“When the righteous increase, the people rejoice,
But when a wicked man rules, people groan.”
Thursday’s Bible reading of Proverbs 29–30 finishes the “Further Proverbs of Solomon (Hezekiah’s Collection)” found in Proverbs 25–29, and it contains the “Words of Agur” in Proverbs 30.1
I mentioned last week that Proverbs 28 contained several proverbs on leaders and rulers. Proverbs 30 continues this theme.
“The king gives stability to the land by justice,
But a man who takes bribes overthrows it.”
“If a ruler pays attention to falsehood,
All his ministers become wicked.”
Chapter 29 also speaks regarding the people of the land:
“Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained,
But happy is he who keeps the law.”
Years ago I read that Proverbs 29:18a, “Where there is no vision, the people perish…” (KJV), was Lyndon B. Johnson’s favorite Bible verse, but his interpretation—that the verse is speaking of having a great goal to anticipate and work towards—is erroneous. I don’t know if he popularized this wrong interpretation or if people simply misunderstood the words used in the King James Version translation, but the proverb is not addressing that idea at all. Dan Phillips comments:
“And so I render the verse, “Without revelation a people runs wild; But the [people] keeping the Law, happy is it.” Similarly the ESV, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” It isn’t at all about an individual, nor a group, gathering together and forming goals. It isn’t about praying and “feeling led.” It isn’t about dreams (in the non-revelatory sense), targets, programs — in fact, it isn’t about any human endeavor at all.
“The verse is about our need communally as well as individually for the Word of God….”1
Derek Kidner states:
“As for a people deprived of revelation, 29:18 holds out little hope for them. ‘Where there is no vision’ (or, RSV, ‘prophecy’) ‘the people run wild; but he that keepeth the law’ (the other main form of Old Testament revelation), ‘happy is he’.”2
A. F. Walls writes this about Proverbs 29:18:
“Prophecy; the normal word for the prophetic revelation (ḥāzôn; cf. Is. 1:1; Je. 14:14). Cast off restraint; the same word is used in Ex. 32:25 and the whole affair of the golden calf is an historical illustration of this verse. Law; the revealed will of God (note this is parallel with prophecy). The law, the prophets and the wisdom literature meet in this verse. Where the revealed will of God, as expressed in His word, is not constantly kept in view, His people break loose from their allegiance….”3
Here in the United States we can see around us the consequences that occur in a land when God’s Word is unknown or unheeded. We can see around us the consequences in churches and Christians when God’s Word is not faithfully taught and obeyed; consequences that are evident both in our lives and in our decreasing influence as salt and light to those around us who desperately need to know the Lord Jesus. The posts of the last few days have had the common theme of God’s Word. We must comprehend and understand the importance of the Bible to our lives.
May the Lord give us hearts to seek Him and the desire and will to obey His commands.
Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications
1Dan Phillips, “Visionary Truths (Proverbs 29:18),” Pyromaniacs.
2Derek Kidner, Proverbs, pp. 34–35.
3A. F. Walls, “Proverbs,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., p. 568.
Original content: Copyright ©2011 Iwana Carpenter