THE VISION OF SOLOMON IN PROVERBS 29:18
The assumption that Proverbs 29:18 was about a vision is incorrect. What the people needed was a leader that understood the law of God. The King James Bible has: “Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that keeps the law, happy is he.” The translator cross-referenced the vision with the Seer Samuel (I Samuel 3:1). The INV supplies us with the word “revelation,” the RSV used “prophecy” and the NEB has “no one in authority.” What was Solomon trying to tell his readers or listeners?
The use of the word “vision” cannot be dressed in modern garb. It is an ancient Semitic concept with very specific applications. The Hebrew word “chazon” is a synonum for “chaza” or “raaha.” The basic meaning is being a seer, a prophet or a messenger. It is a person with authority to interpret the law of God for the people. Samuel was such a seer and so were all the prophets. The use of the word “chazon”(vision) in connection with the “Torah”(Law) indicates a leader and not an idea, a goal or some project. The ENB translation is the most applicable. “Where there is no one in authority, the people break loose (stray), but a guardian of the law keeps them on a straight path.”
The Proverbs were the wise sayings of Solomon. He knew exactly what the problem was in his day. There were many with visions, revelations and prophecies but very few that knew and understood the law like Samuel, the man that anointed his father David as king. Both, David and Solomon disobeyed the law and strayed. The prophet Nathan was sent to correct David, but Solomon was never corrected. There were no seers that dared to challenge the king. Proverbs 29:18, more or less was an indictment against the king himself. He had circumvented the law with his foreign wives and gods. His wisdom failed in controlling his passion. Down the road, Israel had fewer and fewer people that dared to proclaim the Law. Under Ahab and Jezebel, the ratio was 400 Baal prophets to one Elijah.
The New Testament is also steeped in Hebrew thought. It does not speak of vision as a goal, plan or project. The vision (horama) of Peter, James and John on the Mount of Transfiguration is at best a disclosure of Jesus in the company of Moses and Elijah (Matthew 17:9). Zechariah’s vision (optasian) was an angel (Luke 1:22). Paul obeyed the heavenly vision (optasia) (Acts 26:19). He referred back to his experience on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-9). He too had visions (optasias) and revelations (apocalypseis) from the Lord (II Corinthians 12:1), but they had nothing to do with any undertaking the Apostle had intended or planned. On Pentecost, God’s message was disclosed in dreams, prophesying and visions (Acts 2:17-21) and it was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy (Joel 2:28-34). Last but not least, John the beloved disciple had a vision (horasei) of devastation caused by war (Revelation 9:17-19).
The word “vision” in the Bible does not endorse the goals and plans of men. It has been God’s way of communicating with men and women. Least of all is Proverbs 29:18. It is the admission of a sinner that had strayed with his people because they had no one to lead them in the law. The law was their guide, but they had no trustworthy interpreters. False interpreters had begun to lead Israel down a trail of dust and Solomon did not and could not stop it because he was at the head of the procession. It was a message for posterity and it still is. Without God’s law and the leaders that know it, the people will divide, stray, and war against each other. That is precisely the vision the world is showing us. It is in that sense that Proverbs 29:18 is right on target. We have no leaders that know where we are going.
Does the above interpretation mean that man cannot dream dreams, set goals, make plans or design projects? It certainly was not the intention of God (Genesis 1:28-30). The Bible wants man to venture out and make something of himself and the environment about him. Man has been created to create things he can manage and afford. However, he must do so within guidelines that do not harm others and him self. God’s law is the only one that fits that pattern. It is impartial and universal. Man-made laws are partial and personal. They favor one person or group over another. Take the laws of religions and the problem they have created and still do. Political regulations have outdone religious rulings and devastated nations. No people can survive with too many gods and too many human ideologies. Human laws do not endure. Moses knew it. Solomon knew it. Jesus knew it (Matthew 5:17-18). How can it be that advanced and progressed man does not know it? Could it be that man is not as well developed as he thinks he is? The Bible insists that man without God’s law regresses and loses his advantage. The fact that man keeps on instituting primitive survival laws is contrary to his belief in evolution. He is not evolving but devolving. Like Paul wrote, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready” (I Corinthians 3:2). We need to do much more than change our diet. We need guardians of the Law and not revisers or visionaries. Where are our seers and leaders that know how to lead us?