A poor man that oppresses the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaves no food.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)A poor man that oppresseth the poor.—If the recollection of his own former troubles has not softened his heart towards his poor neighbours, he will be rendered more callous to their sufferings.
Is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food.—That sweeps away grain and soil, instead of bringing plenty with it.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.
is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food: like a violent hasty shower of rain; which, instead of watering the seed, herbs, and plants, and causing them to grow, as moderate rain does, it washes away the very seed sown in the earth, or beats out the ripe corn from the ears, or beats it down, so that it riseth not up again; the effect of which is, there is no bread to the eater, nor seed to the sower, and consequently a famine. The design of the proverb is, to show how unnatural as well as intolerable is the oppression of the poor, by one that has been poor himself; even as it is contrary to the nature and use of rain, which is to fructify, and not to sweep away and destroy; and which when it does, there is no standing against it or diverting it.A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)3. a poor man] Better, with R.V., a needy man, the Hebrew word being different from that rendered poor immediately after.
The proverb has commonly been held to refer to official oppression. “A man in authority is implied. In many Eastern countries the offices of government are frequently sold to needy men, who use their power to reimburse themselves by oppressing others,” Rel. Tr. Soc. Comm. But the scope of the proverb must not be restricted to this. It is quite general, and is verified in the exactions of the needy employer, or owner, or creditor among ourselves, as well as in the oppression of Oriental misrule.
“The hungry contractor undertakes the job at the lowest possible price, and secures his profit by getting hungrier and weaker creatures than himself to do the work at a price lower than possible, literally at starvation wages.” Horton.
leaveth no food] Heb. without food; Vulg. in quo paratur fames; which, instead of bringing fruitful seasons (Acts 14:17; Isaiah 30:23), takes away man’s food by uprooting the herbs of the field and washing the seed corn out of the earth.Verse 3. - A poor man that oppresseth the poor. The words rendered "poor" are different. The former is rash, "needy," the latter dal, "feeble" (see on Proverbs 10:15). Delitzsch notes that, in accordance with the accents in the Masoretic text, we should translate, "A poor man and an oppressor of the lowly - a sweeping rain without bringing bread," which would mean that a tyrant who oppresses the lowly bears the same relation to the poor that a devastating rain does to those whom it deprives of their food. But it is pretty certain that "the poor" and "the oppressor" designate the same person (though the vocalization is against it); hence the gnome refers to a usurper who, rising to power from poor estate, makes the very worst and most tyrannical ruler. Such a one has learned nothing from his former condition but callous indifference, and now seeks to exercise on others that power which once galled him. Thus among schoolboys it is found that the greatest bully is one who has himself been bullied; and needy revolutionists make the most rapacious and iniquitous demagogues. Of such tyrants the prophets complain (see Isaiah 5:8, etc.; Micah 2:2). Wordsworth refers, as an illustration, to Catiline and his fellow conspirators, who were moved by selfish interests to overthrow the commonwealth. Many modern commentators (e.g., Hitzig, Delitzsch, Nowack), in view of the present text, regarding the combination נבר רשׁ, and noting that elsewhere the oppressor and the poor are always introduced in opposition (comp. Proverbs 29:13), read רלֺאשׁ, or consider רשׁ as equivalent to it - rosh, "the head," in the signification of "master," "ruler." The gnome thus becomes concinnous, the ruler who ought to benefit his dependents, but injures them, corresponding to the rain which, instead of fertilizing, devastates the crops. The LXX. had a different reading, as it readers, "A bold man in his impieties (ἀνδρεῖος ἐν ἀσεβείαις) calumniates the poor." Is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food; literally, and not bread. A violent storm coming at seed time and washing away soil and seed, or happening at harvest time and destroying the ripe corn. Vulgate, Similis est imbri vehementi, in quo paratur fames. Ewald supposes that such proverbs as these and the following belong to the time of Jeroboam II, when the prosperity of the people induced luxury and arrogance, and was accompanied with much moral evil, oppression, and perversion of justice ('Hist. of Israel,' 3:126, Eng. transl.). The Bengalee compares the relation of the rich oppressor to the poor, not with the rainstorm, but with that of the carving knife to the pumpkin.
23 Give heed to the look of thy small cattle,
Be considerate about the herds.
24 For prosperity continues not for ever;
And does the diadem continue from generation to generation?
25 (But) the hay is gone, and the after-growth appears,
And the grass of the mountains is gathered:
26 Lambs serve to clothe thee,
And goats are the price of a field.
27 And there is plenty of goats' milk for thy nourishment,
And for the nourishment of thy house,
And subsistence for thy maidens.
