-Where there is no vision, the people perish-

The noble Berean: Volume Five January 2006

“The Two Most Misunderstood Passages in the Bible”

By Michael C. Gaudiosi - The Noble Berean

Let's look at Proverbs 29:18 and Hosea 4:6, we will start off with these two passages of Scripture. Proverbs 29:18 says: Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he. Hosea 4:6 says: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. These Scriptures are the two most miss-understood passages in the Bible...at least the two most I've ever seen!

Now both of them are very popular Scriptures, we have heard them time and time again from most modern-day preachers who talk about God fulfilling your vision, or your destiny, or your hopes and dreams. Let me say straight out of the gate, that is not what these two passages of scripture are talking about!! Both of these Scriptures are speaking of what happens when the Word of God is neglected or ignored.

Let me say again, these Scriptures are NOT talking about fulfilling your vision, or your destiny or your hopes and dreams, etc. However, and this is unfortunate, the mainstream of Christianity today has grossly changed the meaning of these two passages of Scripture to fit this man-centered, false teaching and heresy. I’ve seen it over and over again, for a long time, and it wasn’t until I watched Myles Munroe on Benny Hinn’s TV show when “pastor” Munroe was talking about fulfilling your vision, and, as always, he used these two passages of Scripture, but only certain parts, not the whole verse, that it caught my attention.

I had to respond to this, because I have had it up to here (Note: my hand is now underneath my chin!) with people like Munroe, and many, many others miss-interpreting these two passages of the Bible! Why do they always leave out the rest of the verse?? Because by quoting only the first part of these verses, it appears to validate their message. What do I mean by only using the first part of the verses? Well, let’s first look at Proverbs 29:18. This is how most Christians read this verse: Where there is no vision, the people perish. That’s it! But whatever happened to the other half of this verse? 

How come nobody reads this part: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he? How about Hosea 4:6? Here’s how many Christians read this: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge, again, that’s all! What about the rest of this verse: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children? If they did read the rest of these verses, the meaning changes all together. How you may ask? Well let’s take a look!

With regards to Proverbs 29:18 “Where there is no vision” simply means no teaching of the Word of God, which was brought to the people by the prophets, who received the Word from the Lord through visions. In 1 Samuel 3:1 it states: And the child Samuel ministered unto the LORD before Eli. And the word of the LORD was precious in those days; there was no open vision. 

Amos 8:11-12 further states: Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. Simply put, “the people perish” without the Word of God! 

Next part of Proverbs 29:18 says: “but he that keepeth the law, happy (or blessed) is he.” This is said in great detail in Psalm 19:7-11 - The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.

-Sola scriptura – the scripture alone-

Looking at Proverbs 29:18 from the 1568 Bishops Bible it states: When the word of God is not preached, the people perish: but well is him that kepeth the law. So, the TRUE meaning of this Scripture is that where the Word of God is neglected, ignored or not preached forth, the people will perish, but those who do hear the Word of God AND obey it, happy, or blessed are they! This has absolutely nothing to do with fulfilling your destiny, or having a vision. This was all I heard in my former church, all about vision and destiny and the pastor would always quote the first half of Proverbs 29:18 - Where there is no vision, the people perish. That would be all I ever heard! But praise be to the Lord! His Word has opened my eyes to His truth and now I know what this Scripture truly means!

Now let’s look at Hosea 4:6 - My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. Again, most Christians only read it like this: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”. But, ask yourself this question: does this mean that we need to go out there and acquire as much knowledge as we can so we will not be destroyed? Does this mean that I have to read 5000 books and gain so much information that I will not be destroyed? Of course not!! I actually knew of one person that did just that! Again, this means that where there is no instruction in the Word of God, then the people will walk in darkness, blindness and eventually be destroyed.

So, then what is this verse saying? The answer to that comes in the next line in the verse: “because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children”. This was referring to the priests who had neglected God’s Word and turned from His Law and eventually lead the people down the same road with them. Again, this has absolutely nothing to do with visions, fulfilling your destiny, seeking more knowledge simply for knowledge sake! Both Proverbs 29:18 and Hosea 4:6 have everything to do with the study and the obedience to the word of god!!

