Two Sides of the Same Coin – Proverbs 30:6
“Do not add on to His words, lest He prove it in you and you will turn out to be false.”
The nature of translation is such that no matter how loyal you are to the original, some of the flavor will go lost. This verse in Proverbs is a classic example of the limitations of translation. Allow me to elaborate:
The first phrase in this verse is easily translated and understood – Do not add on to His words; obviously referring to the words of God. A practical question arises; what kind of addition are we being encouraged to avoid? Are we being warned not to add on more books to the Scriptural canon? Is the prophet telling us not to add on to God’s Law? What are the practical parameters of this admonition?
I suggest that we try to understand the next two phrases in this verse, then we will take a look at the history of mankind; this will help us understand the first phrase in this text.
The second phrase; “lest He prove it in you”, implies that if you violate the admonition expressed in the beginning of the verse, God will use your own person to bring evidence to the original perfection of His word. God will point to the person who adds on to His word as an example to all, why it is indeed wrong to add on to His word.
The third phrase in this verse actually consists of one word in the original Hebrew: “v’nichzavta”. The root of this word is ch,z,v which is generally translated as “falsehood”, but there is an important nuance that gets lost in the translation. There are several Hebrew words that express the concept of lies and falsehood, and each one of them carries a slightly different connotation. The word “ch,z,v” implies a disappointment, such as in the case of a promise that is not kept, an expectation that is not met.
The message of this verse is that God’s Law is perfect (Proverbs 30:5, Psalm 19:8). If an individual finds that God’s Law is not righteous enough and this person tries to add on to God’s word by preaching a higher standard of righteousness, the experiment will backfire. This same person who is trying to be holier than God’s Law will turn out to be a disappointment. God will demonstrate through this very same person that it is counterproductive to add on to His word. The expectations that this person raised with his or her addition to God’s word will never be met.
Christianity serves as the classic illustration of this teaching. One of the better known teachings of Christianity is found in the fifth chapter of the book of Matthew: “whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
Here Matthew’s Jesus adds on to God’s word. In all of the moral code of the Scriptures we are not encouraged to allow ourselves to be hurt unjustly by others. The followers of Jesus accepted upon themselves a moral code that is supposed to be “higher” than the code presented by God to Moses.
One would expect that the people who venerated this teaching should be the shining example of humility and forbearance. But in fulfillment of Proverbs 30:6, the very opposite happened. These people were not satisfied to practice hatred and cruelty, but they elevated it to the status of a religious virtue.
There is not the space in this brief article to record the atrocities of those who revered the teaching of turning the other cheek. I encourage the reader to research the history of Christian anti-Semitism.
People see a contradiction between the fact that crowds found enjoyment in the sight of heretics burning to death at an Auto da Fe and the fact that these same crowds saw the teaching of “turning the other cheek” as foundational to their world-view. The passage in Proverbs teaches us that not only are these two facts not a contradiction to each other but that these are the two sides of the same coin.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal