor man, is better than a wicked, ungodly, rich man; has more comfort in himself, and is a greater blessing to the world. 7. Companions of riotous men not only grieve their parents, but shame them. 8. That which is ill got, though it may increase much, will not last long. Thus the poor are repaid, and God is glorified. 9. The sinner at whose prayers God is angry, is one who obstinately refuses to obey God's commands. 10. The success of ungodly men is their own misery. 11. Rich men are so flattered, that they think themselves superior to others. 12. There is glory in the land when the righteous have liberty. 13. It is folly to indulge sin, and excuse it. He who covers his sins, shall not have any true peace. He who humbly confesses his sins, with true repentance and faith, shall find mercy from God. The Son of God is our great atonement. Under a deep sense of our guilt and danger, we may claim salvation from that mercy which reigns through righteousness unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord. 14. There is a fear which causes happiness. Faith and love will deliver from the fear of eternal misery; but we should always fear offending God, and fear sinning against him. 15. A wicked ruler, whatever we may call him, this scripture calls a roaring lion, and a ranging bear. 16. Oppressors want understanding; they do not consult their own honour, ease, and safety. 17. The murderer shall be haunted with terrors. None shall desire to save him from deserved punishment, nor pity him.The form of political wretchedness, when the poverty of the oppressed subjects not only embitters their sufferings, but exasperates the brutal ferocity of the ruler. 16. The prince … understanding—that is, He does not perceive that oppression jeopards his success. Covetousness often produces oppression, hence the contrast. The tyranny or oppression of a prince, though by some accounted wisdom, is in truth a manifest act and sign of great folly, because it alienateth from him the hearts of his people, in which his honour, and safety, and riches consist, and ofttimes causeth the shortening of his days, either from God, who cuts him off by some sudden judgment, or from men, who are injured by him, and exasperated against him.

Covetousness is the chief cause of all oppressions 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 makes them careful to preserve his life by their fervent prayers to God for him, by willingly hazarding their own estates and lives for him, when occasion requires it, and by all other possible means. The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor,.... Or, "much in oppressions" (o); he multiplies them, and abounds in them; he distresses his subjects in a variety of ways and methods he uses to extort money from them by which he shows his want of understanding: he is a wise prince that uses gentle methods, and gains the affections of his people, and who cheerfully supports his crown and government with honour and glory; but he is a foolish prince that uses them with rigour. It may be rendered, "and a prince that wanteth understanding, and is much", or "abounds, in oppressions"; in laying heavy burdens and taxes on his people, in an arbitrary manner; "shall shorten, and not prolong his days" (p), as it may be supplied from the next clause; either his subjects will rise up against him, and dethrone him, and destroy him; or God, in mercy to them, and in judgment to him, will remove him by death;

but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days; to hate covetousness is a good qualification of a civil magistrate, prince, or ruler, Exodus 18:21. This sin is the cause of a wicked prince oppressing his subjects; but where it is hated, which is seen by moderation in government, and easing of the people as much as possible; such a prince, as he has the hearts of his subjects, is well pleasing to God, by whom he reigns; and such an one, through the prayers of the people for him, and the goodness of God unto him, lives long, and reigns prosperously; and dies, as David, in a good old age, full of days, riches, and honour.

(o) "multus oppressionibus", Montanus, Junius & Tremeilius, Piscator, Mercerus, Baynus, Michaelis, Schultens. (p) So Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Gejerus, and some Jewish writers in Vatablus.

The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor: but he that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
16. The prince &c.] Lit. A prince that lacketh understanding and a great oppressor! i.e. the two are identical. There is no particle of connection or contrast between the two clauses of the verse, and R.V. marg. adopts the view that the whole verse is a continuous address or admonition: O prince that lackest understanding and art a great oppressor, he that, &c.Verse 16. - The prince that wanteth understanding is also a great oppressor; literally, and rich in oppression. Ewald, Delitzsch, Nowack, and others take the verse, not as a statement, but as a warning addressed to the ruler, as we have so many addressed to a son, and as the author of the Book of Wisdom calls upon the judges of the earth to listen to his admonitions. They therefore render thus: "O prince, void of understanding, but rich in oppression!" The wording and accentuation of the passage confirm this view. Caher renders, "A prince that wants understanding increases his exactions." The want of intelligence makes a prince cruel and tyrannical and callous to suffering: not possessing the wisdom and prudence necessary for right government, he defrauds his subjects, treats them unjustly, and causes great misery. See the prophet's denunciation of Shallum and Jehoiakim for these very crimes (Jeremiah 22:13-19). Septuagint, "A king wanting revenues is a great oppresser (συκοφάντης)." He that hateth covetousness shall prolong his days (Proverbs 15:27). The prince addressed is thus warned that his oppressive acts will be visited upon him judicially; that only a ruler who deals with his subjects liberally and equitably can attain to old age, and that his conduct will shorten his life. An early death is reckoned as a token of God's indignation. The second hemistich Caher translates, "But he who hates lucre shall reign long." Septuagint, "He who hateth iniquity shall live a long time." (For "covetousness" (betsa), see on Proverbs 1:19.) A tristich beginning with a participle:

He who misleads the upright into an evil way,

He shall fall into his own pit;

But the innocent shall inherit that which is good.

In the first case, Proverbs 26:27 is fulfilled: the deceiver who leads astray falls himself into the destruction which he prepared for others, whether he misleads them into sin, and thus mediately prepares destruction for them, or that he does this immediately by enticing them into this or that danger; for בּדרך רע may be understood of the way of wicked conduct, as well as of the experience of evil, of being betrayed, robbed, or even murdered. That those who are misled are called ישׁרים, explains itself in the latter case: that they are such as he ought to show respect towards, and such as deserved better treatment, heightens the measure of his guilt. If we understand being morally led astray, yet may we not with Hitzig here find the "theory" which removes the punishment from the just and lays it on the wicked. The clause Proverbs 11:8 is not here applicable. The first pages of the Scripture teach that the deceiver does not by any means escape punishment; but certainly the deceiver of the upright does not gain his object, for his diabolical joy at the destruction of such an one is vain, because God again helps him with the right way, but casts the deceiver so much the deeper down. As the idea of דרך רע has a twofold direction, so the connections of the words may be genitival (via mali) as well as adjectival (via mala). בּשׁחוּתו is not incorrectly written for בּשׁוּחתו, for שׁחית occurs (only here) with שׁחוּת as its warrant both from שׁחה, to bend, to sink; cf. לזוּת under Proverbs 4:24. In line third, opposite to "he who misleads," stand "the innocent" (pious), who, far from seeking to entice others into the evil way and bring them to ruin, are unreservedly and honestly devoted to God and to that which is good; these shall inherit good (cf. Proverbs 3:35); even the consciousness of having made no man unhappy makes them happy; but even in their external relations there falls to them the possession of all good, which is the divinely ordained reward of the good.

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