Friends and Community
Solomon had much to say concerning various
relationships among people in a community setting, and also between men
who are rulers and those who are subject to them. This wisdom, too, is
certainly relevant to modern times.
Solomon said there is strength in cooperation.
Two are better than one; because they
have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall the one will lift
up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath
not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have
heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two
shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes4:9-12;
Loyalty appears to be the glue that maintains
cooperation. It is a desirable virtue rewarded by both men and the Lord.
Let not loyalty and faithfulness forsake
you; bind them about your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good reputation in the sight of God and man
3:3, 4; RSV).
What is desired in a man is loyalty (Proverbs
Thine own friend and thy father's friend
cast not off, then shalt thou not need to go to thy brother's house in
the day of calamity; for better is a neighbor dwelling near than a brother
far off (Proverbs 27:10; SPRL).
He who planteth a fig tree shall eat of
its fruit; and he who guardeth his master shall be honored (Proverbs
A faithful man shall abound with blessings
Solomon said that loyalty promotes a good reputation;
and a good reputation is worth more than wealth.
Like face looking at face in water,
so are the hearts of men to one another (Proverbs 27:19; BAS).
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace
is for gold, and a man is judged by his praise (Proverbs 27:21; RSV).
A good name is better than precious ointment
Many men claim to be loyal, but not all are.
Loyalty is, indeed, like precious ointment, rather scarce.
There are friends who pretend to be
friends, but there is friend who sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs
Many a man proclaims his own loyalty,
but a faithful man who can find? (Proverbs 20:6; RSV).
Adversity reveals true loyalty.
A friend loveth at all times, and a
brother is born for adversity (Proverbs 17:17; KJV).
Unfaithfulness is a painful disease.
An unreliable messenger precipitates
trouble (Proverbs 13:17; MLB).
Confidence in an unfaithful man in time
of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint (Proverbs
It is every man’s duty to come to the aid of
someone in danger (those not condemned for their guilt). The Lord will
hold accountable those who think of excuses and close their eyes.
Deliver them that are carried away to
death, and those that are ready to be slain see that thou hold not back
(RV). If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that pondereth
the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul, doth not he know it?
and shall not he render to every man according to his works? (KJV)
(Proverbs 24:11, 12).
It is wise to reward good for good.
Withhold not good from them to whom
it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it (Proverbs
Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall
not depart from his house (Proverbs 17:13; KJV).
But when doing good to another, we need to use
He who blesses his neighbor with a loud
voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing (Proverbs
Indeed, it is best not to overdo a friendship.
Let thy foot be seldom in thy neighbor's
house, lest he be weary of thee, and hate thee (Proverbs 25:1 7; ASV).
In sum: There is strength in cooperation,
and loyalty maintains it. The Lord requires faithfulness among all men
of good will.
Disagreements among people are inevitable;
but Solomon warned against both prejudice and hasty judgments.
A wicked man accepts a bribe from the
bosom to pervert the ways of justice (Proverbs 17:23; RSV).
A bribe does wonders; it will bring you
before men of importance (Proverbs 18:16; LB).
He who states his case first seems right,
until the other comes and examines him (Proverbs 18:17; RSV).
Partiality in judging is not good
(Proverbs 24:23; RSV).
To favour one side is not fair to sin,
bribed by a bit of bread (Proverbs 28:21; MOFFATT).
a bribe corrupts the mind (Ecclesiastes
It is wise to try to settle disputes privately.
It is unwise to be quick to lodge formal accusations. Solomon advised,
Go not forth hastily to strive, lest
thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbour hath put
thee to shame (KJV). Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself,
and disclose not the secret of another; lest he that heareth it revile
thee, and thine infamy turn not away (ASV) (Proverbs 25:8-10).
Slander not a servant unto his master,
lest he curse thee, and thou be held guilty
(Proverbs 30:10; ASV).
Also remember this: Unjustified charges have
no power before either men or the Lord.
Like a sparrow in its flitting, like
a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight
(Proverbs 26:2; RSV).
Strife or contention in itself is not wrong.
Indeed, it is a responsibility of the law-abiding to contend with the wicked.
They that forsake the law praise the
wicked: but such as keep the law contend with them (Proverbs 28:4;
But it is certainly wrong to contend without
Plot no mischief against your neighbor,
when he lives in confidence beside you (AAT). Strive not with a
man without cause, if he have done thee no harm (IWV) (Proverbs 3:29,
He that is void of wisdom despiseth his
neighbour (Proverbsll:12; KJV).