I know there’s much more that can be said, and I also know that I could go on further, but this is all I wanted to share about this from my heart! I had made this mistake with these two verses for many years in my Christian walk, but it was not until I read and studied God’s Holy Word and put aside all the man-centered teaching I had been fed that I fully understood these two verses of Scripture correctly. Don’t just take my word for it… Search the Scripture for yourself! (end quote)

Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

One of my greatest passions in life is for history. When I was young I was more likely to be seen reading non-fiction than fiction, and it was natural that when it came time for post-secondary education, I elected to take history as my major. One aspect of history I particularly enjoyed was examining historical figures whom we tend to vilify to see if the reality matches our perception. Often, I would find myself attempting to vindicate a particular historical figure who has been given unfair treatment in history. These days I find myself doing the same with Bible passages. There are multitudes of passages in Scripture that we use in a sense that, when given proper examination, is completely foreign to the true meaning of the passage. Today I will turn to one of these.

Proverbs 29:18 is a verse that many Christians have latched onto, claiming that it provides biblical basis for the importance of vision in leadership. This passage is used, most notably, by leaders within the church growth movement. Consider this brief sampling of the usage of this verse: my imagination influences my aspiration. In other words, your dreams determine your destiny. To accomplish anything, you must first have a mission, a goal, a hope, a vision. “Without a vision the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18.

-Rick Warren.

All memorable achievements were brought about by leaders who had vision. God uses visions to excite leaders because excited leaders get the most out of followers. Active followers accomplish much, and Christ’s Body keeps getting bigger thanks to prevailing local churches. That is why Proverbs 29:18 clearly states, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Let a leader grasp a godly vision, and then watch God work.

-Ken Godevenos:   Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained.” They can’t focus, can’t reach their goal, can’t follow their dream. An older translation says, “Without vision, the people perish.” I’ve seen it with my own eyes – without vision, people lose the vitality that makes them feel alive.

-Bill Hybels, Courageous Leadership, page 31

In the workbook section of Transitioning, a text book for leading a church from a “program-driven” to purpose-driven model, Dan Southerland examines vision in the light of Proverbs 29:18, suggesting that we should interpret this verse in the present tense to read “Where there is no visioning, (page 177)” the people perish.

Tony Morgan, pastor of Granger Community Church in South Bend, Indiana, quoting this passage, writes, “Without a planned destination, no one knows where to go. In churches, that leads to people doing ministry without a purpose. Programs drive these churches because no one has determined where the church is going. A vision statement paints a picture of the ideal future of your ministry and focuses prayer, energy, and resources.”

What is this vision these church leaders are referring to? Southerland defines vision as “a picture of what God wants to do. Vision is a picture of what God will do in His church if we get out of His way and turn Him loose to do so” (Transitioning page 22). Hybels says that “vision is a picture of the future that produces passion” (Courageous Leadership, page 32).

Vision, according to these authors, is an integral part of church leadership. A leader who does not cast and follow vision, leads his church towards destruction. The words “the people perish” is often interpreted by proponents of church growth to mean that churches without clear vision will lose members and be unable to numerically grow and flourish.

-But is that conclusion supported by this verse?

It is interesting to note that all of the men have quoted the King James Version’s rendering of Proverbs 29:18, which reads “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This is strange in that these men would never preach from the King James, nor would they recommend it for study or devotional reading. So why would they quote from this old translation? The answer becomes clear when we examine other translations:

NIV – Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.

NLT – When people do not accept divine guidance, they run wild.

CEV – Without guidance from God law and order disappear.

NKJV – Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.

HCSB – Without revelation people run wild.

ESV – Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint.

AMP – Where there is no vision [no redemptive revelation of God], the people perish

The New King James and some of the other translations footnote the alternate translation of “revelation,” saying that it can also mean “prophetic vision.” The Amplified works “redemptive revelation of God” into the text.

