Proverbs 23 (Tuesday)
There are two strong images that emerge in this proverb. The first is that of moving a landmark so that it encroaches on “the field of orphans” (Proverbs 23:10). This is most likely a reference to the Israelite practice of leaving the corners of a field for the poor to glean from (Lev. 19:9-10; Deut. 24:19-21). This institutionalized care for those in need meant that farmers would always leave part of their field unpicked.
Just like surveyors today, the properties of each person would have been laid out by various markings: large rocks, stakes, or a cairn (pile of rocks). While there wasn’t a board or city commission the farmers could check against, a greedy farmer could slowly move a marker year after year to make their own plot larger while taking from their neighbor – or in this case, shrinking the portion of their field that is left for the poor. Human greed to take from those who already have so little is nothing new today. So, this proverb is a warning that if we try to steal from the orphaned and poor, we have their redeemer to answer to — God.
The second image comes in verse 11 and is connected to the story of Ruth. It is the role of the “redeemer.” In the Hebrew, this is the word Gaal or Gaw’al (spellings vary). We might more accurately translate it as a “kinsman redeemer” like Boaz is in Ruth. This is the person whose responsibility it is to care for family members who don’t have a means to protect themselves. And God will not only protect them, but plead their case against us if are the ones threatening the little that they have.
Our God is one who jealously guards His children, even more so those who have no protector themselves. As the people of God, this Proverb reminds us that God is one who stands as the kinsman redeemer of the poor and that it is our responsibility as part of his family to take up their cause as well.