21 Fear the Lord and the king, my son,
and do not join with rebellious officials,
22 for those two will send sudden destruction on them,
and who knows what calamities they can bring?
23 These also are sayings of the wise:
To show partiality in judging is not good:
24 Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,”
will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations.
25 But it will go well with those who convict the guilty,
and rich blessing will come on them.
When the fear of the Lord comes first, all other fears are put in their proper place. This greatly simplifies things, whenever there is a conflict between the Lord’s commands and those of anyone else – kings included – our primary allegiance is to the Lord. Yet here we are not told to fear only the Lord, as if no other authority is valid, but rather to acknowledge his rightful place as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Our fears tend to sway our behaviors, whether consciously or not. Here we are reminded to be impartial in our judgment. Partiality is itself quite a problem, as it propagates injustice in the name of fairness, but perhaps it is also a symptom of disordered fears. It may be tempting to believe that convicting the guilty will harm one’s own reputation, bringing curses and denunciations – and also that leniency will be rewarded with blessings. But here the voice of temptation is directly opposed, it is through justice that honor and blessings are earned.