Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.
Two ways of explaining this text.
1. Of the happiness which God has appointed for goodness, it has pleased Him that some portion should accrue in this world; and of the misery which is the wages of sin, a much more abundant portion.
2. Even the righteous shall be recompensed (that is, punished) for their sins, in the earth, much more the wicked, with a sorer punishment. The argument is, if the good and pious often suffer for the faults they fall into, for the wicked to expect an exemption from suffering is a most vain and absurd expectation. The first is the more natural and obvious sense of the passage. This world is not a place of retribution. It is a place where men may suffer for their virtues and escape for their wickedness; and this so frequently as even to afford some ground and pretence for questioning which course a man had best take if this life were his all. A man might say, "Let us live to ourselves, and seize all the good within our reach, whatever be the consequences to others." Such a plan the wise king pronounced to be foolish and shortsighted, even on the principles of worldly prudence, and without taking another life into the account. After all the arguments from suffering virtue and successful wickedness have been urged and admitted, the balance of good will be found to be with the good, and evil unknown to them, to beset the path and track the steps of the wicked. The words imply that any one may see this who will attend carefully to what passes around him. It is in every one's mouth that "honesty is the best policy." The upright and regular part of the community is too sagacious and too strong for the schemer at last. The honest and good gain upon them and pass them, even in the career of worldly success. There is a reward in this life for a strict adherence to temperance and all the other branches and laws of self-government. But this doctrine is apparently opposed to such teachings as are found in Ecclesiastes 9:11. But it may be noticed that in Proverbs the rule is dealt with, and in Ecclesiastes the exceptions to the rule. Such exceptions there will always be. Part of the text declares that the punishment of sin in this world is more certain than the reward of virtue. And the fact is so. The recompense of the wicked does not tarry. Their course is soon interrupted by evil and suffering. We can generally predict the end of the wicked in this world. Licentiousness and debauchery lead to disease and embarrassment. Of dishonesty it may be said, its resources are soon dried up, and the plenty it procures is but for a moment. From the laws of nature and the appointments of Divine providence there is no escape. The true end and design of all the Divine afflictions and all earthly sufferings is our improvement. He adapts His methods to our wants, and appoints us such trials as we can bear. But the promise of recompense in the earth is perceived to belong to them; is fulfilled in them in many respects.
(A. Gibson, M.A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner.