October 8th 2018 – Proverbs 29:18-23

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,
    but blessed is he who keeps the law.
By mere words a servant is not disciplined,
    for though he understands, he will not respond.
Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?
    There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Whoever pampers his servant from childhood
    will in the end find him his heir.
A man of wrath stirs up strife,
    and one given to anger causes much transgression.
One's pride will bring him low,
    but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honour.

Proverbs 29:18-23

In this famous verse (18), 'vision' has the sense of the revelation a prophet received (hence RSV's 'prophecy'), 'Perish' (AV) and 'cast off restraint' (RSV) both bear a solemn message: the process and progress is given in RSV, the end-result in AV. The suggestion is made that Exodus 32:25 may well be the intended background of the proverb, with its contrast between the glory on the mountain of vision and law, and the shame in the valley. We should note particularly the equation of vision and keeping the law. So many suppose mistakenly that keeping the law is legalism. The LXX reads 'a stubborn servant' in 19, and this probably gives the right sense. A good servant will rise above this. What is said, however, is often true on the spiritual level: we are all too frequently unresponsive to the words of God, and need His chastising rod to put us in order, 20 echoes 26:12 (see Note). In 21 we have a further word about servants. Commentators generally take this in a bad sense, with the suggestion that pampering servants is sure to lead to trouble. But it may be taken in a good sense also (cf 19): to deal well with a servant - even one with a slave mentality - will humanise him (of Paul's attitude to Onesimus in Philemon, treating him as a human being and speaking of him as a son). Moffatt renders 22b 'hot temper is the cause of many a sin'. A man's general disposition is in view here, not a mere isolated incident. In 23, it is 'pride cometh before a fall'. The story of Haman and Mordecai in Esther amply illustrates this proverb.