Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 22:23
"For the Lord will plead their case and take the life of those who rob them"
This verse is the conclusion of the idea introduced in the preceding proverb. Do not rob the poor or crush the afflicted at the gate. These two actions are the actions of powerful people who find themselves in the position of taking advantage of another person's circumstances or situation. God is very direct and unequivocating. Do not take advantage of people in these situations. God will do business with you in ways you do not want.
This is the Hebrew word rub, which means to strive, to contend. The idea is that God will take up their case because they have been used and abused. It would seem to imply that God allows people to deal with others on their own. But in cases of great injustice, God will begin a process of striving with the person who has been abusing the person of humble circumstances.
This is the Hebrew word rib, which means cause, strife, controversy, or, in this situation, case. It is the idea that the poor has an injustice that they can level at their oppressor. They can take it to the Lord, and He will extract the joy of life from the oppressor. They may have the money, but they will not have the joy of it. The point of this proverb is that even the powerful should treat people with justice. They should not cheat or afflict people just because they can. God is watching.
take the life
This translation of the Hebrew phrase seems to indicate that God will kill the person who does this to the poor. But the actual Hebrew phrase is rob the soul. This throws a whole new light on what God will do to those who afflict the person of humble circumstances. God will take away the enjoyment of life. He will take the soul of the person so that they become unable to enjoy the fruits of their stealing and affliction of the poor.
Most of us have seen people who begin to lose the enjoyment of their life even though they have all the outer trappings of success and happiness. Nothing satisfies and nothing seems to last. Their soul is underdeveloped or, in this case, their soul is being taken or squeezed in the way that they did to others.
God is, in a sense, saying you may think you got away with it, but I will take away the enjoyment of that thing and life in general.
You must treat people right. You must not take advantage of people just because you can. I have watched what seemed like this situation being lived out in front of me. A business was clearly taking advantage of people who were afflicted and was robbing them blind. They seemed to be getting away with this unethical behavior for a few years as their business empire grew, but all the while they were getting harder and harder. Finally and suddenly, cancer was diagnosed in one of the partners and all joy was drained out of life. And in a fairly quick process, life was over.
How does a person overcome this process if they have been guilty: by confession and restitution. When Zaccheus agreed to give back to those he had stolen from and donate a portion of his income to the poor, then Jesus knew that his embrace of God was real. So those who have gained by oppression and robbery can find redemption through Christ when money is no longer their god. This involves restitution as a demonstration of your repentance and worship of the real God.
This is the Hebrew word qaba, which means to rob. Clearly it is the idea of depriving someone of something that is rightfully theirs. If God would call it robbery, then it is robbery even if our culture would let us do it.
We need to realize that cultures can be built that allow what God considers wrong. When this happens, God is right and the culture is wrong.