Proverbs 17:23

ESV The wicked accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the ways of justice.
NIV The wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice.
NASB A wicked person accepts a bribe from an inside pocket To pervert the ways of justice.
CSB A wicked person secretly takes a bribe to subvert the course of justice.
NLT The wicked take secret bribes to pervert the course of justice.
KJV A wicked man taketh a gift out of the bosom to pervert the ways of judgment.
NKJV A wicked man accepts a bribe behind the back To pervert the ways of justice.

What does Proverbs 17:23 mean?

Other statements in the book of Proverbs note that bribes sometimes work (Proverbs 17:8; 21:14). This is not an endorsement of them, as other verses show (Proverbs 29:4). This proverb connects accepting bribes with a warping of justice. A government official might accept a bribe and declare a guilty person innocent or give undue support to some cause. Doing so is a perversion of truth. It discredits the person who should decide matters according to objective law.

First Samuel 8:1 reports that Samuel appointed his sons judges over Israel. But Samuel's sons were wicked; they pursued wealth instead of truth. This included accepting bribes. By doing so, they "perverted justice" (1 Samuel 8:3), described using a phrase very similar to the one contained in this proverb. Earlier, Eli's sons became the objects of God's judgment when they did evil to the people of Israel from their position as priests. The Philistines defeated Israel, captured the ark, and Eli's two sons Hophni and Phinehas died (1 Samuel 4:11).

In Amos 5 the Lord pronounces judgment on the house of Israel for its sins, among which is bribery. He says, "For I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins—you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe, and turn aside the needy in the gate." (Amos 5:12)
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