It is not fair to fine the innocent (Proverbs
And, like anger, it rarely leads to constructive
or creative endeavor. For the most part, it is to be avoided.
The beginning of strife is as when one
letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before there is quarrelling
It is an honor for a man to keep aloof
from strife (Proverbs 20:3; ASV).
Jesus also said:
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they
shall be called sons of God (Matthew 5:9; RSV).
Solomon advised against getting involved in
other men's disputes. It is best to mind our own business. According to
a news report I once read, Lyndon Johnson, who escalated our country’s
involvement in the Vietnam war, was seen lifting a man’s dog by its ears.
Three thousand years ago Solomon said:
Like a man who seizes a passing cur
by the ears is he who meddles in another's quarrel (Proverbs 26:17;
Strife can create a wall between people that
becomes very hard to tear down. Moreover, it can lead a man into committing
He who is estranged seeks pretexts to
break out against all sound judgment (Proverbs 18:1; RSV).
A brother offended is harder to be won
than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle
(Proverbs 18:19; KJV).
There are many causes of strife including hatred,
Hatred stirreth up strifes (Proverbs
By pride cometh only contention (Proverbs
A greedy man stirs up strife (Proverbs
in whose heart is perverseness, who
deviseth evil continually, who soweth discord (Proverbs 6:14; ASV).
A perverse man sows strife (Proverbs
the fool and the scoffer,
A fool's lips bring strife (Proverbs
Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go
out, and quarreling and abuse will cease
(Proverbs 22:10; RSV).
the gossip (who is especially cruel),
a whisperer separateth chief friends
(Proverbs 16:28; KJV).
For lack of wood the fire goeth out; and
where there is no whisperer, contention ceaseth (Proverbs 26:20; ASV).
Who scream? Who shriek? Who have strife?
Those who tarry long over wine (Proverbs 23:29, 30; NAB).
A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
but he who is slow to anger quiets contention (Proverbs 15:18; RSV).
A man prone to anger provokes a quarrel
For pressing milk produces curds, pressing
the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife (Proverbs
and some people addicted to it.
He loveth transgression that loveth
strife (Proverbs 17:19; KJV).
As charcoal to hot embers and wood to
fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife (Proverbs 26:21;
Regarding this latter kind of quarrelsome man,
he is puffed up with conceit, he knows
nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about
words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling
among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth (1 Timothy
6:4, 5; RSV).
Have nothing to do with stupid, senseless
controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant
must not be quarrelsome but kindly to every one (2 Timothy 2:23, 24;
Quarreling and strife should be avoided. While
they are generally unhealthy, the strivings of friendly competition, however,
can be constructive. Of course, in the end we still lose everything (in
Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens
another (Proverbs 27:17; RSV).
Then I saw that all toil and skillful
work is the rivalry of one man for another. This also is vanity and a chasing
after wind (Ecclesiastes 4:4; NAB).
When disagreements can be resolved no other
way, Solomon advised letting the Lord decide. The practice is common at
the beginning of a football game.
The lot is cast into the lap; but the
whole disposing thereof is of the Lord (Proverbs 16:33; KJV).
The lot puts an end to disputes and decides
between powerful contenders (Proverbs 18:18; RSV).
In sum: Some strife is unavoidable, but justice
should prevail. Most strife is caused by sin and folly.
Solomon said confession with repentance must
precede forgiveness. This, too, is an often-stated Bible truth.
Guilt is wiped out by faith and loyalty
He who conceals his transgressions will
not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy (Proverbs
But it is wrong to laugh and rejoice when an
adversary or competitor has problems, even if he deserves them and remains
he who rejoiceth at another's ruin shall
not go unpunished (Proverbs 17:5; WLX).
Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth,
and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: lest the Lord see it,
and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him (Proverbs
24:17, 18; KJV).
We should be willing to forgive some offenses.
