At first glance, this proverb is a straight forward statement of two rather basic truths. “The rich” think their “wealth” is all they need. They feel safe and secure as if living in a “fortified city.”
The second part of this verse is an opposite but also true statement. “Poverty” is a really difficult situation for (“the ruin of”) “the poor.”
Yet, upon further consideration, I think this verse offers a little more. In reference to the second phrase, poverty does seem to be a dead-end for the poor. As long as the poor are living in poverty, there seems no hope or answers.
This was especially true in the ancient world. It was so difficult to break out of that station in life, but not impossible. While still not easy, moving out of poverty is very possible in the United States today.
It’s been my privilege to watch poor homeless guys change their situation in life here at Helping Up Mission for 14 years. Thus the second half of the verse is not an absolute unalterable truth. The poor are not destined to “the ruin” of poverty.
In the first part of the verse, the wealth of the rich feels like a fortified city. But we all know the stories of those who seemed to have everything, yet eventually lost it all – no safety or security there!
Again, a small but significant number at men at Helping Up Mission once had their own fortified city of wealth but eventually saw it collapse all around them. So, while both lines of this proverb are true observations, neither is an absolute truth.
Wealth can be a great source of safety and security, but it may not last. And the poor are not necessarily doomed to poverty. Everyone’s situation is subject to change! Job once said it this way – “the LORD gives and the LORD takes away. Blessed is the name of the LORD!”