As we reach the end of Proverbs 2, it is a good point at which to review what we have covered so far.
These first two chapters are essentially building a case for choosing wisdom. Similar themes have arisen throughout, namely justice, insight, the benefits of wisdom and the risks of foolishness. Solomon is trying to hammer home the idea that wisdom is the only sensible choice for us, and that wisdom’s only true source is from God.
Chapter two ends as follows:
20 So you may walk in the way of good men,
and keep the paths of the righteous.
21 For the upright will dwell in the land.
The perfect will remain in it.
22 But the wicked will be cut off from the land.
The treacherous will be rooted out of it.Proverbs 2:20-22 (WEB)
At first glance, these verses may not add anything new that we have not already seen so far. Verse 20 begins with a “So” and connects to previous verses. It loops in the idea that if we choose wisdom, and avoid evil, we will walk in the way of good men and follow the path of the righteous. Put simply, wisdom leads to righteous living.
In the Land
Verse 21 and 22 however introduce something new. They mention the idea of dwelling “in the land”, and the converse, to be “rooted out of it”. At the very basic level, this refers to life and death. To be alive is to live in the land, and to die is to be removed from it. In that sense, it is a restatement of the idea from earlier in the chapter where we see that sin leads to death.
When I see a reference to “the land” I often ponder if it refers to land generically speaking, or if it is a specific reference to the land of Israel. Some today believe that the physical land upon which Israel currently sits is no longer important, and yet others believe the land itself is part of God’s promise.
For instance, Genesis 17 states:
Abram fell on his face. God talked with him, saying, 4 “As for me, behold, my covenant is with you. You will be the father of a multitude of nations. 5 Your name will no more be called Abram, but your name will be Abraham; for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. 6 I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you. Kings will come out of you. 7 I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 I will give to you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are traveling, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession. I will be their God.”Genesis 17:3-8 (WEB)
This appears to be an everlasting covenant between God and the descendants of Abraham, and verse 8 specifically mentions “the land”.
Many disagree on this point, so I will leave it to you to determine if you think the land itself is important or not, but if it is, then this point from Proverbs may link in.
As I say, verse 22 points out that the wicked or treacherous will be cut off from the land. If the land is specific to Israel as I ponder above, then this also may refer to the danger of ignoring God’s ways. We know that as the nation of Israel forsook the Lord in the generations that followed Solomon, not following the Law and worshipping other gods. This resulted in them being taken into captivity and the subsequent exile.
However you read these verses, the conclusion is clear. Following God’s ways and making wise choices will lead to good things, and not doing so will lead to bad. Insightful huh?
Proverbs 2:21 says “The perfect will remain in it.” i.e. the land. This little word “perfect” leapt out at me, for I know I am far from it!
It reminds me of what Jesus said here:
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Matthew 5:48 (ESV)
Most translations do use the word perfect, which is a tough pill to swallow. Some say “will be perfect,” but I am not certain if the Greek implies a future perfection here.
How can we hope to be perfect?
We could infer that perfect does not mean perfect, but rather just good. Even so, can we dare to hope to be “good”? I am often uneasy about taking a word or phrase from the Bible and trying to argue that it does not mean what it says. Clearly, there are poetic or metaphorical examples which are not meant to be taken literally. We must handle the text appropriately therefore, and be sure not to allegorise something that was intended to be literal.
The truth is, I do not know for sure how best to interpret this. My suggestion is that it is a call to live uprightly of course, but also a distinction between who we are and what we do. While we may not act perfectly all of the time, we are righteous because of our position in Christ. Perhaps Jesus is directing us to live well, but to recognise our behaviour will never be perfect while on the earth, and instead to rely on His perfection. I will leave you to consider that for yourself.
If you have missed any of the previous posts on Proverbs, then here is a list for you to catch up on.
- Introduction Proverbs
- Listen to Your Parents
- Don’t Go That Way
- Wisdom Shouts Out
- If Wisdom
- Then Wisdom
- Strange Women & Bad Men
Thanks for your ongoing support by reading these posts. I hope they bless you.