What does Proverbs 21:15 mean?
ESV: When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.
NIV: When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.
NASB: The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous, But terror to those who practice injustice.
CSB: Justice executed is a joy to the righteous but a terror to evildoers.
NLT: Justice is a joy to the godly, but it terrifies evildoers.
KJV: It is joy to the just to do judgment: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.
True "justice" is that which corresponds to God's will and His standards (Proverbs 1:1–7; 21:3). When truth and goodness are enforced, through punishment for those who do evil, wicked people are rightly afraid (Proverbs 3:25–26; 10:24).
Not all punishment is just (Proverbs 17:26). Many Christians are persecuted or even martyred around the world. But someday the Lord will execute justice upon the persecutors, and believers will rejoice that the Lord has vindicated them. Jesus said, "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matthew 5:11–12).
First Peter 4:12 refers to intense challenges to be faced by first-century believers. Scholars suggest he may have been referring to Emperor Nero's practice of burning Christians alive at the stake. Peter tells his readers to "rejoice insofar as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed" (1 Peter 4:13). When Christ's glory is revealed, evildoers will be terrified (2 Thessalonians 1:5–10; Revelation 19:11–21).
Proverbs 21:1–16 continues Solomon's wise observations (Proverbs 10:1) by acknowledging the Lord's control of kings. He also mentions what the Lord despises: pride, love of money, violence, the conduct of the wicked, the withholding of charity, bribery, and apostasy. On the other hand, he commends righteousness and justice, pure conduct, wise acceptance of instruction, and charity.
This chapter begins and ends with a declaration of God's sovereignty. He alone judges the heart; the Lord considers intentions just as important as physical actions. Other comments include statements about unpleasant spouses, proper perspectives on wealth, work ethic, and the essential nature of godly wisdom. Human wisdom is no match for the sovereign Lord, who alone is ultimately responsible for victory in battle.
This is part of the second major section of the book (Proverbs 10—22) featuring nearly four hundred statements. Most of these are two-line comments presenting common sense and general wisdom. The vague theme of chapter 21 is God's control. Man may believe he is in control of his circumstances, but God superintends everything. The chapter begins and ends by assuring the readers that God holds ultimate sway over all things.
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.
Accessed 3/1/2024 11:22:41 PM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.