Clearly the meaning of these contemporary translations is vastly different than the meaning that has been assigned to the King James’ rendering. The Hebrew word that is causing all the trouble is chazon which refers specifically to a prophetic vision. This is not vision in the sense of “a picture of the future that produces passion” and only a small amount of research into the text shows this to be true. Strong suggests the following meanings:

a) vision (in ecstatic state)

b) vision (in night)

c) vision, oracle, prophecy (divine communication)

d) vision (as title of book of prophecy)

None of these can be used to support the type of vision these authors are suggesting. Furthermore, “perish” does not mean “die” but rather “cast off restraint.” The meaning of the verse is clear – Where there is no prophetic vision or revelation from God the people cast off restraint, no longer faithfully interpreting God’s Word and His Laws.

We should also note that none of these authors we listed above have completed the verse. The King James renders the rest of the verse as follows: “but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” The ESV says “but blessed is he who keeps the law.” The word “but” contrasts something from the first clause and the second. Obviously, what is being contrasted is those who cast off restraint when there is no revelation from God with those who keep the Law regardless. This verse warns against turning from the revelations of God and promises blessing to those who honor Him.


It is possible that a brief, careless reading of one translation of the Bible could lead to confusion as to this verse’s meaning. But for anyone who rightly handles the Word of God, paying attention to the sense of the text and to the meaning of the specific words used, the meaning of this verse is obvious. This verse says nothing of the importance of having a church that is led by vision or a visionary. Ironically, this verse should underscore the importance of honoring God’s revelation, and warn those who would water it down by sloppy or deliberate misuse. (end quote)

-Let God be true, but every man a liar-

You need God’s word. This proverb is a great reminder. The Bible, the inspired scriptures of Jehovah, the only true God, is crucial for you. Without a revelation of God’s will, mankind is desperately ignorant and will self-destruct. Individual examples of dysfunction are all around you. God will soon destroy the world for its insane rebellion.

Neglect the Bible to your own peril. Fulfillment and happiness are by keeping God’s commandments, which can only be known by attention to the Bible. Your success and prosperity depend on you having a message from God. The lesson of this proverb is simple, but most are grossly misled by a false interpretation and foolish application.

The hired gun brought in by the ambitious pastor tells the contented church, “To be a big church, you need to think big. If you want to grow, then you need to think growth. If you want to triple your attendance in two years, then you need to build an auditorium that size. If you can dream it, you can believe it. If you can believe it, you can achieve it.”

He goes to his next PowerPoint slide and declares, “God agrees. The Bible says, ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish.’ Get a vision, people! Get a vision of tripling the size of your little church! Sign your pledge cards today, and help your pastor get that multi-million-dollar mortgage! You need a vision, so your church won’t dry up and disappear.”

Who has not heard this sound bite, “Where there is no vision, the people perish”? The words of this proverb are well known, but the true meaning is little known. Here is one of the most abused verses in the Bible. This is the sound of words with no regard to the sense of words. May God save you from such ignorant and flippant use of the Scriptures.

This proverb is often corrupted to seduce churches to borrow large sums of money to finance unnecessary building projects. The “vision” is a plan to grow the church in size; and “perishing” is continuing on the same course with a bought-and-paid-for building. What a travesty of Bible interpretation! May the LORD bless you to read and understand the sense of this proverb, as Ezra read and gave the true sense to Israel (Neh 8:8).

As often in Proverbs, the parallelism tells you that “vision” is the hearing and reading of God’s word. A happy man is contrasted with people perishing, and the law of God is contrasted with “no vision.” There is nothing here about dreaming or building plans.

The lesson is simple but powerful. God’s word is a great blessing, and obeying it is the basis for true happiness. But where the word of God is not preached, the people will die in ignorance and folly from starvation for knowledge. Pray God to save you from such. This is the lesson of the proverb, and you should not let anyone corrupt this verse again.

