At first this proverb may sound like a simple statement - something everyone would know. It might also seem as if it is not addressing the real issue to anyone who is living underneath an oppressor. To them that issue would be telling the oppressor to stop oppressing them! But this proverb does exactly what is necessary to address the oppressor. It may not do like we would want - and it may not give us the instant relief we'd like from all oppressors - but God addresses them sufficiently.
What we have here in this proverb is a veiled threat. It is not an empty one - it is just spoken in a way that is not . . . not very "schwartneggaresque." We would like for God to make an "in your face" threat to the oppressor. Tell him stop or I'll smack you upside the head! Tell him that if he keeps oppressing - God will show him what real oppressing looks like! That's what we want. Yet God's statement here is subtle - yet strong.
The Lord addresses the fact that the oppressor and the poor man he oppresses have something in common. He tells the oppressor that the Lord gives light to both of them. That phrase refers not to physical sight - but to giving life itself. To say that God gives light to our eyes means that we are alive because of Him. Now, let's look at how this is a veiled, yet very effective threat. God is telling the oppressor that although he thinks he is a moral free agent - and can do what he wants - that is not true. The reason he is alive - is the same reason the poor man whom he oppresses is alive too. God gave them both life. So how is this a threat?
The oppressor thinks "he" determines who lives and who dies. He is a bully - just on a much larger level. He does not think he will be held accountable - even as he holds the poor man accountable to his oppressive demands. But now God is saying to the oppressor - you are exactly like the poor man you are abusing. I gave light to both of your eyes. Now for the threat. It is implied. God is saying to the oppressor - I gave light to your eyes - and I can take it away. You, my dear oppressor, are NO DIFFERENT than the one whom you oppress. You can't give anyone life - so your power is severely limited. Then God says, "I, on the other hand, give life to anyone who is alive. My power is utterly unlimited. You would do well to remember that."
Sometimes it is the subtle things that can knock us to the ground. Real power does not need to bluster to be recognized. God has His moments of truly "throwing down" and proving He is God beyond any shadow of a doubt. Burning Sodom and Gomorrah off the face of the earth is one of them. Splitting the Red Sea and crushing the greatest army on earth in the midst of it was another. Opening the earth and swallowing Dathan and Abiram could be considered another. Even throwing huge rocks from heaven and destroying those who fought with Joshua might be a fourth. But there are also times when the quietness and subtlety of God are as loud as the thunder of Niagra's mighty falls. It is in those moments that authority is expressing itself in mercy. For the oppressor this is good - for it gives him a chance to repent of his oppressive ways and to turn and embrace the mercy given to him. It warns him to repent and begin showing mercy to thosw who have previously received none from his hand. A wise man would respond immediately because there will be a day when the subtlety of God will end. In that day - he will want to realize how weak he is - and take refuge in God's mercies. The other option is wholly unwise to embrace.