Chapter 4: Beneath the Surface

4:9 She will set a garland of grace on your head and present you with a crown of splendor

      The garland of this verse is understood as something twisted or winding and worn on one's head, most likely of vegetable (plant) origin. While it could be branches or vines twisted together (like an ancient Olympic winner's wreath), the best understanding is probably a turban of cloth.
      While the garland may represent something utilitarian, it may have been more symbolic in nature – like berets among different military units. Certainly different styles of turbans are portrayed in ancient Assyrian and Egyptian reliefs from Solomon's time, but any symbolic value is unclear.
      The "crown" is understood as what royalty would wear. When the material of the royal "crown" is described, it is metal – silver or gold. The crown, itself, was valuable and, no doubt, held great symbolism representing authority and power.

4:11 I guide you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths.

      Roads in the Old Testament world were nothing like today. The earliest roadways were simply the easiest pathways up and down mountains and through the countryside to get from one city to another. Used by anyone, they were really important to merchants and armies. Constructing roadways outside of walled cities really began during the Persian Empire. The greatest example is the "Royal Road" stretching from the Persian capital at Susa (modern Iran) all the way to western Turkey and the Aegean Sea. While it generally followed pathways already well-known and well-used, this new international highway had at least some sections planned and constructed under royal supervision.
      Although initial sections were probably constructed by Cyrus, the first king of the Persian Empire, the road is best known from the days of Darius and Xerxes. They marched their armies some 1,500 miles from Persia to Greece – to the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC (Darius vs. the Athenians) and the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC (Xerxes vs. the 300 Spartans).
      But, generally a "Biblical road" was no more than a footpath through the desert, across a mountain ridge, along a river bed or between cultivated fields. It probably had no planned construction, except spur of the moment needs of a marching army. The Bible notes that kings and armies particularly marched in the springtime, after the winter rains were over and the ancient roadway were once again passable (see 2Sam 11:1; 1Chr 20:1).

4:18 The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.

4:19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.

      Jesus used the idea of contrasting roads and gates (Mt 7:13-14) to make a different point. In His Sermon on the Mount, he noted the obvious in His world – the crowds generally travel along the broad road and through the wide gate of a city. But he also noted that cities had small gates and narrow roads and only a relatively few could use them at one time, and few did.
      Of course, this was a truth about city planning and the logistics of daily life in the urban New Testament world. But Jesus used this phenomenon as a visible object lesson about the spiritual walk. The masses are satisfied with what appears to be the simplest and easiest journey through life. But there is another road that isn't as easy and a lot fewer people travel it. This journey might be lonely and difficult at times, but it leads to real life!