This Week's Focus Passage

‘They shall be a chaplet of grace unto thy head. [ASV]’

Focus Passage: Proverbs 1:9

‘They shall be a chaplet of grace unto thy head. [ASV]’

The word ‘chaplet’ is to be found only in Proverbs 1:9 and 4:9. Aside from these occurrences in the ASV (American Standard Version, 1901), it has been found in Wycliffe’s translation [Isaiah 3:20] and in the Amplified Bible’s rendering of Proverbs 1:9, in the sense of a garland, more especially a victor’s garland. The fact that the ASV is, historically, an ‘Americanization’ of the English Revision of 1885, which is itself a revision of the far better known King James Version, is important to note at this point—we will return to that point later. The Oxford Universal Dictionary defines the word ‘chaplet,’ which is related to the French word chapeau, as a ‘wreath for the head; a circlet; a coronal [in heraldry]. We witness a validation of this in the second occurrence of the word in Proverbs 4:9. There is in the ninth verse of chapter four of Proverbs what appears to be a form of parallelism.

She will give to thy head a chaplet of grace; A crown of beauty will she deliver to thee.

In the first statement our word ‘chaplet’ is employed, indeed a ‘chaplet of grace.’ And this chaplet is given to those ‘sons’—see verse one—who exalt and embrace the speaker under the personification of Wisdom; Let thy heart retain her words; Forsake her not; love her. Parallel to Wisdom giving to such a son ‘a chaplet of grace’ in the first line, we find in the second line, Wisdom delivering to this son ‘a crown of beauty.’ We deduce then that a chaplet of grace is somewhat synonymous with a crown of beauty. And this would surely correspond to the Amplified Bible’s rendering the word, by way of suggestive amplification, as a ‘victor’s garland.’ It is indeed rendered by many of the translations as crown. The Hebrew word livyah, or liv-yaw’ means, according to Strong’s concordance, something attached, i.e. a wreath—ornament; a wreath for the head; a circlet, a coronal [in heraldry], as would be suggested by a crown, as it is translated in the Easy-to-Read Version, along with numerous other more modern translations.

It is necessarily admitted that ‘chaplet’ is a translation that is employed almost exclusively by the American Standard Version—1901. It is also admitted that the word is quite old-fashioned and sounds strange in the ears of most folk in our generation. That does not mean that there is no justification for its retention in the ASV. The basis for continuing its use is, in fact, very honorable. Those Americans who were brought in along with the English revisers of the KJV understood that they were simply ‘advisors.’ And while the official revisers held them in high esteem and considered seriously their every recommendation, they nonetheless in more cases than not, did not include them in the revision. In many instances they did include them in marginal notations. The Americans retained the right to publish their own revision, but agreed to withhold it for twenty years. One of the primary guiding principles of the revisers on both sides of the Atlantic was, to put it in its simplest form, that they would not make changes just for the sake of making changes; simply for the sake of being different, as many more modern revisers have done. The English revisers actually changed the ‘ornament’ of the KJV in these Proverbs passages to ‘chaplet,’ a not unfamiliar word in 1885. The Americans found no good reason to alter that choice in 1901, and therefore honorably retained it. We may readily see that being far better than most of our modern loose ‘translations.’ An example of this kind is THE MESSAGE; abbreviated in Bible Gateway as MSG—yes, the same as the abbreviation for monosodium glutamate—with some similar digestive problems. Their rendering of our focus passage for the week is as follows:

Pay close attention, friend, to what your father tells you; never forget what you learned at your mother’s knee. Wear their counsel like flowers in your hair [perhaps especially if you are ‘going to San Francisco], like rings on your fingers.—Proverbs 1:8, 9; THE MESSAGE.

While flowers in your hair may, or may not, constitute either a chaplet or a crown, the ambiguity of the instructions in this paraphrase cloud over what we believe is one of the primary lessons of this passage. When the Holy Spirit has said through the pen of Solomon, My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother, there is here also something of a parallelism. In other words, we believe that it has been intended to teach that the instruction of the father and the law of the mother are to be one and the same; essential agreement between them. As with many exhortations this is an ideal that the Lord would have us to do our best to seek to attain. We are not to dismiss directions from the Word of God as though they are no more than suggestions. This is how God would have it to be among husbands and wives, the parents of these children being addressed here. If the father and the mother are ‘heirs together of the grace of God’ there is then every reason to consider that the instruction of the father is to be equated with the law of the mother; they have one Source. As the wife is to submit ‘as unto the Lord’ and the husband is to love the wife ‘as Christ loves the church, so are they to be one in the Lord; they are no longer two, but one.

Is it not sadly conspicuous in our day—and not our day alone; remember the disparate views of Isaac and Rebekah toward their sons, Esau and Jacob—but is it not sadly conspicuous in our day that fathers and mothers are often at great odds over the direction of their children? Is it not fearful to have to admit that among the church of Jesus Christ this is a serious problem in families? Mothers and fathers must both be submitting to the Word of God; the authority of the Head of the church, Jesus Christ. If the Word were truly a lamp unto the father’s feet and a light unto the path of the mother [Psalm 119:105], then would the young man of 119:9, and a young woman of course, be equipped to cleanse their way by taking heed thereto according to thy word. Then would it be more likely, humanly speaking, that they would with their whole hearts seek God; then would they be more unlikely to wander from His commandments. Pray that the instruction of fathers and the law of mothers be one.

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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