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Proverbs 4:18-19 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn: The conjunction but shows us that verse 18 and 19 will be contrasting the righteous person with the wicked person. The path of the righteous refers to the life course of the upright person, the blameless person. Blameless: (Heb. tam, tamim; Gr. amomos, amometos) means “perfect, blameless, sincerity, entire, whole, complete, and full.” Of course, Noah, Jacob, and Job were said to be blameless and they were not literally perfect. When used in reference to imperfect humans, the terms are relative, not absolute. However, if we are fully committed to following, a life-course based on God’s will and purposes, fully living by his laws, repent when we fall short, he will credit us righteousness. – Gen. 6:6; 25:27; Job 9:20-22l Ps. 119:1; Pro. 11:20; Phil 2:15; 1 Thess. 5:23.
The path of the righteous is like … is a simile. Similes are normally introduced with the word “like” or “as.” They compare two things that are very different, highlighting something these two things have in common. “He is like a tree planted by streams of water …” (Psalm 1:3) In this simile, the path of righteousness is being compared to the light of dawn. What is the commonality between the two? Dawn occurs before sunrise before the top of the Sun reaches the horizon. So, the path of righteousness (life course of a blameless upright believer) is being compared to rising sunlight, meaning the way in which they are to go is made clear, so they can be aware of the unseen dangers.
Which shines brighter and brighter until full day: The path or life course of the believer is one where there is increased light, just as the sunlight of dawn pulls the righteous ones out of the darkness and into the light of the full day.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness: This too is a simile, as it is introduced with the word “like.” The way of the wicked is being compared to deep darkness. The deep darkness (ʾǎp̄ē·lā(h)) spoken of here is mental darkness, not literal physical darkness. What is the commonality between the two? Like deep darkness, the wicked are in mental darkness in that they cannot see any light whatsoever. Mental darkness is a sort of mental blindness where one sees what others see and even understands the meaning, but their mind is beyond repentance, unreceptive, closed, so they see it as foolish. They are in darkness mentally.
The apostle Paul warns the reader at 2 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The apostle John says of Jesus Christ, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.” (John 1:4-5) However, even the light of the truth cannot penetrate the mental darkness of some.
They do not know over what they stumble: When you are in mental darkness, you are so blinded by your closed heart and mind, you cannot even see what is making you stumble. The Hebrew verb stumble (Heb. kā·šǎl) means to walk blindly. In this context, it refers to a wicked, evil, person who basks in their willful ignorance (darkness).
A believer can pass from death to life by choosing Christ. However, he can also pass from life to death if he stumbles to the point of spiritual shipwreck. There are times when these ones can be recovered. (Gal 6:1) However, if he rejects the help from spiritual leaders within the congregation because his heart has grown callused, he can go to the point of being beyond repentance. He would come to the point of having no desire to be restored. (Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-29) The wicked, foolish ones are beyond repentance and refuse to be corrected by Wisdom; therefore, they shall eat the fruit of their way (1:31), namely, suffer the consequences of their conduct. These ones have thrown their faith to the wind and have rejected God and have moved over to the point of being beyond repentance. Truly wicked ones will not change their ways, as they are in mental darkness, beyond repentance, unable to see any light whatsoever, and are blinded by the god of this wicked age. (2 Cor. 4:3-4) However, we can rescue the young one, who may fall prey to their seductive ways.
The contrast is all too clear, as the path of the righteous is one that grows brighter throughout his or her life, everything becoming clearer. On the other hand, the way of the wicked is so dark that they cannot even see what causes them to stumble. Those on the path of righteousness possess moral insight that adds joy to their life, while the way of the wicked possesses ignorance that leads to unhappiness. The objective of Solomon here is that he wants to whet the appetite of his sons for wisdom and insight, knowing the result will be that their actions will come thereafter.