For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.
War is serious! Losing has enormous consequences; even victory can cost too much. Anger, fear, pride, public opinion, and revenge all combine to make decisions difficult. Solomon warned his son that such decisions must have wise counsel, and lots of it. Here is a rule for prudent men, who want to advance in the sight of God and men (Pr 24:5).
The book of Proverbs was written by Solomon “to give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion” (Pr 1:4). God inspired Scripture and gave it to His children to make them wise in the earth (Deut 4:6). If you want to avoid the pitfalls of life, achieve a high level of success, and be honored by others for wisdom, obey this rule.
Young men are impulsive and headstrong. Though only removed from diapers and rattles by a few years, they believe they know a lot and want to fight. Youth assumes invincibility. Rehoboam, Solomon’s son who should have known this proverb, followed the advice of young friends and lost ten of the twelve tribes of Israel (I Kgs 12:1-19).
Young men are impulsive and headstrong. Though only removed from diapers and rattles by a few years, they feel invincible and want to fight. Old wise men know better. Consider the Japanese Imperial Navy’s conflict among admirals and fleet commanders before and after Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway. Young officers wanted to wage a hopeless war with America, while the older men knew better. Wise counsel is strength!
There are two parts to this proverb – wise counsel, and lots of it. Not just any advice will do. You must use wise men, which means you consult cautious, experienced, grave, successful, and God-fearing older men. It is not prudent to ask aggressive, ambitious, and foolish young friends. Their thoughts are worthless on any subject. Go to the men you are afraid will nix your plans. Shame on you for already knowing you are wrong.
And asking just one or two wise men is not enough. The proverb teaches that wisdom is in a multitude of counselors. By taking the time to hear many sober opinions and weighing them carefully, young men would be saved from foolish and hurtful decisions. The delaying effect and combined wisdom raise the probabilities of success very high.
Why is the rule hard to follow? Pride keeps man from humbling himself to the criticism of others. Impulsive haste resents any delay for what the heart desires. Ambition seeks all the glory for itself by making solitary decisions. Rebellion and stubbornness choose to do their own thing anyway. Emotion creates passionate zeal for a thing whether it is valid or not. These obstacles to seeking counsel are the marks of fools. Despise and reject them!
What decisions deserve wise and numerous counselors? Most men do not make decisions about war. But there are other life-altering decisions like a wife, a career, a specific job, a church, a promotion, a house, an investment, a business, a friend, a move, a problem with a child, a problem with health, and so forth. Do you seek wise counsel from many?
Many men wish someone had stopped them from marrying an odious woman (Pr 30:21-23; Eccl 7:26). How did they make their decision to marry? Did they objectively and unemotionally ask a number of wise married men about the character of their prospect and her family? Not a chance! Her fluttering eyelids, smooth words, and young body were too much. They went down like sheep to the slaughter for fifty years of marital hell.
The greatest wisdom from numerous counselors is found in the Bible, which contains the writings of about 40 men inspired by the Spirit of God. It is the crucible to which every decision should be brought to test it by the hammer and fire of Holy Scripture (Jer 23:29). Let every man tremble before the Word of God, esteem all its precepts to be right on every subject, and hate any contrary opinion, even if it is his own (Is 66:2; Ps 119:128).
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In my “Estonia: information warfare and lessons learned” talk — often dubbed “The First Internet War” — I end with a quote from the Bible, Proverbs 24:6. I use it in the stead of Sun Tzu’s “All warfare is based on deception”.
The often-quoted original Hebrew is:
(‘בתחבולות תעשה לך מלחמה” (משלי כ”ד, ו”
The full original verse is longer:
“כִּי בְתַחְבֻּלוֹת, תַּעֲשֶׂה-לְּךָ מִלְחָמָה; וּתְשׁוּעָה, בְּרֹב יוֹעֵץ.”
I sought a good English translation I can use rather than my own translation in Modern Hebrew, but they all seem wrong. Here is an example from the King James Bible:
“For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude of counsellors there is safety.”
They speak of having wise counsel, which is false. The second part about many advisers seems reasonably translated.
Other translations can be found here:
http://scripturetext.com/proverbs/24-6.htmUsing Twitter, Facebook and IM, I enlisted the help of some friends.
Ely Levy helped me search the web for any possible translation which makes more sense. We didn’t succeed.
A dictionary translation for the word TACHBULOT comes up with multiple translations surrounding the English words Cunning and Tricks, and none for wise counsel. Yet, modern Hebrew is not exactly the same as Bible Hebrew.
My best translation was (see note on grammar below):
“In cunning and trickery you shall wage war”
A literal translation would be:
“In cunning and trickery you will make war.”
If pressed to use one word, I’d make the translation:
“In cunning you shall wage war”
Another friend, Josh Brown, used his old Yeshiva (religious academy) education to seek interpretations for the verse, helping me with due diligence.
Josh checked through several traditional sources (Rashi, Ibn Ezra, etc.) as well as the explanation published by Mossad HaRav Kook, and he agrees with my initial translation, and doesn’t see where they would pull “advisers” from for the first part of the verse. It almost seems like they short-handed the translation. Ely checked the Malbim interpretation which also agrees with what Josh said.
