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The Wicked Cannot Sleep Until They Have Made Some Stumble
Proverbs 4:16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong: They, the wicked ones, are nothing like the Psalmist, who says, “In peace, I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Jehovah, make me dwell in safety.” No, the wicked ones here are a special breed of evil, as they cannot sleep unless they have wronged someone somehow. As we will notice from the parallel line of verse 16, they are not purposely lying awake so as to commit some crime in the middle of the night, but instead, they have a conscience that desires evil to the point of not being able to sleep until it has been quenched (satisfied). They cannot sleep unless they have been busy wronging another to the point where the victim stumbles.
They are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble: Here robbed (גָּזַל gazal) the passive form of the verb, which means to take someone’s possessions unlawfully (to seize or tear away) from them by force or threat of force against their will. In both Hebrew and English, someone can be robbed (deprived) of sleep if his thoughts or anxieties keep him from sleeping. In this case, the wicked one is being robbed of sleep because he is anxious to do evil to another. The Hebrew verb stumble (כָּשַׁל kashal) means to stumble (err) walk unsteadily, stumble, falter, stagger, to make an error. Figuratively, again, in this context, it refers to a weak, troubled, failing person.
The reason to enforce this much caution is the character of the men whose way we are warned to shun. They do not care that they have hurt others who are in their way; it is their objective and thrill to trouble others for entertainment purposes. They seek out others to make them stumble, to damage them physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Wickedness, meanness, and cruelty are in their being, and violence is what they do. They are vicious and unkind in the purest sense. So much so that causing harm and trouble for others is their sleep. As much fulfillment as a greedy man has when he takes money from the weak, a ruthless man when he has stepped over the frail, so much when the wicked have injured those who are unable to defend themselves. They are so evil that they cannot sleep because they are extremely anxious if they cannot indulge their greed and vengeance. The wicked ones thrive because their outward display does not appear evil. It is an innocent appearing path to the naïve.