He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity:
and the rod of his anger shall fail.
1. This is yet another proverb that deals with a recurring theme in the book: you reap what you sow. (I counted 27 such proverbs so far!)
2. Each one comes to the subject from a slightly different perspective.
3. In this proverb the emphasis is on the fact that the one who sows evil shall not do so forever.
He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity:
A. He that soweth iniquity
a. The term for sowing is an agricultural term.
b. It means to plant seeds in the soil with the expectation of receiving a harvest.
c. To “sow” seed is to scatter it… to plant it…
d. It was usually done by broadcasting the seed, which means to spread it out over a large area.
2. Sowing iniquity
a. Iniquity: Unrighteousness; injustice; wrong; dishonesty; anything that deviates from the right way of doing things.
b. The concept of “sowing” iniquity speaks of a person who scatters injustice and unrighteousness wherever he goes… in whatever he does… and whatever he says.
c. Ungodly sowers are often quite diligent in their work too. They sow a LOT of seeds throughout the years.
B. Shall Reap Vanity
a. Strong’s: Trouble; sorrow;
b. Dictionary of Biblical Languages: Calamity; deceit; (used of idols).
c. Zodhiates: Nothingness; trouble; sorrow; evil; or mischief.
d. The term seems to have two separate streams of meaning:
• Trouble; calamity; mischief; misfortune.
• Nothingness; emptiness; idolatry.
e. The basic meaning of the term in our proverb is “trouble.”
• Gen. 35:18 – Just before Rachel died, she named her newborn son, Ben-oni, (son of sorrow). (The second part of the name is the term translated “vanity” in our proverb.)
• Ps. 90:10 – In speaking of the quality of life after 80, the psalmist said, “yet is their strength labour and sorrow.” The term “sorrow” is the word for vanity in our proverb. It is the sorrow that comes from times of trouble and difficulty.
2. The one who sows iniquity will reap TROUBLE at some point.
a. He will reap calamity; sorrow; mischief.
b. His works will produce trouble for him—sooner or later.
c. Those who broadcast the seeds of injustice and oppression can expect to reap trouble as a direct result of their sowing.
d. Job 4:8 – as Eliphaz rightly told Job, those who sow iniquity will reap the SAME.
e. They will eventually reap a harvest of their greed, injustice, oppression, arrogance, and selfishness.
f. They may seem to prosper for a time, but not forever. Eventually it will catch up to them.
g. Evil actions are like seeds. Once sown, they produce a harvest—like it or not. There are always consequences to our actions.
h. This passage teaches that the ONE WHO SOWS shall reap trouble.
i. Others may also experience trouble from his actions. But our proverb tells us that the man who SOWS will especially feel it—sooner or later. He himself will reap what he has sown.
3. The one who does NOT sow iniquity will not find such trouble.
a. Prov. 12:21 – “There shall no evil (same term – no trouble) happen to the just.”
b. If they would simply change their ways, their lives would improve.
c. Even if unbelievers lived according to the proverbs, their lives would improve immensely.
d. But as long as they continue to sow seeds of iniquity, they can expect to reap their awful harvest. This is one of the facts of life.
And the rod of his anger shall fail.
1. The rod
a. Rod: Staff; club; javelin.
b. Rod: A scepter or staff, used by a person or ruler as a figurative ornamental symbol of his rulership.
2. The rod of his anger
a. Anger: Outpouring; overflow; arrogance; excess; fury; wrath; rage.
b. The rod of his anger seems to refer to a weapon (figuratively speaking) used by a ruler or person of power to angrily oppress his victims… or his subjects… or employees…
c. The rod of his anger (rage; fury; arrogance; etc) could either be:
• A symbol of his position over people
• A symbol of his wrath inflicted against them
d. Either way, the man in question here IS in a position to inflict wrath against others and evidently he does just that.
e. Perhaps Solomon is implying that he uses his position of authority as a weapon to inflict wrath and rage against others.
f. This seems to speak of a ruler who rules by unbridled passion rather than by prudence and wisdom.
3. But the point of this proverb is that he will not be able to do so forever.
a. The rod of his anger shall FAIL.
b. Fail: To accomplish; cease; consume; determine; end; fail; finish; to be completed; to be spent; to wear out.
c. Perhaps his position will come to an end.
d. Perhaps his power will come to an end… will wear out.
e. Perhaps his life will come to an end in judgment.
f. One way or another, his ability to wield that rod of anger shall fail… shall come to an end.
g. Prov. 11:18 – The wicked receive for what they have sown; but if they would just sow righteousness, they would have a GOOD reward for their labors.
4. The cruel wrath of oppressive, powerful men will FAIL sooner or later.
a. Cruel kings like the Pharaoh in the days of the Exodus will discover that their power over others comes to an end sooner or later.
b. You can’t go on oppressing men forever. Eventually there will be a rebellion or a revolution.
c. There might be an assassination… or a military coup.
d. Perhaps God Himself will intervene and smite the oppressors, bringing to an end the “rod of their anger.”
5. Consider Sennacherib: Isa.10:5 –
a. Vs. 5-6 – First note that God refers to Assyria (and her king) as a “rod” in God’s hand. (rod = same term for rod in Prov.22:8)
b. God was using Assyria as a “rod” or a weapon against His own people, Israel. Israel was ripe for judgment, and God chose to use Assyria to inflict judgment upon them.
c. Vs. 7-11 – God used Assyria, but Assyria did not believe that she was but a rod in God’s hand.
• She thought that she was doing it all in her own might and for her own evil purposes.
• vs. 7 – Her purpose was to destroy nations; to sow iniquity.
d. Vs. 12 – Here God threatens to punish the stout heart of the king of Assyria.
• This evil king would be stopped in his tracks by God Himself.
• As a result, the rod of his anger (his power to inflict wrath against the Jews and others) would FAIL. It would come to a halt.
• And boy did her rod FAIL!
• Isa. 37:36-37 – In 701 B.C., 185,000 Assyrian soldiers just outside of Jerusalem were smitten by the Angel of the Lord.
• In 609 B.C., the Assyrian Empire was defeated by Babylon.
e. Thus, Assyria – an evil empire that sowed iniquity wherever she went, smote Israel with the rod of her anger… but not forever. Her rod of anger FAILED.
f. God accomplished His purpose with the rod of Assyria.
g. When God’s purpose was accomplished, Assyria’s rod of anger failed… it ceased… its mission was fulfilled.
6. Consider the King of Babylon (Isa.14:4-6)
a. The oppressor ceased! (vs.4)
b. The Lord broke his staff and scepter. (rod) (vs.5)
c. He used to smite the people in wrath with that scepter (with his rod of anger).
d. But alas, he has ceased. This kind of oppression will not go on forever.
e. That is the main gist of our proverb.
f. He that soweth iniquity shall reap vanity: and the rod of his anger shall fail.
g. These are words of encouragement for the oppressed everywhere. The rod of these two major world empires came to a halt—and suddenly!