What does Proverbs 21:7 mean?
ESV: The violence of the wicked will sweep them away, because they refuse to do what is just.
NIV: The violence of the wicked will drag them away, for they refuse to do what is right.
NASB: The violence of the wicked will sweep them away, Because they refuse to act with justice.
CSB: The violence of the wicked sweeps them away because they refuse to act justly.
NLT: The violence of the wicked sweeps them away, because they refuse to do what is just.
KJV: The robbery of the wicked shall destroy them; because they refuse to do judgment.
In a broad sense, the "violence" mentioned here implies all forms of sin and evil (Proverbs 6:16–19). Other Scriptures note that those who persist in sin are likely to be destroyed by their own crimes (Psalm 7:12–16; Proverbs 26:27). There is no way for someone to hide their sin from God (Hebrews 4:13) and rejecting His truth leads to eternal ruin (Proverbs 8:34–36).
Of course, because the world is corrupt (2 Peter 1:4), those who do evil are not always caught and punished immediately. Asaph, one writer of psalms, struggled with seeing wicked people succeed (Psalm 73:2–7). Much like this proverb, he described them as wearing violence, speaking evil, and making threats (Psalm 73:6–8). Eventually, Asaph remembered that earthly life is not the end, nor is it the only time for God's judgement to fall. He writes, "Truly you set them in slippery places; you make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! Like a dream when one awakes, O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms" (Psalm 73:18–19).
Another example of God bringing judgment to wicked people who thought they would escape is found in the end times. The book of Revelation indicates that the Lord will destroy a wicked city or civilization labeled as Babylon. When God does this, a throng of voices praise Him. The voices cry out: "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants" (Revelation 19:1–2).
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 3:23:47 AM
© Copyright 2002-2024 Got Questions Ministries. All rights reserved.
Text from ESV, NIV, NASB, CSB, NLT, KJV © Copyright respective owners, used by permission.