What does Proverbs 28:5 mean?
ESV: Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it completely.
NIV: Evildoers do not understand what is right, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully.
NASB: Evil people do not understand justice, But those who seek the Lord understand everything.
CSB: The evil do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand everything.
NLT: Evil people don’t understand justice, but those who follow the Lord understand completely.
KJV: Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things.
Verse Commentary:
God is the ultimate basis for goodness and righteousness. To follow God (Proverbs 1:7; 8:33–36) is to pursue the highest possible standard for such things. When something other than God becomes a priority, justice suffers. The same is true in reverse: when evil becomes comfortable, it blinds us to God's truth. Cultures that persist in evil become indifferent to it (Ezekiel 20:18–19), but what they do is still wrong in the Lord's eyes (Exodus 20:5). It's possible that a wicked person realizes their own sin and refuses to repent. It's also possible for a person to be so controlled by sin that they don't recognize it anymore (Romans 1:28; 2 Corinthians 4:4).

The book of Judges describes a period when the nation of Israel cycled between obedience and disobedience. They frequently rejected God's law and replaced it with lawlessness. Judges 2:11–13 reports that the people did what was evil in the Lord's sight. They followed false gods and abandoned the Lord. Judges 21:25 says, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." As a result of Israel's rebellion, God sent foreign nations against her until she repented and turned back to Him. However, the cycle of moral decline, opposition, punishment, and repentance occurred repeatedly. Sin clouds the mind to justice. Nevertheless, in every generation a remnant of believers understands justice and seeks to obey the Lord (Romans 11:5).
Verse Context:
Proverbs 28:1–12 uses multiple contrasts. These teach lessons about righteousness and justice, honesty, integrity, reputation, and culture. Many of the proverbs are structured to directly compare two opposite ideas.
Chapter Summary:
This passage features many direct contrasts. The lessons are attributed to Solomon, later compiled into the Book of Proverbs by men under king Hezekiah (Proverbs 25:1). Common themes in this chapter are work ethic, generosity, fairness, and reputation. Comments on rulers or leaders make up many of the teachings recorded in this section.
Chapter Context:
This continues a list compiled by Hezekiah's men, recording proverbs associated with Solomon (Proverbs 25:1). The collection continues until the end of chapter 29. The lessons in this passage repeat teachings on generosity and the dangers of greed, as well as the damage done by wicked rulers.
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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