Josh’s freehand translation is:
“For with cunning, you should wage war, and salvation through many advisers.”
I can’t argue with Josh’s translation to the second part of the verse, but this shifted the discussion to why the word “should” is there, as it indicates intent.
Apparently, most commentary on the subject ties this verse into the constant war that Man wages against his inner evil urge (יצר הרע), and therefore say that this verse does infer intention.
Taking this into account, I believe the word “shall” rather than “make” shows some intent, and yet doesn’t necessarily decide it that way.
Josh’s translation brought on a short grammatical debate as to which preposition would be grammatically correct to start the verse with: In, With or By. “In” was immediately ruled out, “By” suggests it is The Way. “With” seems like a weaker “By” in this context, as A Way, and is a good compromise.
My translation is now:
“with cunning you shall wage war,”
We are not Biblical, Linguistic, Etymological or Hebrew experts, but that is what research is for. If anyone can help us with more information, we would naturally appreciate the help.
Ronit Goldstand sent me a message on twitter with the following URL:
In it, the word TACHBULOT is equated with tactics and strategies:
“TACHBULA – A plan of action for all possible eventualities, a strategy”. It doesn’t seem a likely usage to me, but who am I to argue with Wikipedia? 🙂
Assaf Dekel pointed me to
Young’s Literal Translation
of the verse:
“For by plans thou makest for thyself war, And deliverance is in a multitude of counsellors.”
We will now look at chapter 24.
1 Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them; Proverbs 24:1 (NASB)
It is very easy for us to look at others and say, “Boy I wish I could do that.” or “I wish I were like that.” Be very careful of the character of those who you would set as an example. Don’t envy those who are not on the right path.
2 For their minds devise violence, And their lips talk of trouble. Proverbs 24:2 (NASB)
The King James version uses the word “heart” instead of “mind”. The matter is that they are consumed with producing violence. It is always on their mind and in their heart. Not only that but they talk about it continually.
3 By wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; Proverbs 24:3 (NASB)
A good life is built by wisdom and the foundation of it is established if understanding is present.
4 And by knowledge the rooms are filled With all precious and pleasant riches. Proverbs 24:4 (NASB)
Here is a continuation of thought from the previous verse. Knowledge should fill the rooms of the house. Wisdom, understanding and knowledge are those things we should strive for in life. If we seek these things – there will be riches – perhaps not physical riches – but riches of value and honor.
5 A wise man is strong, And a man of knowledge increases power. Proverbs 24:5 (NASB)
The athlete who has wisdom—who assesses the situation and plans strategies—has an advantage over a physically stronger but unwise opponent. We exercise regularly and eat well to build our strength, but do we take equal pains to develop wisdom and knowledge? Because wisdom is a vital part of strength, it pays to attain it.
6 For by wise guidance you will wage war, And in abundance of counselors there is victory. Proverbs 24:6 (NASB)
In any major decision we make concerning college, marriage, career, children, etc., it is not a sign of weakness to ask for advice. Instead, it is foolish not to ask for it. Find good advisers before making any big decision. They can help you expand your alternatives and evaluate your choices.
7 Wisdom is too exalted for a fool, He does not open his mouth in the gate. Proverbs 24:7 (NASB)
Matthew Henry says of this verse:
“A weak man thinks wisdom is too high for him, therefore he will take no pains for it. It is bad to do evil, but worse to devise it. Even the first risings of sin in the heart are sin, and must be repented of. Those that strive to make others hateful, make themselves so.”
8 One who plans to do evil, Men will call a schemer. Proverbs 24:8 (NASB)
Planning to do evil can be as wrong as doing it because what you think determines what you will do. Left unchecked, wrong desires will lead us to sin. God wants pure hearts, free from sin, and planning evil brings sinful thoughts into our mind. Should you say, “Then I might as well go ahead and do it because I’ve already planned it”? No. You have sinned in your attitude, but you have not yet harmed other people. Stop in your tracks and ask God to forgive you and put you on a different path.
9 The devising of folly is sin, And the scoffer is an abomination to men. Proverbs 24:9 (NASB)
Wesley has said of this verse:
“The thought – The very inward thought or contrivance of evil, is a sin in God’s sight.”
I pray that my thoughts were pure – but they are not. That which I can hide from man I can not hide from myself – much less God.
10 If you are slack in the day of distress, Your strength is limited. Proverbs 24:10 (NASB)
Times of trouble can be useful. They can show you who you really are – what kind of character you have developed. In addition, they can help you grow stronger. When Jeremiah questioned God because of the trouble he faced, God asked how he ever expected to face big challenges if the little ones tired him out (Jer_12:5). Don’t complain about your problems. The trouble you face today is training you to be strong for the more difficult situations you will face in the future.
11 Deliver those who are being taken away to death, And those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back. Proverbs 24:11 (NASB)
We are our brothers keeper. If you see one on the road to death – do you sit back and do nothing? That is not what this verse tells us to do. But it tells us to “hold them back”.