Chapter 28: Beneath the Surface

28:1 The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

      The "lion" of this verse is the term the ancient Hebrew's used for a "young but fully-grown lion." In the Disney movie Lion King, when Simba returns from his self-imposed exile in the desert, he would have been such a young but fully-grown lion.
      Simba's father, Mufasa, was the lion who ruled as king of the Pride Lands of Africa. Mufasa would represent the mature lion mentioned in 28:15 (the standard Hebrew word for "lion," but a different term for "lion" in this verse).

28:4 Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law resist them.

      "The law" is mentioned 3 times in this chapter, once in the next and a final time in chapter 31. It is not a major focus of the Proverbs as a whole but is prominent in this section of the book.
      While frequently understood as the Old Testament in general, technically it refers to the first 5 books of the Bible – Genesis through Deuteronomy. These books are generally known today as The Law of Moses (as given by God to him and then written by him) in the English Bible, the "Torah" (Hebrew; generally translated "law") and "Pentateuch" (Greek; "five/books").
      I think one of the keys to appreciating and applying the Law of Moses to our lives is the understanding of exactly why God gave it to us. The Law teaches that I am really not doing so well, because I am really not very good at keeping all those laws (a total of 613 according to the ancient Jewish rabbis). This truth is the Biblical basis of Step 1 of the 12 Steps – I can't. But many of the Laws teach us about the sacrificial system which was given to cover these sins which we have committed. For centuries, Bible scholars have suggested that these laws are an ancient picture of what Jesus would ultimately come to do for us. Thus, the Law, itself, points out that He has provided a way to cover for my shortcomings. This truth from the Law is the Biblical basis of Step 2 – He can do for me, what I can't do.
      So, if I really don't have the power or ability to do all that I should, and if He can – and already did – cover my shortcoming for me, then I should just make a conscious decision to surrender my will and mind to Him (the Biblical basis of Step 3). At Helping Up Mission, we say "I can't, He can, so let Him." When I do so, it will impact my relationship to other people.

28:15 Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked man ruling over a helpless people.

      Almost extinct in the Holy Land today, both African and Asian species of lions roamed the Holy Land during Old Testament times. Archaeological remains of lions have been identified in numerous places around the region, including in the Jordan River Valley where I excavate at Tall el-Hammam.
      Frequently depictions of lions carved in stone relief dating from as early as the time of Solomon have been found in ancient Near Eastern excavations. They appear as both maneless and having a shaggy black mane (SEE ALBENDA, "LIONS ON ASSYRIAN WALL RELIEFS" JANES 6 1974). This verse uses the standard Hebrew word for lion – the term for a mature lion, as compared to the young but fully-grown lion of 28:1.
      While lions are quite often mentioned in the Bible, bears are not. Neither were bears mentioned nor depicted in other ancient records as frequently as lions. But they were known in the Holy Land and remains of Syrian brown bears have been identified. (SEE JURG EGGLER, INFLUENCES AND TRADITIONS UNDERLYING THE VISION OF DANIEL 7:2-14, ST PAUL, 2000)