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All the brothers of a poor person hate him;
indeed, how much more does his friend who distances himself from him.
He eagerly pursues him with words, but they are of no avail. Bible

“hate.” The word “hate” in the Bible does not always have the meaning it has in English, an intense feeling of animosity, anger, and hostility towards a person, group, or object. In Hebrew and Greek, the word “hate” has a large range of meanings. Here the word “hate” is used in the sense of “being disgusted or repulsed by” to the end that you would avoid your family. It is especially the case that often someone is poor because they are lazy or too arrogant to take advice, and those kinds of people generally are disgusting to, and avoided by, others. [For more on the large semantic range of “hate” and its use in the Bible, see commentary on Prov. 1:22, “hate”].

“but they are of no avail.” The masculine plural “they” agrees with the masculine plural “words.” The poor man chases his friend with words, but they are not convincing and do not win over his friend. We have to ask why this poor person is hated (or “held in contempt”) by his brothers and friends. It is often the case that poor people are poor because they have made bad decisions or are lazy, unfocused, etc.

It is noteworthy that this verse never condemns the brothers, or the friend who distances himself from the poor person. Proverbs has verses that encourage and support people giving to the poor (cp. Prov. 19:17), so it is most likely that this verse is talking about the kind of poor person who is lazy, constantly makes bad decisions, and/or does not want to control his spending (cp. Prov. 21:17). This poor person has been helped out by his family and friends many times before but without any lasting results; he just continually needs more. Most often in those cases the poor person cannot see that they are at fault and so they constantly pursue people with words, trying to get money from them. They then get angry with the people who finally make the decision not to support them.

To be prosperous and successful, wise people must realize that poor people like the poor man in this verse can be a very real drain on one’s time, mental energy, and physical resources. The wise person is generous to the poor, but knows when he has given enough and can say “No” when it is appropriate. Furthermore, because the poor person will almost always try to make the person with resources feel guilty about not giving more, the wise person has thought and prayed about the situation and is mentally equipped to understand it spiritually, mentally, and physically, and make the sometimes hard decision to say “No” without feeling guilty about it.


Commentary for: Proverbs 19:7