Proverbs 29:18

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.
– Proverbs 29:18

The word for vision has nothing whatever to do with goal setting, program implementing, or advanced planning. It refers to the revelation of God given to the prophets who made it known to the people (1 Samuel 3:1). Every time it is used in the Old Testament, it is connected to a prophet, whether directly or by allusion. It is an authoritative and binding, “Thus says the Lord.” It is easy to see that since no vision is contrasted with the law, or Torah, in the second line.

When there is no prophet in the community giving God’s word to the people, they perish, or break loose. The word has three uses in the Old Testament. It refers to the loosing of hair as in cutting or unbraiding it (Leviticus 10:6; 13:45; 21:10; Numbers 5:18). It can also refer to letting loose in the sense of losing or letting slip in the sense of ignoring or rejecting. It is used that way a number of times in Proverbs (Proverbs 1:25; 8:33; 13:18; 15:32). It can also refer to let loose in the sense of running wild, as in out of control immorality (Exodus 32:25). In this saying it is set against the blessing of keeping the law, so it is probably that second usage of letting slip that is meant, though the third usage could be included. When there is no prophet speaking God’s word and keeping that word before the people, they let God’s word slip, but when they hold on to the law, the community is blessed.

Proverbs 29:17

Correct they son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul.
– Proverbs 29:17

The word for correct can include the idea of chastening, discipline, or instruction. The word for rest means settled, and we might say ease of mind. The word for delight typically refers to pleasurable delicacies, but can be pleasure or joy more broadly than food. The saying is the reverse image of the saying in verse 15, where the child was “left to himself.” When a son, or child, is corrected, or receives wisdom, parents are given relief and joy.

Proverbs 29:16

When the wicked are multiplied, transgression increaseth: but the righteous shall see their fall.
– Proverbs 29:16

This saying seems to have the wicked ascending to authority, like in Provers 29:2. The increase of wicked authority will increase the sins of a society. The point of the saying comes in the contrasting last line. The wicked may outnumber the righteous at various times, but ultimately the righteous will outlast the wicked.

Proverbs 29:15

The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame.
– Proverbs 29:15

Verses 15-21 have some interspersed sayings pertaining to children and servants. This saying is in line with others in Proverbs concerning child training (Proverbs 13:24; 22:15; 23:13-14). The saying joins the rod and reproof as instruments to give wisdom. On balance, the primary tools parents should use is their law (Proverbs 1:8; 3:1; 4:2; 6:20; 28:7). The last line gives the alternative as bringing shame. All parents can do is correct foolishness and instruct in wisdom, but that doesn’t guarantee a child will be wise (Proverbs 13:1; 15:5; 17:10; 27:22). To leave off the effort will more often than not produce shame.

Proverbs 29:15

The king that faithfully judgeth the poor, his throne shall be established for ever.
– Proverbs 29:14

Long-term establishment of kings requires justice, or righteousness. Just treatment of the poor, or vulnerable, is godly (Proverbs 20:28; 29:4). The standing or falling of kingdoms turns on such justice (Proverbs 16:12; 20:28; 28:16).

Proverbs 29:14

The poor and the deceitful man meet together: the LORD lighteneth both their eyes.
– Proverbs 29:13

This saying removes the facades of accomplishments or designations and considers all men on the same footing. The word for deceitful points to oppression. The poor are easily oppressed, so there is a natural opposition between the two. The last line refers to God as the giver of life to both (Proverbs 22:2). The king is concerned with both groups and must uphold justice for his throne to be established (Proverbs 28:16; 29:14).

Proverbs 29:12

If a ruler hearken to lies, all his servants are wicked.
– Proverbs 29:12

Verses 12-14 form a small group of sayings related to kingship and rule. This saying relies on the Deuteronomic kingship ideal, where the ideal king is exemplar in keeping God’s law and presiding over a nation of the faithful (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). The king’s character will shape the character of his kingdom, for good or bad. This saying warns against the bad. If the king will listen to lies, more lies will be told him. The last phrase presents a thorough corruption to all his servants.

Proverbs 29:11

A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.
– Proverbs 29:11

The first phrase literally says a fool vents all his breath. The picture is such a sheer quantity of words coming from a fool he is out of breath. Fools are characterized in Proverbs for much foolish speaking. They pour out words like water from a bucket (Proverbs 15:2, 28). It is such a common indicator that a fool might be thought wise by simply being quiet and offering no opinion (Proverbs 17:28).

A fool’s speech is not marked only by quantity, but also by content, all his mind. A fool is compelled to make his foolishness known (Proverbs 12:32; 13:16; 14:33). Such characteristic speaking is a product of the lack of self-control, particularly in terms of anger (Proverbs 12:16).

Most of the verses referenced have the contrasting characteristic of the wise that he has control over his tongue. The wise will understand many reasons for restraining speech: provide less to be used against him (Proverbs 10:14; 13:3), maintain relationships (Proverbs 11:12-13), calm heated tempers (Proverbs 17:27; 15:1), and even to lessen sin (Proverbs 10:19).

That a wise man keeps his words in till afterwards, can provide a cooling off period until minds are more reasonable, but also speaks to the characteristic wisdom of taking time to investigate, understand, and formulate a reasonable response (Proverbs 15:28; 18:13, 17).

Proverbs 29:10

The bloodthirsty hate the upright: but the just seek his soul.
– Proverbs 29:10

The saying refers to men of blood. They hate and seek to destroy the upright. They display hostility, aggression, and anger toward righteousness. The wording of the second line is difficult and has been rendered variously by translators. If we take the upright to be the focus of each line, then the contrast is made between the bloodthirsty and the just in relation to the upright. The first seeks to destroy and the second seeks to save.

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