Proverbs 29:18
Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keeps the law, happy is he.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(18) Where there is no vision.—No revelation of God’s will (Isaiah 1:1), when God teaches none by His Spirit that they may instruct others. So it was in the evil days of Eli (1Samuel 3:1), and Asa (2Chronicles 15:3).

The people perish.—Or, run wild. (Comp. Hosea 4:6.)

But he that keepeth the law.—The teaching of those whom God has instructed (Comp. Isaiah 1:10.)

Proverbs 29:18. Where there is no vision — That is, no prophecy, the prophets being anciently called seers; no public preaching of God’s word, called prophecy, Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 14:4, &c. Where the people are destitute of the means of instruction; the people perish — Because they want the chief means of salvation; but he that keepeth the law — He does not say, he that hath the law, or he that hath vision, which the rules of opposition to the preceding clause might have given us reason to expect he would have said, but he that keepeth it; to teach us, that although the want of God’s word may be sufficient for men’s destruction, yet the mere having and hearing, or reading of it, is not sufficient for their salvation, unless they also keep, or obey it.29:11. He is a fool who tells every thing he knows, and can keep no counsel. 12. One who loves flatterers, and hearkens to slanderers, causes his servants to become liars and false accusers. 13. Some are poor, others have a great deal of deceitful riches. They meet in the business of this world; the Lord gives to both the comforts of this life. To some of both sorts he gives his grace. 14. The rich will look to themselves, but the poor and needy the prince must defend and plead for. 15. Parents must consider the benefit of due correction, and the mischief of undue indulgence. 16. Let not the righteous have their faith and hope shocked by the increase of sin and sinners, but let them wait with patience. 17. Children must not be suffered to go without rebuke when they do amiss. 18. How bare does a place look without Bibles and ministers! and what an easy prey is it to the enemy of souls! That gospel is an open vision, which holds forth Christ, which humbles the sinner and exalts the Saviour, which promotes holiness in the life and conversation: and these are precious truths to keep the soul alive, and prevent it from perishing.Vision - The word commonly used of the revelation of God's will made to prophets. Compare Isaiah 1:1; Nahum 1:1.

When prophetic vision fails, obedience to the Law is the best or only substitute for it, both being forms through which divine wisdom is revealed. Very striking in the midst of ethical precepts is this recognition of the need of a yet higher teaching, without which morality passes into worldly prudence or degenerates into casuistry. The "wise man," the son of David, has seen in the prophets and in their work the condition of true national blessedness. The darkest time in the history of Israel had been when there "was no open vision 1 Samuel 3:1; at such a time the people "perish," are let loose, "are left to run wild."

18. no vision—instruction in God's truth, which was by prophets, through visions (1Sa 3:1).

people perish—(Compare Margin), are deprived of moral restraints.

keepeth the law—has, and observes, instruction (Pr 14:11, 34; Ps 19:11).

No vision, i.e. no prophecy, for the prophets were anciently called seers, 1 Samuel 9:9, i.e. no public preaching of God’s law or word, (as appears by the opposite clause,) which is called prophecy, Romans 12:6 1 Corinthians 14:1, &c., where the people are destitute of the means of instruction.

The people perish, because they want the only means of salvation. Or, is made naked; stripped of their best ornaments, God’s favour and protection, as this word is taken, Exodus 32:25.

He that keepeth the law: this he saith rather than

he that hath vision, which the laws of opposition might seem to require, to teach us that, although the want of God’s word be sufficient for men’s destruction, yet the having, and hearing, or reading of it is not sufficient for their salvation, except they also keep or obey it. Where there is no vision, the people perish,.... That is, "no prophecy", as the Vulgate Latin version renders it; and which is often the sense of the word, as the vision of Isaiah is the prophecy of Isaiah; and, in the New Testament, prophesying is often put for preaching; and here vision, or prophecy, signifies the public ministering of the word and ordinances, and want of persons to administer them; no expounder, as the Septuagint version; or interpreter, as the Arabic. This was the case in the latter end of Eli's life, 1 Samuel 3:1; in Asa's times, and before, 2 Chronicles 15:3; in the Babylonish captivity, Ezekiel 7:26; in the times of Antiochus, Psalm 74:9; when John the Baptist and Christ first came preaching the word, Matthew 9:36; and now is the case of the Jews, and will be till the time of their conversion. So it was in the Gentile world, before the Gospel was brought into it, Acts 17:30; and so it now is in those places where the seven churches of Asia were; and in all Asia, which once heard the word of the Lord, even all that large country; and now it is not heard at all in it, but covered with Mahometan darkness. And this is the case in all Popish countries, subject to the see of Rome, where the word of God is not preached to the people, nor suffered so much as to be read by them; and even in reformed churches, for the most part, only a little morality is preached, and not the Gospel of Christ; so that here the people are perishing for lack of knowledge, Hosea 4:6; and when the witnesses will be slain, who now prophesy in sackcloth, there will he an entire stop put to prophesying or preaching for a while; but, when they shall rise, the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God, through the ministry of the word. Now, where there is no preaching, men perish in their sins; the word being the ordinary means of grace, of regeneration, conversion, faith, and salvation; without which, men know nothing of Christ, of peace, pardon, righteousness, and eternal life by him: and where there is preaching, yet it not being of the right kind, there is no spiritual knowledge spread by it, no food for souls under it; they perish with hunger, as the prodigal did, or are in starving and famishing circumstances; no comfort for the people of God, who perish in their comforts under such a ministry, 1 Corinthians 8:11; and poison is spread among others; false doctrine eats as a canker, and destroys souls. Again, where there is right vision and prophecy, or true preaching of the word, and that is despised and neglected, men perish notwithstanding; as the Jews of old, and all deniers and contemners of the word now, Acts 13:41; and this seems to be intended here, as appears by the following clause. The word translated "perish" has various senses, which agree with the text. It may be rendered, "the people become idle", or "cease" (s); from the performance of good works, grow dissolute in their manners, and licentious in their practices: or "they become refractory" (t); fierce, obstinate, and ungovernable, and rebel against their superiors: or they are "made naked" (u); stripped of their ornaments; of their privileges, civil as well as religious, which is often the case where no vision is; as well as of all virtue and morality, and of the blessing and protection of God;

