Proverbs 14:4

ESV Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
NIV Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox come abundant harvests.
NASB Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean; But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.
CSB Where there are no oxen, the feeding trough is empty, but an abundant harvest comes through the strength of an ox.
NLT Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest.
KJV Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.

What does Proverbs 14:4 mean?

Oxen were essential to farming in Bible times. Farmers used oxen for plowing and hauling. If a farmer did not have an ox, he could not plow his fields and therefore had no harvest. Of course, oxen consume a great deal of food, and they produce a considerable amount of waste. That means a manger—the food trough—and the barn around it needs to be cleaned and stocked often. One must put in unpleasant, menial work to keep the oxen fed and healthy. The reward for that work, however, is something that only the strength of the oxen can provide: a plentiful harvest.

By referring in this verse to the value of oxen, Solomon emphasizes two things. First, animals should be treated appropriately. This is common sense; a well-treated animal is more productive (Proverbs 12:10; Deuteronomy 25:4). Second, hard work pays dividends. No one should expect to realize a profit without earning it. An honest day's work for an honest day's pay is a worthy principle. Trying to feed and clean oxen is difficult, but nowhere near so difficult as trying to farm without them.
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