Proverbs 28:2
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(2) For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof.—Comp. 1Kings 15:27, sqq., and indeed the whole history of the kingdom of Israel as compared with the regular succession of the family of David in accordance with the promise of Psalm 89:33.

The state thereof shall be prolonged—i.e., its settled condition. Or it may signify “right” (i.e., authority)” continues.”

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.

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.Transgression - Better, rebellion. A revolt against a ruler leads to rapid changes of dynasty (the whole history of the kingdom of Israel was a proof of this), but "with men of understanding and knowledge thus shall he (the prince) continue." True wisdom will lead people to maintain an existing order. The King James Version implies that political disorders may come as the punishment of any national sin.

The state - Better, it (the land) shall surely prolong its days in stability.

2. Anarchy producing contending rulers shortens the reign of each.

but by a man … prolonged—or, "by a man of understanding—that is, a good ruler—he who knows or regards the right, that is, a good citizen, shall prolong (his days)." Good rulers are a blessing to the people. Bad government as a punishment for evil is contrasted with good as blessing to the good.

Many are the princes thereof; either,

1. Together, contending for supremacy. Or rather,

2. Successively, as appears from the following clause. Their princes are soon cut off, and other persons, and ofttimes persons of other families, come in their stead, which is justly threatened as a curse, because such frequent changes are seldom for the better, and 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.

By a man of understanding and knowledge; by a wise and good man; which may be understood either,

1. Collectively, for

men of understanding, & c., as it is rendered in the margin. i.e. when the men or people of a land are wise and good. Or rather,

2. Singularly; and that either,

1. 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. Or,

2. Of any other man of eminent wisdom or piety, who prevents this judgment, either by his good counsels given to the prince and people, and entertained by them, or by his intercession to God; for God hath sometimes spared a people for the sake of one man, as he did Zoar for Lot, Genesis 19:20,21. and the Israelites for Moses, Psalm 106:23.

The state thereof shall be prolonged; the land shall enjoy its former state and tranquillity, and the life of their good prince shall be prolonged.

For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof,.... Either together; that is, reigning princes, such as lay claim to the crown, and usurp it; otherwise it is a happiness to a nation to have many princes of the blood, to inherit in succession, to support the crown in their family, and defend a nation, and study the good of it; but it is a judgment to a nation when many rise up as competitors for rule, or do rule, as at Athens, where thirty tyrants sprung up at once; by which factions and parties are made, and which issue in oppression, rapine, and murder: or successively, very quickly, one after another, being dethroned the one by the other: or removed by death, as in the land of Israel, in the times of the judges, and of the kings of Israel and Judah, after the revolt of the ten tribes; which frequent changes produce different administrations, new laws, and fresh taxes, disagreeable to the people; and oftentimes children come to be their princes, which is always reckoned an infelicity to a nation; see Ecclesiastes 10:16; and all this is usually for some national sin or sins indulged to, which draw upon a people the divine resentment, and provoke God to suffer such changes among there;

but by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged, either by a set of wise and understanding, good and virtuous men, who will oppose the growing vice and immoralities of a people, and form themselves into societies for the reformation of manners; the word "man" being taken collectively for a body of men: or by a wise and prudent minister or ministry, or a set of civil magistrates, who will show themselves to be terrors to evildoers, and a praise to them that do well: or by a wise and prudent prince, who seeks to establish his throne by judgment and mercy; who will take care that justice and judgment be executed in the land, and that vice and profaneness be discouraged; by means of such, the state of a kingdom, which seemed near to ruin, will be prolonged, and the happiness and prosperity of it secured and established; and God, in mercy to it, may long preserve the life of their king, will being a good one, a long reign is always a happiness to a nation. And to this sense is the Vulgate Latin version, "the life of the prince shall be longer"; and the Targum, which is,

"and the sons of men that understand knowledge shall endure;''

see Ecclesiastes 9:15.

For the transgression of a land {b} many are its princes: but by a man of understanding and knowledge its state shall be prolonged.

(b) The state of the commonwealth is often changed.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
2. a man] This is better taken collectively, and rendered men, as in R.V. text.

the state thereof] i.e. its stability. This rendering is retained in R.V. Others render (taking the word state in its more usual sense as an adverb) so, on that condition, sc. of its possessing men of understanding and knowledge, it (the land) shall be continued. But there seems hardly sufficient reason for laying such stress upon the condition, nor is there much force in saying the land shall continue.

The proverb is abundantly illustrated by the history of Israel. See, for example, 1 Kings 16:8-28.

