When a leader becomes an extortioner either through bribes or through taxation - he is not a wise leader at all. Today's Proverb has to do with governing officials and how they receive the money with which they work - and by which they are paid.
We are presented with a leader who according to Solomon is a "great oppressor." The word "oppressor" is very interesting because it, along with the second half of this proverb, opens up the meaning for us. The Hebrew word is "masaqqot" and it means one who oppresses by extortion. Zhodiates' dictionary defines this word this way, "It indicates a leader abusing his people by forcing them to pay money or contribute goods against their will. This he then uses to enrich himself and those ruling with him.
An unwise leader is one who decides that the money of the people he rules is his money. It belongs to the government - and therefore to him and those who serve with him. There are numerous instances where government leaders tax their people - and use that money to enrich themselves. They also use it to enrich those who support them - making sure that anyone who is their friend, supporter (or in our society, voter, campaign contributor) is rewarded richly for their efforts. In the times of kings this group was their nobles and knights - in today's society it is donors and voters. God allowed for His people to be taxed for the purpose of their governmental leaders. He also warned the leaders not to oppress His people by taxing them exorbitantly. Bribes also were expressly forbidden by God. The proverbs are filled with wisdom that promotes hard work and labor so that we can be blessed and become more and more financially blessed by it. Nowhere in Scripture does God encourage government to take confiscatory taxes from the people and redistribute it to those whom the government desires to bless.
We are told that any leader who does this kind of thing is lacking understanding. To understand something meant that you had gathered data together and were putting the pieces together so that you got a much bigger picture of things. In the context in which we find this proverb we are speaking of God's wisdom and knowledge being gathered so that we have an understanding of things beyond that of just this earth. It is seeing far enough into the future to make a wise decision and follow wise actions. The financially oppressive leader truly lacks any vision into the future.
Government leaders have authority - but it is high level authority to lead and serve people as God would have them go. Their role, like any other is to serve the people - and bless them with how they lead a nation. Unfortunately for some people, their leaders see their authority and misuse it to get rich or to stay in authority by oppressing the people with ridiculous, oppressive taxes. The king and his officials live lavishly off the people's money - and care little for the plight of the average man. They think the tax money of the people is their own to use as they see fit. They then see fit to line their pockets and their supporter's pockets. Often this is done as the rest of the nation suffers under the load of larger and larger taxed amounts.
We are told that the one who hates this kind of unjust gain will prolong his days. Two things we see here. First, God calls this kind of ungodly confiscation of the goods of hard working people "unjust." It is not good - and God does not approve of it. Second, we see that this kind of activity in government will not last long. The people will inevitably rise up and call for this to stop! History has shown that leaders who oppress their people with extortionary taxes will eventually be overthrown. Kings and queens have been beheaded - dictators overthrown, and elected officials voted out of office because they were making themselves rich on the people's taxes. Unfortunately for us, we've watched over the years as our leaders on both sides of the aisle have voted themselves to wealth and to pensions that are beyond imagination - while taxing us out of more and more of the money we earn. Over the past four years alone - the Washington D. C. area has grown in wealth and luxury, while the populace is either given the wealth of others through taxation - or taxed barren to provide such things.
As I studied this passage - and looked over history - I saw again and again leaders who loved their unjust gain. This was the case whether the government was a monarchy or a representative republic like our own. Men are greedy and want to be rich. They will do so even while falsely championing the "little guy" in their speeches. The one thing that we can be sure of though is that these governments will not long endure. They will fall just like all the others have over the years who have oppressed their people with their taxation and schemes to be rich on the people's dime.