A gift given in secret soothes anger,
and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.
This proverb speaks of a specific purpose in the use of bribes – averting anger. Most likely the situation is that of averting unjust anger. The king, or some other authority, has become overly angry and is about to harm someone. The offender, or a friend who steps in, gives the gift that appeases that anger.
The bribe is not a means of cheating others in competition; here, it is a means of protecting the innocent or of preventing an injustice taking place. Bribes are not to be used indiscriminately and never for the purpose of advancing one’s own selfish cause. They are not to be used in place of trusting in God for one’s circumstances. But again, they may be needed to avert violence.
Consider Abigail. Her foolish husband Nabal stirs up the fury of David, so much so that David gathers his men to attack Nabal’s servants. When Abigail hears of the matter, she goes behind her husband’s back and takes gifts to David, by which she is then able to reason with him. David responds, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand! For as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has restrained me from hurting you, unless you had hurried and come to meet me, truly by morning there had not been left to Nabal so much as one male.” Then David received from her hand what she had brought him. And he said to her, “Go up in peace to your house. See, I have obeyed your voice, and I have granted your petition” (1 Samuel 25:32-35).
Abigail saved the lives of innocent men through her “bribe.” She kept David from great sin. She did not lack trust in God; rather, she used the discretion God had given her to see that mercy and justice won the day.
I have a message from God in my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:[b]
There is no fear of God
before their eyes.
2 In their own eyes they flatter themselves
too much to detect or hate their sin.
3 The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful;
they fail to act wisely or do good.
4 Even on their beds they plot evil;
they commit themselves to a sinful course
and do not reject what is wrong.
5 Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
6 Your righteousness is like the highest mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.
7 How priceless is your unfailing love, O God!
People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
8 They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
9 For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
10 Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.
11 May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
12 See how the evildoers lie fallen—
thrown down, not able to rise!