Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 12:28
"In the way of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death"
This proverb is so profound and significant in that it gives a glimpse of where the life of righteousness leads after separation from the body in this present world. The phrasing in the Hebrew of the second part is very difficult to translate. Some have really liked the NIV translation: along that path is immortality.
Solomon explains clearly that it is righteousness that is the requirement for entrance to heaven and immortality. This verse is considered one of the earliest references to immortality in the Old Testament.
This is the Hebrew word sedeq which means justice or righteousness. It means living within God's moral boundaries and doing positive, loving things within those boundaries. It is our original design to happily stay within God's boundaries, looking to bless and love others; but because of the Devil’s and Adam's sin, we now face a world and an inner man that is completely dedicated to selfishness. We must lean against this in-borne selfishness and choose to love and care for others even though at times it does not feel right.
The Apostle Paul picks up this theme in Romans when he says what if those who were not seeking righteousness found the righteousness of God? And what if those seeking it missed it?
This is the Hebrew word haya which means live, have life, live prosperously. At times this word means just physical life, but at other times it is a quality of existence for which we all strive.
Solomon points out that this quality is connected to righteous living. It feels like real fun and living is out there on the plains of selfishness doing what you want. But it is not.
Clearly the pathway here refers to the way of life that a righteous person lives. Their life has consequences just as the way of sin does. A quality of life comes from living righteously just as a natural result of living in sin is death – either spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical.
Interestingly enough the Septuagint version is somewhat different and reads in this second phrase: in the way of malice is death. The word malice does not appear in the Hebrew.
This is the Hebrew word mawet which means death, dying. All men are bene mawet "sons of death," but this passage is looking at death from a different angle. This verse pierces beyond the veil and encourages us to see that immortality and righteousness are connected.
Physical death for the righteous is just a momentary interruption in the life of connectedness they have been experiencing with an even greater fulfillment on the other side.
Some commentators do not want to see that Solomon jumped beyond the horizontal plane of human existence in this verse. But it is natural for Solomon to project out and show the end of the life of righteousness: immortality.
Being righteous and wise brings ever deepening relationships with those whom we love and who are willing to love us back. This verse declares that the love and depth and joy that are developed here through righteousness and wisdom continue even after the physical separation from the body. God invites us into life at a whole new plane of existence.