There is an interesting phenomenon occurring in our culture today. People want to dismiss the notion of a supreme authoritative God from the moral landscape yet they insist on still using moralistic terms such as “right” and “wrong.” But how can there be right and wrong when there is no ultimate moral authority? Who decides what is right and what is wrong? Is the question decided by a majority vote or common consensus? The problem with such a notion is that what is deemed as “right” is constantly changing according to the current majority and the will of the majority is too often subject to influence of a vocal minority.
Most people are familiar with the first part of the KJV’s rendition of Proverbs 29:18 which says: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” However, that is not the complete thought of the verse. The latter part of the verse says: “But he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Since this is Hebrew poetry, and the main device of Hebrew poetry is parallelism, the first and second sections are usually similar or they are in direct contrast to one another. The second part of the verse starts with a contrasting “but” which let us know that this is a case of contrast. The second part of the verse is a direct contrast or completely opposite of the first part of the verse.
Now this presents us with a problem because of the KJV’s translation of the Hebrew word: “hazon” to the English word: “vision.” In modern English, we normally associate the word “vision” with sight or the setting of goals. But is that the meaning of the word in this verse? Was that the original meaning the author wanted to convey when this text was first written? In view of the contrast in the latter part of the verse, I don’t think it was.
One other possible translation of the Hebrew word, “hazon” is; “word of revelation.” What is “word of revelation?” It is the law or the word of God! Now, while “vision” as we commonly use it is a valid application, I don’t think it was the original author’s intent. I think the original author intended to make a contrast between people perishing who were without the law or the word of God and people blessed (happy) because they keep, that is obey, the law (word of God).
As we conclude, we must also note that the Hebrew word that is translated as “perish” actually means; “let free, make someone go out of control, allow to run wild.” Do you see that? This verse that we have traditionally used to encourage goal-setting and success, actually reveals the cause of the sad state of morality in America today! When people seek to have a righteous morality without a righteous God, the inevitable result is moral chaos! I think the New Living Translation is closer to the original truth the author wanted to convey: “When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild. But whoever obeys the law is joyful.”
The only solution to our social and moral dilemma today is that we turn back and submit to the Divine authority of God and acknowledge that the LORD, He is God! It is He that hath made us and not we ourselves!