A gift given in secret subdues anger,
and a secret bribe averts strong wrath. Bible

“pacifies.” The verse is about bribes; the second stanza is very clear about that, but the first stanza also clearly implies it. The Hebrew word translated “pacifies” can mean to pacify, soothe, or subdue, but it can also mean “to avert.” Thus a bribe can both avert anger before the one expecting the bribe gets angry, or it can pacify a person who is already angry. This verse is not encouraging bribery in any way, but it is showing that bribes do work and therefore present a danger in any culture. The fallen nature of man is such that if bribes become the norm in a culture it is very hard to root them out and reestablish an honest society. Leaders are to be people who hate bribes (Exod. 18:21), and they should work very hard to discourage them and prosecute the people who take them and pervert justice and honest business. God tells us not to take bribes (Exod. 23:8; Deut. 16:19). Anyone who took a bribe in a judicial setting that resulted in shedding innocent blood was cursed (Deut. 27:25).

“secret bribe.” The Hebrew reads, “a bribe in the bosom,” but that is not clear to the English reader. The biblical custom was that people wore long robes and cloaks, and tied them up with a sash or belt in a way that created folds in which things could be hidden. For example, Nehemiah shook the robe that was over his lap and said to the leaders of Israel that if they did not keep their promise, may God shake them out of His lap (Neh. 5:13).

Commentary for: Proverbs 21:14