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  • Dr. Stieglitz

Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 20:14

"Bad, bad, says the buyer, but when he goes his way, then he boasts."

This is an interesting proverb because it talks about what really happens behind the scenes in business. Everyone wants to proclaim that they were taken advantage of by the other party. They were really worn down and the other person got the better deal. But a person would not make the deal unless they made a profit of some kind.

The fundamental principle of business is that both parties must gain from the transaction or it will not be made. Unless there is some coercive agent involved in the deal, every deal benefits both parties.

In this instance Solomon points out that the buyer wants to make it appear as though the seller has really priced these goods at the upper end of the market. The seller wants people to believe that he has priced his goods at the lower end of the market for the quality, service, type, or craftsmanship of the merchandise.

Realize this: When you are involved in a negotiation with anyone over price, if the other person did not gain from selling or buying at that price, then there would be no deal.

This proverb looks at business as it existed for thousands of years and still exists in many places throughout the world. That is, that there is no fixed price for merchandise. It all has to be settled on the spot with the buyer. It was not until the late 1800s that the Woolco department store began putting merchandise out where people could touch it and inspect it with a fixed price that this negotiated price view of business faded into the background in the United States. This fixed-price selling changed the nature of selling in the United States and made the negotiated price a thing of the past. The price on the item was the price.

bad, bad

This is the Hebrew word ra which means evil, bad, destructive. Solomon here is pointing out that in a negotiation it is important for both parties to make the other party think that they are unhappy with the deal, barely being able to stomach this transaction. This makes it seem like the other person is winning big deal.


This is the Hebrew word qanah which means to get, acquire, purchase. Therefore the translators used the word buyer. This is the person who is acquiring something. They speak as though they are paying too much, but they boast when the deal is done.

goes his way

This is the Hebrew word azal which means to go, to go his way, gone. After he is gone could be another translation.

One of the things that Solomon is trying to get you to realize is that no matter what transaction you are involved in – whether it is a used car, a blanket, a home, a suit of clothes – no deal would be made in which both parties did not benefit in the deal. If I suggest a price to a used car salesman that would not allow him to make a profit on the car, he will not do the deal. If someone offers to sell me something for more money than I have, then I can't make the deal happen. Every time a sale is made, in some way everybody wins unless a corrosive agent has been introduced into the mix.

What is Solomon saying here and why would God include this in Scripture? God is trying to give you clarity as to how the world really works. People will pretend that you have gotten the better of them so you will feel like you got a good deal. This may not necessarily be the case. God does not want us to be naive in the market place.

Until tomorrow,

Gil Stieglitz

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