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Surely ill-gotten gain

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makes a fool

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out of a wise man,

and a bribe

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the inner man.


It should be obvious that financial gain at the direct expense of others is proof that a person once thought of as wise has become a fool. Likewise, accepting a bribe destroys everything good inside you.


1: “ill-gotten gain”

The word used here is based on the idea of ill-gotten gain through deceit; it is often translated “oppression, or extortion” but here it probably means any kind of financial gain that is accomplished at the direct expense of others through some form of deceit.

2: “makes a fool”

The verb used here has a root meaning of “to shine or shine forth.” But besides the aspect of light, it has an element of sound along the lines of “to boast, shout for joy, celebrate, exult over, praise, be boastful.” The main idea seems to be of something coming rapidly and energetically from its source. The aspect of sound was usually used of someone celebrating a victory over another and celebrating that victory loudly, even boastfully. In this context the desire for financial gain which drives people to compromise their principles and get involved in unethical practices has been victorious over the person’s wisdom and godly principles. Because of that victory the ill-gotten gain gets in wisdom’s face and shouts, “I made a fool out of you!”


This is the word for “Gift.” It usually has a positive meaning, but if the context of that gift is negative, it usually means “a bribe.” Context leads us to understand that in this case a bribe is destructive to the one accepting the bribe, but common sense tells us it destroys the giver as well, and a system built on bribes can destroy an entire nation.


This verb means “to vanish, to perish, or to be destroyed.” This is a very strong verb for its context. Bribes do more than just corrupt the inner man, they destroy what is inside of us, meaning they destroy our inner fiber, our moral foundations. Bribes have powerful destructive capabilities.

According to the NET Bible, the dead sea scrolls use a totally different verb here, one that means “to twist, pervert or corrupt.” We cannot be sure which verb was the original. I have chosen to stick with the more obscure word “destroy” because it is the one found in the Leningrad Codex. The fact that a different verb is found in the Qumran texts should not concern us greatly because both debated verbs are in agreement about the negative effects of a bribe.