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End of Hezekiah's Solomonic Collection (Proverbs 29:15-27)

"(12) Discipline at Home and in the Nation (29:15-18)....TYPE: PARALLEL....Discipline must be maintained at home and in society at large. In this parallel text vv. 15, 17 concern the former, and vv. 16, 18 concern the latter" (NAC).

The first line of verse 18 is perhaps best known by its King James Version rendering: "Where there is no vision, the people perish." Read this way, the verse is often thought to mean that if people have no forward outlook or personal goals, they are doomed. While true in principle (and the principle can even be inferred here), the King James wording does not precisely convey the sense of the verse in the Hebrew. The New King James rendering is better: "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint." The word for "vision" or "revelation" is used elsewhere in Scripture for a direct prophetic revelation from God (e.g., 1 Samuel 3:1; Isaiah 1:1; Ezekiel 12:27; Daniel 1:17; 8:13; Nahum 1:1; Habakkuk 1:1). This need not refer to prophets speaking for God at a particular time. It could refer to the people not being aware of or not having access to God's prophetic messages in Scripture. And the word rendered "cast off restraint" is also translated this way in Exodus 32:25, where the Israelites sank into sinful rebellion during Moses' absence. The New Century Version translates the first line of the proverb as, "Where there is no word from God, people are uncontrolled." The New Living Translation says, "When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild." Note how being uncontrolled apart from God's messages contrasts with the second line of the verse: "But happy is he who keeps the law." Want to avoid miserable chaos? Then obey God's instructions—the path to true happiness.

"(13) Controlling the Servant and Controlling the Self (29:19-22)....TYPE: PARALLEL [arranged in A-B-A-B form].... Verses 19, 21, on controlling one's servant, seem to have nothing to do with vv. 20, 22, on self-control. The link is the issue of control and discipline with the implication being that one must give as much attention to governing one's own passions as to governing one's servants" (NAC). The second colon of verse 21 is difficult because the meaning of the Hebrew word manon, rendered "son" in the King James and New King James, is uncertain, being found nowhere else in Scripture. The result of pampering a servant, especially in light of verse 19 ("A servant will not be corrected by mere words..."), is likely a negative one. Some translate manon to mean insolent—others as causing grief. The idea behind the translation "son" is that a possible Hebrew root of the term connotes continuance—a successor. Some accept this meaning in a negative sense—that the pampered servant ends up parading about as an inheritor of the master's estate.

Verse 22 shares one line in common with a verse in the major Solomonic collection (15:18).

(14) The Prideful Humbled and the Humble Exalted (29:23). "TYPE: INDIVIDUAL PROVERB" (NAC). Compare Christ's words in Matthew 23:12 (and 19:30).

(15) Complicity in Crime (29:24). "TYPE: INDIVIDUAL PROVERB" (NAC). Leviticus 5:1 says that if someone fails to give testimony when there is a legal call for it, then the silent witness will bear guilt—bringing a curse on himself. "This proverb, using the same word for oath or curse, describes someone who has befriended a thief [probably representative of any criminal], becomes aware of his wrongdoing, but remains silent when he hears a call to come forward and give evidence. He has brought a curse down on his own head" (New American Commentary, note on Proverbs 29:24).

(16) For Deliverance Look to God (29:25-26). "TYPE: THEMATIC" (NAC). Verse 25 says that it's dangerous to be overly concerned about what others might think about us or do to us in the context of this book about living a righteous life. God will look out for us if we serve Him in faith (compare Psalm 118:6). Jesus also said not to fear what man can do to us (see Matthew 10:28). The next verse, Proverbs 29:26, does not mean that we should not try to get help from human authorities. The point is that we must always be looking ultimately to God to take care of us—even in matters we bring to other people. Consider Nehemiah seeking help for Jerusalem from the Persian emperor—yet praying to God all the while, knowing that God is in control of human affairs. "These two verses, coming near the end of so many proverbs on corruption and injustice in society, call the reader back to the reality that the Bible after all is not a book about social reform but calls for committed faith in Yahweh" (NAC, note on verse 26).

"(17) The Sum of It All (29:27)....TYPE: INDIVIDUAL PROVERB" (NAC). The Jewish Soncino commentary says in its note on this last verse of the Hezekiah collection of Solomon's proverbs: "We may read into the statement the conflict of right and wrong which, throughout history, has been conspicuous in human experience. The virtuous refuse to compromise with the wicked and look upon evil with detestation. Wrong-doers regard the upright as their natural enemies because they condemn their practices.... {This mutual hostility [showing that the two ways of life are totally incompatible] is the central theme of the Book, and the moral that runs through it is that the fight must continue to a finish, with victory for the righteous in the end.} With this verse, proclaiming the antagonism of vicious men towards the virtuous and the abhorrence of the evildoer by the righteous, the Book of Proverbs closes [at least as far as the collections of short, two-line sayings go]. But three addenda are appended: chapter [30], The words of Agur; [31].1-9, The words of king Lemuel [from his mother]; and [31].10-31 Praise of a woman of valor [i.e., of noble character]" (though the last section may be part of the second).

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