These two verses comprise a second saying of a special section (22:17-24:34) called “saying of the wise” (:17). It focuses on us, our treatment of the poor and the LORD’s subsequent treatment of us!
We’re told to “not exploit the poor because they are poor.” One of the difficulties that’s always plagued those struggling to make it is how easily they can be taken advantage of — and have virtually no recourse.
Secondly we’re told to “not crush the needy in court.” In a legal setting, by virtue of the fact that they are in a place of need, they’re always at the mercy of others.
While technically different terms, the “poor” and “needy” are regularly used synonymous in Proverbs and refer to the same group of people — the underprivileged. These two lines address their inappropriate treatment in private or publicly in legal proceedings.
“In court” is actually “in the gate,” which was the space of record for legal proceeding in most ancient cities. With only the city wall and gate constructed as public structures, spaces within the gate complex served as an ancient “courthouse” and anyone walking in or out of the city could see the proceedings.
Beyond knowing it’s wrong to take advantage of the poor and needy, the biggest reason we shouldn’t do so is found in verse 23 — because “the LORD will take up their case” and will hurt us (“exact life for life”)!
While we might think we’re dealing with the most insignificant among us, we should really know — we’re actually messing with the Almighty!