We all offend others (even our friends) in countless little ways. Hypersensitivity
only amplifies conflict. Shock absorbers on a car give stability and greater
control. In the same way we should act as "shock absorbers" toward our
minor social conflicts—it promotes peace. Love ignores minor offenses,
and love is great medicine; it is a prime quality of the Lord. Even an
adversary or competitor deserves the same courtesy and kindness that we
show to others. In so doing, we may "melt his heart," and, perhaps, even
become friends. But if not, at least we may prick his conscience, and he
will have no excuses to harm us. Solomon said,
Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers
all offenses (Proverbs 10:12; ABPS).
He who forgives an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter alienates a friend (Proverbs 17:9; RSV).
Say not thou, I will recompense evil;
but wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee (Proverbs 20:22; KJV).
Say not, I will do so to him as he hath
done to me: I will render to the man according to his work (Proverbs
If your enemy is hungry, give him bread
to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap
coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you (Proverbs 25:21,
Do not give heed to every word that is
spoken lest you hear your servant speaking ill of you, for you know in
you heart that you have many times spoken ill of others (Ecclesiastes
7:21, 22; NEB).
Paul (quoting both Moses and Solomon) wrote
the same thing.
Repay no one evil for evil, but take
thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it
depends upon you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves,
but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine,
I will repay, says the Lord." No, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if
he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals
upon his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good
(Romans 12:17-21; RSV).
But Paul also went on to add that governing
authorities have no right to forgive. The right to forgive can come only
from the one offended—be he man or God. Authorities are the Lord's servants
to execute his wrath against the guilty. They have no right to forgive,
and thus deprive justice from the one offended—be he man or God.
Let every person be subject to the governing
authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that
exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities
resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have
no fear of him who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will
receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you
do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain; he is the
servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer (Romans 13:1-4;
Several years ago a news story appeared about
a man who had murdered an estimated one hundred people. Twenty-seven years
earlier he had murdered his own mother—a cardinal sin against both her
and God. Refusing to carry out justice by executing the murderer (as the
Lord has required from the beginning; see Genesis 9:6), the authorities
later released him. That dereliction of duty on their part (which may have
appeared to be an act of compassion) was, in fact, a cruel sentence of
death passed upon one hundred innocent people who would likely be alive
today. Abolishing capital punishment in society is like abolishing pasteurization
in milk. It sets the stage for sorrow and misery.
Solomon had this to say regarding forgiveness
for the wicked:
If the most righteous in the land are
punished, how much more the wicked and the sinner (Proverbs 11:31;
To acquit the wicked and condemn the righteous,
both are alike an abomination in the Lord's sight (Proverbs 17:15;
It is not good to be partial to a wicked
man, or to deprive a righteous man of justice (Proverbs 18:5; RSV).
He who says to the wicked, "You are innocent,"
will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations; but those who rebuke the
wicked man will have delight, and a good blessing will be upon them (Proverbs
24:24, 25; RSV).
A righteous man falling down before the
wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring (Proverbs 25:26;
A man that is laden with the blood of
any person shall hasten his steps unto the pit; none will support him
(Proverbs 28:17; JPS).
Therefore, let no one claim that the Lord loves
wicked, bloodthirsty men. The Bible does not teach this. For example, Malachi
the prophet said:
You have wearied the Lord with your
words. Yet you say, "How have we wearied him?" By saying, "Everyone who
does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delights in them" (Malachi
And King David wrote,
For thou art not a God who delights
in wickedness; evil may not sojourn with thee. The boastful may not stand
before thy eyes; thou hatest all evildoers. Thou destroyest those who speak
lies; the Lord abhors bloodthirsty and deceitful men (Psalms 5:4 6;
Moreover, the Lord, through the prophet Ezekiel,
addressed those kinds of professional hypocrites who promote aborting the
lives of the most innocent, while at the same time opposing capital punishment
for the most guilty, saying,
And will ye pollute me among my people
for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, to slay the souls that
should not die, and to save the souls alive that should not live, by your
lying to my people that hear your lies? (Ezekiel 13:19; KJV).
Nevertheless, during periods of extreme moral
decay with widespread guilt, even the Lord will not promote harsh penalties
against specific acts of sin. When almost everyone is guilty, law enforcement
degenerates to the punishment of only those who are caught. The Lord will
have no part in that kind of perverted justice. His wrath will be directed
against the whole community. For example, the Lord, through the prophet
I will not punish your daughters when
they play the harlot, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the
men themselves go aside with harlots, and sacrifice with cult prostitutes,
and a people without understanding shall come to ruin
(Hoses 4:14; RSV).
