“who pursues unjust gain.” The Hebrew is an idiom and does not make sense when translated into English, which explains why there are so many different English translations. The Hebrew is more literally, “all who cuts off a cut”a but the word “cut” used in that context refers to unjust gain, almost like we might say in English that the thieves each got a “cut” of the loot. The NET text note picks up the idea of “cut” referring to unjust gain and goes with those who “unjustly gain unjust gain.” The English Bibles try to bring the Hebrew idiom into English, some being more literal, some simply trying to find some sort of equivalent English idea: “greedy of gain” (ASV; KJV; cp. CJB); “greedy for unjust gain” (ESV); “gains by violence” (NASB); “make profit dishonestly (HCSB); “go after ill-gotten gain” (NIV); “greedy for money” (NLT).
The translations differ, but the idea is clear: if a person goes about to enrich himself or make a living off of profit that he has gained unjustly, then “it takes away the soul” of the person. This taking away of the soul, where “soul” means “life,” has both an immediate and eschatological meaning. Here in this life, the dishonest person loses his “life.” Not only does he lose the fullness and joy of living, living a life of always looking over his shoulder to make sure he is not discovered and having to harden his heart against the people he is cheating, he is subject to quick and violent death if his activities are discovered. From an everlasting perspective, the person will lose his life, burning to ashes in the Lake of Fire. This verse should serve as a severe warning to those people who are not doing well financially in life and are tempted to turn to a life of crime to supposedly be better off.
[For more on people being annihilated in the Lake of Fire and not burning forever, see Appendix 5, “Annihilation in the Lake of Fire.”]