Summary: Part 2 of the Sermon Series, "Rich Man Poor Man in Proverbs"
"A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked. A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame" (Prov. 10:1-5).
The book of Proverbs is rich in chiasm. A chiasm is a writing style that arranges two or more clauses in the form of an X. In a chiasm, the words of the first clause are repeated in the second clause, but in reverse—to say the same meaning or add a new meaning. Hebrew writers use it for emphasis.
A chiastic structure is apparent in Proverbs 10:1-5. To explain the chiasm, I will use the letter, A, to note the first line, clause, or verse; and the letter, B, to note the second, and so on.
A A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother (Prov. 10:1). [Wise Son/Foolish Son]
B Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death (v. 2). [Profit and Loss]
C The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked (v. 3). [Sovereignty
of the LORD]
B1 A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich (v. 4). [Profit and Loss]
A1 He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame (v. 5). [Wise
Before we study this text, we need to understand Hebrew parallelism (parallel statements). In Hebrew parallelism, two or more phrases, clauses, or sentences may reflect the same, contrasting, or extended meaning. To illustrate, all the above statements (A, B, B1, and A1) show “antithetical parallelism.” In antithetical parallelism, the second clause contrasts with the first. Thus, in A, the “foolish son” is contrasted with the “wise son.”
The theme is about a wise son and foolish son bringing either prosperity or poverty to the family. Line A speaks about the wise son who makes his dad glad. Line A1 talks about the prudent son. He gathers food in summer. Line A also speaks about the foolish son who makes his mom sad. Line A1, in turn, talks about the shameful son who sleeps in the harvest.
In those days, life was agricultural. The poverty or prosperity of the family depends on the son. As the parents grow old, they depend on the son. A lazy son or a son that makes money by doing wrong things will make the parents sad and shameful. But a diligent, righteous son will make the parents happy and prosperous. Hence, the key to a family’s prosperity or poverty is the son.
Likewise, children are also the key to a family’s future today. If you are lazy today, your family will be poor tomorrow. If you are diligent today, your family will prosper.
Lines B and B1 speak about profit and loss. Money earned by illegal or immoral means do not profit. Do you think that God will still bless you when you make money by illegal and immoral means? No—God’s Word says you will lose. You might make money, but in the end, you will lose.
However, money earned by righteousness saves from death. What kind of death is it? It can refer to a literal loss of life for those who are greedy of unjust gain (Prov. 1:19). It can also refer to symbolic death—expulsion from the land of promise, indicating no claim to divine blessing (Prov. 2:19-22).6
Yet it more likely refers to eschatological death—death on the last day, in the day of divine judgment. Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death (Prov. 11:4). In the Wisdom of Solomon, a Jewish book in the Second Temple era, “righteousness is immortal” (Wis. 1:15),7 referring to eschatological righteousness. Death then can refer to death on the last day.
In Proverbs, God will judge everyone on the last day. He will judge those who earned money by wickedness. On the contrary, he will favor those who earned money by righteousness. On that day of judgment, your riches will not help you. Yet righteousness will save you from death on the last day.
In Line B1, the word “slack” (remiya) means “looseness.”8 A “slack hand” then is a “negligent, idle” hand.9 It is a hand that is inactive, lazy, lax, and laidback. Hence, the “slack” hand or the lax hand leads to poverty. But the hand of the diligent leads to prosperity.