Proverbs 29:4

Establishing or Overthrowing the Land

The king by judgment establisheth the land:
but he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it.


1. This proverb speaks of the effect of leadership in a country.

2. The contrast is between a king who rules with justice vs. a king who operates on the basis of bribes.

3. There is also a contrast between the consequences for the country.

The king by judgment establisheth the land:

A. The King By Judgment

1. The first king rules the land by “judgment.”

2. Judgment defined:

a. The act of deciding a legal case or dispute.

b. Sometimes it is used of the punishment involved.

c. A lawsuit or legal action taken in court.

d. Justice (fair; righteous).

3. The term is used in a legal setting according to the Law of Moses.

a. Deut. 1:17 – (2 times) – “Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s.”

b. Ex. 23:6 – “Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause.”

c. Ps. 72:1-2 – “Give the king thy judgments, O God, and thy righteousness unto the king’s son. He shall judge thy people with righteousness, and thy poor with judgment.”

4. Note that it is the KING who is deciding the legal case.

a. In Israel there was not as clear a line between functions of government as we have in America.

b. We have a distinct executive branch, legislative branch, and judicial branch.

c. Often the king would function as all three.
• We read of Moses and Solomon functioning as judges (like the Supreme Court) and deciding cases brought before them.
• Kings could also establish laws by decree.
• In the Jewish mind, the concepts of judging and ruling were often blurred or blended together.
• A king had much more power than a president. They often had the power of life and death.
• You can see why they would want their king to execute judgment (justice) in the land.
• They wanted the king to be fair and just in all of his decisions they made, because those decisions directly affected the everyday lives of the people.
• I Tim.2:1-2 – That’s why we are commanded to pray for those in positions of leadership today. Their decisions affect us too!

B. Establishes the Land

1. Establish defined:

a. The root of the term is “to stand.”

b. It came to mean to stand; to be set up like a pillar; upright.

c. It had many shades of meaning: to stand and remain standing; endure; remain; continue; be steadfast; established; fixed; solid; immovable.

2. The king who rules and judges fairly, justly, and righteously establishes the land.

a. When justice and righteousness reign, the country is solid, stable, enduring, and steadfast.

b. Prov. 29:14 – “The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established for ever.”

c. Prov. 16:12 – “It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.”
• In these two proverbs, it is the king’s throne that is established by faithfully judging the poor in justice.
• A stable throne tends to result in a stable country.

d. Prov. 29:4 tells us that the whole land is established by such a just and righteous reign.

3. The effect of a righteous ruler on the country has been mentioned several times in this chapter and throughout the book of Proverbs.

a. Prov. 29:2 – “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice. Righteous rulers bring joy to righteous people.

b. Prov. 14:34 – “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”
• The country as a whole is exalted.
• Exalted: raised up high; picking up; growing; promoted.
c. Prov. 20:8 – “A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.” A righteous king scares away unrighteous men. They know they and their dishonest ways will not be tolerated.

d. A ruler whose reign is fair and just causes evil men to be scattered, righteous people to rejoice, and it exalts the nation.

e. There is a great benefit from having a righteous ruler.

f. The point of the proverb is that leadership matters.
• With a righteous leader, the country is growing and being raised up rather than being run down.
• With a righteous leader, the people are happy.
• With a righteous leader, the evil men have to hide.
• With a righteous leader, the country is strong, stable, and enduring.

But he that receiveth gifts overthroweth it.

1. In the second part of the proverb Solomon compares the king who rules in justice to a king who operates on the basis of bribes and greed.

2. “Gifts” in this passage is used as a euphemism for bribes.

a. The term means an “offering” – a contribution of materials (for building the Temple) or a contribution in the form of a sacrifice.

b. In this proverb it is obviously being used of a bribe… “a dishonest offering” that greases someone’s palm… and offering to the king expecting something in return.

3. “Overthrow”

a. The king who receives bribes and operates for his own personal interest (greed) overthrows the country.

b. The term means: beat down; tear down; break down; pull down; ruin; bruise.

c. Usage:
• Psalm 11:3 – “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” This speaks of a foundation that became weak and crumbled.
• Joel 1:17 – “The seed is rotten under their clods, the garners are laid desolate, the barns are broken down; for the corn is withered.” This pictures an old farm that has gone to seed and the barn caved in and in disrepair.

d. A greedy king ruins his country. He leaves it in shambles… like an old barn you might see in the country that has been abandoned and is falling apart. Or perhaps like a crumbling foundation.

4. Rehoboam is an example of such a king. (I Kings 12:8-11,16)

a. Rehoboam was Solomon’s son. He should have read these proverbs that his father wrote.

b. But Rehoboam operated on the basis of greed.

c. Solomon levied huge taxes and fees against the people to support his building projects—including the Temple.

d. But now the building projects were completed. There was no need for such taxes.

e. However, Rehoboam chose to listen to the young men who convinced him to continue collecting huge taxes revenues from the people in order to amass great wealth.

f. He did so, and overthrew the country. The people rebelled and there was a split between North and South and almost a civil war.

g. On the other hand, Solomon his father was wise, fair, and just. Under his reign, Israel experienced the “golden years” of peace and prosperity.

5. The contrast here is obvious:

a. The righteous king ESTABLISHES his land. (Righteousness exalts a nation.)

b. The greedy king OVERTHROWS his country. It is not growing and prospering as a result of his reign. It is brought to the brink of disaster.

c. The same is true of a city—any organization:
• Prov. 11:11 – “By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.”

6. Consider some GREEDY RULERS in more modern times:

a. Jan. 28, 2011 President Mubarak of Egypt had a stash worth 40 billion dollars as his personal worth has grown over the decades of years as a dictator, or what he stole from the Egyptian people has risen to epic proportions.

b. Mohamed Suharto of Indonesia is worth $15-30 billion. His salary is a mere $1,764 per month. But by installing his six kids as the middlemen in every conceivable state company, the family became wealthy beyond description!

c. Ferdinand Marcos, the Philippines was worth about $5-10 billion. Ferdinand Marcos and wife Imelda fled the Philippines with suitcases stuffed full of cash, jewelry and gold bricks. After more than 20 years in power, they left the Philippines one of the world’s poorest countries, yet this devious duo had Swiss bank accounts crammed with $5 billion dollars or more.

d. Then there was Jean-Claud (Baby Doc) Duvalier of Haiti. And the list goes on and on.

7. Thankfully, there is a coming King who WILL rule and reign in justice and judgment!

a. Psalm 89:14 – God’s throne IS established by justice and judgment.

b. Jer. 23:5-6 – “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. 6In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”