A review of “Vision”
By Bob McCabe
In the early years of my Christian experience, I heard messages about Proverbs 29:18“Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he who observes the law, happy is he”. The essence of these sermons was that effective Christian leaders have visions, the ability to set goals for the future, which result in church growth or some other facet of ministry. If goals are not followed, “people perish” in the sense that a ministry will become stagnant and irrelevant. In other contexts, people perish in the sense that they lose their sense of vitality.
I am convinced that this is an illegitimate understanding of this verse for three reasons.
First, we must note that it does not take into account the entire verse. A contrast sets in between the first and second halves: the positive results of obeying the law and the negative results of lack of “vision”. That is to say, on the one hand, by keeping the authoritative law of God, one experiences blessing; but, on the other hand, by not having something equally authoritative (“vision”), one receives the obverse of blessing.
Second, a major problem with this type of interpretation is that the Hebrew word translated “vision” is never related to setting long-term goals, whether church growth or otherwise. . The term “vision” is a translation of a Hebrew word (haze). This name is used 35 times in the Old Testament. It is linked to a verb (hazah), which means “to see” or “to receive by revelation”. This term refers to a special revelation and should be understood as a vision containing a prophetic word from God, a “revelation”. Thus “the vision” forms an apt parallel with “the law”, in v. 18b.
Finally, the translated word “perish” is derived from a verb (para’), which usually means ‘to let go’ or ‘to let go’. The translation of this verb as perish is highly unlikely considering that of its 16 uses in the Old Testament, none of them are translated this way. It is used of discover (let go) of one’s head when removing a turban as a sign of mourning (Lev. 10:6, Lev. 21:10). The Israelites (Ex. 32:25) are frantic in that their moral restraints were removed (they showed no moral restraint while Moses was on Mount Sinai). This passage can serve as a backdrop for Proverbs 29:18and would therefore suggest that this verb has the meaning of letting go, a removal of moral restraints.
Therefore, this proverb should be understood to mean that when there is no special revelation, people reject moral restraints; however, when people obey the word of God, they are blessed: “Where there is no revelation, people give up restraint; but blessed is he who listens to the instruction of wisdom”. This verse has enormous theological and practical significance for us. There is a direct correlation between our moral state and our knowledge and submission to God’s special revelation, the Bible.
Editor’s Note: The content of this devotional is taken from the original article A Re-“vision” of Proverbs 29:18
Subscribe to the Your Daily Bible Verse podcast!