Verse 2. - For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof. This implies that the wickedness of a nation is punished by frequent changes of rulers, who impose new laws, taxes, and other burdens, which greatly oppress the people; but regarding the antithesis in the second hemistich, we take the meaning to be that when iniquity, injustice, apostasy, and other evils abound, a country becomes the prey of pretenders and partisans striving for the supremacy. The history of the northern kingdom of Israel, especially in the disastrous period succeeding the death of Jeroboam II, affords proof of the truth of the statement (comp. Hosea 8:4). Septuagint, "Owing to the sins of ungodly men, quarrels (κρίσεις, lawsuits) arise." But by a man of understanding and knowledge the state thereof shall be prolonged. "The state" is the stability, the settled condition of the country. The word is כֵן (ken), here a substantive, equivalent to "station," "base." Umbreit, Nowack, and others translate it, "justice," "authority," "order." When a wise and religious man is at the helm of state, justice continues, lives, and works; such a man introduces an clement of enduring good into a land (comp. Proverbs 21:22; Ecclesiastes 9:15). The good kings Ass, Jehoshaphat, Uzziah, and Hezekiah had long and prosperous reigns. Septuagint, "But a clever man (πανοῦργος) will quench them (quarrels)." Proverbs 28:2There now follows a royal proverb, whose key-note is the same as that struck at Proverbs 25:2, which states how a country falls into the οὐκ ἀγαθόν of the rule of the many:

Through the wickedness of a land the rulers become many;

And through a man of wisdom, of knowledge, authority continues.

If the text presented בּפשׁע as Hitzig corrects, then one might think of a political revolt, according to the usage of the word, 1 Kings 12:19, etc.; but the word is בּפּשׁע,

(Note: Thus to be written with Gaja here and at Proverbs 29:6, after the rule of Metheg-Setzung, 42.)

and פּשׁע (from פּשׁע, dirumpere) is the breaking through of limits fixed by God, apostasy, irreligion, e.g., Micah 1:5. But that many rulers for a land arise from such a cause, shows a glance into the Book of Hosea, e.g., Hosea 7:16 : "They return, but not to the Most High (sursum); they are become like a deceitful bow; their princes shall then fall by the sword;" and Hosea 8:4 : "They set up kings, but not by me; they have made princes, and I knew it not." The history of the kingdom of Israel shows that a land which apostatizes from revealed religion becomes at once the victim of party spirit, and a subject of contention to many would-be rulers, whether the fate of the king whom it has rejected be merited or not. But what is now the contrast which 2b brings forward? The translation by Bertheau and also by Zckler is impossible: "but through intelligent, prudent men, he (the prince) continueth long." For 2a does not mean a frequent changing of the throne, which in itself may not be a punishment for the sins of the people, but the appearance at the same time of many pretenders to the throne, as was the case in the kingdom of Israel during the interregnum after the death of Jeroboam II, or in Rome at the time of the thirty tyrants; יאריך must thus refer to one of these "many" who usurp for a time the throne. בּאדם may also mean, Proverbs 23:28, inter homines; but אדם, with the adjective following, e.g., Proverbs 11:7; Proverbs 12:23; Proverbs 17:18; Proverbs 21:16, always denotes one; and that translation also changes the כּן into a "so," "then" introducing the concluding clause, which it altogether disregards as untranslatable. But equally impossible is Bttcher's: "among intelligent, prudent people, one continues (in the government)," for then the subject-conception on which it depends would be slurred over. Without doubt כּן is here a substantive, and just this subject-conception. That it may be a substantive has been already shown at Proverbs 11:19. There it denoted integrity (properly that which is right or genuine); and accordingly it means here, not the status quo (Fleischer: idem rerum status), but continuance, and that in a full sense: the jurisdiction (properly that which is upright and right), i.e., this, that right continues and is carried on in the land. Similarly Heidenheim, for he glosses כן by מכון הארץ; and Umbreit, who, however, unwarned by the accent, subordinates this כן [in the sense of "right"] to ידע as its object. Zckler, with Bertheau, finds a difficulty in the asyndeton מבין ידע. But these words also, Nehemiah 10:29, stand together as a formula; and that this formula is in the spirit and style of the Book of Proverbs, passages such as Proverbs 19:25; Proverbs 29:7

(Note: The three connected words ובאדם מבין ידע have, in Lwenstein, the accents Mercha, Mercha, Mugrash; but the Venetian, 1515, 20, Athias, v. d. Hooght, and Hahn, have rightly Tarcha, Mercha, Mugrash, - to place two Merchas in Ben-Naphtali's manner.)

show. A practical man, and one who is at the same time furnished with thorough knowledge, is thus spoken of, and prudence and knowledge of religious moral character and worth are meant. What a single man may do under certain circumstances is shown in Proverbs 21:22; Ecclesiastes 9:15. Here one has to think of a man of understanding and spirit at the helm of the State, perhaps as the nearest counsellor of the king. By means of such an one, right continues long (we do not need to supply להיות after "continues long"). If, on the one side, the State falls asunder by the evil conduct of the inhabitants of the land, on the other hand a single man who unites in himself sound understanding and higher knowledge, for a long time holds it together.

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