What does Proverbs 18:23 mean?
ESV: The poor use entreaties, but the rich answer roughly.
NIV: The poor plead for mercy, but the rich answer harshly.
NASB: A poor person utters pleadings, But a rich person answers defiantly.
CSB: The poor person pleads, but the rich one answers roughly.
NLT: The poor plead for mercy; the rich answer with insults.
KJV: The poor useth entreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.
NKJV: The poor man uses entreaties, But the rich answers roughly.
Verse Commentary:
Here, again, the book of Proverbs notes an aspect of the real world that needs to be kept in mind. This is neither a command, nor an endorsement. Rather, it's a truth about how human nature tends to indulge the wealthy while being impatient with the poor. Those perceived as "poor" often feel they must ask—or literally "beg"—when speaking with others, while those who are rich might be tempted towards arrogance and derision.

Often, when the poor beg for help, people who are well able to respond with help answer the poor with harsh words. Money can make some people rude, coarse, and cruel in their treatment of less fortunate people. It seems the rich man who lived high off the hog mistreated the poor man Lazarus. Although the rich man ate luxuriously every day, Lazarus was allowed only a few scraps from the rich man's table (Luke 16:19–21).

That unfortunate reality is also a reminder. Many proverbs recorded by Solomon warn about the financial risks brought on by foolishness (Proverbs 6:10–11; 10:4; 11:24; 13:18; 28:19). A person who acts against wisdom and common sense puts themselves at greater risk of relying on "entreaties," translated from a word literally meaning "pleadings."

From a spiritual perspective, this verse can also be interpreted as a contrast between those who are "poor in spirit" versus those who are arrogant (Matthew 5:3; Proverbs 16:19). Being poor in spirit is a reference to humility: someone who depends on the Lord to meet their needs. Such a person will naturally gravitate towards a gentler, calmer, and less entitled attitude.
Verse Context:
Proverbs 18:16–24 provides practical advice on a variety of matters. Other proverbs in this chapter are echoed in statements about objectivity and unity. Solomon addresses areas such as bribery, quarrels, reconciliation, the power of speech, marriage, and an unfortunate difference between the poor and the rich. The last remark in the section notes the difference between quality and quantity in friendships.
Chapter Summary:
This segment of Solomon's wise sayings includes several well-known and often-repeated remarks. Among these are references to God's "name" as a place of safety, the connection between pride and catastrophe, the value of a godly spouse, and the intimate loyalty of a good friend. As in other parts of the book of Proverbs, these teachings are tied to warnings about the consequences of poor decisions.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 18 continues a long string of wise sayings attributed to Solomon. These began in chapter 10 and will continue through chapter 22. This section contains numerous references to fair-mindedness and seeking out truth from multiple sources. Diligent responsibility—in words, actions, and beliefs—is a notable emphasis in this segment.
Book Summary:
Proverbs is best understood in context with the books of Ecclesiastes and Job. In Proverbs, “wisdom” is given in short, simple, general terms. Ecclesiastes represents wisdom based on observation and experience. This often shows how the general principles of the book of Proverbs don’t apply in absolutely every circumstance. Job represents wisdom based on the experience of suffering and injustice. All three come to the conclusion that God does indeed know best, and the most sensible course of action is to follow His will.
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