“Ill-gotten treasures are of no value.” I believe that the definition of ill-gotten has become confusing. The original Hebrew word for “ill-gotten” is “resha”. It is from the root word “rasha” meaning “wrong” and “wicked”. The KJV and LEB translate this phrase as “treasures of wickedness”. More simplified the two words mean “treasures gained dishonestly”. Determining the root meaning that God is portraying through Solomon by looking at the original words helps only a little in knowing what it means to obtain dishonestly as opposed to honestly.
All gaining is not included in this warning. God even tells us he will shower his people with blessings, which include pecuniary treasures. Though Jesus and the apostles were very poor by all standards of the definition other men with faith in God were monetarily wealthy; Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Job, and David (though not all of their lives), and even the author of this proverb Solomon was very wealthy through noble gain.
The eighth commandment helps in determining what is an ill-gotten treasure; “You shall not steal.” (Exodus 20:15) Stealing includes gaining through injustice (Proverbs 16:8), through a lying tongue (Proverbs 22:16), through hatching profit that someone else prepared to make (Jeremiah 22:13), as well as through unrighteousness, slavery, and underpaying workers (Jeremiah 22:13).
James 5:1-6 clearly warns, “Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.” God’s stern warning is that workers were not paid proper wages.
God considers covenants and contracts very serious. Hiring someone is definitely included. Seriously, I can only think of one or perhaps two people and companies that kept the promises they made when they hired me. This is true even of those who claimed to be serious followers of Jesus.
Something resides at the core of our being that is awakened when we gain authority over others. We either redefine or lose our sense of righteousness. Yet here God promises, “righteousness delivers from death.” I learn to maintain righteousness especially when I enter into a covenant and contract with someone that gives me authority. Ill-gotten treasures are of no value on judgment day.