22 Retribution, God’s work. Leave retribution to the Lord; let him bring about a just deliverance. The verse uses two imperatives to make the point; there is a slight antithesis between the two since one is negative (“Do not say”) and the other positive (“Wait”). The righteous should not take vengeance on evil, for only God can repay evil justly (cf. Ro 12:19–20). The response of the righteous must be to “wait” (qawwēh) on the Lord; this waiting involves belief in and reliance on God. The work of the Lord here focuses on the positive side—he is a deliverer (yōšaʿ) rather than an avenger, although to deliver the righteous involves judgment on the wicked. The spirit of the verse is caught in the Talmud in b. Gittin 7a: “Do not even ask him to inflict punishment on them.”
22 This proverb in its antithetical parallels proscribes foolish speech to respond to the bad speech of fools such as that articulated in verses 14–20, and prescribes in verset B the wise response based on faith in the Source of all Blessings (see v. 21). It juxtaposes both the negative admonition, “do not say” to self and/or others, with “to look expectantly to the Lord,” and the assertion, “I will repay evil,” with “the Lord will help you.” The last, an imprecise parallel, suggests that the Lord will help the disciple by compensating him justly for the wrong done to him. The Helper will both compensate the damage and punish the wrongdoer. Its verb forms exhaust the register of volition forms: negative jussive (or prohibition, “do not say”), cohortative (or resolve, “I will repay”), imperative (or command, “look to”) and positive jussive (“he will help”). Thus it admonishes in the strongest terms not to respond to fools with human vengeance but with faith in divine avenging (see 24:29; cf. 17:13; 24:17–18). Do not say (cf. 1:11) refers to a communication between the disciple and himself and/or an indefinite other. I will repay (see 11:31) to achieve compensation and satisfaction for evil (raʿ, see 1:16), both moral evil, a social wrong against the disciple, and physical damage. Look expectantly (qawwēh, traditionally “hope”) is related to qaw, “tense string,” and depicts expectation and hope as a tense attitude with reference to a specific goal. The disciples looks to God to right wrongs no matter how long he must wait for the divine intervention (Pss. 25:3; 27:14; 37:34, 39, 40; 62:5 ; Matt. 5:38–48; Luke 18:7, 8; 1 Pet. 2:23; 4:19;). The repetition of “to” with to the Lord (laYHWH) and to you (lāk) suggests the close bond between Israel’s covenant keeping God and his son (see Prov 30:4b–5). He will avenge (yōšaʿ, see 28:18, cf. 1 Sam. 25:26, 31, 33) is closely related to legal terms and “implies bringing help to those in trouble rather than rescuing them from it,” an interpretation that gives a better parallel with “to repay” than “to save, to deliver.” A wrong done against the son is a wrong against God (Deut. 32:43). Vengeance belongs to the Lord, not to the one who suffered wrong (cf. 16:7; Deut. 32:35, 43; 2 Sam. 3:39; Rom. 12:17–21; 1 Thess. 5:15; Heb. 10:30). because the omniscient, impartial Lord can mete out perfect justice, unlike the restricted earthling, who may also be blinded by lust and prejudice. The self-avenger expresses a lack of faith in the Lord to protect his own kingdom. (8:14–17). Proverbs and Scripture in general, however, do not exclude judicial procedures for justice. God ordained government to uphold the moral order (see Prov. 16:10–15; 20:2; Rom. 12:17–13:7).
20:22 / Synthetic. The “Lord” sayings occur in verses 22–25. For the spirit of this verse see also 24:17, 29 and 25:21–22. There is no expression of personal revenge, for everything is left to the Lord. This saying, according to Plöger (Sprüche), manifests a close relationship between wisdom and yahwistic devotion, a relationship that is even constitutive for wisdom. The formula, do not say, introduces several proverbs (e.g., 3:28; Eccl. 5:5; 7:10, etc.).
Ver. 22.—Say not thou, I will recompense evil (ch. 24:29). The jus talionis is the natural feeling of man, to do to others as they have done unto you, to requite evil with evil. But the moralist teaches a better lesson, urging men not to study revenge, and approaching nearer to Christ’s injunction, which gives the law of charity, “Whatsoever ye would (ὅσα ἄν θέλητε) that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matt. 7:12). The Christian rule is expounded fully by St. Paul (Rom. 12:14, 17, etc.). It was not unknown to the Jews; for we read in Tobit 4:15, “Do that to no man which thou hatest;” and Hillel enjoins, “Do not thou that to thy neighbour which thou hatest when it is done to thee.” Even the heathens had excogitated this great principle. There is a saying of Aristotle, preserved by Diogenes Laertius, “Act towards your friends as you would wish them to act towards you.” The Chinese have a proverb, “Water does not remain on the mountain, or vengeance in a great mind.” Wait on the Lord, and he shall save thee. The pious writer urges the injured person to commit his cause to the Lord, not in the hope of seeing vengeance taken on his enemy, but in the certainty that God will help him to bear the wrong and deliver him in his own good time and way. The Christian takes St. Peter’s view, “Who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” (1 Pet. 3:13), knowing that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28; comp. Ecclus. 2:2, 6). Septuagint, “Say not, I will avenge myself on my enemy, but wait on the Lord, that (ἵνα) he may help thee.” The last clause may be grammatically rendered thus, but it is more in accordance with the spirit of the proverb, as Delitzsch observes, to regard it as a promise. Vulgate, et liberabit te.
22 The form of this saying (“do not say …”) catches attention and occurs elsewhere: 3:28; 24:29; see also Eccl 5:5; Sir 5:3–4. There is a certain risk to be faced by one who obeys the proverb. One may give up one’s judicial right and rely exclusively on the Lord, or one may go ahead and even violently achieve justice for oneself. The former course appears to be much riskier and, in view of the evidence of judicial proceedings (e.g., Lev 24:19–22), much rarer. But many felt that the Lord would not permit injustice to prevail (cf. Ps 37:5–7). See the sermonette by Sirach in 38:2–7, and the words of Amenemope, 22:1–8 (ANET, 424). It is difficult to measure the reception of proverbs like these; to what extent was this ideal realized in judicial or in daily life?
20:22. The short warning here is against personal revenge. Do not say, “I will repay evil.” “The disciple looks to God to right wrongs no matter how long he must wait for divine intervention” (Waltke, Book of Proverbs 15–31, 153; cf. Ps 37:34; Rm 12:19–21). Far wiser than personal revenge is trusting the Lord (wait for the Lord). When He does intervene, he will save His disciple. This deliverance probably entails both caring for the victim and judging the offender. It should be noted that this proverb addresses only personal vengeance, as indicated by the first-person I (Longman, Proverbs, 383). It does not reject a government’s legitimate role in taking action for justice as God’s minister (cf. Rm 13:1–7).