A Good Man Leaves an Inheritance to His Children’s Children?
Proverbs 13.22 says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.”
What does this mean? Does it mean that an inheritance for grandchildren is mandated? I’ve seen some read and interpret this verse in that manner.
The verse must be read in a cultural context. In Jewish culture, inheritance was patrilineal, which means the inheritance passed to male children. Generally, the first born son would be entitled to a double portion of his father’s estate. The purpose of these inheritance laws was to allow for continuity of the family line. Wealth was viewed in the family. Thus, property was passed down to maintain the family.
However, the emphasis in Proverbs 13.22 is less about the mandate of inheritance and more about the quality of a person’s life. It is a “good man,” or a just man, compared to the sinner. Thus conceptually the idea is that a just and righteous man will have an overflowing life. His life will overflow for generations. On the other hand, the sinner—the unjust man—will not have such overflow.
Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible states it this way:
A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children… He not only has a sufficiency for the present support of himself and family; but is so prospered and succeeded, as to leave an inheritance after him; and which is continued to and enjoyed, not only by his immediate offspring, but theirs also; for being got honestly, it wears well.
The Bible Illustrator adds to this concept with the following explanation:
The happiness of men depends less on their external conditions than on their personal virtues. “A good man is satisfied from himself.” The effects of a man’s habits are transmitted to his children, and even to their descendants. They derive from his character a sufficient and a permanent inheritance.
The Illustrator points out that the good man provides instruction, an example of good character, and care and protection.
The idea of financial wealth is not the key idea and thus not the mandate. Indeed, financial wealth is a far easier inheritance to leave than a life of mercy, justice, and grace.