Proverb for the Day 19:16 — I Set Before You This Day…Life or Death!

Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life, but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die

Unlike most proverbs, this wise saying doesn’t focus on particular characters but on activities. Yet, like most proverbs, they’re presented in parallel and contrasted — one who “keeps commandments” and one who “shows contempt.”

“Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life” — they’re the good guys and gals. While the commandments might represent direction from father and mother (a common focus in Proverbs), it’s probably about God’s commandments (the Big 10 and lots more!).

“Keeps commandments keeps their life” is pretty straightforward. Learning to listen to One who knows better than we do can save our lives — and make them much more meaningful!

In contrast, “whoever shows contempt for their ways will die.” Possibly meaning a person’s own “ways,” we can get to the point in life where we no longer care and have contempt for even our own lives. 

But, it’s probably a reference to the commandments of God. If we don’t listen, it’ll cost us — in this case, big time!

Moses said something similar to the Israelites as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. In fact, scholars generally think it happened at my dig site for the past decade on the east bank of the Jordan River (Tall al-Hammam). 

“I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction,” is what he said (Deuteronomy 30:15). They made their choices…and lived with the consequences. 

Hopefully we can figure it out…and do a little better!