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When prosperity increases, those who consume it increase,

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so what profit does the owner have except to see it with his eyes?

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When someone’s wealth increases, the number of relatives who need to be helped also increases. What profit is there for the owner except a sense of success at having brought in a higher income, (which he does not get to enjoy personally).


1: “those who consume it increase”

This could possibly refer to the simple reality of more servants (and more time and effort) needed to maintain the new level of production. However, in the Hebrew culture of those days a father was responsible for his family, a grandfather for his extended family, and some grandfathers were also leaders of clans or even of entire tribes. If the leader of an extended family did very well, he may be asked to take on more responsibilities in helping those in his clan or tribe. This help would consist of opportunities for work, or short-term loans, but he would never pick up a needy person and carry them financially. Community and family were important values for them, so if someone fell on hard times there was usually someone there to help them get back on their feet. In the book of Ruth the most obvious person to help out was not willing to help, so the next in line ended up doing it. Who was expected to help out first was usually determined by genealogies with the oldest son having the most responsibility, but this could be adjusted if needed. All this was governed by social norms and expectations rather than by laws and courts. This system was called patronage. They functioned with a patronage system while we function with an independent, every-man-for-himself system. Patronage is a good system in many ways, but like everything else, it has its weaknesses.

What that meant was that for one of them to get extremely rich he would have to do one of two things:

1) work extra hard and help many others along the way even though doing so would set him back a bit,

2) or he would have to ignore all those social norms and be looked down upon by everyone. If one chose to operate outside of those social norms, it meant that no one would be there for him if he fell on hard times.

This statement is not as negative as we assume. The negative comes from the reality that the person at the top who is overseeing production, caring for those in his care and being generous with his wealth is pushing himself every minute of every day, while some of those on the bottom who are trying to get back on their feet may not be pushing themselves as hard. You would think those at the bottom would work hard and take advantage of every opportunity afforded them so they can get back on their feet, but some people are not very motivated. The wealthy patron may easily say, “Why am I putting forth so much effort if others don’t give equal effort?” Afterwards he would probably answer his own question with, “It goes with the territory.”


What is he seeing? Is he seeing his wealth come in and go right back out? Or is he seeing the help that he can offer to his relatives? The answer is unclear and scholars are divided on the matter. I suggest that it could be both; the entire situation is seen by the owner. He may at times be frustrated by the situation, but he knows it goes with the territory. I think Solomon’s purpose for including this is to warn people, saying, ”If you want to get rich, remember, there are responsibilities that come with it, and some of those can be frustrating at times.”