The old saying goes, “You can’t keep a good man down.” Essentially, this is the meaning of Proverbs 24:16: “For though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.” A person who trusts in the Lord and depends on God throughout his life may trip and fall over and over again, but he won’t stay down. He will overcome obstacles and challenges by God’s grace and strength, dusting himself off and rising again. On the other hand, “One disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked” (Proverbs 24:16, NLT). The ungodly have no power to rise above adversity—once they are down, they cannot pick themselves back up.
In Proverbs, the Teacher often compares two separate paths in life—one of the righteous and the other of the wicked (Proverbs 10:6–7, 16; 15:9). These two pathways lead to profoundly different destinations (Proverbs 10:28–30). The route of righteousness always leads to what is good, whereas the road of wickedness ends in ruin and destruction (Proverbs 11:23; 12:7). God’s Word promises abundant blessings and rewards for those who commit to doing what is right but warns against the disastrous consequences of wickedness (Proverbs 12:2–3, 21; 13:9, 21, 25; 15:6; 20:7).
In Proverbs, a righteous man typically refers to a person of strong moral character, emphasizing that he is “respectable,” “honest,” “principled,” and “honorable.” In Hebrew, the word translated as “falls” can mean “falls down” (literally) as in “no longer remaining upright” or (figuratively) “experiences disaster, tragedy, or ruin.” Rises again conveys the literal meaning of “gets back up after falling,” as well as the figurative sense of “overcomes adversity” or “becomes prosperous again.”
The significance of falling “seven times” could simply refer to falling frequently or many times. But the number seven is often a symbol of completeness or perfection in Scripture. It may illustrate here that, no matter how many times a righteous man falls and no matter if his fall seems to be completely and utterly irreversible, the setback is only temporary. He is destined to rise again.
Resilience is one of the blessings of those who choose right living because God is on their side. The Lord “directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand” (Psalm 37:23–24, NLT). Even when enemies rage against them, the righteous can say, “Do not gloat over me, my enemies! For though I fall, I will rise again. Though I sit in darkness, the LORD will be my light” (Micah 7:8, NLT).
Another revelation to apprehend in “a righteous man falls seven times” is that the godly can expect to encounter trouble and hardship in life. God’s people aren’t promised freedom from worldly cares, losses, trials, or attacks of the enemy (John 16:33; 2 Timothy 2:3; 1 Peter 1:6–7; 5:8). Even so, the Lord watches over His children (Psalm 23). He promises to be with us in our trouble, to deliver us, and honor us (Psalm 91:15).
We can trust wholly in the Lord because He rescues us out of all our misfortunes (Psalm 34:19). God saves those who love Him and protects those who acknowledge His name (Psalm 91:14). The righteous call on the Lord, and He answers them (Psalm 17:6; 20:1). We may fall seven times, but the Lord hears our cries. He upholds us when we stumble (Psalm 145:14). He lifts us out of the mud and mire and sets our feet on solid ground (Psalm 40:2).
Believers don’t have to worry when evil men plot against them because God will raise the righteous person up from defeat time after time (Psalm 21:11). Likewise, we can’t let shortcomings and failures keep us down and discouraged. Our ultimate victory over every enemy, including sin and death, is assured through Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 15:56–57). We will make many mistakes in this walk of faith, but God will give us the strength to get up, start over, try again, and succeed. Although a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.