Jesus also refused to punish the woman brought
to him who had been caught in the act of adultery because all of her accusers
were guilty. (See John 8:2-11.) During more stable times, however, when
respect for law and morality is high, such tolerance is not recommended.
For example, concerning the execution of murderers, Moses urged the people,
Your eye shall not pity him, but you
shall purge the guilt of the innocent blood from Israel, so that it may
be well with you (Deuteronomy 19:13; RSV).
Remember the words of Solomon:
To every thing there is a season, and
a time to every purpose under the heaven a time to kill, and a time to
heal a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace
(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3, 8; KJV).
There is a time for mercy and a time for vengeance.
In sum: Minor personal offenses should
be forgiven. Major social crimes must be punished.
When Solomon refers to kings he is referring
to high governmental rulers, and the truths found in his words remain applicable
today. A king, president, chancellor, or prime minister is simply an instrument
of governmental authority. Without government support he is an ordinary
man. However, with governmental authority they have great power; although
heads of state in today's complex societies are rarely like the monarchs
of the past with the power of life and death in their hands.
The possession of power and authority typically
promotes dignified confidence. Augur said:
Three things have a stately stride,
four things have a stately tread; a lion, mightiest of beasts that never
runs away; a strutting cock, and a he-goat, and a king at the head of a
host (Proverbs 30:29-31; MOFFATT).
With their power and authority heads of state
have great ability to provide benefits, and those who serve them wisely
can best enjoy them. Their favor, Solomon said, is like dew on the grass
and like the spring rain—both precede life and growth. On the other hand,
because of their power and authority, Solomon sternly warned about rebelling
against them, or even reviling them in your thoughts. It will become known
somehow and the guilty party may find himself locked up in some unpleasant
place, or worse. Their anger is especially directed against those who cause
shame and/or commit crime. Be assured that they are able to bring destruction
and ruin. Solomon said they are like a roaring lion or a herald of death
to the wicked; and those who provoke them to wrath pass a bitter sentence
The king's favour is toward a wise servant:
but his wrath is against him that causeth shame (Proverbs 14:35; KJV).
The king's wrath is the herald of death,
but a wise man will appease it. When the king's face brightens it spells
life, his favour is like the rain in spring (Proverbs 16:14, 15; JB).
Many will entreat the favour of the prince
The king's wrath is as the roaring of
a lion; but his favour is as dew upon the grass (Proverbs 19:12; KJV).
The terror of the king is as the roaring
of a lion: he that provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own life
My son, fear the Lord and the king; have
nothing to do with those who rebel against them; for suddenly arises the
destruction they send, and the ruin from either one, who can measure
(Proverbs 24:21, 22; NAB).
Revile not the king, no, not in thy thought;
and revile not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the heavens shall
carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter (Ecclesiastes
Regarding those who find themselves in the presence
of a top official, Solomon advised restraint and caution (a quality of
the wise ). It is prudent to keep back humbly until noticed.
Do not put yourself forward in the presence
of the king and do not stand in the place of great men; for it is better
to be told, "Come up here," than that you should be put lower in the prince's
presence, as your eyes have seen (Proverbs 25:6, 7; MLB).
Those who are invited to dine with a high authority
should eat with dignity and refinement. It is foolish to rush in and overeat.
They watch others in order to examine their personal qualities.
When thou sittest down to eat bread
with a ruler, discreetly discern what is placed before thee; and put restrain
upon thine appetite, if thou be inclined to indulgence (SPRL). Do
not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food (RSV) (Proverbs
We should also choose our words well, and speak
the truth; for their power rests upon accurate information. And after making
a request, we should wait patiently.
Righteous lips are the delight of kings;
and they love him that speaketh right (Proverbs 16:13; KJV).
He who loves purity of heart, and whose
speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend (Proverbs 22:11;
With patience a ruler may be persuaded
If a ruler gives an order to a man who has committed
his allegiance to him, Solomon advised to commence at once. No matter how
difficult and/or distasteful it may be there is always a way. Solomon advised
using wisdom to make the method and timing right, and then take your chances.
Keep the king's command, and because
of your sacred oath be not dismayed; go from his presence, do not delay
when the matter is unpleasant, for he does whatever he pleases. For the
word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, "What are you doing?"