but he that keepeth the law, happy is he: not the moral law, which no man can keep perfectly, but the law of faith. It may be rendered, "happy is he that observes doctrine" (w); the doctrine of the Gospel, where it is preached; that attends to it, values and esteems it, receives it by faith, and with meekness; blessed is he, blessed are his eyes and ears; he sees wondrous things out of this law or doctrine, and he hears and knows the joyful sound, which brings salvation and eternal life unto him!

(s) "feriabitur", Montanus. (t) "Rebellis erit", Pagninus; "retroagitur", Mercerus; "defecit, recedit", Vatablus; "refractarius", Gejerus. (u) "Nadatur", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Michaelis; "denudatur", Cocceius; "cessabit et otiosus erit, deficiet et retrocedit atque denudatur", Baynus. (w) "qui observat legem", i. e. "verbum Dei", Cocceius; "doctrinam", Amama.

{d} Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

(d) Where there are not faithful ministers of the word of God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. vision … law] “The vision is the actual contact between God and the human spirit, which is the necessary condition of any direct revelation; the law is the recorded result of such a revelation, either passed from mouth to mouth by tradition or written permanently in a book. We may then a little amplify the proverb for the sake of exposition: ‘Where there is no living revelation, no perceived contact between man and God, there the bonds which hold society together are relaxed and broken; but he that holds by the revelation that has been given, obeying the law, so far as it has been presented to him, happy is he.’ ” Horton.

It was this keeping the law, as they had received it, which was enjoined upon the Jews by the last of their prophets, in view of the coming centuries during which there should be no vision. Malachi 4:4.

perish] Rather, break loose, as the same word is rendered in Exodus 32:25, R.V.; where, as here in the marg., A.V. has, is made naked. In this place R.V. renders, suitably enough, cast off restraint; but it seems desirable to adopt the same rendering in both places, because the historical incident affords a good and possibly an intended illustration of the proverb.Verse 18. - Where there is no vision, the people perish; rather, cast off restraint, become ungovernable, cannot be reined in (Exodus 32:22, 25). "Vision" (chazon), prophecy in its widest sense, denotes the revelation of God's will made through agents, which directed the course of events, and was intended to be coordinate with the supreme secular authority. The prophets were the instructors of the people in Divine things, standing witnesses of the truth and power of religion, teaching a higher than mere human morality. The fatal effect of the absence of such revelation of God's will is stated to be confusion, disorder, and rebellion; the people, uncontrolled, fall into grievous excesses, which nothing but high principles can restrain. We note the licence of Eli's time, when there was no open vision (1 Samuel 3.); in Asa's days, when Israel had long been without a teaching priest (2 Chronicles 15:3); and when the impious Ahaz "made Judah naked" (2 Chronicles 28:19); or when the people were destroyed by reason of lack of knowledge of Divine things (Hosea 4:6). Thus the importance of prophecy in regulating the life and religion of the people is fully acknowledged by the writer, in whose time, doubtless, the prophetical office was in full exercise: but this seems to be the only passage in the book where such teaching is directly mentioned; the instructors and preceptors elsewhere introduced as disseminating the principles of the chochmah being parents, or tutors, or professors, not inspired prophets. But he that keepeth the Law, happy is he! "The Law" (torah) is not merely the written Mosaic Law, but the announcement of God's will by the mouth of his representatives; and the thought is, not the blessedness of those who in a time of anarchy and irreligion keep to the authorized enactments of the Sinaitic legislation, but a contrast between the lawlessness and ruin of a people uninfluenced by religious guidance, and the happy state of those who obey alike the voice of God, whether conveyed in written statutes or by the teaching of living prophets. (For "happy is he," comp. Proverbs 14:21; Proverbs 16:20.) Septuagint, "There shall be no interpreter (ἐξηγητὴς) to a sinful nation, but he that keepeth the Law is most blessed." 12 A ruler who listens to deceitful words,

     All his servants are godless.

They are so because they deceive him, and they become so; for instead of saying the truth which the ruler does not wish to hear, they seek to gain his favour by deceitful flatteries, misrepresentations, exaggerations, falsehoods. Audita rex quae praecipit lex. He does not do this, as the saying is, sicut rex ita grex (Sir. 10:2), in the sense of this proverb of Solomon.

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