There is a proverb in the book of Proverbs, that is of such stature that it is found in two separate places, both as Proverbs 14:12, and Proverbs 16:25. In the Hebrew style, most such repetition occurs immediately, for the sake of emphasis. So to have a phrase found in two completely unrelated places is very different, in fact, unique. I want to analyze this twice-stated proverb, and try to see what it really means to us today.
Let’s look at a few translations
- “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” KING JAMES VERSION
- “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” NEW KING JAMES VERSION
- “Sometimes a way seems right to a man, but the end of it leads to death!” NEW AMERICAN BIBLE
Those are some Christian translations, now lets look at some Jewish ones:
- “There is a way which seems right to a man, but at its end are the ways of death.” THE JERUSALEM BIBLE
- “There is a way that sees right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” TREE OF LIFE VERSION
To me, it seems to imply that if I do what I think is right, I will find death because I was wrong. The above translations seem to say that if you are doing what you think is right, you are in deep trouble. Well, if I am not mistaken, even if I will take the right turns in this life, even if I make the ‘right’ decisions, I will find death. True, some decisions may bring that death about earlier than others would. Either way, death is at the end of the road, regardless of the decisions. So, I am not convinced this proverb means what it appears to say!
An alternative Reading
So what does this really mean? Let me paraphrase it to better show the meaning that I get out of it when I read it. I’m not saying I am 100% right, I’m just saying that this is what it says to me:
“You think you are going the right way, but you will find out that it is a dead end.”
“You think you know what you are doing, but you are taking yourself down a dead-end street.”
“Go ahead, do it your way but it won’t get you anywhere you are going.”
Oops. Not getting anywhere going this way!
Ouch. Now we’re talking! Let’s not go over how many times in my life as a driver, I have taken a ‘wrong turn’ that ended up being a ‘dead end’? I do the same even with daily decisions! Here’s an example of this involving a relationship: I decide to spend time with someone hoping to develop a closer relationship, only to find it a dead end. I have to go back and start over down another road, with another person. You or I may take a certain job, hoping it will lead us somewhere, only to find out it doesn’t. Or we move to a certain city, with the same hopes. Or a college degree that was easy to get, but no one is hiring the graduates!
So many, many times in my life I made decisions, based on what I knew at the time, only to be disappointed later.
The good news? Dead ends are not fatal! All we have to do is go back to the last intersection (decision point) and pick a new route, or do that ‘stop and ask someone for directions’ thing. Either way benefits from someone else’s knowledge and experience. Don’t forget that one of those “someone’s” is God Himself, who gladly helps us in our lives, if we will but let Him.
While I have reached many of my goals in life, few of them have I reached by the first path that I started to take to get there!
Please comment and/or respond to what you heard inside of you as you read this! Let’s share!