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Proverbs 4:19 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness: This too is a simile, as it is introduced with the word “like.” The way of the wicked is being compared to deep darkness. The deep darkness (אֲפֵלָה aphelah) spoken of here is mental darkness, not literal physical darkness. What is the commonality between the two? Like deep darkness, the wicked are in mental darkness in that they cannot see any light whatsoever. Mental darkness is a sort of mental blindness where one sees what others see and even understands the meaning, but their mind is beyond repentance, unreceptive, closed, so they see it as foolish. They are in darkness mentally
The apostle Paul warns the reader at 2 Corinthians 4:4, “the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The apostle John says of Jesus Christ, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overpowered it.” (John 1:4-5) However, even the light of the truth cannot penetrate the mental darkness of some.
They do not know over what they stumble: When you are in mental darkness, you are so blinded by your closed heart and mind that you cannot even see what is making you stumble. The Hebrew verb stumble (כָּשַׁל kashal) means to walk blindly. This context refers to a wicked, evil person who basks in their willful ignorance (darkness).
A believer can pass from death to life by choosing Christ. However, he can also pass from life to death if he stumbles to the point of a spiritual shipwreck. There are times when these ones can be recovered. (Gal 6:1) However, if he rejects the help from spiritual leaders within the congregation because his heart has grown callused, he can go to the point of being beyond repentance. He would come to the point of having no desire to be restored. (Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26-29) The wicked, foolish ones are beyond repentance and refuse to be corrected by Wisdom; therefore, they shall eat the fruit of their way (1:31), namely, suffer the consequences of their conduct. These ones have thrown their faith to the wind and have rejected God, and have moved over to the point of being beyond repentance. Truly wicked ones will not change their ways, as they are in mental darkness, beyond repentance, unable to see any light whatsoever, and are blinded by the god of this wicked age. (2 Cor. 4:3-4) However, we can rescue the young one, who may fall prey to their seductive ways.
The contrast is all too clear, as the path of the righteous is one that grows brighter throughout their life, everything becoming clearer, while the path of the wicked and the way of the evil is like deep darkness causing them to stumble. Indeed, the way of the wicked is so dark that they cannot even see what causes them to stumble. Those on the path of righteousness possess moral insight that adds joy to their life, while the way of the wicked possesses ignorance that leads to unhappiness. The objective of Solomon here is that he wants to whet the appetite of his sons for wisdom and insight, knowing the result will be that their actions will come thereafter.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness. The works that those on the paths of righteousness are cautioned not to befriend and follow are of the wicked and evil ones, works of darkness. If one is truly and genuinely on the path of righteousness, what kind of satisfaction can be found in doing works of deep darkness with the wicked. How can one be guided through the way of the wicked if the Word of God has been cast aside? The way of the wicked is like deep darkness, and therefore unsafe treacherous; for they stumble and yet they do not know over what they stumble. When you enter the path of the wicked and walk in the way of the evil, you will stumble into sin in such a subtle way that initially, it might seem innocent and harmless, so you are not aware of the temptation. Each time this happens, the true guide, the biblical conscience, becomes more callused and unfeeling, so avoiding sin is easier each succeeding next time. This is why we are to shun the wicked. – Psalm 82:5; Job 18:5-6.