Wise and Knowledgeable Leadership Brings Stability

June 16, 2014 — Leave a comment

What difference is there for a nation between poor leadership and wise leadership? Does it make a difference? Can the people tell?

According to Proverbs 28:2 there is a definite difference between good and poor leadership.

Wise and Knowledgeable Leadership Brings Stability

Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski

Proverbs 28:2 states:

When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily.
But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability. (NLT)

Based on my understanding of Biblical Hebrew, here is a more literal translation of Proverbs 28:2:

By many violations of the region by officials;
But a man understanding and knowing thus has been made long.

Proverbs 28:2Here’s my examination of each of the words and their syntax in this verse:

Line 1

בְּפֶ֣שַֽׁע = This word פֶ֣שַֽׁע is often glossed as “violation, transgression, guilt from (iniquity), punishment for (iniquity).” The preposition on the beginning of this word בְּ often is glossed as “in, with, by, at, among, into, when, against.” In this verse it functions in a temporal way showing a moment or point of time when the action takes place (A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, pp. 103-104).

אֶ֭רֶץ = This noun (singular, absolute) can be glossed as “land, earth, territory, region.” In the context of talking about officials and princes it probably means “region” or “nation” from a governmental point of view. 1

רַבִּ֣ים = This adjective רַב is in the plural absolute form and often means “many.” This is a predicate adjective which must agree with its noun in gender and number, but is never definite (Brian Webster, Cambridge Introduction to Biblical Hebrew, p. 69). In this verse, the word “many” is modifying the next word “official.”

שָׂרֶ֑יהָ = The word שַׂר is often glossed as “chief, official, prince.” Here it is in the plural form with a third person feminine suffix.

Line 2

וּבְאָדָ֥ם = The noun אָדָם often can be glossed as “a man, person, humankind.” Here, it has a temporal use because of the בְּ to show a point of time when something occurs (A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, pp. 103-104). The וְ on this word is a conjunction which can be labeled as an adversative conjunction because it shows that the first and second clauses have contrasting or antithetical ideas (A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, p. 146).

מֵבִ֥ין = The root verb here is בין which is often used as “to understand, discern, perceive.” However, the verb is in a form labeled as a Hiphil active participle which is a way of identifying a verb that has a “being caused to” sense to it. As an active Hiphil participle without the article this could be labeled as substantival or translated with the English participle -ing or -ed.

יֹ֝דֵ֗עַ = This also is a participle of the verb which is often glossed as “to know.” A simple way to translate this is “knowing” because without the article on this participle it should be translated in a participial way (-ing, -ed).

כֵּ֣ן = This adverb is often used as “thus” or “so” in a comparative manner in the main clause of a statement (A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, p. 136).

יַאֲרִֽיךְ = Normally this verb ארך can be glossed as “be(come) long, lengthen, prove to be long.” This form of the verb is normally seen as incomplete, in the future, and in the case of “be(come)” it will transfer to a fact that will happen. Therefore it would be labeled as a Hiphil imperfect verb.

Why is this verse important for leaders?

1. Moral rot topples a nation

When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily.

Moral rot topples a nation because offense in the land or region will lead to a proliferation of poor leaders.[Tremper Longman III, Proverbs, 487.[/ref] One way to see this section of the verse is that when officials of a nation do not maintain law and order they are removed, therefore toppling a nation because of the different and poor leadership over time.

2. A wise and knowledgeable leader brings stability

But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability.

A more literal way of seeing this verse is a “man of understanding, knowing (wisdom).” 2 This is a single intelligent man who will maintain political order. 3 A wise leader brings stability because he knows what is right from wrong and does what is right.

A wise leader does what is right because he knows that what he does can bring good or harm to his nation. Furthermore, the best circumstance for a nation is a benevolent ruler because he provides security. 4 The leader described in the second part of this verse is an “upholder of law and order who maintains his righteous jurisdiction.” 5

This verse in the book of Proverbs reminds the leaders of nations and leaders everywhere that the key to long-term success is correct leadership. This type of leadership includes integrity and high moral values which will help a nation to endure over time.

Question: What’s an example you can think about where wise leadership allowed the organization or nation to endure successfully for a long time?

Notes:

  1. The words בְּפֶ֣שַֽׁע אֶ֭רֶץ work together as a specification genitive of a quality or attribute of adjectival construct (A Guide to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, pp. 10-11).
  2. A Cohen, Proverbs, p. 186.
  3. C. H. Toy, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Proverbs, 495.
  4. Longman, Proverbs, 487.
  5. Bruce Waltke, The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 15-31, 408.

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Fresno Pacific University and master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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