Proverbs 18:23

The Rich and the Poor


1. There is need once again to remind ourselves that this is a proverb.

2. Solomon is NOT telling the rich and poor HOW to speak.

3. He is not saying that poor people need to use humble entreaties in speaking to others but rich people can afford to be rude!

4. Rather, he is simply making an observation; stating a fact;

5. Like it or not, this is the way it IS. It’s not the way it should be.

23a The poor useth intreaties

1. Poor defined:

a. To be in want; impoverished; not having enough income or means of livelihood for normal essential needs.

b. Zodhiates: It indicates a person who has few resources and little standing or influence in a society.

2. Usage:

a. II Sam. 12:1-4 – Here the term is used to describe a man of poverty…
• He was impoverished financially.
• He was a man of little means.

b. I Sam. 18:23 – Here the term is used to describe a lowly position in society.
• David used it of himself to indicate that he was not worthy to marry Michal, the king’s daughter, because of his low standing in society.
• It didn’t seem right to him that a mere shepherd boy should marry the king’s daughter!
• However, at that time, he was probably pretty well off financially.
• Thus, it is used sometimes of a person from a lower class.

c. Thus, the term is used of lowliness in BOTH finances and position in society. Most often those two concepts were combined.

3. This proverb speaks of the fact that men in lowly positions (either financially or a low status in society) were very often careful about the WAY they spoke to men of means… to men in high positions. (How much care should we employ as we speak to God in prayer!!!)

4. They used entreaties.

a. Useth: to speak; verbal communication.
• It is used of speaking to men or God in prayer.

b. Entreaties: supplication for a favor; a plea for mercy; a petition making a request for kindness.
• This term is most often used of men approaching God in prayer… making requests for mercy and kindness. (Ex: Ps. 28:2, 6)

5. Thus, Solomon uses a term to describe a poor man pleading for mercy from the rich and powerful… that is usually used of men approaching God!

a. The term shows the wide GAP between the one making the supplication and the one to whom the supplication is made.

b. When we approach God in prayer seeking His mercy, we come in humility… lowly… not demanding… but humbly asking… We come to God acknowledging His greatness… how infinitely superior He is to us… using terms of great respect for God… honoring Him…

c. Consider some of the entreaties spoken by men when addressing one of high estate:
• Acts 24:1-4 – Tertulus speaking before Felix the governor.
• That was common language for addressing kings… who obviously were wealthy AND had high status in society!
• Read the way that King James was addressed in the preface to the KJV Bibles.
• When speaking to men in high positions, especially kings, great care was given to approach them humbly—and showing respect and honor.

6. Solomon noticed this about human nature.

a. Remember, he was a king!

b. People came to him all the time making requests for kindness.

c. Solomon noticed that when men came to him to make a supplication that they were always respectful, humble, and bowed before him.

d. In a sense, they HAD to!
• These people came to the king to request things that only he could do for them.
• He was their last and only hope. They had no plan B.
• Thus, they wanted to be as humble and respectful as they could before him… to make a good impression.

e. Naturally, in some people, it was genuine.

f. But in others, it was feigned… because they wanted to GET something from the king… or other persons of means.

g. Lowly poor people used “entreaties” – humble supplications when addressing those of higher status… the upper class.

23b But the rich answereth roughly.

1. On the other hand, Solomon noticed a distinct difference in the way the upper class spoke to those beneath them.

2. The rich answer roughly…

a. Answer: answer; respond; reply; testify; shout.

b. Roughly: strongly; mightily; fiercely; with great force; intensely; harshly.

c. Used in Deut. 28:50 – A nation of fierce countenance.

3. Examples:

a. I Sam. 25:10-11 – Nabal was a rich man who answered David harshly. (vs. 17 – you couldn’t speak to him!)

b. Gen. 42:7 – When Joseph stood before his brothers as the prime minister of Egypt and wanted to SOUND like the prime minister (and not their brother) he spoke ROUGHLY to them!

4. The rich and the upper class aren’t so kind and humble when they answer men—especially when they speak to the lower class.

a. The rich don’t call the poor “your highness” or “your majesty.”

b. The rich neither bow in humility before the poor, nor show respect to them.

c. In fact, Solomon noticed just the opposite. He noticed that they answered ROUGHLY.

d. Instead of being kind they were often mean.

e. Instead of being tenderhearted, they were fierce!

f. Instead of speaking softly, they often shout.

g. Instead of showing respect, they are often rude, foul, and even vulgar!

h. Instead of showing humility, they were often arrogant.

i. Instead of being considerate, they are overbearing.

j. Obviously there are exceptions to this proverb. It is after all, a proverb.

k. But this is what Solomon observed most often… often enough to be proverbial.

l. While the rough answers of the rich are not excusable, it is understandable.
• The rich are often inundated with people trying to take advantage of them.
• People come to them with their entreaties… bowing before them in humility… many of whom are phony…
• They all came to him to GET something from him… with their hands stretched out… “gimme gimme.”
• After being besieged with such a constant flow of requests, it is understandable why the wealthy might be rude and abrupt to those who come for a hand out.
• However, that certainly does not justify their behavior.

5. When it comes to manners, the rich are often poor and the poor are often rich.

a. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

b. Just because someone is dressed in expensive clothing as a sign of their wealth, it doesn’t mean that they are kind.

c. They might look great, but it is often just a thin cover for an arrogant, cruel heart.

d. They may be rich in money and position, but they are poor in manners…

e. Jas. 2:3 – James warns us NEVER to display that attitude in the local assembly… or anywhere else.

6. Thus, this comes with a built in warning: if you don’t want to be treated this way—then try to AVOID being impoverished… and thus at the mercy of merciless, wealthy men!

a. Don’t be lazy for laziness results in poverty… and poverty results in being treated cruelly!

b. Don’t be a know-it-all, for they end being poor… and thus at the mercy of unkind men and treated harshly.

c. Don’t be a drunkard, because that leads to poverty… and that leads to people treating you cruelly.

7. And perhaps another truth is seen in this proverb too: poverty may not be good for your body, but it’s often good for the soul.

a. It keeps men humble… less likely to be harsh and arrogant.

b. Now not always. There are lots of poor mean people. But over all, poverty does tend to help mortify pride.

c. To the degree that poverty makes us humble, it is valuable and good for us!

8. Aren’t you glad that God, who hears a constant chorus of requests from His children never treats us cruelly… nor answers harshly!

a. He never grows tired of us coming to Him with our supplications.

b. God also hears all the rude and rough comments heaped upon the poor by those in positions of prominence and wealth.

c. When we come before God’s throne to present our supplications, we must come in lowliness and with a contrite spirit! (Isa. 66:2)

d. When we come before the throne of grace, we are all poor in spirit… regardless of our earthly circumstances.