God at times may take His word away from His people. Consider the days of Samuel, who anointed David king of Israel. The word of the LORD, or a revelation from God, was rare in those days, and it was called a vision, as in this proverb. In general, God was not revealing Himself and His will to Israel until Samuel arrived (I Sam 3:1).

God took His word away at other times also. Under Asa, the nation had gone a long time without a teaching priest or the law of God (II Chr 15:3). And during Josiah’s reign, the law of God, which had been lost, was found during temple renovation (II Chr 34:14). While in Babylon, God also took His word away from Israel (Ezek 7:26Lam 2:9). Jesus saw His own people, without faithful preaching, as sheep without a shepherd (Matt 9:36).

Without the word of God to save him, man will worship totem poles, stop spanking children, teach reincarnation, believe he came from monkeys, burn children in sacrifice, eat a cracker-god, kiss a stone in Mecca, worship buffalo, burn widows on funeral pyres, save baby seals while aborting baby humans, invent same-sex marriages, celebrate pagan festivals, after the name of Christ has been attached to them (Christmas - Easter ) and so forth.

Without God’s word, men wander out of the way of understanding and remain in the congregation of the dead, to perish there under Satan’s delusions (Pr 21:16Acts 26:16-18Eph 2:1-3). Consider modern history and where the greatest degree of human freedom, prosperous living, and happy people existed – where the Bible was practiced.

When Paul preached at Lystra and Athens, he explained that God had let the Gentiles walk in their own ignorant ways without His word for many generations, but He was now commanding men to repent of their ignorance (Acts 14:11-1817:22-31). Without Scripture, men will rush with greedy ambition into the vilest of lifestyles (Eph 4:17-19).

In today’s world, great sections of it are closed to the reading and preaching of God’s word. It is generally restricted in Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and other nations. Where it is not read and preached, the people suffer in ignorance and folly of many kinds. Without God’s word, such nations are “without hope” religiously (Eph 2:12John 4:22I Thess 4:13), and they cannot achieve a good measure of even natural progress (Pr 8:1-31).

One-sixth of the world is Catholic, where until very recently its members were not allowed to read the Bible. The Mass – their only exposure to Scripture – was done in Latin. What superstitious ignorance! And this in the name of Christian religion! Compare a Catholic country with those around it, and perishing by ignorance is quite visible. Since they did not receive the love of the truth, God sent them delusions (II Thes 2:9-12).

The logic is simple. Religious salvation is by calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. But how can they call without believing? And how can they believe without hearing? And how can they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach without being sent? God has withdrawn His word from a world that rejected it (Rom 10:13-17).

The LORD warned that one of His judgments is to take away the word of God and leave a people starving for Him and Scripture. The Lord said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). He described the famine He will bring on a land: not a famine of bread, but a famine for hearing God’s word (Amos 8:11-12). Lord, help!

America is in such a condition. It fulfills the perilous times of the last days, prophesied by Paul in a warning to Timothy (II Tim 3:1-5). Though having an information explosion with a geometric increase in learning, there is no ability to identify or learn the truth (II Tim 3:6-7). Most of its Christians and churches think, look, and act like worldly pagans. 

False teachers are everywhere, deceiving and being deceived (II Tim 3:8-13). Most Christians resent sound doctrine and truth, and they pay teachers and entertainers who will scratch their itching ears and lusts with fables (II Tim 4:3-4). Real preaching is despised as an outdated, boring, and negative activity. Entertainment rules! There is no more vision! America is in the midst of a famine for God’s word.

Men are living dysfunctional and perverted lives and perishing in folly and ignorance. A few sincere Christians throughout the nation are starving to hear and understand the word of God, but they cannot find it being taught anywhere. Confusion and error reign on any and every subject. The emphasis is on growth and programs with disdain for God’s word.

What is the cure? God-called men must preach the Word of God faithfully and dogmatically. Scripture is completely sufficient to make every faithful minister perfectly prepared to instruct his people in all the wisdom of God (II Tim 3:14 – 4:2Jer 3:15). With the Bible as his handbook, a faithful man of God can destroy the errors and illusions of any people, for the word of God is a hammer and a fire (Jer 23:28-29).

