Proverbs 11:5-9

Proverbs 11:5-9

11:5-8 — 5 The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight, but the wicked falls by his own wickedness. 6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust. 7 When the wicked dies, his hope will perish, and the expectation of wealth perishes too.[1] 8 The righteous is delivered from trouble, and the wicked walks into it instead.

These verses continue the theme found in vv. 3-4. The wicked fall “by his own wickedness” and they “are taken captive by their lust.” His wealth will not protect him (v. 4) and all his hopes will also perish with him (v. 7). His wealth will neither protect nor deliver him (v. 7). The wicked look to their wealth for deliverance and protection (expectation = hope). All that he has used to protect himself from the impending calamity will fail; his fears will be realized.

The righteous, on the other hand, will walk in a straight (smooth) path and will be delivered from trouble (v. 8). Each one will reap the fruit of his actions. The wicked walks into trouble while the righteous are delivered from it. Haman is hanged; Mordecai escapes; Daniel survives the lions; his enemies fall prey to them.

 

11:9 — With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor, but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.

This is not an exact parallel but quite close. Solomon once again contrasts the godless and the righteous. The godless (or the deceiver) uses his mouth for evil; the righteous, on the other hand, utilizes his knowledge for good. The godless destroys his neighbor with his mouth while the righteous delivers himself (and presumably his neighbor) with his knowledge. “We are likely to understand this to mean that the speech (advice, counsel) of the godless leads to harm for those who are close to them because it lacks knowledge. And then in the second colon, the knowledge of the righteous when spoken allows not only the righteous but also those around them (their neighbors) to navigate life’s difficulties.” (Longman) Perhaps we should ask ourselves, “Does my advice help or harm? Do my words destroy or deliver? Are my neighbors or friends better off on account of my words or are they worse off?” What does our past history indicate?

I’ve seen a record of destroyed or strained relationships because of something a person said. The person seems oblivious to it and engages in the next relationship only to sour it. Their counsel, conversations, etc. did eventually ruin relationships. Unfortunately, I have in mind people who are members in churches. Though not godless in their lives, their words appear to be no different than the godless on account of its impact on people. Do we know of anyone truly blessed by the words we have spoken (not advice concerning decoration, how to fix a car, input regarding vain interests, etc.)? Has our knowledge delivered anyone?


[1] Many textual and philological issues complicate our understanding of this verse. I will simply use the text as offered by ESV.

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