As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people.
Authority or power must not be used to hurt the poor. God ordained offices of authority to protect the helpless or weak. When civil rulers oppress the poor, they are like wild and ravaging beasts. They do great damage by cruel and insensitive abuse of power. Men lock dangerous and wild beasts in zoos, and rulers like them should be taken from office.
Leaders and rulers that do not take care of the poor are wicked. A great duty of authority and rule is to conscientiously provide for those unable to defend or help themselves. When a wicked man gets into power and oppresses the poor under his rule, it is a frightening evil. But there is a God in heaven, Who will punish such rulers (Eccl 5:8).
Here is an inspired simile based on God’s wisdom and Solomon’s observations. A roaring lion is a dangerous and threatening lion (Ps 104:21; Is 31:4; Amos 3:4; I Pet 5:8). A ranging bear is a hungry bear that has gone outside its normal haunts to search for food. These two proverbial examples from the animal kingdom illustrate the brute and savage character of a wicked ruler who oppresses the poor in his kingdom. These cruel beasts have none of the kindness and mercy that characterize godly and noble rulers.
A great ruler protects and provides for the poor, and he will reign for a long time (Pr 29:14). Mercy and truth uphold a king, not oppression and greed (Pr 20:28). Nations prosper and rejoice under righteous rulers (Pr 29:2). But when a covetous and selfish man becomes a ruler, his greed for gain makes him an oppressor, as the context shows (Pr 28:16). It is better to be dead or never exist than to suffer under such a tyrant (Eccl 4:1-3).
How can a wicked ruler oppress the poor? Of course, kings can and did confiscate the property of their poor to increase their real estate holdings, kidnap their beautiful daughters for his harem, kill husbands to take their wives for his harem, overtax them for pretentious building projects or unnecessary military campaigns, allow bribes to corrupt the justice system, charge prohibitive legal fees to get a hearing, deny upward career progression of any born to poor parents, prohibit or discourage education of the poor, etc.
But he can also legalize abortion, which kills poor, unborn babies. He can inflate the money supply, which raises prices and reduces the standard of living. He can raise the minimum wage, reducing the number of jobs for the poor. He can levy tariffs on imports, raising the cost of cheaper goods from abroad. He can draft their sons into an underpaid military, while the rich avoid conscription. He can protect labor unions, which raise the prices of goods, ruin companies and industries, and reduce opportunity for the ambitious.
He can charge excise taxes that disproportionately hurt the poor. He can subsidize one minority to the detriment of the poor of other minorities or the majority. He can underpay for eminent domain. He can complicate the legal and/or tax systems, which hurts those unable to afford professional help. He can increase the national debt, which raises the costs of all items and/or of taxes. He can listen to lobbyists, few or none of which are employed by the poor for the poor. He can promote entitlement until the poor are helplessly dependent on the state and unwilling and unable to do anything for themselves.
Pharaoh oppressed the poor Israelites with hard bondage to build his treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses, and he killed their boy babies (Ex 1:8-16). The great and dreadful God of heaven heard the cry of His people (Ex 2:23-25). He laughed last and best! God blessed the midwives for defying Pharaoh (Ex 1:15-21); God used Pharaoh to nourish and train Moses (Acts 7:20-22); God demolished Egypt and killed the firstborn in every family (Ex 10:7; 12:29-30); God told Israel to take the wealth of Egypt when they left (Ex 12:35-36); and God drowned Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea (Ex 14:21-30).
Saul tried to kill poor David and did kill the priests at Nob, so the blessed God miserably destroyed him and his sons in one battle with the Philistines (I Sam 18:11; 22:12-19; 31:1-13). Ahab and Jezebel conspired to steal a vineyard from Naboth, so God sent dogs to eat Jezebel, and other dogs licked Ahab’s blood out of his chariot (I Kgs 21:1-16; 22:34-38; II Kgs 9:30-37). Rehoboam tried to raise taxes to oppress Israel, but he lost ten of Israel’s twelve tribes to his competitor (I Kgs 12:1-20). Wicked tyrants will be judged.
But there are more tyrants than just civil rulers. God will also judge cruel and overbearing husbands (Mal 2:10-16; I Pet 3:7). Therefore, it is important for husbands to love, cherish, and nourish their wives tenderly (Eph 5:25-29; Col 3:19; I Pet 3:7). Your wife is on loan to you from the Lord, and if you abuse or oppress His gift in any way, there will be hell to pay, in this life and/or in the next life (Pr 18:22; 31:31; Mal 2:13). Beware!
God commands fathers to avoid oppressing children (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21). A father may have the God-given authority and strength to rule his house, but he better rule with affection and mercy, or the same God that avenged the poor above will come in judgment on him. The God of heaven expects fathers to pity their children (Ps 103:13; Jer 31:20; Luke 11:11-13; 15:20-24). Even chastening for sins is to be done tenderly (Pr 3:11-12). Fathers are not the only culprits, as overbearing women are an equal curse (Pr 30:21-23).
Consider further, if you think this proverb is merely about political science. Employers must take good care of their employees, especially the poor at the bottom (Lev 25:39-43; Deut 24:14-15; Eph 6:9; Col 4:1). Ministers must never neglect the poor in their congregations, for the Lord Jesus Christ hates partiality (I Tim 5:21; Jas 2:1-7). Though endowed with authority from heaven, ministers are to be like nurses (I Thess 2:7-8).
There is only one perfect ruler, and He sits on the throne of glory over the entire universe – He is the Lord Jesus Christ (II Sam 23:1-5; Ps 45:6-7; Heb 1:8-9). God chose the poor of this world to be His children, and He has assigned their care to the Lord Jesus Christ (I Cor 1:26-31). He has promised to not lose a single one of them – every one will spend eternity with Him in heaven (John 6:37-39; 10:27-29; 17:2; Rom 8:28-39; Heb 2:13).