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Questions From Readers

Questions From Readers

Proverbs 24:16 says: “The righteous one may fall seven times, and he will get up again.” Does this refer to someone who repeatedly falls into sin but then is forgiven by God?

Actually, that is not the point of this verse. Rather, it refers to someone who falls in the sense of repeatedly facing problems or adversities and who gets up again in the sense of being able to recover.

Consider the verse in context: “Do not wickedly lie in ambush near the home of the righteous one; do not destroy his place of rest. For the righteous one may fall seven times, and he will get up again, but the wicked will be made to stumble by calamity. When your enemy falls, do not rejoice, and when he stumbles, do not let your heart be joyful.”​—Prov. 24:15-17.

Some have held that verse 16 applies to a person who may fall into sin but can recover. Two British clerics wrote that “preachers, ancient and modern, have made much use of this text” in that way. The clerics added that such a view means that “a good man may fall into . . . serious sins, but he never loses his love of God, and rises from his fall by repentance on every occasion.” Such an opinion could appeal to someone who does not want to resist sin. He might imagine that even if he sins repeatedly, God will always forgive him.

That misses the real sense of verse 16.

The Hebrew word rendered “fall” and “falls” in verses 16 and 17 can be used in various ways. It can mean a literal fall​—a bull falls on the road, someone falls off a roof, or a pebble falls to the ground. (Deut. 22:4, 8; Amos 9:9) The word can also be used figuratively, as in the following: “Jehovah guides the steps of a man when He finds pleasure in his way. Although he may fall, he will not be hurled down, for Jehovah supports him by the hand.”​—Ps. 37:23, 24; Prov. 11:5; 13:17; 17:20.

However, note a point made by Professor Edward H. Plumptre: “The Hebrew word for [“fall”] is never used of falling into sin.” Hence, another scholar summarizes verse 16 this way: “It would be futile and self-defeating to mistreat God’s people, for they survive​—the wicked do not!”

Yes, rather than speak of “falling” in the moral sense of falling into sin, Proverbs 24:16 refers to experiencing problems or difficulties, even repeatedly. In the present wicked system of things, a righteous one may face health or other problems. He may even be the object of intense governmental persecution. But he can trust that God is his support and will help him to cope and succeed. Ask yourself, ‘Have I not seen that things often work out well for God’s servants?’ Why? We are assured that “Jehovah supports all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.”​—Ps. 41:1-3; 145:14-19.

“The righteous one” does not find comfort in the reality that others are having problems. Rather, he is comforted in the knowledge that “it will turn out well for those who fear the true God, because they fear him.”​—Eccl. 8:11-13; Job 31:3-6; Ps. 27:5, 6.