He who obeys a command will meet no harm, and the mind of a wise man will
know the time and the way. For every matter has its time and way, although
man's trouble lies heavy upon him. For he does not know what is to be,
for who can tell him how it will be? (Ecclesiastes 8:2-7; RSV).
If you happen to provoke his anger, you should
quietly accept his displeasure. It is a mistake to run away and ruin your
If a ruler's wrath flares up against
you, never resign your post; defer to him, and you will pacify his rage
(Ecclesiastes 10:4; MOFFATT).
Here is some advice for rulers from King Lemuel.
Rulers should resist the temptation to indulge in sensual pleasures. He
said intoxicating beverages are especially to be avoided. They cloud judgment
and impair functioning. It is folly and/or craftiness when drinking is
encouraged at official functions. Rulers should both aid and defend the
poor and the disadvantaged by guaranteeing their rights.
The words of Lemuel, king of Masse.
The advice which his mother gave him (NAB). What, my son? And what, O son
of my womb? What, O son of my vows? do not give your strength to women,
nor your ways to what destroys kings (MLB).
It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for
rulers to desire strong drink; lest they drink and forget what has been
decreed, and pervert the rights of all the afflicted Open your mouth for
the dumb, for the rights of all who are left desolate. Open your mouth,
judge righteously, maintain the rights of the poor (RSV) (Proverbs
31:1-5, 8, 9).
Here is King Solomon's advice for rulers: Love
truth, and work at increasing wisdom both in yourself and in others. Promote
scholarship and research; discoveries thereby will bring honor both to
the researcher and to the authority who encouraged him. It is out of place
for officials to lie; and those who give ear to liars will find their entire
staff corrupted. No matter how many great obstacles a ruler may have overcome
in the past, and no matter how many subjects he may reign over, if he indulges
in ignorance and refuses to be corrected, he will contribute to the miseries
of the populace. They will eventually hate him, even preferring an unknown
but wise youth over him.
By me [wisdom] kings reign, and princes
decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of
the earth (Proverbs 8:15, 16; KJV).
Excellent speech is not suitable for a
fool; much less is a lying lip for a noble (Proverbs 17:7; ABPS).
It is the glory of God to conceal a thing:
but the honour of kings is to search out a matter (Proverbs 25:2; KJV).
A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel
oppressor (Proverbs 28:16; RSV).
If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants
are wicked (Proverbs 29:12; KJV).
Better is a poor and wise youth than an
old and foolish king, who will no longer take advice, even though he had
gone from prison to the throne or in his own kingdom had been born poor.
I saw all the living who move about under the sun, as well as that youth,
who was to stand in his place; there was no end of all the people; he was
over all of them. Yet those who come later will not rejoice in him. Surely
this also is a vanity and a striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 4:13-16;
No matter how great may be the power and knowledge
of a ruler, if he loses the support of the people, then he will suffer
ruin. Loyalty, faithfulness, and righteousness make a ruler's position
Many subjects make a famous king: with
none to rule, a prince is ruined (Proverbs 14:28; NEB).
It is an abomination to kings to commit
wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness (Proverbs
Loyalty and faithfulness preserve the
king, and his throne is upheld by righteousness (Proverbs 20:28; RSV).
A vital duty of rulers is to defend the rights
of the weak and helpless, the handicapped and the impoverished. The rich
and the strong can look out for themselves; and they will. The poor and
needy are counting on the authorities to defend them. Only they have that
power and legal right. When rulers do all these things, they also make
themselves secure. Solomon said,
If a king judges the poor with equity
his throne will be established forever (Proverbs 29:14; RSV).
Also remember Lemuel's words:
Open your mouth for the dumb, for the
rights of all who are left desolate. Open your mouth, judge righteously,
maintain the rights of the poor and needy
(Proverbs 31:8, 9; RSV).
And Moses said (for all of us):
You shall do no injustice in judgment;
you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness
shall you judge your neighbor (Leviticus 19:15; RSV).
A wise ruler also makes his position secure
by promoting just economic dealings, and by opposing fraud, bribery, profiteering,
and such like.
he [a king] who hates unjust gain will
promote his days (Proverbs 28:16; RSV).
Another vital duty of rulers is to punish criminals.
