The Message for Clarity

I have no idea if this clarity is correct but in looking at Proverbs 14:31 ESV

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him.

I can’t tell if the oppressor’s Maker is being insulted or the poor man’s Maker. Obviously they are the same Maker, but I was curious. So in looking at all the other translations I usually look at, I had no clue.

Proverbs 14:31 NLT
Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker,
but helping the poor honors him.

Proverbs 14:31 TNIV
Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker,
but whoever is kind to the needy honors God.

The others being almost identical to one of these.

So finally The Message takes a side.

Proverbs 14:31 MSG
You insult your Maker when you exploit the powerless;
when you’re kind to the poor, you honor God.

Do any of the Hebrew geeks know? Does it matter?

8 Responses to “The Message for Clarity”

  1. 1 Gary Zimmerli


    It’s almost like you personalize it. If you oppress a poor man you insult your maker…who of course is also the poor man’s maker.

    Does it matter? Both are really the same…I doubt it.

  2. 2 Joel H.

    Interesting question. I think The Message got it right, as I explain here: Why Chiasmus Matters in Proverbs 14:31. (And there’s a typo in your post. You accidentally wrote “Hebrew geek” when you obviously meant “learned Bible scholar.”)

  3. 3 T.C. R

    Yeah, the MSG got it.

  4. 4 Scripture Zealot

    Thank you for the comments.

    And thank you Joel, the learned scholar, for the post. Is that pronounced like blessed or blessed? I should save geek for Greek.

  5. 5 Derek Ashton

    I think TNIV takes a side and disagrees with the Message, because in the TNIV “their” corresponds grammatically with “the poor” (plural) as opposed to “whoever” (which for grammatical purposes in English is treated as singular). NIV agrees with TNIV (not surprisingly), that the Maker of the poor is being referenced. So, it’s (T)NIV vs. The Message – who will win?

    For me the jury is still out on this one. I’m leaning toward the idea that the original is purposely ambiguous because we are supposed to make the very connections you made, Jeff. God is the Maker of everyone, rich and poor alike, both the oppressor and the oppressed. So be kind to one another.

    If I’m correct (and I may not be), ESV wins for being ambiguous in all the right places.


    PS – Just for a little added fun, I want to suggest that we would all do best to pretend the NLT never existed. One of the worst translations ever IMO.

  6. 6 Scripture Zealot

    Thanks Derek. I didn’t notice the plural/singular in the TNIV for some reason.

    But I like the NLT. 🙁 All of the “for”s drive me nuts (although the ESV has ‘for’ every other sentence–I suppose they have all the words like John Piper likes) and that’s what I like about GW but I think it sticks close to the original language, as far as I can tell, which isn’t very far, and really does make some things more clear, but it does get awkward with some OT stuff, especially poetry, and maybe Paul. That sentence was way too long.

    Well, there’s one thing we finally disagree on. Just for fun I’ll either bother you about the NLT or not mention it when corresponding with you, whichever is most appropriate. I appreciate you commenting so I’ll be nice.

  7. 7 Derek Ashton

    I tend to lean toward the side of literalism, which is why I like the NASB best. But I’ve warmed up to other translation philosophies. You can call me a literal geek if you want. 🙂

    One thing we non-JKV-only folks can all agree upon: there is no perfect translation.

  8. 8 Scripture Zealot

    I used the NIV for over 20 years, then really liked other ones and settled on NRSV, although I wished I’d used the NASB all along. I also liked the literal/formal ones. But it was because I thought they were the best and the others were inferior. I went a little overboard with that. Then I learned about more translations and tried so hard to find the perfect one and it just isn’t there. Now I like REB which is median I suppose. I like to use a dynamic like GW or NLT for my secondary. I still like NRSV though. ESV sounds like that little guy from Star Wars sometimes. For I yet do not understand the language of ages past, lest the reading comprehension of mine might be lessened. Surely I am too stupid to be a man. Therefore I have my NLT and GW beside me.

  1. 1 Why Chiasmus Matters in Proverbs 14:31 « God Didn't Say That
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