Bible Topics In The Christian Library
Chapter 12
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; KJV). 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 (Proverbs 3:3, 4; RSV).

What is desired in a man is loyalty (Proverbs 19:22; RSV).

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 27:18; LXX).

A faithful man shall abound with blessings (Proverbs 28:20; KJV).

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 (Ecclesiastes 7:1; KJV).

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 18:24; RSV).

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 25:19; KJV).

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 3:27; KJV).

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 good judgment. He who blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing (Proverbs 27:14; RSV). 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 7:7; RSV).

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). Agur added, 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; KJV). But it is certainly wrong to contend without justification. 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, 30).

He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour (Proverbsll:12; KJV).

It is not fair to fine the innocent (Proverbs 17:26; MOFFATT).

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 (Proverbs 17:14; ASV).

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; NEB). Strife can create a wall between people that becomes very hard to tear down. Moreover, it can lead a man into committing injustice. 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, pride, greed, Hatred stirreth up strifes (Proverbs 10:12; KJV).

By pride cometh only contention (Proverbs 13:10; ASV).

A greedy man stirs up strife (Proverbs 28:25; RSV).

the wicked, in whose heart is perverseness, who deviseth evil continually, who soweth discord (Proverbs 6:14; ASV).

A perverse man sows strife (Proverbs 16:28; MLB).

the fool and the scoffer, A fool's lips bring strife (Proverbs 18:6; RSV).

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).

the drunkard, Who scream? Who shriek? Who have strife? Those who tarry long over wine (Proverbs 23:29, 30; NAB). excessive anger, 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 (Proverbs 29:22; NEB).

For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife (Proverbs 30:33; RSV).

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; RSV).

Regarding this latter kind of quarrelsome man, Paul wrote, 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; RSV).

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 this life). 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 (Proverbs 16:6; NEB).

He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy (Proverbs 28:13; RSV).

But it is wrong to laugh and rejoice when an adversary or competitor has problems, even if he deserves them and remains unrepentant. 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 24:29; KJV).

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, 22; RSV).

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; RSV). 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; AAT).

To acquit the wicked and condemn the righteous, both are alike an abomination in the Lord's sight (Proverbs 17:15; NEB).

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; KJV).

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 2:17; RSV). 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; RSV). 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 Hosea, said, 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, saying, 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 against themselves. 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 (Proverbs 19:6; KJV).

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 (Proverbs 20:2; RV).

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 10:20; ASV).

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 23:13). 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; RSV).

With patience a ruler may be persuaded (Proverbs 25:15; RSV).

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 position. 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; RSV).

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 secure. 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 16:12; KJV).

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.

Solomon said,

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; ASV).

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 29:2; KJV).

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; KJV).

Where there is no prophecy the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law (Proverbs 29:18; RSV).

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; RSV).

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 long. 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; RSV).

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 others.

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