28:4 Those who forsake the law 1 praise the wicked, 2
but those who keep the law contend 3 with them.
28:7 The one who keeps the law 4 is a discerning child, 5
but a companion of gluttons brings shame 6 to his parents. 7
28:9 The one who turns away his ear 8 from hearing the law,
even his prayer 9 is an abomination. 10
29:18 When there is no prophetic vision 11 the people cast off restraint, 12
but the one who keeps the law, 13 blessed is he! 14
1 sn Some commentators do not think that the word refers to the Mosaic law, but to “instruction” or “teaching” in general (cf. NCV “who disobey what they have been taught”). However, the expression “keep the law” in the second line indicates that it is binding, which would not be true of teaching in general (J. Bright, “The Apodictic Prohibition: Some Observations,” JBL 92 : 185-204). Moreover, Proverbs 28:9 and 29:18 refer to the law, and this chapter has a stress on piety.
2 sn The proverb gives the outcome and the evidence of those who forsake the law – they “praise the wicked.” This may mean (1) calling the wicked good or (2) justifying what the wicked do, for such people are no longer sensitive to evil.
3 tn The verb is the Hitpael imperfect of גָּרָה (garah), which means “to stir up strife” but in this stem means “to engage in strife” (cf. NIV “resist them”). Tg. Prov 28:4 adds an explanatory expansion, “so as to induce them to repent.”
4 tn The Hebrew word could refer (1) to “instruction” by the father (cf. NCV) or (2) the Mosaic law (so most English versions). The chapter seems to be stressing religious obedience, so the referent is probably the law. Besides, the father’s teaching will be what the law demands, and the one who associates with gluttons is not abiding by the law.
5 tn Heb “son,” but the immediate context does not suggest limiting this only to male children.
6 sn The companion of gluttons shames his father and his family because such a life style as he now embraces is both unruly and antisocial.
7 tn Heb “father,” but the immediate context does not suggest limiting this only to the male parent.
8 sn The expression “turn away the ear from hearing” uses a metonymy to mean that this individual will not listen – it indicates a deliberate refusal to follow the instruction of the law.
9 sn It is hard to imagine how someone who willfully refuses to obey the law of God would pray according to the will of God. Such a person is more apt to pray for some physical thing or make demands on God. (Of course a prayer of repentance would be an exception and would not be an abomination to the
10 sn C. H. Toy says, “If a man, on his part, is deaf to instruction, then God, on his part, is deaf to prayer” (Proverbs [ICC], 499). And W. McKane observes that one who fails to attend to God’s law is a wicked person, even if he is a man of prayer (Proverbs [OTL], 623).
11 tn Heb “no vision.” The Hebrew word “vision” (from the verb חָזָה [khazah, “to see”]) refers to divine communication to prophets (as in 1 Sam 3:1) and not to individual goals or plans. C. H. Toy sees a problem here: The most calamitous period of Israel’s history was when prophetic vision was at its height, whereas people were often more obedient when God was silent. He also notes that in the book of Proverbs there is no mention of prophetic teaching with wisdom as a guide. So he emends the word to “guidance” following the LXX (Proverbs [ICC], 512). The TEV has “guidance”; the NIV retains “revelation.” It must be stated that the prophetic ministry was usually in response to the calamitous periods, calling the people back to God. Without them the downward rush to anarchy and destruction would have been faster than with these prophetic calls from God.
12 tn The verb פָּרַע (para’) means “to let go; to let alone.” It occurs here in the Niphal with the meaning of “[the people] are let loose,” meaning, they cast off restraint (e.g., Exod 32:25). Cf. NLT “run wild.”
13 sn The law here refers to scripture, the concrete form of revelation. So the two halves of the verse provide the contrast: When there is no prophetic revelation there is chaos, but those who keep the revelation contained in scripture find blessing.
14 tn There is a tendency among commentators and English versions to translate אַשְׁרֵהוּ (’ashrehu) as “happy is he!” (cf. KJV, ASV, NAB, NASB, TEV, NLT). But “happy” can be a misleading translation. The Hebrew word refers to a heavenly bliss, an inner joy, that comes from knowing one is right with God and experiencing his blessing. “Happiness,” on the other hand, depends on what happens.