What is another cure? Honor faithful preaching of His word with a ready and receptive mind, and do not despise old-fashioned Bible teaching (Act 17:11I Thes 5:20Jer 6:16Jude 1:4). Reject any move to contemporary worship, and restore a proper emphasis on thundering messages from God’s word by ordained teachers. Review the great joy and national celebration of Israel hearing and understanding preaching (Neh 8:1-12).

What is another cure? Treasure His word as your greatest earthly possession, and delight in its glorious words from heaven (Jer 15:16Job 23:12Psalm 19:10119:72,103,111). Promote the Bible as the absolute and final authority on every subject where you can, in conscious defiance to this MTV generation and their obsession with fables and pleasure. Make sure you have a Bible version that you can trust at the word level to honor God.

What else can you do? Humbly obey in sincerity and truth what you read and hear from the Bible, not merely complying outwardly by a religious ritual and habit (Ezek 33:30-33Luke 8:18). Let others see your true conviction about Scripture by your obedience to it.

What else? Show the true joy, peace, and hope in believing that will cause others to be encouraged and ask a reason of your hope (Rom 15:13I Pet 3:15). Those under the influences of the Spirit at Pentecost did not count their vision a light thing (Acts 2:42-47). By obeying the Bible and having a blessed life, you will do much to promote it to others.

There is great reward in having and obeying the Word of God (Ps 19:11). Moses told Israel that the precious revelation they had received from God was their wisdom and understanding above other nations (Deut 4:5-10), their righteousness and means for His blessing (Deut 6:20-25), and even their very lives (Deut 32:46-67). Building on this solid foundation will prepare you well for life’s storms that will surely come (Luke 6:46-49).

Jesus said regarding His preaching, “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them” (John 13:17). He even told a woman that hearing and keeping the word of God was a greater blessing than being His own mother (Luke 8:2111:28). And James added that the blessing is for those who hear and do (James 1:25). Make sure you are a doer!

The Holy Scriptures and the faithful preaching of them provide more value to a people than any other blessing. For obeying God’s word saves from horrible ignorance and trouble, leads to the highest peace, prosperity, and pleasure possible in this world, and contains all the spiritual instruction to prepare for the next world. It teaches men how to walk with God in confidence of eternal life and personal fellowship with Him. Glory!

The Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God. There He received great gifts and spoil for His victory over sin and death, and He has in turn given these gifts of ministerial ability and authority to preach the Scriptures to His people and churches. Rejoice and be exceeding glad that you have seen the beautiful feet (Rom 10:15Job 33:23-24) and heard the joyful sound (Ps 89:1568:11Rom 10:18).

Dear reader, do you love, appreciate, read, and obey the Bible as you should? It is your life. Without it, you will perish. Neglect it to the peril of life and soul. It is your happiness. Exalt it to the joyful blessing of your own life and that of your family. Your fulfillment and happiness in all things both natural and spiritual depend on it. (end quote)

-Accepting Jesus Christ, means believing Him-

Through seeking and searching out the word of God on these two important bible verses expounding on Proverbs 29:18 and Hosea 4:6. I have found a spiritual gold mine of helpful and important truth to remember and use in our walk with God, here on earth, till Jesus Christ returns to establish, rule and reign here in the coming kingdom of God. Along with him will be His elect, the chosen few He has selected out from generations of father Adam and mother Eve, down until today. At His return, He will have His angels call them all from the four corners of heaven and earth to rule and reign with Him. 

Both the elect having died throughout the ages and those yet alive and bring to Him, all whom died since the beginning of man, here on earth. Where the elect of God and Christ then, return down from the sky from where He received them, to begin His rule and reign with them on this earth. There -by fulfilling and answering the multiple trillions upon trillions of prayers asking God so many times in these very words. "Our Father whom art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". I hope this writing will up-lift and encourage everyone who takes the time to read it. May the Great God of all heaven and earth bless you with an open mind that it may be so. Amen!


Leith Lyman Cunningham