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29:13 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex

רָ֤שׁ וְאִ֣ישׁ תְּכָכִ֣ים נִפְגָּ֑שׁוּ מֵ֤אִיר־עֵינֵ֖י שְׁנֵיהֶ֣ם יְהוָֽה׃

(Proverbs 29:13) English Standard Version

The poor man and the oppressor meet together; the LORD gives light to the eyes of both.

(Proverbs 29:13) NASB 1995

The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: The LORD gives light to the eyes of both.

(Proverbs 29:13) King James Bible

The poor and the deceitful man meet together: the LORD lighteneth both their eyes.

(Proverbs 29:13) New King James Version

The poor man and the oppressor have this in common: The LORD gives light to the eyes of both.> 29:13 Hebrew OT: Westminster Leningrad Codex

רָ֤שׁ וְאִ֣ישׁ תְּכָכִ֣ים נִפְגָּ֑שׁוּ מֵ֤אִיר־עֵינֵ֖י שְׁנֵיהֶ֣ם יְהוָֽה׃

Gill's Exposition associates Proverbs 29:13 with Matthew 5:45, which seems quite suitable.

(Matthew 5:45) New American Standard Bible 1995

45 so that you may [a]be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

However, I'm just wondering if it's more than just God showing favor sometimes, and at other times bringing hardship on both good and bad people.

Could someone please read & analyze the Old Testament Hebrew in order to determine if there can be multiple meanings associated with the Proverbs 29:13 verse?

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  • the multiple and subjective interpretations are called expositions, which are personal interpretation by a scholar, you can find them on ancient commentaries on the verse. The original language need not have ambiguous wordings to have allegorical layers of many interpretations, see midrash for details.
    – Michael16
    Oct 8 at 17:56
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    To add another perspective - the word oppressor casts Prov 29:13 in a moral light, where the distance between the poor man and the oppressor is not one of wealth but of injury and oppression. This distance is bridged (and the relationship repaired) by God's light, which alone can change how they view one another.
    – Nhi
    Oct 9 at 15:49

2 Answers 2

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There are always multiple meanings in proverbs of any language, especially Hebrew. Prov 29:13 is no exception, but its "simple" meaning is rather obvious from Jesus' own interpretation found in Matt 5:45 which clearly alludes to Prov 29:13.

Indeed, Gill also provides multiple interpretations as listed below:

  • Prov 22:2 - Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all.
  • Prov 29:13 - The poor and the oppressor have this in common: The LORD gives sight to the eyes of both.
  • John 1:4 - In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
  • Matt 5:45 - ... He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

This idea can be easily extrapolated to "eyes" being a common metaphor for understanding; as such, Jesus used this quite potently in places such as John 9 and concludes the incident with this:

39 Then Jesus declared, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind may see and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard this, and they asked Him, “Are we blind too?” 41 “If you were blind,” Jesus replied, “you would not be guilty of sin. But since you claim you can see, your guilt remains.”

Paul builds on this idea further when he says in Rom 1:18-20 -

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness. 19 For what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse.

Thus, in Prov 23:13, when God gives light/sight to both the both rich and poor (a hendiadys meaning all people) the following can be concluded:

  • God bless all people with the ability to see; they have not earned this
  • God blesses all people with the ability to understand eternal/spiritual things and enlightens all people (John 1:4, Rom 1:18-20); "God has set eternity in the hearts of men", Eccl 3:11)
  • God gives grace (ie, unmerited favor) and blessings to all people, Rom 3:23, 24
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  • +1 for mentioning that Romans 1:18-20 can also be associated with Proverbs 29:13 because when Romans 1:18-20 mentions "His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen" can correlate to Proverbs 29:13 's mentioning that The "LORD gives light to the eyes of both" ( the poor & the oppressor). Oct 7 at 20:10
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One insight from the Hebrew is that אישׁ תככים has the connotation of usury, making the juxtaposition between the poor man and the oppressor more clear, as well as more poignant. Commentators tend to interpret the light (אוֹר) God gives to both their eyes as as the light of life. Both men share God's blessing of life regardless of their moral rectitude or station in life.

We might also consider the relationship of Prov. 29:13 to 1 Samuel 2:7 "The Lord makes poor and rich; He brings low, He also exalts." Here God's sovereignty, which can appear unjust, is tempered by the hope that human injustice will not prevail forever, even though God does not withdraw his "light" from eyes of the evildoer.

In addition to Mt. 5:45, the Book of Ecclesiastes also contains many verses implying God's lack of favoritism. He blesses both the wise and foolish with life, and all share the same ultimate fate, so that even striving for Wisdom itself is a vain act.

So I said in my heart, “As it happens to the fool, It also happens to me, And why was I then more wise?” Then I said in my heart, “This also is vanity.” For there is no more remembrance of the wise than of the fool forever, Since all that now is will be forgotten in the days to come. And how does a wise man die? As the fool! (Ecc. 2)

Proverbs, of course, has a more optimistic attitude. It accepts that God gives his light to both good and bad men, but it also teaches that the good are rewarded and the bad punished in other ways.

Finally, the verse is nearly a verbatim repetition of the teaching of Prov. 22:2 - "The rich and poor meet together: the Lord is the maker of them all." Did Prov. 29 borrow from Prov. 22?

To conclude: the verse in question probably does not need further work in terms of translation. But if one understands it as an affirmation that God gives the light of life to all, both the usurer and the debtor, in makes good sense.

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