Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs from the Hebrew Bible and the ancient Near East

Clear of fear (Proverbs 28:1)

Posted by jac/cdc on February 13, 2007

נָסוּ וְאֵין־רֹדֵף רָשָׁע וְצַדִּיקִים כִּכְפִיר יִבְטָח׃

na-SU v’-ayn-ro-DAYF ra-SHA v’-tsa-dee-KEEM kich-FEER yiv-TACH

The wicked flees and there is none pursuing, but the righteous are as confident as a lion.

The Hebrew has a mismatch of singular subject ‘wicked’ and plural verb ‘flee’ in the first part. An accidental writing of an extra ו is a reasonable explanation, and the versions have a singular verb.

The wicked person is described here as plagued by guilt or fear or both. Even when no one is pursuing they are anxious and flee. By contrast the righteous are confident as a young lion in their innocence. Biblical illustrations are easy to find, the most notable being Adam and Eve hiding in the garden, even when God was not in “pursuit.” The psalms also mention that the wicked will not (with)stand the judgment with the righteous (Ps 1:5), and are unable to stand before God (Ps 5:5). By contrast, the righteous are safe and confident not because of an absence of wrong, but because they stand in right relationship with God. This is described as “fear of the Lord” in wisdom, “steadfast loyalty” in Psalms. Still, the most extensive description of the plague of guilt and fear on the wicked is found in Wisdom 17, which describes the terrors and specters experienced by those who have done wrong, even wrong in secret.

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