The beginning directs to the fut., as is not common in these proverbs, vid., Proverbs 26:26. With ידע, to take knowledge, which is strengthened by the inf. intensivus, is interchanged שׁית לב, which means at Proverbs 24:32 to consider well, but here, to be careful regarding anything. צאן is the small or little cattle, thus sheep and goats. Whether לעדרים (here and at Isaiah 17:2) contains the article is questionable (Gesen. 35. 2 A), and, since the herds are called העדרים, is not probable; thus: direct thy attention to the herds, that is, to this, that thou hast herds. פּני is the external side in general; here, the appearance which the sheep present; thus their condition as seen externally. In Proverbs 27:24 I formerly regarded נזר as a synonym of גּז, to be understood of the produce of wool, or, with Hitzig, of the shearing of the meadow, and thus the produce of the meadow. But this interpretation of the word is untenable, and Proverbs 27:25 provides for Proverbs 27:24, thus understood, no natural continuation of thought. That חסן signifies a store, fulness of possessions, property, and abundance, has already been shown under Proverbs 15:6; but נזר is always the mark of royal, and generally of princely dignity, and here denotes, per meton. signi pro re signata, that dignity itself. With the negative expression in 24a the interrogative in 24b is interchanged as at Job 40:9, with the implied negative answer; ואם, of an oath ("and truly not," as at Isaiah 62:8), presents the same thought, but with a passionate colouring here unnecessary. Rightly Fleischer: "ready money, moveable property, and on the other hand the highest positions of honour, are far more easily torn away from a man, and secure to him far less of quiet prosperity, than husbandry, viewed particularly with respect to the rearing of cattle." In other words: the possession of treasures and of a lofty place of power and of honour has not in itself the security of everlasting duration; but rural economy, and particularly the rearing of cattle, gives security for food and clothing. The Chethı̂b לדור דור is found, e.g., at Exodus 3:15; the Kerı̂ לדּור ודור substitutes the more usual form. If Proverbs 27:25 was an independent whole (Hitzig: grass vanishes and fresh green appears, etc.), then the meaning here and onward would be that in the sphere of husbandry it is otherwise than is said in Proverbs 27:24 : there that which is consumed renews itself, and there is an enlarging circulation. But this contrast to Proverbs 27:24 must be expressed and formed unambiguously. The connection is rather this, that Proverbs 27:23 commends the rearing of cattle, Proverbs 27:24 confirms it, and 25ff. discuss what real advantages, not dependent on the accidents of public and social life, it brings.
I rejoice to agree with Fleischer in the opinion that the perfects of Proverbs 27:25 form a complex hypothetical antecedent to Proverbs 27:26 : Quum evanuerit gramen (sc. vetus) et apparuerint herbae recentes et collecta fuerint pabula montium, agni vestitui tuo (inservient) et pretium agri (sc. a te emendi) erunt hirci, i.e., then wilt thou nourish thy herds of sheep and goats with the grass on thy fields, and with the dried gathered hay; and these will yield for thee, partly immediately and partly by the money derived therefrom (viz., from the valuable goats not needed for the flocks), all that is needful for thy life. He also remarks, under גּלה, that it means to make a place void, empty (viz., to quit the place, vacuer la forteresse); hence to leave one's fatherland or home, to wander abroad; thus, rhetorically and poetically of things and possessions: to disappear. חציר (from חצר, to be green) is hay, and דּשׁא the after-growing second crop (after-grass); thus a meadow capable of being mowed a second time is though of. עשּׂבות הרים (with Dag. dirimens, as e.g., ענּבי Deuteronomy 32:32) are the herbage of the mountains. The time when one proceeds to sheep-shearing, Proverbs 27:25 cannot intend to designate; it sets before us an interesting rural harvest scene, where, after a plentiful ingathering of hay, one sees the meadows again overspread with new grass (Ewald); but with us the shearing of sheep takes place in the month of May, when the warm season of the year is just at hand. The poet means in general to say, that when the hay is mown and now the herbage is grown up, and also the fodder from the mountains (Psalm 106:20) has been gathered home, when thus the barns are filled with plenty, the husbandman is guaranteed against the future on all sides by his stock of cattle. חלב (from חלב, Arab. halyb, with halab) is the usual metaplastic connecting form of חלב, milk. דּי (from דּי, like חי from חי), generally connected with the genitive of the person or thing, for which anything is sufficient (e.g., Proverbs 25:16, דּיּך, to which Fleischer compares Arab. hasbuha, tassuha kifayuha), has here the genitive of the thing of which, or in which, one has enough. The complex subject-conception is limited by Rebia, and the governing דּי has the subordinated disjunctive Legarmeh. עזּים is a word of two genders (epicoenum), Gesen. 107, 1d. In וחיּים the influence of the ל still continues; one does not need to supply it meanwhile, since all that maintains and nourishes life can be called חיים (vita equals victus), e.g., Proverbs 3:22. The lxx translates בּיתך by σῶν θεραπόντων, and omits (as also the Syr., but not the Syro-Hexap.) the last line as now superfluous; but that the maids attending to the cattle - by whom we particularly think of milkers - are especially mentioned, intentionally presents the figure of a well-ordered household, full of varied life and activity (Job 40:29).
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