WORD STUDY – WEALTH
Proverbs 13:22: “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.”
I remember when I first heard this verse, at least in a context that made me think about it. It was on one of those Christian TV programs where a prophecy was given that certain land and facilities that belonged to some alleged shady corporation was going to be handed over to the ministry for a song.
I been wondering about that verse ever since. If the wealth of the wicked are really to be handed over to the righteous, we should be pretty rich by now. More troubling is the context of this verse. The whole thought of this verse relates to a good man leaving an inheritance to his children’s children or grandchildren. What does that have to do with the wealth of the sinner or wicked? We love to quote the last part of this verse totally ignoring the first part which is really what this verse is about.
Let’s break this verse down. First we have the idea of a good man. The word good is tov which means to be in harmony with something or someone. In this case the word for man is not there. Good is not an adjective here but a noun, it is the direct object. The good or those who are in harmony with God will leave an inheritance for his grandchildren. The word man or person is not here to emphasize the idea we are contrast good with evil or sin.
The word for inheritance is nachal which is not necessarily wealth, money or land. It is something you possess which could also be a testimony. The word wealth here in Hebrew is tsaphan which is not your usual word for wealth. The most common Hebrew word for wealth is ‘ashayar. That word is used in Proverbs 13:17: A wicked messenger falleth into mischief: but a faithful ambassador is health or healing.” That one has me guessing because it should more properly be rendered “a faithful ambassador is wealthy” and tsaphan in Proverbs 13:22 would be more correctly translated as the health of the sinner is laid up for the righteous. Then again tsaphan has a wide range of usages. One of the best for this context I believe would be hidden treasures.
We need to look at history a little here. In ancient times there were no banks or safe deposit boxes. People would often bury their treasures in a field or somewhere in their house. They would tell no one where their jewelry, precious stones etc were buried or hidden so when they died no one would know where to find it. Someone would one day be planting in the field and suddenly uncover a tsaphan or hidden treasure.
I think that is the picture being addressed here. When Israel conquered the cities in the Promised Land they did not rebuild the homes, they just moved into the ones abandoned. One day as they are decorating their new home they suddenly come upon a hole in the wall and there is the tsaphan left by the sinners who were forced out of the land. Or they start to plow a field and what should they uncover a tsaphan buried by the former owner. The tsaphan of the sinner is hidden for the righteous.
But this was just a common understanding. This was no earth shattering news to the people of Israel. People all the time were finding buried or hidden treasure. The point that was being made was that a man who is good or in harmony with God will not cling to his possessions and hide them or bury them so that his children and grandchildren will not find it after he is gone.
In other words a man in harmony with God will not cling to his earthly possessions. Remember the story of the Peal of Great Price? Matthew 13:45-46. This was not a parable about the great value of the Kingdom of God. It was Jesus retelling a story that every Jewish child heard from their mother as a bed time story.
You see there was this Jewish merchant who made his fortune dealing in pearls. Pearls, if you are not aware, are considered unclean by the Jews because pearls comes from oysters which are unclean. A prophet came to this man and said that because he made his fortune dealing in something unclean God will take his fortune away from him and give it to a righteous man named Joseph.
Well, this Jewish merchant fell into a panic and he searched the world for a pearl of great price and when he found the pearl did he not sell all he owned to possess this pearl. The reason was not that the pearl was such a great possession, but that he could put all his wealth tsaphan into the palm of his hand so no one could take it from him.
Well the story goes that he put the pearl in this turban, took a trip in a boat and the boat capsized sending his turban and pearl to the bottom of the sea. He lost his fortune anyways.
You can guess the rest of the story. A righteous man named Joseph went to the market to buy a special fish for the Sabbath. When he purchased the fish and took it home to prepare it for the Sabbath meal guess what he found when he opened the fish.
The story of the Pearl of great price is not about a man selling all he owns to possess the Kingdom of God, it is about a man selling all he owns because he is so desperate to hang onto his treasure so he puts it all in one pearl but like Proverbs 13:22 he will end up losing it anyways and his children and grandס children will not benefit from it but God will see that a righteous person will end up with it.