_                 by:  Pastor Bill Farrow
“A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.” - Proverbs 18:16 (Cf. 17:8; 19:6).
          This verse is another in an approximately two-chapter series of maxims concerning generalized “good conduct” (Ch. 17-18).  The proverbs in the immediately surrounding verses (15-19) could be applied to many settings in life, though here they seem to be particularly focused on a courtroom-style setting. In hearing a case in life, one should seek with one’s heart (Hb. leb, not meaning emotional response to a matter but speaking of “reason, emotions, and will”) to acquire knowledge, and likewise with one’s ear to listen carefully to what is being said, for this is the way that the wise (person) seeks knowledge
          One reason for this is the danger of bribery (condemned in 15:27) - that is, because of the
gift that makes room for him, providing access to the great. Thus the warning of 18:17 not to be easily swayed by the person who states his case first; rather, the wise person examines the evidence in a careful, probing manner (cf. v. 13). Still, in some cases it is impossible to reach a verdict, because the matter is hidden and there is not enough evidence to make a well-informed judgment. In such cases (v. 18), it is better to settle quarrels by means of casting a lot (“before the Lord”), thus leaving the outcome in the Lord’s hands, rather than allowing powerful contenders to do violence to each other. Even so, whether by means of a lot or judicial determination, the reconciliation of one brother to another (i.e., reconciliation of close friends) is difficult to achieve. A brother offended can be more unyielding than a strong city—for the resolution of quarreling meets with resistance like the bars of a castle.
           Just to take a more careful look at the verse and what exactly it is saying we should note, the verse starts with the phrase “a man’s gift…”.  Once again, as we have noticed before, this is not speaking of only “males”, but is referring to mankind in general.  We should also begin with the observation that the reference to “a man’s gift” is not the word for a bribe (cf. 17:23), but rather the word for a present given to someone (cf. Jacob’s gift, Gen. 32:20, 21; Joseph’s gift, Gen. 43:11; David’s gift, 1 Sam. 17:17, 18; and Abigail’s gift, 1 Sam. 25:27).  We ought to understand it as referring to generosity and not to the giving of a gift in order to secure favor with the one to whom it is given.  It seems clear that Solomon is speaking of an innocent courtesy. It is clear that he refers to and points out to us that legitimate favor can smooth the way for a person (cf. 1 Sam. 17:18).  Again, we are not speaking of any effort to use the gift or act of giving to sway the opinion of the receiver.  Rather this is a simple observation that developing the habit of generosity has no negative result, but, rather a positive one.

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