Proverbs 22:16-20
Prov 22:16 (KJB)
He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.
He that oppresseth - To wrong, extort, or abuse
This verse is a warning to those who may have some authority and use that authority to oppress the poor. This could be in business where they claim they can’t give a raise, yet the CEO gets a ten million dollar bonus. It could be to those who are in government and tax the people excessively, thus giving themselves nice raises. Those that take what they have stolen from the poor people, may eventually have to give it to those who possess more wealth and power than they. It is like increasing your income and then having to pay more taxes. This verse also intimates that those who oppress the poor may throw in with the wealthy to protect whatever riches they have. It does not matter, the Bible is stating that both of these types of people are going to become victims of their own schemes. Just like the people they stole from and left them in want, they too are going to find themselves in the same situation of want. (James 5:1 KJV) Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. The verse in James does say these miseries “may” come upon the rich men but it “shall.”
Prov 22:17 (KJB)
Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.
Bow down - Bend down or turn aside
Apply - You should set
Here is the admonition for a person to stop in their present ways, and to bow down or to incline their ears to hear wisdom. Solomon is personalizing it to his children that at any time they may have to amend their way by learning wisdom to keep them form any type of sinning. It is not only needful for the person to hear the wisdom, but they must apply what they hear. It is akin to the words of Scripture, that we do not only read the Bible but we read it with the desire to amend any of the ways which might be trouble to us or outright sinful. Hearing with understanding and application is a recurrent theme throughout the entire Bible. (Deu 5:1 KJV) And Moses called all Israel, and said unto them, Hear, O Israel, the statutes and judgments which I speak in your ears this day, that ye may learn them, and keep, and do them. “Hear O Israel” was not just a call to physically hear but it was a call to hear, understand, and apply.
Prov 22:18 (KJB)
For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.
Be fitted - Be established
This verse is a continuation from verse 17 concerning the wisdom and the knowledge that his children must learn. He speaks about the fact that learning and applying knowledge is a pleasant thing, because it keeps a person from getting into trouble and thus makes their life much more pleasant to be lived. A life without much trouble is a pleasant life and it is much more pleasant when a person does not bring upon themselves added troubles. In fact, for the true believer, that wisdom which they learn from the Bible will be fitted exactly to them. It will establish them which will result in them giving out the wisdom and knowledge they have learned, so others will benefit. This is why when we hear or read the Scriptures, it is important that we incline our ears to hear, understand, and apply because it will be something that will stay with us for the rest of our earthly lives.
Prov 22:19 (KJB)
That thy trust may be in the LORD, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee.
What is the essence of having true knowledge and wisdom? This verse will answer that question by stating that these things will help establish trust in the Lord for those who apply what they have heard. We do not study the Scriptures just to gain dead knowledge, that is, knowledge that is never put to use. We study the Scriptures to get to know the Lord better and how he dealt with others in the Bible and as we see how He dealt with them, we can avoid their pitfalls and engage their righteous ways in our lives. At the end, the verse emphasizes the fact that the Bible is making known to thee, “even to thee.” We must take what we read in Scripture and realize it is not for others, oh yes, it is, but it must be for us first. For example, John is sitting in church listening to the sermon and saying to himself, “I wish Joe was here because he really needs to hear this,” meanwhile, Joe is sitting in his church down the street and listening to the sermon and saying to himself, “I wish John was here because he really needs to hear this.” God places us under the teachings of the Scriptures that we need to hear now and what we will specifically need in the future. If we always state that the sermon we are listening to is only good for someone else, then we may miss the message for us. If we miss the message, then we may run into problems which could have been avoided if we hear, understood, and applied.
Prov 22:20 (KJB)
Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge,
Excellent Things - Yesterday and the day before
Here is the first part of a question which will be continued in verse 21. Solomon asks his children concerning what he has written to them. The words “excellent things” carries with it the meaning of “yesterday and the day before.” This means that the message of the Gospel does not change. (Mal 3:6 KJV) For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Malachi 3:6 states that the Lord never changes, that is, His character and holiness is constant. Solomon is stating that he has imparted to his children, both good counsel and knowledge. Many today see the Bible as a book you cannot understand and that it is archaic in its message. As we have been going through Proverbs, we have found that the message in the Bible is more up to date than today’s news. The message of the Bible to the believer is anything but archaic because the central message of the Bible is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. The unsaved cannot understand the Bible because they are spiritually dead but the believer has the Holy Spirit living in them and illuminates the passages of Scripture for them.