Ordinary citizens have neither the means nor the authority to enforce sanctions
against a wrongdoer. A wise ruler will not neglect to do it because it
also contributes to his own stability. Remember, Paul said they are the
Lord's servants to execute His wrath against wrongdoers. Solomon said,
A king who sits on the throne of judgment
winnows all evil with his eyes (Proverbs 20:8; RSV).
A wise king winnoweth the wicked and bringeth
the threshing wheel over them (Proverbs 20:26; RV).
Take away the dress from the silver, and
there shall come forth a vessel for the finer. Take away the wicked from
before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness
(Proverbs 25:4, 5; KJV).
In sum: Rulers have a grave responsibility
to discourage evil and promote righteousness. These things make a ruler's
position secure: resisting the temptation to indulge in sensuality; avoiding
intoxicating drink; seeking knowledge and understanding; loving honesty
and fairness; encouraging loyalty, faithfulness, and righteousness; defending
the rights of the poor and needy; opposing crookedness in finance; and
punishing criminals. Rulers have power, and men are expected to obey them.
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but
sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34; KJV).
He mentioned several specific things that contribute
to a nation's health: when the people have knowledge and understanding;
when they rely on many wise counselors; when they are law-abiding; and
when the righteous are secure in the streets. These are the benefits: peace,
progress, happiness, and long stability.
Solomon also mentioned several things that
contribute to a nation's woes: when the people ignore God's Word; when
they fail to use counsel; when they become lawless and run wild; when they
have crooked, corrupt, degenerate rulers; and when they are influenced
by the words of wicked men and scoffers. These are the penalties: instability
of leadership; contemptuous international reputation; fear and insecurity
among the citizens; and burning and destruction.
A modern myth says that no national or ethnic
culture is better than any other. The Word of God says otherwise. Observe
the righteousness or unrighteousness of a people; then notice their condition.
When it goes well with the righteous,
the city rejoices; and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted; but it is overthrown
by the mouth of the wicked (Proverbs 11:10, 11; RSV).
Where no counsel is, the people fall:
but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety
(Proverbs 11:14; KJV).
When a land transgresses it has many rulers;
but with men of understanding and knowledge its stability will long continue
(Proverbs 28:2; RSV).
When the righteous triumph, there is great
glory; but when the wicked rise, men hide themselves (Proverbs 28:12;
As a roaring lion, and a ravenous bear
so is a wicked ruler over a poor people (Proverbs 28:15; JPS).
When the wicked rise, men hide themselves:
but when they perish, the righteous increase (Proverbs 28:28; KJV).
When the righteous are in authority, the
people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn (Proverbs
By justice a king gives stability to the
land, but one who exacts gifts [bribes] ruins it (Proverbs 29:4; RSV).
Scoffers set a city in a flame; but wise
men turn away wrath (Proverbs 29:8; ASV).
When the wicked are multiplied, transgression
increaseth: but the righteous shall see their fall (Proverbs 29:16;
Where there is no prophecy the people
cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law (Proverbs 29:18;
Woe to you, O land, when your king is
a child, and your princes feast in the morning! Happy are you, O land,
when your king is the son of free men, and your princes feast at the proper
time, for strength, and not for drunkenness! (Ecclesiastes 10:16, 17;
Finally, we may expect to find some injustice
by government officials here or there; but nations have organization, and
even chief rulers are dependent upon the national health. Like an infection
in some part of the body, injustice cannot remain hidden or ignored very
If you see in a province the poor oppressed
and justice and right violently taken away, do not be amazed at the matter;
for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher
ones over them. (RSV) Moreover the profit of the earth is for all:
the king himself is served by the field (Ecclesiastes 5:8, 9; KJV).
Remember, the Lord God has the ultimate authority,
and if you see chief rulers do strange things (wise or foolish). the Lord
may be behind it all, perhaps to reward, or perhaps to chastise a people.
Inspired decisions are on the lips of
a king; his mouth does not sin in judgment (Proverbs 16:10; RSV).
The king's heart is a stream of water
in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will (Proverbs 21:1;
As the heavens for height, and the earth
for depth, so the heart of kings is unsearchable (Proverbs 25:3; ASV).
It is comforting to know that the King of Kings
guarantees ultimate justice.
Many seek the favor of a ruler, but
from the Lord a man gets justice (Proverbs 29:26; RSV).
In sum: Obedience to law and morality strengthens
a society; disobedience weakens it.
Copyright 1997 by Walter
L. Porter may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to